World Marathon Majors
The World Marathon Majors consists of five major annual marathons—Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City—plus the IAAF World Championships and the Olympics. Runners score points over a two-year period for each top five finish in the qualifying races. The winner-take-all $1 million prize is split between the top male and female finisher at the conclusion of each cycle.
The current series officially concludes with the ING New York City Marathon in November. But with the top runners competing in Chicago, the Majors will effectively be decided there.
Chicago Marathon Men’s Race
In the men’s race, defending Chicago Marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya leads the charge. He is currently tied for first place in the Majors with Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede, the reigning London Marathon champion who is also running Chicago. They each have 50 points. If either one wins in the Windy City, they will win the majors.
Wanjiru has the advantage with a personal best that is 8 seconds faster, and he knows how to win big-ticket events against Kebede. Wanjiru is the 2009 London Marathon champion and the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, events where Kebede took second and third, respectively.
But either one could be upset by Deriba Merga of Ethiopia. He’s the 2009 Boston Marathon champion, and currently sits in third place in the Majors competition with 35 points. If Merga wins Chicago, and Wanjiru and Kebede place third or lower, Merga could take the Majors.
Rounding out the competition is reigning Boston Marathon champion Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot of Kenya, who sits sixth in Majors rankings. He most likely won’t be able to take the series, but he could take Chicago and reshuffle the standings. Twenty-year-old Fayisa Lilesa of Ethiopia could also upset the competition. He’s the youngest man to break 2:06 in the marathon; he finished the Rotterdam Marathon in April in 2:05:23.
Chicago Marathon Women’s Race
On the women’s side, defending Chicago Marathon champion and reigning London Marathon champion Liliya Shobukhova of Russia will face off against Germany’s Irina Mikitenko, the 2009 London and 2008 Berlin winner. Shobukhova currently ranks first in Majors competition with 60 points.
But Mikitenko, who sits in second with 40 points, could catch her if she wins the race and Shobukhova places fourth or lower. With a triumvirate of fast Ethiopian runners—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—that’s certainly possible. Mikitenko has a faster personal best, but Shobukhova beat Mikitenko in Chicago last year.
Chicago Marathon Wheelchair Race
Not to be outdone, the men’s wheelchair competition is also going to be a showdown. Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa will make his Chicago Marathon debut. A nine-time Boston Marathon champion, Van Dyk has also won New York City, Paris and Los Angeles, and is a hoping to add Chicago to the list. But he’ll have to hold off Heinz Frei of Switzerland, a three-time London Marathon champion who owns 14 Paralympic gold medals. He also owns the fastest time ever recorded on a flat marathon course.
The much-hyped race on 10-10-10 will begin at 7:30 am. Viewers in Chicago can watch the race live on NBC5 Chicago starting at 7 a.m. For the rest of us, the race will stream live, with on-air commentary and mile-by-mile analysis, on NBCChicago.com.The Score Sportsradio 670 AM will also broadcast live in Chicago from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.