Salsa, dancers add flair to Chicago Marathon

Chinese drummers, men in drag, and thousands of other Chicago residents lined 26.2 miles of city streets yesterday, clanging cowbells, playing music and spraying water hoses to cheer the 35,000 runners in the 31st annual Chicago Marathon.

Winner Evans Cheruiyot, 26, of Kenya, sped through the course in 2:06:25. Lidiya Grigoryeva, 34, of Russia, won the women’s race in 2:27:17. Each of them earned $100,000 in prize money.

For those who took a little longer, the course offered a variety of entertainment.     

"It almost seemed kind of like a party, a moving party,” said Brent Robinson, 28, a Northwestern Memorial Hospital employee who lives in the South Loop and finished the race in just over five hours. "Chinatown and Pilsen were great."

Lion dancers and drummers performed at the Chinatown Gateway, while salsa and batcha music pumped out of speakers along 18th Street in Pilsen.

At the corner of Cermak and Wentworth past the 21 mile mark, about 20 young Chinese men from the Chicago Dragons Athletic Association drummed and took turns dancing in two traditional Chinese lion costumes.

Delwyn Liang, 20, from Chinatown, a junior at DePaul University, has performed with the Chicago Dragons at the marathon for the past six years. Members of the group also include students from Whitney Young, Lincoln Park, Kelly, Curie and other public high schools.

Delma Bartelme, 59, an engineer from the near south neighborhood of Museum Park, ran and walked the marathon with her son, James Bartelme, 37, in 4:54.  “The crowds are awesome,” she said. “There was a big crowd in Chinatown. They were very loud.”

On West 18th Street in Pilsen, the Gallegos family gathered in front of their home to offer water and encouragement to a Latin beat.

Reuben Avarado, 36, manned the hose and sprayed runners, while Marco Gallegos set up speakers that boomed hot mixes of Latin music from the front steps of the house.

“We do this every year,” said Avarado's wife Raquel Gallegos, 36.

Daniel Bahena, 38, hosed down grateful runners at 1036 W. 18th Street.  “I’m planning to stay out here till it ends,” he said. “A lot of people thank me.”

Natividad Hernandez, 48, and 17 other volunteers from the Frida Kahlo Community Organization at 1244 W. 18th St. handed out hundreds of water-soaked sponges to runners, using hoses and baby pools to keep the soaking operation going. Green sponges littered the street for a block.

“I really like to make people feel comfortable coming through our neighborhood, “ Hernandez said.  “Their efforts are important to us.”

At the finish line, many runners praised the crowd support and race organization. Although temperatures were high again this year, there was plenty of water, runners said.  Last year's race was cut short after  runners began falling ill in the 89 degree heat.

“The race was awesome this year. They gave us everything we needed. The marathon bounced back,” said Lisa Hayden, 28, of Noble Square, who finished in 4:55.

Amanda Raad, 27, of Lakeview, who finished in 4:45, said "Boystown had the most energy. All the water support and hoses along the way were terrific.”

Peter Schmitz, 44, a Lincoln Park resident and worker for a high tech company, finished in 5:04.  He also liked the energy of the Boystown spectators between mile seven and eight. "They had dancers. They had a lot of guys dressed up as women. That’s just what happens there.”

Graphic designer Lauren Clark, 27, of Roscoe Village, finished in 5:10.  “I really liked the cheerleading squads in Little Italy,” said Clark.

David Fettner, 31, an attorney from the South Loop, finished in 4:56 and called the crowd support “amazing”.

“They were out there when we needed them the most," he said. "It made a big difference.”