The American Record was broken for the third year in a row in Houston this weekend
HOUSTON – JANUARY 14, 2023 – With nearly perfect conditions for distance running, history was made yet again at the Aramco Houston Half Marathon and Chevron Houston Marathon on Sunday. Two course records were shattered – one which is now the fastest performance ever in North America – and for the second year in a row, the American record in the women’s half marathon belongs to the Space City.
The women’s half marathon was expected to be another opportunity for Kenya’s Hellen Obiri to best the competition as she has so many times in the United States. But, from the start, the Boston and New York City Marathon champion was joined by a late entry to the race, Ethiopia’s Sutume Asefe Kebede. Kebede, who came to Houston with a half marathon personal best of 1:07:54 set in 2018, began to inch away from Obiri just after halfway. By the 15km mark, she had a five-second lead. Then, surrounded by male sub-elites and pacers, she set out to do what no woman has ever done at a North American half marathon, run under 1:05:00. Kebede finished in 1:04:37, taking 26 seconds off Vicoty Chepngeno’s all-comers record set here in 2022. After the race, she told reporters she had hoped to run even faster.
“I was training specifically for a very fast half marathon,” said Kebede through a translator. “The course was really great. I had been asking to run here for quite some time because I had heard from other runners that it was a very fast course.”
Obiri held on to finish second in 1:06:07. Weini Kelati (pictured center above, image courtesy Kevin Morris) finished third in a new American-record time of 1:06:25. It was a stunning debut for the former NCAA Cross Country Champion who became an American citizen in 2021.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s amazing,” said Kelati, who lives and trains in Flagstaff, Arizona. “There’s just so many amazing women running this distance in the U.S. and to run that and get the record shows me I am there.”
With her sixth-place finish, two-time World Champion Edna Kiplagat set a new masters course record. Her finishing time of 1:07:52 is also a personal best for the 44-year-old who is considered one of the greatest marathoners of all time.
While a course record was never in danger in the men’s half marathon, a five-man battle up front provided excitement for the entire race especially since it included three past winners. 2015 Aramco Houston Half Marathon Champion Diego Estrada was the early leader, but 2020 winner Jemal Yimer reeled him in with 2022 champion Milkesa Mengesha, 2023 runner-up Wesley Kiptoo and American Biya Simbassa in tow. On the final turn onto Lamar St, it was Milkesha, Kiptoo and Yimer stride-for-stride until Yimer made one last surge to break the tape in 1:00:42.
“Today’s race was good, but a little cold,” said Yimer, who said he had hoped to run under the course record of 59:42. “The fact that there weren’t pacemakers made it so I couldn’t run the time that I was expecting. But I am happy to win.”
Kiptoo was once again second with Mengesha in third. Simbassa, who is preparing for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon next month, was the top American finisher in fourth. His time of 1:00:45 is the third fastest ever by an American here.
The course record also fell in the Chevron Houston Marathon men’s race thanks to a late-race surge from Zouhair Talbi of Morocco. Talbi, who was forced to drop out of the TCS New York City Marathon in November, patiently waited while Ethiopia’s Tsedat Ayana and Germany’s Hendrick Pfieffer pulled away and controlled the race. With two miles to go, Talbi who had been alone in third place, caught the leaders. He ran a 4:45 25th mile to move into first and then focused on not just the victory, but the $35,000 course record bonus for running under 2:06:51. He did it with room to spare, finishing in 2:06:39.
“After 40K, I knew I had a big chance to win, but I also saw on the clock that I might break the course record,” said Talbi, whose time is well under the Paris 2024 Olympic Standard. “So, I tried to push as hard as I could in the last two kilometers.”
Ayana finished in 2:07:00 placing second for the second consecutive year. Pfieffer rounded out the top three with a 2:07:14 making him the favorite for Germany’s Olympic Marathon team. In fourth, Patrick Tiernan ran 2:07:45 to qualify for Australia’s Marathon team.
Rahima Tusa of Ethiopia spent most of the women’s marathon well under course record pace with debutant Vicoty Chepngeno of Kenya by her side. Aided by a pacer, the pair was hoping to run under 2:18:30, more than 45 seconds faster than the record set here in 2022. After 35K, Tusa began to pull away from Chepngeno, but her pace also began to slow. As the possibility of the course record faded, Tusa was still able to hold onto the lead and won in 2:19:33, the third fastest time in race history.
“When I came here and saw the field, there were a lot of women who are much faster than me,” said Tusa, who had not won a marathon since 2018. “My coach has often said to me ‘you are not a trainer. You are a racer.’ And that is what worked out here.”
Chepngeno, whose half marathon course record was broken today, finished second in 2:19:55. Melesech Tsegay Beyene was third in 2:24:50.
The Aramco Houston Half Marathon and Chevron Houston Marathon celebrated a record number of finishers in 2024. Registration opens at 4 p.m. today, January 14, for the 2025 edition of the event.
About Houston Marathon Committee, Inc. (HMC) – Founded in 1972, the HMC is a founding member of Running USA and organizes the nation’s premier winter marathon, half marathon, and 5K hosting over 300,000 participants, volunteers, and spectators on race day. Recognized by World Athletics, the Gold Label Chevron Houston Marathon has been the race site for three U.S. Olympic Trials Marathons. The Gold Label Aramco Houston Half Marathon has hosted 16 U.S. Half Marathon Championships. The HMC received Gold Certification from the Council for Responsible Sport from 2011 to 2020, and the event garnered the 2015 AIMS Green Award for industry-leading sustainability initiatives. Race weekend generates over $50 million in economic impact for the region annually and has raised $37 million through the Run for a Reason Charity Program since its inception in 1995. The event is broadcast live on ABC13 and syndicated nationally and internationally on ESPN3 and the Longhorn Network.