Biruktayit Degefa of Ethiopia retained her title at the Chevron Houston Marathon and came within 14 seconds of the course record, while Kenya’s Albert Korir won a close men’s contest at the IAAF Silver Label road race.
In a resounding three-minute victory, Degefa set a personal best of 2:23:28 and became the third woman in history to win the Houston Marathon three times. It was also the 13th consecutive win by an Ethiopian woman in Houston.
Degefa was challenged through 30 kilometres by Meseret Belete, the 19-year-old who holds the world U20 best for the half marathon and who was making her marathon debut. But Belete couldn’t respond when Degefa picked up the pace just after 30 kilometres, and was passed near the finish by Belaynesh Fikadu, who finished as runner-up in 2:26:41.
Belete was third in 2:26:51, securing an Ethiopian sweep of the podium.
“When I prepare to come here to Houston, I really get excited,” said Degefa, who lives in Albuquerque but trained for this race in Ethiopia. “I come to win.”
Korir, meanwhile, had never been to the USA before and had to battle until the final kilometre when he slowly pulled ahead of Ethiopia’s Yitayal Atnafu to win in 2:10:02, six seconds ahead of the man who would become runner-up here for an astonishing fourth year in a row – on his 26th birthday, no less.
Justus Kimutai of Kenya finished third in 2:10:25 as less than a minute separated the first five finishers.
“I am grateful to win this race on my first time in America,” said 24-year-old Korir, who has finished on the podium in all of his marathons to date.