HOUSTON – Twenty-year-old Merima Mohammed of Ethiopia overcame leg problems and cold, wet conditions to run the second-fastest ever women’s race at Sunday’s Chevron Houston Marathon, while fellow countryman, twenty-two year old Bazu Worku, ran away with the men’s title.
Course record-holder Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia defended his title in the men’s Aramco Houston Half Marathon and Mamitu Daska, the 2011 Chevron Houston Marathon champion, won the women’s crown. Daska is the first-ever woman to win the marathon and the half marathon at Houston.
“The conditions were challenging for everybody, but it is a testament to the athletes we attract that we had such great performances,” said Wade Morehead, Executive Director of the Houston Marathon Committee. “Despite the bad conditions, we had tremendous support from our sponsors, spectators and volunteers.”
Mohammed ran the first half of the race with Buzunesh Deba (ETH) and Meskerem Assefa (ETH) and that pack stayed together through 33km, when Mohammed made a strong move and broke away. She stretched her lead to 47 seconds over Deba by the 40km mark and crossed the line in 2:23:27, missing the course record by 23 seconds. Deba finished as the runner-up in 2:24:26, which is the fifth-fastest time in race history. Assefa finished third in her marathon debut in 2:25:17.
“I had a problem with my left leg,” Mohammed told reporters through a translator while massaging her left calf. “It was hurting badly. It was a very painful situation.”
Worku, who had been running in a pack of nine early in the race, came through the half at 65:25 with five others. But by 25km, he had opened up a 50 second lead over Solomon Molla. Worku continued to stretch that lead with every mile and finished in 2:10:17, winning by more than two-and-a-half minutes. Teferi Balcha claimed runner-up honors 2:12:50, with Molla third at 2:14:37.
Lilesa ran side-by-side with Deriba Merga until the pair entered the home stretch, where Lilesa used his superior speed to win in 61:54. Merga was second at 62:00 and Kenya’s Wilson Erupe made a late surge to take third in 62:12.
Daska took command early in the race, leading through 5km in 16:18, and then doubled her margin by the 10km mark, clocking 32:42. At 15km, she had a 1:27 lead over Caroline Kilel of Kenya and her margin of victory was 2:05 when she crossed the line at 69:53, the fifth-fastest time in race history. Kilel finished as the runner-up for the second year in a row, finishing in 71:58 and Hellen Jemutai, also of Kenya, was third in 72:34.
Chasing the American prize purse, presented by Marathonguide.com, Andrew Carlson and Tera Moody were the first U.S. finishers in the Chevron Houston Marathon. Carson was seventh overall at 2:17:16 and Moody was sixth in 2:39:10.
“The extra prize incentive from Marathonguide.com was a great addition to our event,” said Brant Kotch, Race Director of the Chevron Houston Marathon. “Along with the substantial support we receive from Chevron and Aramco, this kind of financial help can only enhance our competitive fields.”
The top Americans in the Aramco Houston Half Marathon were newly-minted U.S. citizen Shadrack Biwott, who finished fourth in 62:23, and Lisa Uhl, who took sixth in 73:38.