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By Sam Zuba-
(CBS) Her name is Liliya Shobukhova.
You may not know her, but she is on the verge of history. Shobukhova is the two-time defending Bank of America Chicago Marathon female champion and will seek her record-setting third-straight title in Sunday’s world-famous Chicago Marathon.
Shobukova is one of 45,000 runners who are registered to compete in the 34th annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday.
The 33-year-old from Beloretsk, Russia is clearly the favorite to capture the women’s title, while 28-year-old Ryan Hall looks poised to win his first major marathon.
The marathon has become a staple in Chicago as one of the city’s largest revenue-generating events and charitable organization. The 2010 Chicago marathon generated over $170 million to the local economy and this year’s event is expected to surpass that mark.
The 2011 Chicago Marathon has already raised over $12 million for local, national and global charities.
In addition to the money raised by runners and sponsors, Bank of America announced Thursday it would donate an additional $1 million to after school youth programming in Chicago.
“These funds are going to help local organizations do more of what they do best: educate our children, help them lead healthy lives and keep them safe,” Bank of America Illinois President Tim Maloney said at a press conference Thursday. “We’re committed to partnering to move Chicago forward, and we’re proud to make this donation to help the city be even stronger.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel was also in attendance at the marathon’s kick-off press conference. He pointed to the Chicago Marathon as one of the events separating Chicago from other cities.
“My goal — whether it’s this event or the upcoming G8 NATO in Chicago event where the whole world will be watching – is to make people understand that Chicago is a world-class city with world-class events,” Mayor Emanuel said. “At the top of that list, is the Chicago Marathon.”
This year’s theme is “Let’s Run Together” – a call to action for people to work together in all areas.
Abby Wambach of the U.S. Women’s National Team that competed in the championship of the World Cup this year was selected as a co-captain along with teammates Hope Solo and Alex Morgan to lead a group of 13 runners to compete in a relay race Sunday. Each runner will run two miles and will receive $5,000 to donate to the charity of their choice.
“After the World Cup, I got this phone call and got the opportunity to partner with Bank of America,” Wambach said. “I couldn’t have been more proud because what this event actually captures is teamwork. … What Team USA captured this last year is that essence – the idea that we have to do things together. Working together and being a part of this relay is going to not only be fun, but we’re going to be giving back.”
Also running Sunday will be Henry Kozlowski — one of nine runners who have competed in each of the 33 previous Chicago Marathons.
The 61-year-old from Wilmette, Il., believes running is a way to prove anyone can push through difficult circumstances.
“It’s like anything else in life,” he said. “Whether you’re in hard financial times or you can’t find a job – if you persist, you’ll probably get through it.”