Gebo Burka in the 2016 Chevron Houston Marathon (© Victah Sailer / organisers)
Ethiopia’s Gebo Burka shook off his compatriot Girmay Gebru Berhanu in the final kilometre of the Chevron Houston Marathon to win the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race in 2:10:55 on Sunday (17).
Poland’s Artur Kozlowski made an audacious effort to surprise the favoured Ethiopian contingent and was out on his own for most of the first 21km, passing halfway in 1:04:58, almost a minute ahead of the chasing pack of seven.
The Pole went through 30km in 1:32:45, 1:01 ahead of the chasing pack, which was now down to five. But soon Burka, Gebru Berhanu and their compatriot Yitayal Atanfu started to realise the danger and worked together to haul in Kozlowski.
Kozlowski passed 35km in 1:48:38 but his lead was down to just 19 seconds and soon the almost inevitable happened with the Ethiopian pair going past the flagging Pole.
After Atanfu had started to struggle, Burka and Gebru Berhanu passed 40km in 2:04:18 before Burka, the 2015 runner-up when he ran what remains his personal best of 2:08:12, pulled away to win by 10 seconds for his fifth career win over the classic distance.
He also extended the Ethiopian men’s winning streak in Houston to eight races.
Defending champion Birhanu Gedefa came through strongly over the final five kilometres and completed an all-Ethiopian men’s podium when finishing third in 2:11:53.
Atanfu followed the leading trio home in fourth with 2:12:09 with Kozlowski enduring a gruelling final five kilometres but eventually finishing fifth in 2:14:11.
“I knew I was going to catch up with him (Kozlowski)," Burka told local reporters through an interpreter.
"I was in very good shape last year. This year my leg is hurting, so I wasn't expecting to be (in contention)," he added, by way of explanation for clocking almost three minutes slower than his run 12 months ago.
Biruktayit Degefa Eshetu won the women’s title in 2:26:07, finally triumphing after finishing fourth and then third in 2014 and 2015.
Australia’s 37-year-old Lisa Weightman went through halfway in 1:12:47 in a clear bid to improve on her best of 2:26:05 set when winning the Melbourne Marathon in October 2013 prior to a baby break.
She had exactly one minute over a four-woman chasing group but Degefa Eshetu went past her just before 30km and then pulled away.
However, Weightman held her nerve and hung on to second in 2:27:35 with Ethiopia’s Sechale Dalasa third in 2:28:43.
Wacera sets US all-comers' half marathon record
There was a fast women’s race in the associated Aramco Houston Half Marathon, won by Kenya’s Mary Wacera in 1:06:29, the fastest time ever achieved on US soil.
Wacera made a move just after the 15km mark to take the lead from fellow Kenyan Cynthia Limo. She established a six-second gap over the next five kilometres and stretched her margin to 12 seconds at the finish, clocking a personal best of 1:06:29 to move to ninth on the world all-time list.
Limo's 1:06:41 moved her to 11th on the world all-time list. Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba was third in 1:07:55 in her first race since winning the marathon title at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.
Lelisa Desisa led an Ethiopian one-two in the men's race, winning in 1:00:37 with Mosinet Geremew a close second in 1:00:45.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF