Chicago, USAWith temperatures near the freezing mark, Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru, 22, of Kenya won the men’s race at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, setting a new course record by one second in 2:05:41, while women’s winner Russia’s Lilya Shobukhova, 31, blew apart a slow but tight race at the 40 kilometre mark, finishing 35 seconds ahead of Germany’s Irina Mikitenko, 37, in 2:25:56.
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
The races couldn’t have been more different. Led by three white singleted pacesetters, five Kenyans made up the early lead pack that tore through the early miles at 4:40 pace and hit the half marathon at the pre-race set 1:02:00 target. At that point one of the pacesetters had been dropped and another was in trouble. By 25K, however, the last remaining pacer, 2007 Chicago champion Patrick Ivuti, could no longer maintain World record pace.
That had been Wanjiru’s goal, but at that point he said: “I knew the world record was not possible now. I was just running for the win.”
Too soon to make a decisive move, Wanjiru reverted to his “Beijing strategy,' looking over at whoever was still with him or dropping back to take a look at who was behind, throwing in an occasional surge, all designed to gauge the strength of his opponents. By 35K, he added, it was time to go.
He threw in one surge and opened up a small gap on Kenya’s two other marathoning prodigies, Vincent Kipruto, 22, and Charles Munyeki, 23.
He then surged again two minutes later to open an even wider gap. The race was over and the only question was whether or not Khalid Khannouchi’s former World record and now former course record would fall. A $100,000 course record bonus was on offer and as Wanjiru threw out his hands and gestured to the crowds as he approached the finish line it was not clear whether or not any deceleration in pace from that celebration may have cost him the record.
Asked if he had been aware of the bonus for the record, Wanjiru said, no, he was just running to win the race and that his thoughts as he approached the finish were reflective of the joy of winning.
Winning and not times was also the primary objective for the women as the US’s Tera Moody with a PR nearly 15 minutes slower than the fastest women in the field, led for most of the early miles. By halfway, Moody had been caught and passed and six women huddled together in the lead pack.
“Most of the time it is cold in Russia,” said third place finisher, Lidiya Grigoryeva, 35. “But it was too cold here. Russians like hot weather.”
“I should have run a little quicker earlier,” said Mikitenko.
“We knew it was going to be a slow race in the beginning because of the cold,” said Shobukhova. “When we were talking about the race strategy before the race we were talking about the last 10K. When there was 3K to go, I knew: “This is my territory.”
She looked around at the three other women still with her, and, like Wanjriu, attempted to assess their conditions. “In the end my speed was very helpful,” said Shobukhova. “I had been looking around at the other runners. I saw earlier in the race that Mikitenko seemed to be having some difficulty. She was breathing a bit heavy. So, when we got near the end, I said, ‘It is my time to go, to do my best.’”
Her best was good enough as she put 35 seconds on her closest rival in the last 1.2 miles. After the race, she was asked what she is doing next, and without knowing it, she sounded more American than Russian. “We’re going to Disneyland,” she said.
Jim Ferstle for the IAAF
1. Sammy Wanjiru 2:05:41
2. Abderrahim Goumri 2:06:04
3. Vincent Kipruto 2:06:08
4. Charles Munyeki 2:07:06
5. Richard Limo 2:08:43
6. Wesley Korir 2:10:38
7. Isaac Macharia 2:11:09
8. Sergio D Reyes 2:15:30
1. Liliya Shobukhova 2:25:56
2. Irina Mikitenko 2:26:31
3. Lidiya Grigoryeva 2:26:47
4. Teyba Erkesso 2:26:56
5. Berhane Adere 2:28:38
6. Deena Kastor 2:28:50
7. Mizuho Nasukawa 2:29:22
8. Melissa White 2:32:55