Sunday, October 10, 2010

Race Day Repeat in Chicago

I never have a chance to watch the Chicago Marathon live on TV or cheer for the throngs of runners. I'm always running--and now I'm sitting on my couch recovering from No. 11. But before I analyze my own race (still figuring out a plan of attack for that one)--or fall asleep in the process of writing a race report with a tired body and mind--I started following what unfolded on the elite side.

It's easy to say that the 2009 and 2010 races were like night and day, at least if you compared the temperatures where there was nearly a 50-degree variance between the two races. In 2009, the race-start temperature was in the 30s, while this year the race start temperature was in the 60s and even felt a little warmer. But those temperature differences didn't keep the 2009 winners from repeating on the infamous flat and fast course that is Chicago.

Sammy Wanjiru defended his 2009 Chicago Marathon win with another victory this year, holding off Tsegaye Kebede (2010 Virgin London Marathon winner) and Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (2010 Boston Marathon winner). Wanjiru won the race in 2:06:24, not quite as fast as the 2:05:41 he ran last year, but still ahead of one of the most competitive field's ever.

According to a press release, Wanjiru, Kebede, and Feyisa Lilesa matched paces through 35 kilometers, making for a battle of the youngest elite men at 23, 23 and 20 years old, respectively. Lilesa dropped after 35K, which left Wanjiru and Kebede trading leads until the very end. Then Wanjiru kicked hard at mile 26 to claim victory. Kebede finished in 2:06:43, and Lilesa reaching the podium in 2:08:10. Jason Hartmann was the top American finisher, taking eighth place in 2:11:06.

Update: Liz summarized her race-day watching here at Time Out Chicago, including a video that shows Wanjiru's break away.

As for the World Marathon Major standings--a series that offers a $1 million prize purse split between men and women where runners receive place-based points by competing at the Chicago, New York, Boston, Berlin and London marathons--Wanjiru now holds a 10-point lead, which almost guarantees him the titles. The only way the standings could change would be if Kebede decides to race in New York next month and he finishes either first or second. With a top finisher, he could overtake Wanjiru.
On the women's side, Liliya Shobukhova repeated as the winner. But this time the Russian finished five minutes faster than her 2009 time--2:25:56 in 2009 versus 2:20:25 in 2010--and set a new Russian record as well as a personal best. According to a press release, Shobukhova overtook Astede Baysa at the 35K and ran solo through the chute. Baysa eventually finished second, but more than 3 minutes behind Shobukhova at 2:23:40. Maria Konovalova took third in 2:23:50, American Desiree Davila finished fourth in 2:26:20 and Irina Mikitenko rounded out the top five in 2:26:40.

Shobukhova's win today also secured her title as the World Marathon Majors champion with 85 points.
The first racers to cross the finish line this morning were the wheelchair athletes. The men's wheelchair competition saw 12-time Paralympic Gold Medalist and 12-time World Champion Goal Medalist Heinz Frei set a new course record in his Bank of America Chicago Marathon debut. Although his age, 52, could be considered old for the sport, Frei  finished in 1:26:56, outlasting a younger field that featured 9-time Boston Marathon Champion Ernst Van Dyk, who also made his Chicago debut.

Meanwhile it was a return to the podium for American Amanda McGrory in the women's wheelchair division. She captured her third Bank of America Chicago Marathon championship in 1:47:25, reclaiming victory over Tatyana McFadden, her University of Illinois teammate who won last year. McGrory won a sprint down the final stretch of Columbus Drive against Wakako Tsuchida who crossed two seconds later in 1:47:27. McFadden finished in 1:56:11.

For more details about the race or view results, check out And stay tuned for how my race--if you could call it that--unfolded.

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