2013 Chicago Marathon Women’s Preview: Which 2:22-23 Woman Will Win On Sunday?

Will We See A Repeat Thrilling Finish Like We Did Last Year?

by LetsRun.com
October 10, 2013

Chicago, IL – Predicting the outcome of the 2013 Bank of America women’s marathon isn’t an easy task as the field is a bit muddled. Race organizers have brought in seven 2:22-2:23 women (two at 2:22, five at 2:23) but none of them stands out as “Wow, she’s the person to beat if she’s on her game.”

We break down those seven runners plus a 2:24:09 runner from Japan (Yukiko Akaba), the 2013 LA marathon winner (Aliaksandra Duliba) as well as former world cross-country champion Werkensh Kidane below. Together they represent the The Ten Best Women at the 2013 Chicago Marathon. After saying a little something about all ten, we analyze the field as a whole at the bottom.

The Ten Best Women At The 2013 Chicago Marathon

Atsede Baysa won by the tiniest of margins last year

1. Atsede Baysa – Ethiopia – 26 years old – Defending champion
Marathon PR: 2:22:03 for 1st in Chicago (2012).
2013 Marathon: 2:25:14 for 4th in London.
Prep races: None.
What she has going for her: Has run well in Chicago. Won last year in a photo finish, 2nd in 2010.
Negatives? Has raced 20 career marathons. We don’t see her going much faster than 2:22:00.
Overall: She’s a solid performer over the years who is very capable of a 2:22 performance which might be enough to win. Three of last six races under 2:25:00.

Rita Jeptoo winning in Boston earlier this year. More Boston photos.

2. Rita Jeptoo – Kenya – 32 years old –
Marathon PR: 2:22:04 for 2nd in Chicago (2012).
2013 Marathon: 2:26:25 for 1st in Boston.
Prep races: None.
What she has going for her: Has nearly won two straight World Marathon Majors as she lost in the sprint finish last year to Baysa and then won Boston. She also won Boston in 2006.
Negatives? We guess her age, but she’s better now than before her maternity leave.
Overall: Hard to discount here. We know she lost last year but her win in Boston and her 66:27 half marathon personal best (versus 67:33 for Baysa) makes her our favorite.

3. Merima Mohammed (also known as Merima Hasen) – Ethiopia – 21 years young

Marathon PR: 2:23:06 for 3rd in Toronto (2010).
2013 Marathons: 2:23:37 for 1st Houston (January), 2:23:14 for 2nd Paris (April).
Prep races: None. Did win Bolder Boulder in May.
What she has going for her: Consistent 2:23 performer twice this year.
Negatives? She’s only 21 but has raced 12 marathons, with her first coming at age 17, the same year she was running the 1,500 at World Youths.
Overall: 12 marathons by age 21? Someone call the Child Protective Services. If she raced less, might she be a star? She ran her 2:23:06 PR at age 18.

4. Jemima Sumgong (also known as Jemima Jelagat) – Kenya – 28 years old
Marathon PR: 2:23:27 for 1st at Rotterdam (2013).
2013 Marathon: 2:23:27 for 1st at Rotterdam (2013).
Prep races: None.
What she has going for her: Huge PR at Rotterdam in her last marathon as she’d never broken 2:29:41 prior to that.
Negatives? 7 marathons and only one is under 2:29.
Overall: Her 2:23 in Rotterdam was no fluke as she also was 2nd in the hot Boston of 2012 in 2:31:52.

5. Ehitu Kiros Reda – Ethiopia – 25 years old
Marathon PR: 2:23:39 for 2nd in Dubai (2013).
2013 Marathon: 2:23:39 for 2nd in Dubai (2013), 2:30:02 for 3rd in Prague (2013).
Prep races: None.
What she has going for her: PR was 2:34:05 prior to Dubai.
Negatives? Only one time under 2:30.
Overall: Hard to see her winning. Here’s an interesting tidbit: Last year, she won a marathon in Macau where she had to run more than 26.2 miles (everyone did an extra 3k due to an official’s error) and it was hot as heck as her winning time was over 2:50.

6. Mariya Konovalova – Russia – 39 years old
Marathon PR: 2:23:50 for 3rd in Chicago in 2010.
2013 Marathon: None.
Prep races: 69:20 half marathon PR on Sept. 14th.
What she has going for her: Konovalova may be up there in age but she’s credentialed. She once ran 8:30 for 3,000 (1999), 14:38 for 5,000 (2008) and 30:31 for 10,000 (2009). She was 5th in the 2008 Olympic 10,000. She was third in Chicago in 2010 and 6th last year in 2:25:38. Also she’s a thyroid cancer survivor. Two surgeries saved her in 2000 and 2002 but she has damaged vocal chords.
Negatives? 39 isn’t young for a marathoner.
Overall: Comes into Chicago after recent half marathon PR. A top 5 or even top 3 finish is very much a possibility but no way we see a 39-year-old winning it.

7. Abebech Afework Ethiopia – 22 years old
Marathon PR: 2:23:59 for 2nd in Rotterdam (2013).
2013 Marathon: 2:27:08 for 8th in Dubai, 2:23:59 for 2nd in Rotterdam (2013).
Prep races: 71:58 for 3rd on Sept. 1st.
What she has going for her: Young 2:23 woman.
Negatives? 71:58 in her most recent prep race isn’t good.
Overall: Maybe next year.

8. Yukiko Akaba – Japan – 33 years old
Marathon PR: 2:24:09 in London (6th in 2011).
2013 Marathons: 2:24:43 (3rd in London), 2:27:17 (1st in Gold Coast in July), 2:32:10 (2nd at Sapporo in August).
Prep races: 2:32 marathon on August 25th. 70:24 half on 9/1.
What she has going for her: Been racing a lot so you know she’s in decent shape.
Negatives? Been racing a lot. This is her 4th marathon of 2013, so there is little reason to expect a big breakthrough.
Overall: Is she trying to become the female version of Yuki Kawauchi? She’s been racing a lot but we don’t blame her as she got screwed over by the Japanese and left off their World Championships team despite her 3rd place in London and her 5th place at 2011 Worlds.

9. Aliaksandra Duliba – Belarus – 27 years old (we think Chicago says she’s 27, Tilastapaja says she’s 25)
Marathon PR: 2:26:08 for win in Los Angeles in her debut.
2013 Marathon: 2:26:08 for win in Los Angeles.
Prep races: None.
What she has going for her: Set Belarus national record in her debut. Seems perfectly made for marathon as her other PRs are 4:20 for 1,500, 16:13 for 5k, and 33:08 for 10k.
Negatives? Her other PRs.
Overall: A real wild card here. Nothing about her past seems to indicate she’s a sub-2:25 performer but she was great in LA.

Both Kidane and her husband are world cross country champions. Someone recruit their children. Both Kidane and her husband are World Cross-Country champions. Someone recruit their children.

10. Werknesh Kidane – Ethiopia – 31 years old
Marathon PR: 2:26:15 for 7th in Boston (2011).
2013 Marathon: None.
Prep races: None.
What she has going for her: Very credentialed at non-marathon distance. Six time World Cross-Country medalist, including 2003 gold. Also 2003 World Championships silver medalist at 10,000. Also 4th in 10,000 at 2012 and 2004 Olympics. Also has 67:26 half marathon PR.
Negatives? Has run three marathons in her life and none were particularly good. 2:27:15 in Dubai, 2:26:15 in Boston and 2:33:08 in New York
Overall: A big-time talent who isn’t that old. She ran 30:39 last year at the Olympics. This year, however, the only two results for her are a pair of road 5ks in the 15:30s. Her days as a track/cross-country force are over. Will she ever arrive as a solid marathoner?

Article continues below player.

So Who Wins?

Above we gave you ten people to take a look at but we really think your eventual winner is one of the first four names – defending champ Atsede Baysa, last year’s runner-up and this year Boston champ Rita Jeptoo, Merima Mohammed, who has run 2:23 twice this year, and 2013 Rotterdam winner Jemima Sumgong.

We guess if we hear at the press conferences on Friday that Werknesh Kidane has been training unbelievably we’ll add her as a fifth contender as she certainly has the talent to do it. But nothing about her marathon past (three none faster than 2:26:15) or her 2013 results (two 5ks on the road in the 15:30s) makes us think she’s going to do it on Sunday.

In comparing the top four, the top two from last year definitely jump out as a step above on paper than numbers three and four. We know Baysa won last year over Jeptoo but Jeptoo’s win in Boston this year makes her our favorite.

We will say one thing. If the 21-year-old Mohammed wins, she could be a rival for the top two women in the world right now – Priscah Jeptoo and Edna Kiplagat of Kenya – as she’s still just 21. Somehow, she’s already raced 12 marathons. Is she really a sub-2:20 talent who just hasn’t shown it yet because of her young age and being over-raced?

Any Americans?

There are three Americans in the field with personal bests under 2:35.

Grandt en route to her PR in Boston in 2011. More 2011 Boston Marathon photos.

1. Clara Santucci (formerly Clara Grandt) – 26 years old
Marathon PR: 2:29:54 (for 16th in Boston in 2011).
2013 Marathon: 2:33:25 for 9th in Ottawa.
Prep races: 72:40 for 20k (12th place at US Champs in New Haven in Sept)
What she has going for her: She proved her wind-aided 2:29 was no fluke as she ran 2:30:46 at the Olympic Trials and got seventh.

Pezzulo at the 2012 NYC Half. More NYC Half Photos.

2. Stephanie Pezzullo
Marathon PR: 2:32:42 for 10th in Chicago last year in her debut.
2013 Marathon: None.
Prep races: 34:33 for 10k in September.
What she has going for her: Former soccer player who didn’t start running until spring of her senior year in college was 10th here last year in her only marathon. Update: We just read an incredible profile of her from the Charlotte Observer. If you read it, you’ll become a big fan: Inspiring story on US’s Stephanie Pezzullo: Running for her life.

3. Melissa White – 32 years old
Marathon PR: 2:32:55 for 8th in Chicago in 2009.
2013 Marathon: None.
Prep races: None.
What she has going for her: The former DIII star for SUNY-Geneseo ran her PR in Chicago in 2009.

Of the three, Santucci certainly is the most accomplished, but Pezzulo ran a 10k PR this summer (34:03) and also beat Santucci at Cherry Blossom in April.

The full list of elite women’s entrants appears below. Want even more info? See the 2013 Chicago media guide.


2013 Elite Chicago Women’s Field

Melissa White in 2011.

Name Country Personal Best Bib #
Atsede Baysa ETH 2:22:03 101
Rita Jeptoo KEN 2:22:04 102
Merima Mohammed ETH 2:23:04 103
Jemima Sumgong KEN 2:23:27 104
Ehitu Kiros Reda ETH 2:23:38 105
Maria Konovalova RUS 2:23:50 106
Abebech Afework ETH 2:23:59 107
Yukiko Akaba JPN 2:24:09 108
Aliaksandra Duliba BLR 2:26:08 109
Werknesh Kidane ETH 2:26:15 110
Yue Chao CHN 2:29:50 111
Clara Santucci USA 2:29:54 112
Zhang Jingxia CHN 2:32:37 113
Stephanie Pezzullo USA 2:32:42 114
Melissa White USA 2:32:55 115
Laurie Knowles USA 2:38:09 116
Amanda Rice USA 2:38:57 117
Gabriela Trana CRC 2:39:14 118
Marci Gage USA 2:39:20 119
Gina Slaby USA 2:39:35 120
Sopagna Eap USA 2:40:19 121


More: LRC Men’s Preview: Who Will Emerge In Loaded Men’s Field? Do Americans Tegenkamp And Ritzenhein Have A Chance?

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