5 Things You Might Not Know About The Chicago Marathon

Saturday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) I’ve never run the thing myself – who knows, maybe some day – but the Chicago Marathon and my family still go way back.

Between 1978 and 1991, my dad – who ran a total of 17 marathons in total during his long-distance heyday – completed the 26.2-mile course that each autumn winds its way up and down Chicago’s streets and through 29 of its eclectic neighborhoods.

Back in ’78 when my dad ran his first Chicago Marathon during the event’s second year, there were only 5,200 entrants. When he ran his last one in ’91, there were still only 7,500. This year, there are 45,000 runners – and they hail from 115 countries.

“Things have really changed,” my dad said this morning.

Yes, they certainly have. And to enlighten you a bit more about the Windy City’s trademark long-distance race, here are five things that you might not know about the Chicago Marathon.

1. The very first Chicago Marathon was actually in 1905

The “modern-day” Chicago Marathon celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, but the race actually has an ancestor so old that when it first plotted its path through the city, the Cubs were still three years shy of their last World Series victory.

So, you know, a long time ago.

On Sept. 23, 1905, the first Chicago Marathon organized by the Illinois Athletic Club started off in north suburban Evanston and finished in Washington Park on Chicago’s South Side. More than 100,000 spectators reportedly watched as upstart Rhud Metzer came from behind to steal a late-race victory from favorite Louis Marks.

The crowd might have been big for that the original marathon – which continued annually in Chicago until the early 1920s – but the field was not. Only 20 runners registered for the race, just 15 of them showed up at the starting line and a mere seven made it to the finish.

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