CHICAGO (CBS) — About 35,000 runners hit the streets Sunday for the Bank Of America Chicago Marathon, and while, that is about 10,000 fewer runners than last time, the numbers didn’t change the city’s enthusiasm for the race.

The number of spectators was probably fewer than 2019, and after COVID-19 canceled the 2020 race, fewer people were out on Sunday. As Jackie Kostek reports, spectators went to inspiring lengths to cheer on family and friends, making it a race within a race.

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Indeed, spotting one person in a speeding mass of thousands is a challenge.

Daniel Mattson and Diana Enriquez look for their friend in a mass of runners. (CBS)

“Our friend was at 15 [miles], missed him so we’re like we can’t miss 21,” said Daniel Mattson.

Spotting that one person several times along a crowded race course – is quite a feat.

“We’re definitely over a half marathon already. I should’ve put a [race] bib on,” said Mattson.

Runners compete during the 2021 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 10, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Racers within the race, Diana Enriquez and Daniel Mattson crisscrossed the interior of the marathon route from Old Town to Chinatown.

“We’ve been divvying around, trying to get past the road blocks and things,” said Enriquez.

All to make sure their friend got his pre-packed snack.

“He told us mile 21 he needs it so that’s why we’re here,” said Mattson.

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Maryann Long from Georgia tried to work smarter not harder, logging about seven miles on foot to watch her husband at five different spots.

Maryann Long runs to catch a glimpse of her husband during the marathon. (CBS)

“Figuring out the fastest way between two places so that he doesn’t beat me,” she said, admitting she was a bit exhausted.

Runners Colin Cernik and Dylan Williams weren’t exhausted by the 10 miles they were putting in but the constant stopping and starting had them sore.

Runners compete during the 2021 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 10, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP) (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

“She’s almost to the BioFreeze station which is over there so we got time, but we wanted to maybe get some BioFreeze because our legs are horrendous right now,” said Cernik.

Williams added, “We’ve been doing a lot of running. We didn’t expect to run this much today.”

But just like for participants of the marathon itself, the reward is often in the journey.

“At every stop, I’d be yelling but I’d be like stretching at the same time,” said Nate Verhagen.

And the celebration? At the finish line, a mutual celebration of a job well done.

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A lot of people were concerned about the humidity and heat of today. Several runners said it was hot but the cloud cover helped. And they were able to make it through just fine.