Hours after organizers for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon tore down the time mats and the medical tents and reopened the streets, Maickel Melamed finally finished the race, the last of more than 40,000 people.
Melamed, a 38-year-old Venezuelan with a rare condition limiting his muscular strength, spent 16 hours and 46 minutes walking to the finish line, which he crossed after 1 a.m. today. The marathon’s website shows he started at 8:20 a.m. Sunday.
Chicago Marathon spokesman Jeremy Borling said Melamed’s finish time wasn't recorded. “No timing mats were remaining on the course,” Borling said. “But obviously you can’t take away the effort.”
Six and a half hours after the last person crosses the start line, a sweep vehicle runs the course to signal to marathon staff that it’s time to start tearing down. The streets are swept and reopened. “We advise participants that if they’re not ahead of that vehicle to stay on the sidewalks,” Borling said.
When Melamed crossed the finish line, he was greeted by a tearful welcoming party. One of the first things he did was hand the race medal to his father, one of the dozens of people gathered in celebration, according to Billy Russo, who coordinates publicity for Melamed.
“The message is, ‘If you dream it, make it happen,’” Melamed told reporters. “Because your life is the most beautiful thing that could happen to you. So make the best of it.”
An economist by training, Melamed shifted careers to motivational speaker and workshop facilitator who works with organizations in several countries, according to biographical information provided by Russo.
Melamed has now run the New York, Berlin and Chicago marathons, and he hopes to tackle the two more World Marathon Majors – first Tokyo and then Boston, Russo said.
"He was obviously tired, but he felt like he reached the goal," Russo said. "His dream for today was to run the marathon and finish, and he did."