The Chicago marathon was won on Sunday with a record setting pace of 2 hours and 3 minutes, but for many the star of the race didn't finish until today after 16 hours and 46 minutes.
Dozens of fans were at the finish line at 1:30 a.m. today chanting "Maickel! Maickel!" as Maickel Melamed completed the race wearing a black winter jacket to cope with the overnight temperatures.
Melamed, 38, has muscular dystrophy.
"If you dream it, make it happen," Melamed said after the race, as the clock ticked past 1:30 a.m., "because your life is the most beautiful thing that could happen to you. So make the best of it."
For some fans, Melamed's performance may even be remembered more than Dennis Kimetto's course record-setting victory in 2 hours and 3 minutes.
On Melamed's Facebook page, supporters posted encouraging messages during – and after – the race: "You are a great inspiration!" "Si se puede!" "I have never met this man before but I have so much respect and I am so proud of him!"
The impressive effort from Melamed – who started running marathons two years ago – was just one highlight of the nation's first major marathon since the bombing at the Boston race last April. Runners in Chicago, some donning blue bracelets in honor of the Boston victims, observed a moment of silence before the start. Security was stepped up.
"This year we had to ratchet it up a little bit based on Boston obviously," Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy told ABC's Chicago station WLS.
For the first time, runners in Chicago were required to carry their belongings in clear plastic bags and pick up their race packets in person. On race day, runners could only get to the start after proceeding through one of four separate security checkpoints.
At the finish line, only ticketed spectators were allowed and they were subjected to random bag searches. In years past, friends and family of runners would hop onto the course to cheer on participants, but this year that was not permitted. Undercover officers were deployed among the crowd. Authorities used some of the city's vast network of security cameras – more than 20,000 – to monitor the course.
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