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Million Dollar Day For Shobukhova In Chicago

The Russian wins for the third time in the Windy City.

The Russian wins for the third time in the Windy City.

Written by: David Monti

(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Liliya Shobukhova, shown here winning last year's Chicago Marathon, three-peated to win this year's race in course-record time. Photo:

CHICAGO — 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she heard the starter’s gun this morning (the only woman who could have challenged her, Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat, had withdrawn from next month’s ING New York City Marathon because of injury assuring Shobukhova of the title).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.

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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 halfway in 1:09:25.  Shobukhova felt confident.

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“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 20K– and Dibaba was already six seconds behind by 25K.  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.