Merima Mohammed wins the Houston Marathon (© Victah Sailor)
On a day where Ethiopia dominated all four races, 20-year-old Merima Mohammed overcame leg problems and cold, wet conditions to run the second-fastest ever women’s race at the Chevron Houston Marathon on Sunday (13), while countryman Bazu Worku, 22, ran away with the men’s title.
World bronze medallist Feyisa Lilesa 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.
Mohammed’s late break proves decisive
Mohammed ran the first half of the race with fellow Ethiopians Bizunesh Deba and Meskerem Assefa and that trio 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 2:23:37, missing the course record by 23 seconds.
Deba, the runner-up of the 2011 New York Marathon, finished second in 2:24:26, which is the fifth-fastest time in race history. Showing great range for an athlete who boasts PBs of 2:02.12 and 4:02.12 for 800m and 1500m, Assefa finished third on 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 wins by more than two minutes
Worku, who had been running in a pack of nine early in the race, came through the half-way mark in 65:25 with five others. But by 25km, he had opened up a 50-second lead over team-mate 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 honours in 2:12:50, while Molla held on for third in 2:14:37.
Daska and Lilesa take half-marathon titles
Course record-holder 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, winner of the Houston Marathon in 2009, was second in 62:00, while Kenya’s Wilson Loyanai 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, reached in 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 in 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 as her team-mate Hellen Jemutai was third in 72:34.
Organisers for the IAAF
Men - marathon
1 Bazu Worku (ETH) 2:10:17
2 Teferi Balcha (ETH) 2:12:50
3 Solomon Molla (ETH) 2:14:37
4 Birhanu Gedefa (ETH) 2:15:21
5 Dereje Abera (ETH) 2:17:09
Men - half-marathon
1 Feyisa Lilesa (ETH) 61:54
2 Deriba Merga (ETH) 62:00
3 Wilson Loyanai (KEN) 62:12
4 Shadrack Biwott (USA) 62:23
5 Luke Puskedra (USA) 62:32
Women - marathon
1 Merima Mohammed (ETH) 2:23:37
2 Bizunesh Deba (ETH) 2:24:26
3 Meskerem Assefa (ETH) 2:25:17
4 Meseret Legese (ETH) 2:30:31
5 Olena Burkovska (UKR) 2:34:56
Women - half-marathon
1 Mamitu Daska (ETH) 69:53
2 Caroline Kilel (KEN) 71:58
3 Hellen Jemutai (KEN) 72:34
4 Chemtai Rionotukei (KEN) 72:58
5 Zemzem Ahmed (ETH) 73:25