Records Fall at the 48th Annual Chevron Houston Marathon and 18th Annual Aramco Houston Half Marathon
Paralympian Michael Roeger Breaks the World Record for T46 Athletes in the Marathon
HOUSTON (January 19, 2020) – The Houston Marathon Committee (HMC) welcomed a strong delegation of the world’s best athletes to the roads of Texas today to dazzle fans with spectacular performances. Amid an ideal race morning temperature of 48 degrees, runners battled each other and 25-mile-per-hour wind gusts for the opportunity to win the prized belt buckle or cowboy hat at the finish for the half marathon and marathon, respectively.
The Chevron Houston Marathon and the Aramco Houston Half Marathon, both World Athletic Gold Label events, witnessed two national records, a world record, and a Guinness world record. An estimated 200,000 spectators, including belly dancers, greeted runners from all 50 states and 57 countries with cheers and true-Texas hospitality as they celebrated the spirit of the marathon and the spirit of the runner.
The Chevron Houston Marathon
The Chevron Houston Marathon welcomed defending champion Biruktayit Degefa (ETH) back to the start to vie for her fourth victory (a historic feat in Houston’s race history), but it was clear from the start that compatriot Askale Merachi (ETH) had other ideas. Merachi separated from the lead pack before 10K, and she maintained course record pace until the later stages of the race. In spite of running unchallenged to the finish line, she held on to crush her personal best and run the fourth fastest time in Chevron Houston Marathon history, 2:23:29. History eluded Degefa as she finished second in 2:24:57, and Canadian Malindi Elmore, who recently came out of retirement from professional running, finished third in a Canadian national record, 2:24:50.
The men’s race started on pace to break the course record, but slowed over the final four miles. By mile 15, the pack shrank to just five runners, and by mile 17, it turned into a duel between Kelkile Gezahegn (ETH) and Bonsa Dida (ETH). Kelkile and Bonsa slowed dramatically between miles 22 and 24, and then Kelkile hit the gas pedal, leaving Bonsa behind, racing to the finish to win in 2:08:36. Bonsa finished second in 2:10:37, and Amanuel Mesel (ERI) finished third in 2:11:04.
One of the most exciting finishes of the day belonged to Michael Roeger (AUS). Roeger, a T46 Paralympian, obliterated his own world record (2:22:51) to, as he said in the pre-race press conference, “put his competitors on notice” heading into the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. Roeger finished 26th overall in 2:19:33.
Americans Adriana Nelson and Craig Hunt led a deep field of U.S. athletes as they both collected eighth place finishes. Nelson clocked 2:33:18, and Hunt ran 2:17:18. Twelve American men and 18 American women met the qualifying standard to compete in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta next month.
Aramco Houston Half Marathon
Hitomi Niiya (JPN) entertained fans with a solo performance to the finish. She took command of the race immediately, and, running alongside pacer, Tsuyoshi Ugachi (JPN), she smashed both her personal best and the Japanese national record to win in the third fastest time in Aramco Houston Half Marathon history, 1:06:38. Brillian Kipkoech (KEN) finished a distant second in 1:08:08, and Caroline Chepkoech Kipkirui (KEN) rounded out the top three in 1:08:13.
While the women’s race lacked drama, the men’s race more than made up for it. A pack of 14 men rolled through the first 5K on pace to break the course record (59:22), and the pack remained strong at five over the final mile of the race. Last year’s runner-up, Jemal Yimer (ETH), dug the deepest to win in 59:25, producing the second fastest time ever run in Houston and North America. Bernard Ngeno (KEN) was a step behind in 59:26, and Shardrack Korir (KEN) set a personal best to finish third in 59:27.
Americans Sara Hall and Jared Ward hit the line as the top Americans. While Hall finished well ahead of the next American in ninth place and a personal best in 1:08:58, Ward out-sprinted Reed Fischer and Nicolas Montanez to capture the top American spot by one second. Overall, 27 American women and 30 American men met the qualifying standard to compete in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials next month in Atlanta.
Matt and Andrew Leach of Great Britain broke the Guinness world record for the fastest father-son duo in the half marathon. Collectively, they ran 2:14:05. The previous record stood at 2:20:33. Matt ran 1:02:55, and Andrew ran 1:11:10.
Canadian Callum Neff competed as the Last Runner Starting to raise funds for the Houston Marathon Foundation. He started behind the entire half marathon and marathon open field, and somehow managed to finish with a net time of 1:09:59. Neff holds the Guinness record for the fastest marathon run while pushing a jogging stroller, 2:31:21.
Steve Schmidt (USA) and Antonio Arreola (USA) joined an exclusive club to become the first two runners to run a sub-three hour marathon for the sixth decade. Schmidt finished in 2:58:07 and Arreola finished a few strides behind in 2:58:18. Schmidt ran his first sub-three hour marathon in 1979, and Arreola ran his first in 1976. Arreola holds the record for the longest time span between his first sub-three hour marathon and his last.
About the Houston Marathon Committee, Inc.
Established in 1972, the Houston Marathon Committee, Inc. (HMC) is a founding member of Running USA and annually organizes the nation’s premier winter marathon, half-marathon and 5K. Over 300,000 participants, volunteers and spectators make Chevron Houston Marathon Race Day the largest single-day sporting event in Houston. Recognized by World Athletics, the Gold Label Chevron Houston Marathon has been the race site for three U.S. Olympic Trials Marathons and the Gold Label Aramco Houston Half Marathon has held 16 U.S. Half Marathon Championships. For eight consecutive years, the events have garnered Gold Certification from the Council of Responsible Sport and were also awarded the 2015 AIMS Green Award for industry-leading sustainability initiatives. Race Weekend generates over $50 million in economic impact for the region annually. In addition to its economic impact, the HMC facilitates social responsibility through its Run for a Reason Charity Program which has raised over $31 million since its inception and the Houston Marathon Foundation, which serves the greater Houston area through support of youth and community organizations that promote access to and participation in running. The event is televised annually national and international syndication airing on ESPN3 and the Longhorn Network.