A win would all but guarantee a second World Marathon Majors crown.
Written by: David Monti
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
Liliya Shobukhova has a lot riding on the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
Shobukhova, 33, the reigning World Marathon Majors series champion, has a chance to become the first athlete –male or female– to win the Chicago race three years in a row. She is currently one of six women who have successfully defended their Chicago titles once, and she told reporters today on a conference call that to win a third consecutive time would be very difficult.
“Even though I’ve run Chicago twice before, this time it’s a new competition,” Shobukhova said with the help of a translator. Speaking from her home in Beloretsk, Russia, she continued, “Because of that, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Every year (executive race director) Carey Pinkowski invites the best of the best elites from the entire world, so the competition is very stiff. Therefore I think the results will be very stiff.”
But defending her Chicago title –which would earn her $100,000 in prize money, potential time bonuses, and guarantee the full payment of her undisclosed appearance fee– is only one of four major goals for Shobukhova during the race on October 9. A victory in Chicago would add another 25 points to her 2010/2011 World Marathon Majors point rankings, giving her a nearly insurmountable total of 90 points. That would mean another $500,000 check for being the series champion, money which she said she plans to share with her extended family.
“I already have a large house,” she said, explaining that she had not yet begun construction on a hotel she had planned to build near her home. “But, I have two sisters who would like to have a home. There are needs in my family.”
Shobukhova also needs to run a fast time to assure selection for the 2012 Russian Olympic team. According to her agent, Andrey Baranov, the first two women chosen for the Russian team will be selected based on the two fastest times achieved between September 1, and December 31 of this year. The third woman will be chosen next April by the national coach.
“It is based on the time, only,” Baranov explained in a brief telephone interview with Race Results Weekly. “Her result from London (when she ran a national record 2:20:15) doesn’t count with the Russian federation.”
Shobukhova was careful not to presume selection. “At this point, I’m still a candidate for the team, but the decision will be made next year, so I can’t say or not. A lot depends on how I run the Chicago Marathon. After that, they will be able to tell me for sure.”
Improving with every race, Shobukhova has run each of her five marathons faster than the previous one, and she hopes to run faster still in Chicago. She made her debut in London in 2009 in 2:24:24, good for third place, then won Chicago in 2009 (2:25:56), London in 2010 (2:22:00), and Chicago in 2010 (2:20:35). At London last April, she finished second to Kenya’s Mary Keitany and came very close to joining the exclusive sub-2:20 club with her 2:20:15 national record. Clocking a sub-2:20 is definitely on her mind for Chicago.
“Since I’ve already run 2:20 twice, I’d like to make a higher goal for myself and run under 2:20,” she said.
Shobukhova’s key to winning races has been her ability to run fast in the second half, while her opponents fade. When she won Chicago for the first time in 2009, she zipped through the second half in 1:10:51 off of a dawdling first-half pace. At London last April, she ran the second half in 1:09:38, a time which would win most half marathons. She said that in her training she focuses on accelerating in the second half, on both hard and easy days.
“There is no secret in my training,” she concluded. “In my training I always try to run the second half faster than the first half. Even if it is very hard to run, I try to run the second half two to three seconds (per kilometer) faster than the first.”