Every year I volunteer as a Course Marshal Captain for the Chicago Marathon. I am doing that again this Sunday but I also offered to be an Elite Transportation driver for this year's race.
I was assigned to pick up two groups of runners from O'Hare, one group Wednesday evening and one group Thursday lunch time.
Wednesday was the Russian group including the 2008 female winner Lidiya Grigoryeva, another Russian athlete plus their agent, coach and family members. Well those pickup didn't go to plan as they where all on different flights much later that night. The only arrival was the coach so marathon HQ asked me to drive him into Chicago. He didn't speak a word of English and I know no Russia but he was a character for sure.
Thursday I was schedule to pick up some Kenyan runners. Sammy Wanjiru , Richard Limo and Patrick Ivuti. You might now these names. Patrick won Chicago marathon in 2007 - the heat year. Richard has a 2:06 marathon and has been a track world champ. Sammy has a marathon best of 2:05:10 and last year in Beijing he won the Olympic Gold medal in the marathon.
Sammy was first of the flight and while we was waiting for the others we got to chat. He was recognized by a guy waiting for his cousin from Mexico who is running Chicago and Sammy was happy to have photos taken. Richard was next through the gates but informed me Patrick was not on the flight (I've since read a NBC interview leading me to believe Patrick is now in Chicago). Richard ran Chicago last year and was really happy to be back in town. As we got closer to the hotel after the crawl drive along the Kennedy Richard was recognizing places. Sammy had never been here but was excited to be in Chicago despite a very long flight.
It was a pleasure driving both Sammy and Richard and hope they both have great races Sunday.
Not every day one gets to drive an Olympic champ.