16 January 2023, 9am
Chevron Houston Marathon, Aramco Houston Half Marathon and We Are Houston 5K
Sun 15 January 2023
Thrilling sprint finishes for the men, dominant performances by the women and a new American half marathon record highlighted the Aramco Houston Half Marathon and Chevron Houston Marathon.
Hiwot Gebrekiden attacked the course early and alone, going through the five-mile mark well under record pace while Emily Sisson, aiming for an Amercan record stayed 30 seconds back, sharing the opening miles with South Africa’s Dominique Scott. By 10km both women were on their own. Gebrekiden’s pace slowed and the course record fell out of reach, but the gap she had opened up secured her the victory in 1:06:28. Sisson came through the finish chute seconds later as a roaring crowd cheered her to a second place finish in 1:06:52, shattering the record she set just nine months ago.
“I was soaking up the energy,” said Sisson who also holds the American record in the marathon, “I was happy with how I was able to finish today. Whenever I can pick it up in that last half mile, I know I have done it right.” En route to her record-breaking run Sisson tied the American record for 10 miles (50:52) and broke the American record for 20K (1:03:26).
While no records were set in the men’s half marathon, the finish was one of the closest and most exciting in race history. With one mile to go, Leul Gebresilase of Ethiopia and Wesley Kiptoo of Kenya had turned the race into a duel, trading surges going into the final turn. Kiptoo, a standout while at Iowa State, looked to have the advantage. But, just meters before the finish, Gebresilase slipped by to break the tape by less than a second 1:00:34 to 1:00:35.
“Today the competition was very good,” said Gebresilase, who told reporters he was aiming for the course record of 59:22. “I pushed at the end and my hamstring started cramping, but I am happy to be the winner.”
In the women’s marathon, Hitomi Niiya set out to break the Japanese women’s marathon record of 2:19:12, a time that is also the Chevron Houston Marathon course record. With the aid of a pacer, Niiya waited patiently as early leader Muliye Dekebo of Ehtiopia set a blistering early pace well below 2:17 through 15K. Niiya caught Dekebo at the halfway point and the pair ran side-by-side for the next five miles before Dekebo’s ambitious start caught up to her. From there, it was all Niiya and her pacer clicking off 5:20 per mile and inching dangerously close to the record. After the pacer stepped off the course, Niiya struggled and crossed the line in 2:19:24. Despite missing the Japanese record by 12 seconds, it was still a nearly two-minute personal best and the second fastest time in race history.
“Running by myself was a very powerful feeling,” said Niiya who set the Japanese Half Marathon record here in 2020, “but with cheering and support I was able to do it.”
Dekebo held on to second, finishing nearly six minutes back in 2:25:35.
The men’s marathon played out differently. Despite recruiting a pacer to run 2:07, a pack of seven men ran stride for stride through 30K at 2:10 pace. By 35K, it was down to five and just after 40K, it was a two-man race between Dominic Ondoro of Kenya and Tsedat Ayana of Ethiopia. Ayana looked to have the advantage as the marathon turned into a sprint with 400m to go. But, in a repeat of the half marathon just an hour earlier, Ondoro had one last surge, passing a flailing and visibly tired Ayana in the final seconds of the race. The winning time of 2:10:36 was just one second faster than second place and the closest finish since 1996. Teshome Mekonen who became a U.S. citizen in August of last year, was the top American finisher in third place (2:11:05.)
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