Updated 20 July 2012
Liliya SHOBUKHOVA, Russia
(5000m, 10 000m, Marathon)
Born: 13 November 1977, Beloretsk
1.69 cm/ 50 kg
Coach: Igor Shobukhov
Compared to what Liliya Shobukhova experienced in her childhood, the difficulties of marathon distance seem nothing.
“My parents are ordinary people from a small town,” Shobukhova recalls. “My youth was in the period of early 1990s when the situation in the country was terrible. My parents did not get their salary for months. Sometimes we had nothing to eat for dinner. But the best food was always for me and my two sisters. My mother could stay hungry and give her piece to the children. I think this made me feel my responsibility. My family did so much to keep me running that I just could not let them down.”
Shobukhova joined the local running club at 9 years, in her third grade. Her first coaches, Evgeny and Tatyana Senchenko, chose Liliya together with 20 other children. “Before me it had always been the same story: the Senchenko family brought up a runner up to the regional level; than he or she graduated from school and chose another career or family life. Me and Galina Bogomolova where the first who stayed with our coaches after we were 17. And we were the first professional athletes in their career.”
In her early years, Shobukhova specialised mainly on 1500 and 3000m. She was forced to focus on these distances as her home, Beloretsk, did not provide conditions for long outdoor runs. “The temperature in winter often went below –25. And the nearest indoor track was 100km away. So I had to dress as warm as I could and go out running. Of course I could not do speed training outdoors in winter. And there was no money to go away to the training camps as I do now. Maybe that is why at the time I was not that successful on 1500m.”
Shobukhova’s PB at 1500m is a quite solid 4:03.78. In most countries this would be enough to win medals on the national level and qualify to big international events. But not in Russia, where the school of women middle distance running is traditionally very strong. Liliya’s best result on the distance was second place at the Russian Indoor Championships 2005.
Liliya’s early professional career was shadowed by the tragedy in her personal life. After school Shobukhova (nee Shagbalova) got married, but several years later her husband passed away. After that Liliya’s results went down. In 2000 she even had to become a pacemaker – in trainings she helped Galina Bogomolova who prepared for the Sydney Olympics.
“My biggest disappointment was in 2001 – at the time when I just recovered and thought that I was back on track,” Liliya says. “I qualified for the World Cross Country Champs in Oostende. I was so nervous that I almost trembled on the distance. I finished 64th that is up to now the worst ever result in my career. But it was a good lesson – after that I’ve learnt how to control my emotions.”
In 2002 Shobukhova made her debut at the European Championships. But 17th position at 5000m was way too far from what she expected. In 2003 Liliya gave birth to her daughter Anna and got married for the second time to Igor Shobukhov.
“First I trained at home, and then, when she got a little bit older, Igor stayed with our daughter while I was away at training camps,” Liliya says. “Unbelievable how fast time flies – in 2010 Anya already went to school! Now, as Igor is my coach, my mother stays with the daughter as she cannot miss classes. When I am home, I take my daughter to school and back between the trainings, and help her with the homework. And also, we have got five cats, a dog and a parrot!”
Shobukhova was back already in 2004, and appeared to be a much stronger athlete than before childbirth. Liliya was second on 5000 m at the European Cup in Bydgoszcz and qualified for her first Olympic Games in Athens. However there she was again only 13th… The breakthrough came in 2006 when Liliya at the Russian Indoor Championships set the new World record on 3000m – 8:27.86.
“Maybe the record happened because I did not have time to get nervous,” Shobukhova smiled. “I somehow mixed up the schedule and arrived at the indoor hall 40 minutes before the start of the race. I hardly managed to do several speed ups at the warm-up. But I tried to smile at the situation and my coaches seemed much more worried than me. After the race I even did not feel tired – like after a light training! Who knows, maybe it was the right time when all the effort I had given to the sport started to pay off.”
Later in the 2006 season, Shobukhova won her first major international medal, when she finished second on 5000m at the European Championships in Göteborg. In 2008 at the Russian Championships she set the European record – 14:23.75.
“This was really fast, I even did not believe my eyes first when I looked at the time,” Shobukhova recalls. “I had good preparation in Kislovodsk. I like altitude training there and it is good for my endurance.”
Shobukhova apparently became one of the favourites for the Beijing Olympics, but finished there only 6th, with a time almost 1.5 minutes slower than her PB. “This was the last 5000m race in my life,” said Shobukhova emotionally in the mixed zone. “I wanted to win the bronze but the pace on the last kilometres was too fast. Now I want to switch to 10,000 m and to the marathon. I think the competition there is weaker and I will have more medal chances. Because here it is really very hard to fight against both Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar.”
As she had said, after Beijing Shobukhova started preparation for the London marathon 2009. In the middle of it she split rom coach Tatyana Senchenko after 22 years (!) together. “It is hard for me to talk about this even now,” Liliya comments. “In short, we had different views on how to train for the marathon. She insisted on more speed trainings and I wanted to go step by step, to listen to my body, as I was afraid that after the first time I would hate marathon distance forever. Unfortunately we did not find a compromise. I had to leave the group and seriously thought to finish my career. But then my husband said: “Let’s try to train together.”
In this unusual duet Igor was the most inexperienced – he had never before coached professional athletes. They tried to follow the method they had learnt from Senchenko in recent years, and also carefully listen to Liliya’s own feelings. The result was amazing: at her debut marathon Shobukhova was third, and could actually even win.
“I started too slow because I was afraid,” Shobukhova explained. “All the distance I had been waiting for the hard point of the race to come. But it never came, I felt great till the finish line. What is also funny, I was so excited about my time, that on the way back to the airport I left my bag with all the documents in express train. When I realised what had happened the train was already gone. And I don’t speak good English so I had to explain everything to a police officer mainly with gestures. Finally they found my bag, but I was late for my flight and had to buy another ticket. Maybe at this point I was even more nervous than at the start of the marathon!”
In the next three years Shobukhova became a star of marathon running. She won Chicago marathon three times in a row and twice was first at the World Marathon Majors series. “I think the marathon best suits my character,” Shobukhova says. “It is like playing chess. I have a goal for every 5kms of the race. If situation changes I have to correct my goals, to adjust tactics. It is really a great challenge for me. And what is also important, thanks to the marathon I discovered many new great things about my husband. We learn everything together, make experiments, make mistakes, but we remember that we are one team and never blame each other.”
In her preparation for the Olympic marathon, Shobukhova even missed her usual spring race. “I want to be fresh at the Games. Commercial races can wait.., After all, maybe this will be my last chance to win an Olympic medal,” Shobukhova commented. Her husband, daughter and even all the pets at home in Beloretsk are of course waiting for their Liliya to come back with the medal of her life.
800: 2:03.18 (2006)
1500: 4:03.78 (2004)
3000: 8:34.85 (2004) / 8:27.86i AR (2006)
5000: 14:23.75 AR (2008)
10,000: 30:29.36 (2009)
Marathon: 2:18.20 NR (2011)
1500/3000/5000/Marathon: 1996: -/9:37.6h/-/-; 1997: 4:22.69/-/16:25.94/-; 1998: -/-/16:50.64/-; 1999: 4:17.62/-/-/-; 2000: 4:20.66/9:37.24/-/-; 2001: 4:12.04/8:53.35/-/-; 2002: 4:15.04/8:54.96/15:25.00/-; 2003: 4:16.85i; 2004: 4:03.78/8:34.85/14:52.19/-; 2005: 4:07.03/8:40.82/14:47.07/-; 2006: 4:03.90/8:38.42/14:56.57/-; 2007: -/8:44.30/15:51.53/-; 2008: 4:08.11/-/14:23.75/-; 2009: -/-/-/2:24:24; 2010: -/-/-/2:20:25; 2011: -/-/-2:18:20
2001 (3000) 4th European Cup (Bremen) 9:06.78
2002 (3000) 5th European Indoor Championships (Vienna) 9:02.48
2002 (5000) 17th European Championships (Munich) 16:21.21
2004 (5000) 2nd European Cup (Bydgoszcz) 14:52.19
2004 (1500) 5th Russian Championships (Tula) 4:03.88
2004 (5000) 13th Olympic Games (Athens) 15:15.64
2005 (3000) 1st Russian Indoor Championships (Volgograd) 8:50.50
2005 (1500) 2nd Russian Indoor Championships (Volgograd) 4:11.26
2005 (3000) 5th European Indoor Championships (Madrid) 8:57.79
2005 (5000) 1st European Cup (Florence) 15:01.15
2005 (5000) 1st Russian Championships (Tula) 15:16.73
2005 (5000) 9th World Championships (Helsinki) 14:47.07
2005 (3000) 10th World Athletics Final (Monaco) 9:02.23
2006 (3000) 1st Russian Indoor Championships (Moscow) 8:27.86
2006 (3000) 2nd World Indoor Championships (Moscow) 8:42.18
2006 (5000) 1st European Cup (Malaga) 16:18.23
2006 (1500) 5th Russian Championships (Tula) 4:03.90
2006 (5000) 2nd European Championships (Göteborg) 14:56.57
2006 (5000) 2nd World Cup (Athens) 15:05.33
2007 (5000) 4th European Cup (Munich) 15:51.53
2008 (5000) 7th Russian Indoor Championships (Moscow) 16:02.24
2008 (5000) 1st Russian Championships (Kazan) 14:23.75
2008 (5000) 6th Olympic Games (Beijing) 15:46.62
2009 (Marathon) 3rd London Marathon 2:24:24
2009 (10,000) 1st Russian Championships (Cheboksary) 30:29.36
2009 (10,000) 19th World Championships (Berlin) 32:42.36
2009 (Marathon) 1st Chicago Marathon 2:25:56
2010 (Marathon) 1st London Marathon 2:22:00
2010 (Marathon) 1st Chicago Marathon 2:20:25
2011 (Marathon) 2nd London Marathon 2:20:15
2011 (Marathon) 1st Chicago Marathon 2:18:20
Prepared by Natalia Maryanchik for IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2012.