The commute from O’Hare Airport into the heart of the Windy City was merely a taste of things to come in a week of the ever-more expansive life of Sammi Kinghorn. Coach Ian Mirfin, she revealed, had rented “the biggest car I’ve ever seen”, blending in nicely below the imposing skyline that casts mammoth shadows over Lake Michigan.
Today, the Chicago Marathon represents more than a few pushes beyond where the 21-year-old has previously ventured, eight miles at least, spinning her into the unknown.
Far out of the comfort zone the Borderer reached when acquiring two sprinting golds at July’s world para athletics championships in London. A minute, max, and her track work is done. Stateside, she will aim to exert herself for no more than two hours and five minutes, the qualifying mark laid down for next April’s Commonwealth Games.
For all the progress Kinghorn has made since missing out on the medals at last summer’s Paralympic Games, this fresh challenge is like nothing undertaken before. “It’s tough isn’t it?” she declares. “Being my debut, I have no idea what to expect. It’s getting it into my head that it’s going to last two hours. I’m going to be pushing for two hours!
“To know that if I push any faster, it is still going to last around that long – or maybe even more if I get it wrong. It’s 26 miles and I keep telling myself that the goal at the end of it is to compete at the Commonwealth Games and wear a Scotland vest.”
It has required a radical adjustment from Kinghorn and Mirfin within a relatively short space of time. Last month’s Great North Run in Tyneside was a test bed, to acclimatise to the rigours of a prolonged spell on the road. “Really hard,” she declared afterwards.
A nasty bout of tendonitis has hampered Kinghorn’s build-up towards Chicago, with her second place over 10km at last weekend’s Great Scottish Run achieved in the wake of injections to ease the pain.
“It is an over-use strain,” she confirmed. One that has restricted her to a preparatory outing of barely 17 miles. “It’s hard to rest your arms,” she adds. Given her resilience in shrugging off the childhood accident that brought on paralysis from the waist down, you would expect no undue complaint. That there will be a novelty factor will add a helpful distraction from any aches.
“I actually enjoy training on the road because on the track, you end up feeling it’s just going around in circles and just looking at how fast you’re going. On the road, I tend to relax and just go.”
Kenya’s world record holder Dennis Kimetto heads the men’s field in Chicago with triple Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia the women’s favourite.