In a fast and close race, Ethiopia's Tsegaye Kebede, 22 won the 35th Bank of America Chicago Marathon, the IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday 7 October, clocking a new course record of 2:04:46.
Country-men Feyisa Lilesa and Tilahun Regassa finished second and third with 2:04:52 and 2:05:28 respectively, also smashing the course record of 2:05:37 set by Kenyan Moses Mosop in 2011.
Despite much cooler weather than last year, with 4 C at the start and 6 C at the finish, the time registered by women runners were slower than 2011. Ethiopian Atsede Bayasa crossed in 2:22:03 and Kenyan Rita Jeptoo, hit the ribbon almost completely shoulder to shoulder with her, getting 2:22:04 result.
Defending champion and the holder of the second best marathon time in the world, Russian Liliya Shobukhova finished fourth with 2:22:59, setting the best overall finish time among the European runners, her time is also a European season-leading time.
Shobukhova, who owns the enviable record of winning the Chicago Marathon three consecutive times, postponed till the next year the challenge to the course record 2:17:18 set in 2002 by Britain's Paula Radcliffe, holder of the best women's marathon time in the world.
This year 45 thousand runners from 50 U.S. States and 115 countries toed the start line of the flat and fast urban course, of which lucky 7,777number arrived from abroad, including 1858 Europeans.
From the start Russians Liliya Shobukhova, 34 and Maria Konovalova, 38 took the charge of 6-runner pack, including three Ethiopian and one Kenyan runner. While defending champion Shobukhova has had a great run at the Chicago Marathon in recent years, Konovalova also set her 2:23:50 PB at 2010 Chicago Marathon and clocked 2:30:29 in 2012 Virgin London Marathon.
Atsede Baysa, 25, from Ethiopia, who has a PB 2:22:04 set in Paris in 2010, completed Dubai Marathon this year with 2:23:13. Kenyan Lucy Kabuu set 2:19:38PB in 2012 Dubai Marathon and 1:39:53 PB on 30 km in London-2012.
The pack passed through 5 km mark in 17:06, chased by another group of 2 Kenyan runners- Rita Jeptoo, 31, and Caroline Rotich, 28, and two Ethiopian runners, some 5 meters behind.
Then, Shobukhova and Konovalova switched turns leading the pack of five Ethiopian and three Kenyan runners, who stretched with 5-meter intervals behind. They passed through 10 km mark in 34 minutes, through 15 km mark in 50:49, and half point in 1:11:15 in the same manner.
By the 25th km mark Kabuu took the lead and passed it in 1:24:26, and the others followed 5-10 meters behind. The same order kept through 30km marker, passed in 1:41:15. Shobukhova followed Kabuu together with Bayasa 20 meters behind, controlling the race.
On the next 10km stretch Bayasa accelerated and took lead passing through 40 km mark in 2:14:45 together with Jeptoo who pulled up to her.
"I let them start pulling away to the front after the 30th kilometer. My task at this race was not to harm my leg that is recovering from injuries. I didn't have any pain and ran all distance at a speed allowing me to feel comfortable. I didn't look at this race as 'the only last chance.' I understand that I can run faster than my PB 2:18:20 and want to do next year in Chicago," said Shobukhova.
Men's elite field was dominated by Ethiopian and Kenyan runners. From the gun a pack of 3 Kenyans and 3 Ethiopians took the charge of the race, and passed through 5 km mark in 15:06, closely followed some 5 meters behind by another pack of 6, with Ethiopia's Kebede, Lilesa and Regasa.
Kebede completed London Marathon 2012 in 2:06:52 and was a runner-up in Chicago Marathon 2010. Lilesa finished in 2010 Rotterdam Marathon with 2:05:23 PB and Houston Half Marathon this year with PB 59.22. Liesa and Regassa are trained together by one coach Haji Adilo. Regasa set Half Marathon PB 59:19 in Abu Dhabi 2010.
The group of two Ethiopians and four Kenyans, including Wesley Korir, 29 and three pacemakers went through 10 km mark in 29:58. The chasing pack, headed by Ethiopia's Kebede and Regasa and Kenyan Sammy Kitwara, 25, kept close, 5 meters behind.
By the 15th km Kebede took the lead going steadily behind pacemakers, leading the pack of eight in 44.56 through this mark. The rest followed in the same manner.
Kebede passed behind two pacemakers through the half point in 1:02:55, leading the pack of eight, chased by Lilesa and Korir some 5 meters behind.
Kebede and Lilesa made a surge to the front and broke up the pack of four, passing through 40 km mark in 1:58:02, and leaving the closest taker Regassa more than a hundred meters behind. The rest lined up in the same order as they later came to the finish line.
The last 2 km stretch became the contest of two countrymen. Kebede steadily pulled away from Lilesa and finished in 2:04:38 setting new course record and his personal best, and became the first Ethiopian man to win this marathon.
- Yelena Kurdyumova and Sergey Porada for European Athletics