Athlete profile: Liliya Shobukhova

Russian marathoner Liliya Shobukhova turns 35 today (13 November). Marathon Intervals took a look at the life of the second fastest woman to ever run 26.2 miles.

Liliya Shobukhova crosses the finish line in the 2011 Chicago Marathon. (José M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune)

Liliya Shobukhova has not had what could be described as a standard entrance to the world of marathon running. She grew up in the rural Russian town of Beloretsk in the 1990’s her family facing extreme poverty, the winter temperatures getting as low as -25 and the nearest indoor track more than 100km from her house. As a child her ambitions were more focused on ice skating than on running. Having been convinced to join her local running club as a nine-year-old, she raced predominantly shorter distances as a sprinter and then building up to become a 1500m and 3000m runner, setting personal bests for both in 2004 (4:03.78/8:34.85).

In 2007 she started running longer, winning the Prague Half Marathon and competing at the IAAF World Road Running Championships. After representing Russia in the 5000m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Shobukhova made the jump to the marathon, coming third in the 2009 London Marathon in 2:24:24.

From there she had a golden run, winning three Chicago Marathons (2009/10/11), the 2010 London Marathon and placing second in London in 2011. She ran the 2011 Chicago Marathon in 2:18:20, the fourth fastest time by a female ever and the second fastest woman as the three other times were recorded by Paula Radcliffe.

Shobukhova sadly could not continue her form through to the London Olympics, withdrawing with injury just over halfway through. She ran the 2012 Chicago Marathon but could not defend for a fourth title, finishing fourth in 2:22:59, 56 seconds behind Ethiopia’s Atsede Baysa.

Shobukhova has had to deal with personal tragedy with the death of her first husband, however is now re-married and has a daughter, along with five cats, a dog and a parrot!

“I think the marathon best suits my character,” Shobukhova told the IAAF in the lead up to the London Olympics. “It is like playing chess. I have a goal for every 5kms of the race. If the situation changes I have to correct my goals, to adjust tactics. It is really a great challenge for me.”

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