Russia’s Liliya Shobukhova Poised For Victory

Lilita Shobukhova is heading into the London Marathon confident and prepared. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Lilita Shobukhova is heading into the London Marathon confident and prepared. Photo: PhotoRun.net

She isn’t sharing much about her training in the lead up to London.

Written by: David Monti

(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

LONDON — Liliya Shobukhova’s diamond earrings twinkled as she faced the media here today, but her gaze was stern.

Sitting bolt upright in her chair –the same posture she holds when she runs– she patiently answered the questions of the media with translation help from her manager, Andrey Baranov.  She revealed little about her training or fitness in advance of Sunday’s 31st Virgin London Marathon (she hasn’t raced since last October), but her message was clear: you’ll have to be at your best to beat me.

“All the training was very good,” said the reigning Chicago, London and World Marathon Majors champion.  ”January and February were in Portugal, then in Kislovodsk in Russia.”

Since moving up to the marathon here in 2009, where she made a solid third place debut in 2:24:24, Shobukhova has been unbeatable at the distance.  In her next marathon in Chicago the same year, she used her superior track speed to bolt to victory at the 40-K mark, clocking 2:25:56 on a cold day without the benefit of pacemakers.

“Three kilometers before the finish line, I thought this is my territory,” she said at the time.

At London last year, she ran a superb race, going through halfway with the pack in 1:10:55, then running the second half only ten seconds slower to clock a personal best 2:22-flat.  Showing her confidence and class, she ran at the front of the lead pack for the entire second half, after pacemaker Anikó Kálovics dropped out.  Nobody would try to pass her.

“I felt comfortable that this is the pace we should run,” she said matter of factly after the race.

In Chicago last October, she truly showed her mastery of the distance.  While Ethiopians Atsede Baysa, Mamitu Daska and Askale Tafa Magarsa clipped through the first half in 1:09:45, Shobukhova held back.  One by one they came back to her until, at the 21 mile mark, she passed Baysa to sail to a national record 2:20:25, her third consecutive marathon victory, and the USD 500,000 prize for winning the 2009/2010 World Marathon Majors series.

“During the race I was controlling the people in front of me,” Shobukhova said through a translator. “It wasn’t a surprise that they came back to me.”

On Sunday, Shobukhova will face one of the strongest fields ever assembled for a commercial marathon.  Her rivals include China’s Olympic bronze medallist Zhou Chunxiu (2:19:51 PB), Germany’s two-time London champion Irina Mikitenko (2:19:19), Kenya’s ING New York City Marathon Champion Edna Kiplagat and world half-marathon record holder Mary Keitany, Russia’s London Marathon runner-up Inga Abitova (2:22:19), and the Netherlands’ former world half-marathon record holder Lornah Kiplagat (2:22:22) amongst others.

Shobukhova would like to keep her streak going.  Winning big marathons has brought Shobukhova and her family financial freedom, and more quality time together.  ”The marathon changed my life,” she said.  ”It’s only two races in the year, so I can spend more time with my family.”

She can also spend time on other business ventures.  She is presently developing a hotel in a ski area in about 2000 kilometers from Moscow.  Her patience as a marathoner is helping with this venture, too.

“It’s very slow in Russia,” she lamented.  ”We purchased the land, but I still dream to build the hotel.”

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