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What Inspires Me: The Marathon

Assistant professor George Chiampas says the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is a celebration of the city.

Chicago Marathon runners stride over a bridge that crosses over the river, with tall skyscrapers in the back.
The Chicago Marathon’s course traverses 29 neighborhoods including the Loop. Image: Getty/Tribune News Service

Fall 2023

George Chiampas keeps a long list of some of the world’s biggest sports teams and leagues on his desk — from the Chicago Bears and Blackhawks to U.S. Soccer. An assistant professor at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Chiampas works for these organizations and more as a team physician and medical director, overseeing player and league safety and developing training on prevention of cardiac death. 

George Chiampas. Credit: U.S. Soccer Federation

While he loves all his roles, there’s one event that he looks forward to every fall: the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, which attracts approximately 45,000 runners and an estimated 1.7 million spectators each year. (The 2023 marathon will be held Oct. 8.) Chiampas, who has volunteered with the Chicago Marathon since 1999 and has served as chief medical and safety officer since 2007, shares what he loves about the 26.2-mile run through the Windy City:

“The Chicago Marathon is probably the greatest celebration of this city. It’s a reflection of our community, our neighborhoods and the goals of these individuals who run for some of the most amazing reasons. When you hear someone say that they’re running for their wife who passed away from breast cancer, or they’re running for their child — there’s nothing better than that purpose. 

“I’ve seen firsthand how powerful these races can be. … I was at the London Marathon with my wife in 2009, and we were sitting at the finish line up in the stands. I had worked behind the scenes for marathons, but I had never been a spectator before. All of a sudden we started hearing cheers to the right of us. I looked over and there were about 40 individuals who were blind, sitting in the stands. At the same time, I started hearing bells coming across the finish line. For a couple of seconds, I didn’t connect the dots, but as the cheers and bells got louder, I realized some runners had bells on their shoelaces, so that those who can’t see can hear people running. I couldn’t stop crying. The marathon touches your soul.” 

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