HOUSTON – Near-perfect conditions yielded speedy performances Sunday at the 43rd Chevron Houston Marathon as Yebrgual Arage ran the second fastest time ever by a woman at Houston and Birhanu Gedefa outkicked Gebo Burka to take the men’s race. It was the seventh straight sweep of the titles by Ethiopia.
Arage made a late race surge and passed early leader Biruktait Degefa before fighting off the challenge of Guteni Imana on the way to a 2:23:23 that was a personal best by almost three minutes. Imana finished at 2:23:32, the third-fastest time ever at Houston and a seven minute improvement on her previous best, and Degefa also dipped under 2:24 with a 2:23:51 that moved her to fifth on the all-time race performance list.
Kellyn Taylor had an impressive debut to place sixth at 2:28:40 as the top American, three minutes ahead of 2014 half marathon champion Serena Burla, who crossed the line at 2:31:46 in seventh. Lindsay Flanagan and Taylor Ward were the other Americans in the top 10, taking ninth (2:33:12) and 10th (2:38:30) respectively.
Gedefa was content to run with the pack for the early part of the race, cruising through the halfway point at 1:03:20. He stayed with the leaders through 30K at 1:31:06 and was six seconds behind Debebe Tolossa with just over four miles to go. Burka made a strong push and pulled away from the pack, opening up a 14-second lead by 40K, but Gedefa fought back and passed Burka in the final 400 meters to win at 2:08:03, a lifetime best and the eighth-fastest time ever at Houston.
Burka’s 2:08:12 made him the ninth-fastest in race history, while Tolossa was third at 2:09:07. Kenya’s Dominic Ondoro was also under 2:10, taking fourth at 2:09:40.
Last year’s half marathon runner-up, Aaron Braun, moved up in distance to great effect, finishing as the top American at 2:12:54 in seventh. Braun passed the halfway point at 1:06:53 and picked up the pace over the final 13 miles to chop almost seven minutes off his personal best. Craig Leon also nabbed a top-10 finish for the U.S. with his ninth-place 2:14:43.
ESTRADA, CONLEY BIG WINNERS IN HALF MARATHON CHAMPIONSHIPS
Two very different races produced two superb results in the Aramco Houston Half Marathon, which served as the U.S. championship race for the ninth time for men and seventh time for women.
Diego Estrada shot to the lead after running with the pack for the first 5K at 14:41, opening a 20-second gap by 10K (28:51) and stretching that margin to 45 seconds over Jared Ward at the 15K mark (43:14). He tacked on five more seconds to his cushion by 20K (57:45) and eased to the finish at 60:51, the third-fastest time ever by an American and also the third-fastest ever at Houston.
Ward finished well to clock 61:42 in his debut at the distance to move to ninth on the all-time Houston list, and Girma Mecheso was third at 62:16. Three-time champion Meb Keflezighi was fighting a cold and a sore back as he pursued his fourth U.S. title and third straight, but battled through to take fourth at 62:18.
Last year’s U.S. 10,000 meters champion, Kim Conley, bided her time through 10 miles at a fast pace, running with the leaders through 5K at 16:45 and 10K at 33:27. She shared the lead with 2006 champ Annie Bersagel at 15K (50:08) and then pulled away over the next 5K, running 16:12 for that portion of the race to pass 20K at 66:20 and take a 22-second lead.
Conley was powerful through the finish, crossing the line at 69:44 for the fifth-fastest time ever at Houston and the second-fastest by an American woman in the race. Brianne Nelson trimmed more than two minutes off her lifetime best to take second at 70:16, and Janet Bawcom was third at 70:46.
For more information on the 2015 Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon, featuring the USA Half Marathon Championships, visit www.chevronhoustonmarathon.com.
About the Houston Marathon Committee, Inc.
Established in 1972, the Houston Marathon Committee, Inc. (HMC), a Running USA Founding Member, annually organizes the nation’s premier winter marathon, half-marathon, and 5K. Over 250,000 participants, volunteers and spectators make Chevron Houston Marathon Race Day the largest single-day sporting event in Houston. Race Weekend generates over $50 million in economic impact for the region annually. In 2014, the Run For a Reason Charity Program raised a record $2.6 million and the HMC retained Gold Certification from the Council of Responsible Sport for industry-leading sustainability initiatives. Host to 14 U.S. Half Marathon Championships since 2005 and the 1992 women’s Olympic Trials Marathon, the HMC conducted the nationally-televised 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, which featured men and women competing on the same course simultaneously for the first time, vying for the chance to represent Team USA at the 2012 Olympic Games.
For more information, visit www.chevronhoustonmarathon.com or call 713.957.3453.