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Million Dollar? Day for Shobukhova in Chicago

By David Monti
October 9, 2011
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

CHICAGO (09-Oct) -- In some ways, the race was over before it started.

Liliya Shobukhova, the two-time reigning Bank of America Chicago Marathon champion from Russia, knew she was guaranteed her second consecutive World Marathon Majors series title, and the attendant $500,000 prize, even before she heard the starter's gun this morning (the only woman who could have challenged her, Kenya's Edna Kiplagat, had withdrawn from next month's ING New York City Marathon because of injury assuring Shobukhova of the title).  There was every incentive to coast here today.

But showing the desire and mettle of a true champion, Shobukhova, 33, attacked the flat course which begins and ends in Grant Park, despite unseasonably warm temperatures.  She said her training pointed to a potential 2:19 result today, and that's what she wanted.

"I think that to run sub-2:20 you have to use new tactics," Shobukhova told the media after becoming the second-fastest women in history with her sparkling 2:18:20 victory, the #4 time in history.  "You have to try something else.  That's why I decided to go fast right away."

Shobukhova, and Ethiopia's Ejegayehu Dibaba --making her marathon debut-- and Japan's Kayoko Fukushi stayed with their original plans to run under 70 minutes for the first half.  With the help from of male pacemakers, the trio ran through half-way in 1:09:25.  Shobukhova felt confident.

"Before coming here, me and my coach decided 100% that we had to run 1:09:30," she said with the help of a translator.  "Why?  I could go faster, but it wasn't necessary.  I had to find my rhythm and correct breathing.  Never be afraid to run fast if your training shows it."

As the temperature rose above 70°F (21°C), the challenge of Dibaba and Fukushi melted away.  Fukushi was the first to fall back --but not apart; she held on to run a personal best 2:24:38 in third place despite experiencing stomach distress at 20-K-- and Dibaba was already six seconds behind by 25-K.  Running 16:15 from 25 to 30 kilometers, Shobukhova put the race away and was only running for the history books.  With her distinctive waddle, Shobukhova glided all the way to the finish to win by nearly four minutes.  She became the first athlete to win three consecutive marathons here, locked in her Olympic team berth, and won a pile of money.  Adding together her appearance fee, prize money, time bonus for breaking 2:20, private place bonuses typically given to top stars, and the winner's bonus her sponsor Nike will pay her, today's race was worth close to $1 million for Shobukhova.

"I'm so happy with my result, especially with the national record, with the three-peat, and the successful selection to the Olympic Games of 2012," she said looking stunned.  "I am overwhelmed at this time.  I'm shocked.  For all of this job I have done, I got the appreciation I wanted from myself."

Behind Shobukhova, Dibaba, who was a late entrant into the race, ran an excellent debut in 2:22:09, the third-fastest debut ever.  She achieved that mark despite dealing with pain in her left calf.

"It was a little feeling on my left leg, but it's OK," she said through a translator, surely happy with her $50,000 second place prize.

The first American was 29 year-old Jeannette Faber who ran a personal best 2:36:58 and got under the "A" standard of 2:39 for the USA Olympic Trials Marathon (Faber had qualified previously under the "B" standard of 2:46).  She finished third overall here, and won $10,000 as the top American.


MOSOP AT 85% STILL UNBEATABLE

Although both he and his coach, Renato Canova, insisted that an Achilles injury from last summer had left him at only "85%" fitness, Kenya's Moses Mosop nonetheless ran away from the field in the second half of the race to break the late Samuel Wanjiru's two year-old course record by four seconds, clocking 2:05:37.

Mosop, 26, the IAAF world record holder for 25,000m and 30,000m on the track, survived the race's first big surge just past the half-way mark (1:02:54), which dropped American hopeful, Ryan Hall, and cut the lead pack of contenders to five.  The 14th mile was covered in 4:36, part of a pattern somewhat jerky pacemaking, Hall said.

"The pacers would see a slow split on the back of the truck then hit it," Hall contended.  "I think our splits were all over the place."  He added: "It was kind of taking me out of my rhythm."

The five contenders --Kenya's Mosop, Wesley Korir, Bernard Kipyego, and Evans Cheruiyot, and Ethiopia's Bekana Daba-- were running in a tight bunch behind the last of three pacers, Ethiopia's Tillahun Regassa.  Korir, the two-time Los Angeles Marathon champion, decided at the 30-K fluid station that it was time to break up the race.

"If I was going to finish on the podium, I had to do something," said Korir, the former NCAA star at the University of Louisville.  "At the moment I was feeling really good.  I just saw an opportunity, I'm going to go.  If they come for me, they come for me, but I'm going to go."

Korir's move was explosive, and in a few seconds the pack was strung out and Korir had a 20 meter lead (he ran 4:38 for the 19th mile).  But Mosop was quick to respond, and soon caught up.

"I knew I was awakening a lion that was asleep," Korir lamented.

Mosop soon left Korir, and held the kind of pace that few men are capable of.  He had already 14:31 from 25 to 30-K, then cut down to 14:29 from 30-K to 35-K.  The lion was fully awake.

"I tried to go ahead, then I say someone will follow me and we can go together," Mosop explained.  "Then I say, let me try to push."

Although he slowed in final kilometers, he had already put the race out of reach.  His time was the fastest ever on U.S. soil on a record-quality course (all-comers record).  He won $100,000 in prize money, plus a $50,000 bonus for breaking the course record, in addition to his appearance fee and any side bonuses.  Mosop said he thinks he can go faster.

"When I was 100% I run 2:02," he said matter of factly.  "One hundred percent."

Korir, who had fallen behind Kipyego, battled back to get second in a two-minute personal best of 2:06:15.  Kipyego got third in 2:06:29, also a personal best, and Daba fourth (2:07:59).  Hall held on for fifth in 2:08:04, the third-fastest time of his career.

"I'm happy with that," Hall told reporters.  "My third best marathon ever."  He continued: "I thought I was in better shape than that.

Editor's Note: The author consults with the ING New York City Marathon on its professional marathon field.

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