The Champion Who Almost Never Was

The mother was having a difficult delivery. Her sixth child would not come out and, in rural Russia in the 1970s, cesarean births were not an option.

The doctor turned to the mother and told her, "You have five children, I think it is better we lose this one, so those five children will still have a mother." The mother panicked, and began pushing with a newfound power. Then, legs first, the child appeared. The Doctor squeezed hard on the mother's stomach, calling "Don't blame me if she has puffy cheeks, the baby can always wear a headscarf!"

She was born to be a fighter and, on Patriots' Day last year, Lidiya Grigoryeva realized at 37 kilometers she was going to prove to others, at the world's most historic and prestigious marathon, Boston, that she was also a champion. "I thought to myself, 'okay I can win this,' " she remembers. "I noticed Jelena (Prokopcuka) was no longer able to respond, but I thought, 'let's wait until 40-K.' "

Coming down Boylston, running 26 miles in probably the worst weather ever recorded at a marathon, Grigoryeva opened her lips and thanked God. "I thanked God because I did not have it easy. Firstly, I did not want to be in Boston as I had heard the course was tough. I wanted to be in London on a flat course, but they would not accept me. Then I said I would run for free in London as I had a bet where I'd get $20,000 from a friend if I ran sub 2:22, but London would not even give me a race number. (The flip side of the bet: if she lost, she'd have to run 10-K dressed only in a diaper in her hometown). I had even had problems getting a (shoe) sponsor. So it was a way to show people I am a good runner."

Did the Boston victory change her life? "Not really, I bought a car, not a new one, it's three years old. There is a national television program that everyone watches in Russia and it was announced that I had won, so a few people from my hometown told me they'd heard my name mentioned, but nothing more than that."

Grigoryeva does admit, though, to now feeling a heightened level of responsibility when coming to races as the defending Boston Champion, "Yes, as an athlete, it does come with responsibility when you come to a race as a Boston Marathon champion."

The other problem with "responsibility" is that it sometimes does not allow her to plan her own life.

"When I was younger, I grew up thinking I would be doing something with sewing, and staying at home. Life is not like that!" She smiles.

Usually at this time each year, Grigoryeva is asked to go to Japan. "Every year before, I have been picked to run the Ekiden for Russia at that time so I had to be in Japan." As she explains, that's what happens if you are a female who has clocked 31:09 for the 10-K on the Japanese roads and have a track PR of 30:32 for the same distance.

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Related links:

Free Training Log: Track your Progress

Running Tips from Olympic Gold Medalist Deena Kastor

Boston Course Tips

Healthiest Chocolate for Runners There is also the pressure to compete at certain race distances at events, like the Olympics, let's say. The Russian federation has hinted that as the winner of the 2007 Boston Marathon, Grigoryeva would make a prime candidate for this summer's marathon in Beijing -- something Lidiya would rather not do.

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