Russian locks up World Marathon Majors crown.
Written by: Jeff Banowetz
Russia’s Liliya Shobukhova made it a day of repeat champions at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. While men’s winner Sammy Wanjiru won a sprint finish just minutes earlier to record his second race in a row, Shobukhova used a steady pace to easily outdistance the rest of the women’s field by nearly three minutes.
Her wining time of 2:20:25 was the 15th fastest women’s time in history and gave her the Russian national record. More importantly, it secured her position as the women’s winner of the World Marathon Majors title this year. The competition uses a point system to grade the top finishes at marathons in Boston, London, Berlin, New York and Chicago to award an overall winner, and Shobokhova’s victory in Chicago ensured that she’d walk away with the $500,000 prize. Including her prize money and time bonuses for Chicago, Shobukhova earned $615,000 for her performance.
“I never think about the money,” Shobukhova said through a translator after the race. “I’m concerned about my training plan and what I need to do.”
That focus served Shobukhova well. For much of the first half of the race, she ran with a group of three Ethiopians—Astede Baysa, Mamitu Daska and Askale Tafa Magarsa—and the four distanced themselves from the rest of the field. But by the halfway point, Baysa and Daska had opened up a small lead as they passed the 13.1-mile mark in 1:09:45. Shobukhova was 15 seconds behind.
Baysa would eventually grow the lead to nearly 30 seconds at the 30K mark by putting together mile after mile at just under 5:20 pace. Her mile 18 split was 5:23, but that would be her last one, as her next two miles were run in 5:33 and 5:41. Shobukhova quickly caught her and would never look back.
Shobukhova’s took the lead and it quickly became apparent that no women were going to catch her. The only drama that remained was whether or not she’d be able to break the Russian record of 2:20:45, and by the time Shobukhova turned down the final stretch, it was clear that she’d have the record as well.
“I think it was most important that I was controlling my own race,” she said. “You can’t control the people in front of you. You just have to execute your plan.”
For her part, Baysa, who finished second in 2:23:40, thought that she had the fitness to stick to 5:20 pace the entire race.
“I’m not happy about this,” she said through a translator. “I thought I was in good enough shape, but I’ll need to improve my training.”
The heat—it was over 70 degrees by the race’s finish—was an issue for both women.
“I prefer running in the cooler weather,” Shobukhova said. “But I’m happy about this one.”
The heat also didn’t keep two American finishers from running personal bests. Desiree Davila, who trains with the Hansons Brooks Distance Project in Rochester, Michigan, finished 4th overall in 2:26:20, a minute-and-a-half better than her previous best set at last summer’s IAAF World Championships in Berlin, where she finished 11th.
“I think I got everything out of (the race) today,” she said. “I think everything came together just about right…I thought I might be able to go 2:25 before the race. But with the heat, I’m very happy with how everything went.”
Chicago-area native Tera Moody was also pleased with her 10th place finish in 2:30:53, despite the medical boot she wore on her left foot after the race.
“It was actually the easiest marathon I’ve ever run,” she said. “Even though I don’t normally like the heat, for some reason everything went right today.”
She knew about the toe injury before the race, and she was able to race effectively despite it, taking two minutes off her previous PR. “I don’t know exactly if it’s a joint problem or a stress reaction,” she said. “But honestly, it didn’t really bother me much during the race.”
After winning the Rock ’n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon in August, Moody continued her hometown racing success. While she now lives in Colorado SPrings, Colorado, she prefers to spend her time racing in Chicago.
“I love running in the city,” she said. “I like the flat courses, and the crowds always give me amazing support.”
In other U.S. women’s news, 25 years after setting the American record here in Chicago, Joan Benoit Samuelson was back in an attempt to defy the clock. At age 53, she ran a 2:47:50 on Sunday, achieving her goal of breaking 2:48. She finished less than two minutes off the Olympic Trials Marathon qualifying time of 2:46.
“I’m very pleased with my race today, given the conditions and the pressure I put on myself,” she said. “I now run marathons to tell a story. This was the 25th anniversary of my fastest marathon ever. So I thought I’d try to run this one within a minute a mile of that race, and I was able to do it. But I didn’t have much left.”