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Race news Chevron Houston Marathon, Aramco Houston Half Marathon and We Are Houston 5K

20 January 2020, 10am

Askale Merachi dashes Biruktayit Degefa’s hope of fourth victory

Records fall in Houston

Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon & 5k
Sun 19 January 2020

An estimated 200,000 spectators greeted runners from all 50 US states and 57 countries with cheers and Texas hospitality.

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.

In the 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.

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.

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