Friday, October 1, 2010

Chicago bound: the elites

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon today announced its complete 2010 men's and women's elite field. The additions of Ethiopians Deriba Merga and Feyisa Lilesa to the men's competition significantly strengthen what was already shaping up to be the top field in the event's 33-year history. Merga, the 2009 Boston Marathon champion, and Lelisa, who has a personal best 2:05:23, will join forces with defending Bank of America Chicago Marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya, London Marathon champion Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia and Boston Marathon champion Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot of Kenya.

A trio of Ethiopian athletes will take the women's competition to new heights as well: Astede Baysa, the two-time Paris Marathon champion, Askale Tafa Magarsa, runner-up at the 2008 Berlin Marathon, and Mamitu Daksa, the 2010 Dubai Marathon champion, have been added to a field that already includes defending Bank of America Chicago Marathon champion Liliya Shobukhova of Russia, London and Berlin Marathon champion Irina Mikitenko of Germany, and top American Magdalena Lewy-Boulet.

"The best field in Bank of America Chicago Marathon race history just got even better," said Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski. "The depth of talent in the marathon is at an all-time high at the national and international levels. These athletes are hungry to compete against one another and this year's field will bring a new level of excitement to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The stage is set for a historic race on 10-10-10."

The welcoming of Merga adds even more intrigue to the race's impact on the 2009-2010 World Marathon Majors series standings as third-ranked Merga (35 points) is one of the only athletes in reach of surpassing top-ranked Wanjiru and Kebede (50 points each) before the series concludes in November in New York.

Twenty-year-old Lilesa is one of the most exiting young athletes in the sport. He ran near-world record pace through 35 kilometers at the Rotterdam Marathon in April before finishing fourth in 2:05:23, making him the youngest man in history to break 2:06 for the marathon.

Additional entrants in the men's field include Kenya's Shadrack Biwott, former standout at the University of Oregon and brother of Duncan Kibet, the second fastest marathon runner of all time; Kenya's Wesley Korir, two-time Los Angeles Marathon champion; Ethiopia's Negari Terfa, third place finisher at the 2009 Berlin Marathon; and American Nick Arciniaga, who ran 2:11:46 at the San Diego Marathon, the fourth-ranked time in the U.S. for 2010.