2010 B Of A Chicago Marathon Women's Preview

By LetsRun.com
October 7, 2010
*Race Time: 7:30 AM Central On Sunday Watch Live

Women's marathoning has been on a down trend of late. No women has run sub-2:22 in two full years.

Little of that will matter to Russia's Liliya Shobukhova on Sunday in the streets of Chicago. Shobukhova has been the best marathoner in the world the last two years and has a commanding 20 point lead over Irina Mikitenko in the 2009-2010 World Marathon Majors standings. Unless Mikitenko wins the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon and picks up 25 points and Shobukhova is out of the top four, Shobukhova will pick up a cool half-million-dollar prize for winning the World Marathon Majors.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 25: Liliya Shobukhova
of Russia wins the London Marathon during the 2010 Virgin London Marathon on April 25, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

Shobukhova 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 spring. 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, she likely has a few good years left in the tank.

Mikitenko cannot be totally overlooked. The two time WMM champion does have the top two marathon times in the world each of the last two years (2:22:11 to win London last spring and her 2:19:19 PR in Berlin in 2008 (the last race a woman ran sub-2:22)).  She was second last year in Chicago to Shobukhova but has done nothing since. She dropped out of London in the spring and this fall most recently pulled out of the Great North Half Marathon with an illness. Her only race in advance of Chicago is a 32:58 road 10k at the end of July. At 38, has Father Time caught up with her? Chicago will do a lot to determine the direction of the rest of her career.

Lidiya Grigoryeva is the only other women in the field who has won a World Marathon Major, as she won Chicago in 2008. However, it's hard to see her doing it again. First, Grigoryeva has never run under 2:25. Time isn't everything and she has won one WMM without going sub-2:25, but we don't see it happening again. Plus, in her only race before Chicago, she ran 1:18:21 at the Russian Half Marathon Champs. Bad day or not, things don't look well for her heading into Chicago.

Can Bayisa Break Through?
The women most likely to prevent another win by a previous World Marathon Major Champ is Atsede Bayisa of Ethiopia. Bayisa has the second-best time in the world in 2010 (2:22:04 to win in Paris). Her problem is this is her 7th marathon in the last two years. She ran four last year and this is her third this year (a win in Xiamen in January and in Paris in April). Can she up her game from her Paris performance? That's what it should take to win.

Another Ethiopian, Magarsa Assale Tafa, is the most recent women in the world to have gone under 2:22 in the marathon, as she was second to Mitikenko in 2:21:31 in 2008. After missing 2009, she's trying to make up for lost time and is racing her third marathon of 2010 (6th in Dubai, 5th in London). She has no recent races leading into Chicago, so she is somewhat of a mystery. Her career was on the upswing in 2008, and in 2010 she did run nearly three minutes faster (2:24:39) in London than in Dubai. If she now has taken the six months in between to focus solely on getting in right in Chicago, she could be a factor. All in all, however, she's run 13 marathons and only 3 have been sub-2:25.

Mamitu Daska is a familiar name to those who follow the US road scene. She has won Bolder Boulder the last two years and has run nearly all the iconic US road races - Peachtree, Bloomsday, Freihofer's, the Boilermaker and more. She's only finished two marathons, Berlin (2:26:38 last year) and Dubai, which she won this year in 2:24:18. Since then, she was 8th at World XC and then ran the first part of the US road circuit. With no road races since July, has she been able to fully make the transition to the marathon? If so, she has the pedigree to be a factor here.

23, 2009; Berlin, GERMANY; Desiree Davila was 11th in the women's marathon in 2:27:53 in the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics at Olympic Stadium. Photo via Newscom

What About The Americans And Joanie?
Olympian Magdalena Lewy-Boulet or Hanson Brooks runner Desiree Davila should be the best US hope. Lewy-Boulet ran a 2:26:22 personal best for second in Rotterdam. This fall she won the New Haven 20k in 1:07:41, which is equivalent to a sub-1:11:30 half marathon. Davila was 11th at last year's World Champs (2:27:53), just behind Kara Goucher. Davila used the spring and summer to focus on her speed. She even make the US team for World Indoors at 3k. She set PRs at 3k (8:51), 5k (15:29) and 10k (32:06) this year. Since running the Prefontaine Classic at 5,000m in July, she's been training for the marathon. Sunday will go a long way to see whether her focus on the track will pay off in the marathon. Her performance at Worlds shows she is not far off from being a sub-2:25 marathoner.

American Olympian, Colleen De Reuck (44 years old, 2:26:35 PR), and British Olympian Liz Yelling (2:28:33) are also in the field.

However, the American with the fastset PR in the field is 1984 Olympic Champ Joan Benoit Samuelson (2:21:21), who at the age of 53 is racing and hoping to run sub-2:50 and possibly run 2:47 and qualify for the US Olympic Trials. This is the 25th anniversary of her 2:21:21 American record in Chicago in 1985.

One To Discount:

Naoko Sakamoto helps the organizers on paper look like they have a better field than they do. She sports a 2:21:51 PR from 2003 (faster than any women the last 2 years, yet she was only 3rd in Osaka in 2003 when she ran it) and is only 29. Problem is she hasn't broken 2:25 since 2003 and hasn't been sub-2:30 in 2 years. Not sure what has happened to her, but unless she turns it around in Chicago, her career can be considered over.


We love picking upsets but we'll go with Shobukhova. She's got pedigree and the success at the marathon to keep on winning. Davila could make a name for herself by stepping up at Chicago. There also is the chance she gets in over her head like she did at the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials. But fortune favors the bold.

1) Shobukhova 2) Bayisa 3) Daska  4) Davila

Race Time: 7:30 AM Central On Sunday Watch Live Here

Pro Field From Bank Of America Chicago Website:
Irina Mikitenko GER 2:19:19
Askale Tafa Magarsa ETH 2:21:31
Naoko Sakamoto JPN 2:21:51
Liliya Shobukhova RUS 2:22:00
Atsede Baysa ETH 2:22:04
Mamitu Daska ETH 2:24:19
Lidiya Grigoryeva RUS 2:25:10
Magdalena Lewy-Boulet USA 2:26:22
Colleen De Reuck USA 2:26:35
Desiree Davila USA 2:27:53
Liz Yelling GBR 2:28:33
Kaori Yoshida JPN 2:30:58
Melissa White USA 2:32:55
Tera Moody USA 2:32:59
Zoila Gomez USA 2:33:53
Dot McMahan USA 2:35:02
Nicole Blaesser USA 2:35:09
Maria Konovalova RUS 2:35:21
Erin Moeller USA 2:36:51
Andrea Pomaranski USA 2:37:44
Fiona Docherty NZL 2:37:55
Kim Duclos USA 2:38:21
Jennifer Houck USA 2:39:02
Jia Chaofeng CHN 2:40:33
Diane Nukuri-Johnson BDI Debut
Molly Pritz USA Debut

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