London and Chicago Champ Shobukhova to Face Mikitenko in Chicago to Likely Decide World Marathon Majors Title

By David Monti
September 2, 2010
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Editor's note: The author is an elite athlete consultant for the ING NYC Marathon

The #1 and #2-ranked women in the 2009/2010 World Marathon Majors points chase, Russia's Liliya Shobukhova and Germany's Irina Mikitenko, will face each other at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 10, organizers announced yesterday.  That match-up will likely determine the WMM series champion who will walk off with a winner-take-all prize of USD 500,000.

Shobukhova, who won in Chicago last year and was also 2010 Virgin London Marathon champion last April, has 60 points in the series (each victory is worth 25 points).  Mikitenko has 40 points, so she could surpass Shobukhova in Chicago by winning the race while Shobukhova finishes fifth (one point) or lower.  Should Mikitenko win and Shobukhova finish fourth, giving both athletes 65 points, Mikitenko would be series champion under WMM rules which specify that if athletes are both tied on points and head-to-head record (they would be tied 2-2) the athlete who achieved her points in the fewest races would be the winner.  Mikitenko would have earned points in just three races to Shobukhova's four.

The only other athlete with a chance in the series, Kenya's Salina Kosgei who has 36 points, could only win if Shobukhova scores no points in Chicago and Kosgei outscores Mikitenko in another fall WMM race by at least five points.  Kosgei's participation in a fall marathon has not yet been announced by either the real,--Berlin Marathon or the ING New York City Marathon.

Chicago executive race director Carey Pinkowski also announced the participation of several other top women: Russia's Lidiya Grigoryeva and Mariya Konovalova, and Japan's Naoko Sakamoto.  Pinkowski had previously said that a trio of American women --Magdalena Lewy Boulet, Desiree Davila and Colleen De Reuck-- would be running his event.

"We are thrilled to welcome this group of world class marathoners to Chicago," Pinkowski said through a media release.  "It's shaping up to be one of the strongest fields in our 33-year history and we have an exciting opportunity for both the men's and women's World Marathon Majors series to be decided on our race course."

Shobukhova, 32, has quickly become one of the world's top marathon runners after a successful career on the track (she is still the European record holder for 5000m).  In London last April she ran a personal best 2:22:00, following on the heels of her Chicago win in 2:25:56.  She made her marathon debut in London in April, 2009, in 2:24:24 to take third place.

Mikitenko, 38, took a similar route from the track to the road.  A three-time Olympian at 5000m, Mikitenko has twice won the WMM overall title in the 2007/'08 and 2008/'09 seasons.  She is the German record holder with a 2:19:19 personal best.  In her last marathon, she dropped out of the Virgin London Marathon last April with intense shin pain.

Konovalova, 36, another former track star, had a rough marathon debut in London last April, finishing 16th in 2:35:21.  However, she's run 14:38.09 for 5000m and 30:31.03 for 10,000m and could be a factor in this year's race in Chicago.  The 36 year-old Grigoryeva, who was the Boston Marathon champion in 2007, and the Chicago champion in 2008, has a personal best time of 2:25:10.  Sakamoto, 29, ran a very fast 2:21:51 at Osaka back in 2003, but hasn't run sub-2:26:00 in six years.

"We will have our top three competitors from last year back on the start line and Liliya, in particular, has proven to be at the pinnacle of the sport right now and is getting better with each race she runs," Pinkowski added.  "But she will have her hands full with this dynamic field."

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is the second largest marathon in the United States.  Held on a completely flat course, the race recorded 33,475 finishers last year.  This year's event will be the 33rd running.

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