Carrie chats with Carey Pinkowski, the Executive Director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon! They chat about the historic race, how he designed the course, and some of his favorite stories about his nearly 30 year tenure at the helm of the race.
Recorded September 11, 2019
Carey Pinkowski came to the helm of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon three decades ago, serving as its executive race director since 1990. During his tenure, the Chicago Marathon has experienced astronomical growth, expanding from 6,000 registered runners in 1990 to a record 44,610 finishers in 2018, including runners from all 50 states and more than 130 countries. For 30 years, Pinkowski has been a key player in building the marathon’s dynamic relationships with the city, the corporate community and the local neighborhoods along the course.
Under Pinkowski’s leadership, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon delivers far more than fast performances. Each year, the event generates an economic impact on the City of Chicago of $338 million, and, since 2002, over 128,000 runners have helped the Chicago Marathon charity program raise more than $207 million for local, national and global causes.
In 2006, Pinkowski utilized his experience as Executive Race Director of the Chicago Marathon to help found the Abbott World Marathon Majors (AbbottWMM). Pinkowski, along with the race directors at the Boston, London, Berlin and New York City marathons, created a series – which now includes the Tokyo Marathon – to award the world’s top male and female marathon runners. In addition to building interest in the sport’s elite athletes, the AbbottWMM continues to yield mass excitement and participation in the sport of running.
Pinkowski’s legacy with the Chicago Marathon includes designing its record setting and spectator friendly course that traverses 29 diverse Chicago neighborhoods, starting and finishing in Chicago’s “front yard,” Grant Park. Pinkowski’s course design allows for more than 1.7 million spectators to watch the race, making the marathon an annual gathering for the entire City of Chicago. Three of the Chicago Marathon’s four world records have been set during Pinkowski’s time: Morocco’s Khalid Khannouchi (1999), Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba (2001) and Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe (2002). Great Britain’s Steve Jones recorded Chicago’s first-ever world record in 1984.
To commemorate his 20th anniversary as Executive Race Director, the City of Chicago and Bank of America bestowed Pinkowski with an honorary street naming – “Carey Pinkowski Drive” – at the intersection of Monroe Street and Columbus Drive, the site of the race’s start line.
In spite of directing the Chicago Marathon for 30 years, Pinkowski, born in Harvey, Ill. and raised in Hammond, IN., has only run one marathon: the 1983 Chicago Marathon, stopping the clock in an impressive 2:20:43. As a teenager, he cemented his legacy as a track star at Hammond High School in 1975 when he and two teammates, Tim Keough and Rudy Chapa, each ran two miles in less than nine minutes, becoming the first high school trio to ever accomplish such a feat in the same season. Their record stood for 39 years before three students from Long Island, N.Y, finally broke it in 2014. As a solo performer, Pinkowski picked up two state championship titles in the mile. He went on to compete at Villanova University where he was a three-time All American in cross country and track.
Pinkowski has received numerous awards including the Illinois Track & Cross Country Coaches Association Meritorious Service to the Youth of Illinois Award (1998), Chicago Area Runners Association Gold Medal Award for Event Production (1999), MarathonFoto/Road Race Management Race Director of the Year Award presented by Running Times magazine (2001), Runner’s World magazine’s Best Race Director Award (2002), the National Distance Running Hall of Fame’s Fred Lebow Award (2004) and USA Track & Field’s Allan Steinfeld Award for Lifetime Achievement in Men’s Long Distance Running (2009).