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HOUSTON – Over the past decade, the Chevron Houston Marathon Race Weekend of Events has proven to be a breeding ground for the up-and-coming and resurgent distance runners on the international scene. Americans Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi and Shalane Flanagan, along with Ethiopians Dire Tune, Deriba Merga, Teyiba Erkesso and Feyisa Lilesa have all won in Houston and gone on to win races such as the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon or the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Fast forward three years to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Men’s Marathon. Keflezighi stole the show, biding his time until late in the race and then hanging on in the final miles for the victory in another personal best – 2:09:08. At 36, he became the oldest man to win the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. At the 2012 Olympic Games, eight years after his Olympic silver, Keflezighi returned to the Olympic stage and finished fourth in 2:11:06.
Once again, Keflezghi claimed the U.S. Half Marathon men’s crown at the 2014 Aramco Houston Half Marathon in 61:23. Just three months later, he claimed an historic victory in Boston. At 38, he won the 118th Boston Marathon in 2:08:37. He’s the first U.S. winner since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach took the women’s title in 1985; the last American man to win was Greg Meyer in 1983. He is the oldest person to win the Boston Marathon since 1931.
“I love Houston,” Keflezighi said after his 2014 win. “It’s been a great place for me to compete. The crowd is phenomenal.”
Ethiopian Deriba Merga shattered the 20-year-old Chevron Houston Marathon course record by more than two minutes in 2009. After mile 17, Merga ran alone to cross the finish line in 2:07:52, beating the competition by nearly four minutes. Merga went on to win the Boston Marathon that same year in 2:08:42, almost a full minute ahead of the second and third place finishers.
Ethiopian Teyiba Erkesso won back-to-back Chevron Houston Marathon titles in 2009 and 2010. In ’09, running in her debut marathon, the then-26-year-old Erkesso won in 2:24:18. The following year Erkesso crossed the finish line and set a new course record, shaving 25 seconds off her previous record in a time of 2:23:53 and crushed her competition by nearly five minutes. Three months later, Erkesso won the 2010 Boston Marathon in a close finish and pushed ahead of her competition by a mere three seconds to win the title in 2:26:11.
Olympic Bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan smashed the course record at the Aramco Houston Half Marathon to win the women’s 2010 USA Half Marathon Championship. Running 1:09:41, Flanagan broke the previous record by one minute, 14 seconds. Running her debut for the distance, Flanagan lived up to her status as pre-race favorite, taking control of the race from the first mile and extending her lead to win the championship by 28 seconds. In November 2010, Flanagan made her marathon debut in New York City where she finished as the runner-up in 2:28:40. It was the best finish by an American woman in the race since Kim Jones finished second in 1990.
A year after running a spectacular 59:22 to win the 2012 Aramco Houston Half Marathon, Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa won the 2013 Aramco Houston Half Marathon in 61:54. In between those two wins, Lilesa became the youngest sub-2:06 marathoner in history after running a 2:04:52 at the 2012 Chicago Marathon to finish second.
The elite fields’ success over the last seven years has led the course records to drop dramatically. They now stand at:
Men’s Marathon: 2:06:51 (2012)
Women’s Marathon: 2:23:14 (2012)
Men’s Half Marathon: 59:22 (2012)
Women’s Half Marathon: 1:08:26 (2012)
The Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon have a long history of sending their winners on to claim accolades on the World Marathon Major and Olympic stages. Who will it be in 2015? For more information on the 2015 Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon, visit www.chevronhoustonmarathon.com. Lottery registration opens June 4, 2014.