2011 Virgin London Marathon Women's Preview: Liliya Shobukhova Vs. The "Strongest" London Women's Field Ever
April 13, 2011
When Virgin London Marathon race director Dave Bedford describes his women's field as "undoubtedly our strongest ever," you'd better take notice. London is the widely regarded as the most competitive marathon in the world outside of the Olympics and World Championships (and some would say including those events, which are limited to three Kenyans/Ethiopians per event). Thus, its "strongest" women's field ever is going to be a treat.
Leading the 2011 London field is defending London champion and the reigning World Marathon Majors Champion Liliya Shobukhova. She'll be challenged by the reigning World Champion Bai Xue of China, the 2008 Olympic champion, Constantina Dita of Romania, 2008 and 2009 London and World Marathon Champion (winning a cumulative $1,000,000 bonus) Irina Mikitenko of Germany, the reigning ING New York City Champion Edna Kiplagat of Kenya, and the reigning Berlin Champion Aberu Kebede of Ethiopia. Wait, we're not done yet - throw in the world's best half marathoner and world record holder Mary Keitany and 2007 London champ and sub-2:20 runner Zhou Chunxiu. We still haven't mentioned former World XC and World Half Marathon champ and 2:22:22 marathoner Lornah Kiplagat, 2:21 marathoner Magarsa Assale Tafa of Ethiopia or 2:22 Russian challenger Inga Abitova.
Since just listing the names of contenders takes a full paragraph, handicapping this field must be difficult, right? Not at all.
Liliya Shobukhova The Top Female Marathoner In The World
Liliya Shobukhova is without a doubt the top current female marathoner in the world and the favorite. The former world record holder at the indoor 3,000m (8:27.86) not only has tremendous speed (14:23 5k), but she is great at the marathon and has won her last three marathons getting faster each time. She also has a lethal kick we have never seen before in the marathon.
Shobukhova has been the best marathoner in the world the last two years and ... has to be considered the favorite. After finishing 3rd in London in her
first marathon, she won Chicago
last year by over 30 seconds over
Mikitenko and then ran a PR 2:22:00 to win the most competitive marathon
in the world (London) this last spring.
(And followed that up with a 2:20:25 come from behind win in Chicago last fall). She has stellar track credentials (14:23 for 5k and 30:29 for 10k on the
track) and has shown the marathon distance suits her quite well. At 32
33, she likely has a few good years left in the tank.