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Runners, Organizers Prepare For Return Of Chicago Marathon; Heat Will Bring Extra Challenge

CHICAGO (CBS) -- We are just hours away from the start of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Anticipation is high, after COVID forced people off the pavement and onto treadmills last year.

CBS 2's Steven Graves reports preparations are happening in more ways than one.

Downtown street closures began a couple days ago in preparation for the marathon, and large water stations have been set up along the race route.

Meantime, runners are preparing mentally and physically for the big race, but everyone is determined to accomplish the 26.2 miles for their own reason.

There are runners, and then there are marathoners.

Marie Bargoletti, a stroke survivor, has run 521 marathons, and is back in Chicago to add another.

"I like it very much," she said.

She is one of 33,000 expected to hit the pavement Sunday morning.

First-time marathoner Miranda Krott is running for a simple reason.

"I just want to prove to myself that I can do it," she said.

Different motivations, but this year they can at least help each other.

None of that was possible last year, when the pandemic forced the Chicago Marathon to go virtual.

"It did not have the same feel. Being in a gathering like this, you have the energy of Chicago and all the citizens," Joe Pope said.

Tens of thousands of spectators are expected along the 26.2-mile race that goes through 29 Chicago neighborhoods.

This year, runners are hoping the heat does not hamper that. The high is expected to reach the low 80s, though it still won't be as hot as 2007, when race day brought 89° temperatures.

That marathon was cut short after several runners were hospitalized, and one died.

"That was just such an extreme day," said Tim Bradley, director of training at the Chicago Area Runners Association.

Bradley said he has heard from CARA members who ran 14 years ago as final preparations are made for Sunday's race.

"It is a little bit frustrating when the marathon is coming back, and people kind of just want to see where their true fitness is at, and where they're at. So they are going to have to make an adjustment, but I think at the end of the day people are going to be really happy just to have the marathon back," he said.

Streets along the race route will start closing around 7 a.m. on Sunday. They'll begin reopening a few hours later, with some lasting well into the afternoon.

The marathon kicks off at 7:30 a.m.

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