As runners began arriving for the 36th annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and race officials welcomed them and feted eight athletes who have crossed the finish line every time since the race began in 1977.
It will be the first Chicago Marathon since the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April that killed three spectators and injured scores. The race, Emanuel said, is a chance to show "a city, country and world come together to say we will not be deterred."
The 2013 marathon has already set records for the number of registered international racers — 10,264 from 129 countries — and wheelchair athletes, according to race officials.
Emanuel, race Executive Director Carey Pinkowski and Bank of America Illinois President Tim Maloney welcomed back the runners who have never missed a Chicago Marathon.
Though all eight are from the Chicago area, they had never met until Pinkowski assembled the Alumni Team — or, as Henry Kozlowski, 63, of Wilmette, likes to call them, the "old geezers" — before the marathon's 20th anniversary in 1997. That year, there were 14 of them.
A handful have retired from the racing circuit, but the eight said they plan to keep coming back.
Daniel Skrzypczynski, 73, of Chicago, acknowledges his days of finishing in just a little more than three hours are behind him.
"I've used the term 'Bataan death march,'" he joked.
But while he's not sure if he'll make it to his goal of racing in the 50th Chicago Marathon, he doesn't plan to stop anytime soon.
"If I was running until the day I die, that would be pretty good," Skrzypczynski said.