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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.

“Our elite athlete committee has a great tradition of bringing in professional athletes who are ready to produce really high-quality performances,” said Race Director and President of the Board Brant Kotch. “That ability has never been more evident than over the last six or seven years, when our winners have quickly gone on to win and place highly in Marathon Majors in Boston, Chicago and New York. I know they’re already hard at work on our 2015 field and beyond.”
It started in January of 2007 when Ryan Hall toppled the 21-year-old American record in the men’s half marathon by an astonishing 72 seconds. Crossing the finish line of the Aramco Houston Half Marathon in 59:43, Hall also surpassed German Silva’s North American record of 1:00:28 set back in 1994. In April of that year, he went on to post the fastest American debut marathon in history in placing eighth at the London Marathon (2:08:24). That fall, Hall went on to win the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials – Men’s Marathon in New York City in 2:09:02, breaking the Olympic Trials record in the process. Hall would later become the fastest American ever, under any conditions in the men’s marathon after he finished fourth in the 2011 Boston Marathon in 2:04:55.
Also in 2007, Ethiopian Dire Tune won her first of two Chevron Houston Marathon titles in a course record 2:26:52. She followed that up in 2008 with her second Chevron Houston Marathon title, breaking her own course record by a staggering two minutes, 12 seconds with her winning time of 2:24:40. In April of that year, in the then-closest finish in the history of the Boston Marathon’s women’s race, Tune outkicked Alevtina Biktimirova in the last 100 yards to win the Boston Marathon by a mere two seconds in 2:25:25.
In 2009, Athens Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi rebounded from an injury-plagued 2008 to win the USA Half Marathon Championships, hosted by the Aramco Houston Half Marathon. Keflezighi took the lead within the first mile of the race and ran to the finish virtually unchallenged to win his first U.S. championship since 2007. That November, he became the first American man in 27 years to win the New York City Marathon. Keflezighi dropped to the ground, tears streaming down his face, when he won in a personal best time of 2:09:15- 41 seconds ahead of Kenya’s Robert Cheruiyot, a four-time winner of the Boston Marathon and one of the most accomplished marathoners in history.

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 Lottery registration opens June 4, 2014.