"The men's field is the deepest we've ever had in Chicago, and I think it will take a career performance to win on October 7," said Carey Pinkowski, executive race director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. "In the women's field, with the addition of Werknesh Kidane, you are looking at some of the most talented athletes on the planet, each of whom will be trying to figure out a way to beat Liliya Shobukhova on what has become her home course. These are going to be magnificent races to help celebrate the Chicago Marathon's 35th anniversary."
Kebede returns to Chicago after a memorable duel against the late Sammy Wanjiru at the 2010 race. During the Olympic champion's brief but spectacular period of dominance in the sport, Kebede, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, was Wanjiru's most famous opponent, with the 2010 Chicago Marathon being the pinnacle of their rivalry. He'll be joined by countrymen Feyisa Lilesa, the 2011 World Championship bronze medalist; 2:05 performers Dadi Yami and Shami Dawit; 2012 Paris Marathon runner-up Raji Assefa and Tilahun Regassa in his highly anticipated debut.
Kenya's Levy Matebo is the fastest entrant in the field, with a 2:05:16 performance at the 2011 Frankfurt Marathon. He'll challenge fellow Kenyan Wesley Korir, who came from behind to steal victory away from him at the 2012 Boston Marathon. The Kenyan contingent also includes 2012 Tokyo Marathon champion Michael Kipyego, 2011 Chicago Marathon runner-up Bernard Kipyego, 2011 Amsterdam Marathon runner-up Laban Korir, 2012 Lake Biwa Marathon champion Samuel Ndungu and Sammy Kitwara, the fifth-fastest half marathon performer of all time.
A strong group of Japanese men is led by Takashi Horiguchi, who cracked the top 10 in Chicago last fall and ran a personal best of 2:09:16 at the Lake Biwa Marathon in February.
Kidane owns history's eighth-fastest 10,000m performance, and, like former track stars Shobukhova and Ejegayehu Dibaba, she'll look to Chicago's flat and fast course to capitalize on her superior track speed. She's joined by fellow Ethiopians Atsede Baysa, the 2010 Chicago Marathon runner-up and two-time Paris Marathon champion, and Belainesh Gebre, the fourth-place Chicago finisher last year.
In addition to 2:19 performer Lucy Kabuu, the Kenyan women will be represented by former Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo and Caroline Rotich.
Shobukhova will be joined by Russian teammate Maria Konovalova, the third-place finisher from the 2010 Chicago Marathon.
Along with Ritzenhein, the top U.S. entrants include Notre Dame University All-American and 2010 USA Half Marathon runner-up Patrick Smyth; California's Jimmy Grabow, who ran 2:12:35 in his debut at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in January; 2:13 athletes Jeffrey Eggleston of Arizona and Patrick Rizzo, a Chicago native, and Oregon's Craig Leon.
Recent USA 20K champion and 11-time NCAA All-American Renee Metivier Baille of Oregon headlines the U.S. women in her marathon debut. She's joined by fellow debutant Stephanie Pezzullo, and U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers Deanna Ardrey and Addie Bracy.
To view the complete 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon pro athlete roster, go to: www.chicagomarathon.com/2012eliteathletes
About the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Celebrating its 35th year and a member of the World Marathon Majors, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon annually attracts 45,000 participants, including a world-class elite runner and wheelchair field, and an estimated 1.7 million spectators. As a result of its national and international draw, each year, the iconic race assists in raising millions of dollars for a variety of charitable causes while generating $219 million in economic impact to its host city in 2011 according to a report by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (R.E.A.L.). The 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon will start and finish in Chicago's Grant Park beginning at 7:30am on Sunday, October 7. In advance of the race, a two-day Health & Fitness Expo will be held at McCormick Place Convention Center on Friday, October 5, and Saturday, October 6.
Visit www.chicagomarathon.com for more information.