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Chicago Marathon: Women’s record fourth-coming?

LiliyShobukhovRussicrosses finish line with an unofficial time 2:18:17 Chicago MarathSunday Oct. 09 2011 Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Liliya Shobukhova of Russia crosses the finish line with an unofficial time of 2:18:17 at the Chicago Marathon Sunday, Oct. 09, 2011, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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the facts

What: The 35th marathon through Chicago neighborhoods

When: Sunday. Wheelchair start, 7:20 a.m.; start of runners, 7:30-8 a.m.

Where: Begins and ends on Columbus in Grant Park, as far north as Addison, as far west as Damen, as far south as 35th

On the air: Ch. 5, 670-AM

Who: 40,000 marathoners


Women’s best (Chicago): 2:18:20, Liliya Shobukhova, Oct. 9, 2011

Women’s world record: 2:15:25, Paula Radcliffe, April 13, 2003, London

Updated: November 3, 2012 6:21AM

Every once in a while a funnier side of the ultra-focused Liliya Shobukhova peeks through.

Asked in an email interview, done as she finished her training at altitude for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday, if she had a favorite part of the course, she cracked, “Definitely yes, a few last meters of the Chicago course and a finishing tape in front of.’’

Nobody in the world has seen that stretch of Columbus Drive as well as the Russian marathoner.

On Sunday, she will be running toward history on many levels, not least of which is to become the first to win Chicago four times.

Last year, Shobukhova became the fastest woman marathoner — not named Paula Radcliffe — with a winning time of 2 hours, 18 minutes, 20 seconds. On one level, say the levelness, that’s easy to explain.

“It’s a speedy course; each athlete running it has a great opportunity to change the history of marathon running in general or to improve his/her own PR significantly,’’ Shobukhova said.

Two of the last three world records for women in the marathon have come in Chicago.

On Oct. 7, 2001, Kenyan Catherine Ndereba did it in 2:18:47. The following year on Oct. 13, Radcliffe lowered it by more than a minute to 2:17.18 in Chicago. That is still the women’s record in Chicago, something that could be challenged Sunday. Radcliffe set the current world record on April 13, 2003, at the London Marathon with a 2:15:25. Since then, her career has been injury-crossed.

Shobukhova knows her own star-crossed marathon. She was the gold-medal favorite in London at the Olympics but withdrew on Aug. 5 with stomach cramps.

“There is definitely an additional motivation leading into the Chicago Marathon, after what happened in the Olympics,’’ she said.

Not that she seems to need much motivation in Chicago, which suits her for several reasons.

“I may give a few explanations on that,’’ she said. “Training-wise, Chicago Marathon is held in fall, which means four months before it, the weather conditions are perfect for any kind of training. It’s much more difficult to train for a spring marathon, as Russian winter conditions may cause some troubles and limitations, and I have to move usually to Europe (where ice and snow does happen sometimes, as it has in the last few years, which is not good for speed workouts).

“Then, let’s call it, opportunity- wise. The Chicago Marathon is one of the five Major Marathons with a great history and huge media attention. It goes without saying that Chicago Marathon is one of my most favorite events I’ve ever competed in. Chicago is the place I get my confidence from and get realization of the most ambitious ideas such as to run sub-2:19 or three-pick victory.’’

Shobukhova, who expects to arrive Wednesday in Chicago, has a routine before the Chicago Marathon.

“On Friday in the morning I do final workouts outside, then a press conference, continue with an appearance at the Nike Town Chicago, finishing with dinner time and time to sleep,’’ she said. “Saturday is going to be devoted to rest and concentration before the race. Will see what Sunday will bring.’’

History awaits.

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