2011 Chevron Houston Marathon! Bekana Daba runs CR 2:07:04! by Larry Eder


Bekana Daba run 2:07:04 at 2011 Chevron Houston Marathon, photo by PhotoRun.net.

Leg speed is a huge asset in marathon running, our example today is one Bekana Daba Tolesa, aka Bekana Daba. Read on, sports fans! 

The Chevron Houston Marathon continued its streak with a course record in three years, this time from Bekana Daba , who dropped seven minutes and thirty-six seconds off his personal best, running a fine 2:07:04, which also is the fastest time in the world for 2011! Nic Arciniaga, improved his time by fifteen seconds, running 2:11:30. (Note that some folks are referring to Daba as Bekana Daba Tolesa). Daba ran huge negative splits, 1:04:17 to a 1:02:47 return!

Mamitu Daska won the women's race in 2:26:33, giving Ethiopia its fifth straight women's champion at the Chevron Houston Marathon.

Daska_MamituFV1-Houston11.JPG   Mamitu Daska wins 2011 Chevron Houston Marathon, photo by PhotoRun.net. 

Stephanie Rothstein, a young American runner with a gluten and dairy intolerance, went from a 2:40 marathoner to a 2:29:35, making her, along with yesterdays half marathon winner, Jenn Rhines, as two very tough candidates for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team at the marathon.

Five new athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials today: Jesse Davis, Kristen Fryburg-Zaitz, Emily Harrison, Nicole Hagobian, Natasha Lebeaud and Sara Patrick. 

In fact, this was the fifth year in a row that either a men or womens course or state record has been run at Chevron Houston marathon.

In the humidity and rain, without lightning and thunder, 6,728 runners started the marathon today and 9,114 runners started the half marathon. And, as country singer Steve Earle noted, " and the rain came down..."

Logo for the Houston Marathon

The night before the Chevron Houston Marathon, managing director Steven Karpas and Race Director Brant Koch were hosting a VIP dinner. Both Karpas and Koch seemed very pleased with the results and the running of the USATF half marathon championships (sponsored by Aramco). Mo Trafeh had caught a resurging Ryan Hall on the men's side, 1:02:16 to 1:02:20 and Jenn Rhines had blown the women's race open, between 10-11 miles, running a 5:20 mile, and taking the win over Selena Burla, whose year battling health issues had her reminding the media that "each run is  gift!" .

The Chevron Houston Marathon had been the target of weather persons all week long. First, my feeling on weather prognostication--I would rather sacrifice a small barnyard animal and read its entrails than watch the Weather Channel. Not much science to the modern weather prognostication, lots of charts, and bad videos of tornadoes. All week long, as the local weather folks were suggesting portending marathon doom, my wonder was that neither Mr. Karpas nor Mr. Koch seemed overly worried. Maybe they knew something the weather persons did not know.

Well, no lightning, but 85 percent humidity and rain (63 degrees at the start) added to the challenge of this years Chevron Marathon.

For the third year in a row, a new men's course record was set.

Consider this: Bekana Daba Tolesa had run one marathon, a 2:14:40 for twelfth place at the 2010 Amsterdam marathon. So, a journeyman marathon, Bekana Daba Tolesa had run much faster over the shorter distances. Bekana ran 7:40 for 3k and 12:58.51 for the 5,000 meters in 2010. His personal best was 61:08 for the half marathon.

Running in rain that got harder as the race progressed, and high humidity a pack of ten hit the first mile in 4:52. In that pack was Brett Gotcher, who ran 2:10.36 here in 2010, Nic Arciniaga, who ran 2:11:45 at RNR last year, along with Bekana Tolesa, Wlifred Murgor. Murgor and Arciniaga were to be pace makers.

The pack hit five miles in 24:31, and 15k in 45:42 with Brett Gotcher looking strong and confident. Ten miles was hit by the pack of six in 49:00, a 4;54 pace. Tolesa, Gotcher, Murgor, Arciniaga all there.

The top six were running a strong, but even pace, hitting the half marathon in 1:04:17. The rain was intermittent, and the pack of six were running together well.

The race got interesting when Bekana Tolesa dropped a 4:29 mile between mile 13 and 14. The pack stayed together and ran a 5:08 next mile.

Bekana Tolesa then used his 5,000 meter speed to good use, running a 4:38, then a nother 4:38 and finally a 4:34 for mile 18. Tolesa and Murgur had built up a 200 yard lead over Gotcher and Arcianaga in mile 15, and then battled over the next three miles, with the result that Tolesa had 75 yards over a pack of four with Gotcher, Murgor, Kales and Arciniaga.

Unfortunately, Brett Gotcher was having, as he deemed it, " a tough day in the office". Gotcher hit 30k in 1:32:02 and Arciniaga hit 30k in 1:32:08.

Tolesa did not stop. He ran 4:48 fo rmile 19, 4:42 for mile 20 (hitting 1:36:42), and another 4:48 for mile 21. By this time, no one else was in sight, and Bekana Tolesa was on his way to his first marathon victory. He was also on a strong 2:06 pace.

In the battle for second place, pacers Nic Arciniaga and Wilfred Murgor were now focused on finishing the marathon. Brett Gotcher was having a tough day, and battlng his own marathon hell, as Arciniage and Murgor battle on.

Up front, building a lead from 75 yards to four minutes and 26 seconds, Bekana Daba Tolesa pushed on. He must have been smarting after the 14:22 5k, but he kept running fast: 4:53 for mile 22, 4:45 for mile 23, 4:59 for mile 24, and 4:53 for mile 25.

Oh, and the guy stopped between miles 25 and 26! Still, Bekana Daba Tolesa improved his personal best by over seven minutes (and 36 seconds) to 2:07:04, a new course record for Chevron Houston and the fastest time in the world for 2011!

Arciniaga_Nick1-Houston11.JPGNic Arciniaga runs 2:11:30 for second at 2011 Chevron Houston, photo by Photorun.net.

In second, Nic Arciniaga ran a fifteen second personal best, running 2:11:30. Wilfred Murgor ran 2:11:41 for third. Canadian Rob Watson, running his first marathon, was fourth in 2:16:17, and Jesse Davis ran a 2:18:47. In sixth place Brett Gotcher, who said that he would remind himself of this experience for the next year, ran 2:19:30. In seventh, St. Louisian Brian Lyons ran 2:19:52. Adam McDowell, another Missourian ( Webster Groves, MO), ran 2:22:16. Aleksandry Tomas, who lives in Salt Lake City, ran 2:22:51. Robert Gomez of Saco, Maine, took tenth in 2:23:02.

In the end, on the men's side, it was Bekana Daba Tolesa's day, running 1:04:17 and 1:02:47 for the second, bravely running a seven minute personal best in the humid and rainy conditions that did not deter a third course record in that many years!

The women's race had its own drama, with Mamitu Daska and Ashu Kasim battling for most of the race, with Daska winning in 2:26:33 to Kasim's 2:27:47.

The big story here, for the Americans, was third place with Stephanie Rothstein. After determing that she was gluten and dairy intolerant last spring, and moving to Flagstaff to train with Greg McMillan, Stephanie dropped from a former 2:40 marathoner, skipped the 2:30s and ran a fine 2:29:35. "Words cannot describe my feelings...today my dreams became reality..."

Stephanie thanked Sean Wade, who was pacing a group of women. " I ran 1:15:30 for the halfway and came back in 1:14! Sean ran with me until about 21-22 and encouraged me to take off! I cranked it in from 22 miles on!" noted a beaming Rothstein.

Rothstein_Stephanie-Houston11.JPG The Stephanator: Stephanie Rothstein runs ten minute pb! 2:29:35 for third at 2011 Chevron Houston Marathon, photo by PhotoRun.net.

Stephanie noted that she knew she was under 2:30, when she hit the final run for home and saw "2:29:02" on the timing clock!

Stephanie and her friend, Lauren Fleshman have developed an energy bar with no dairy or gluten called pickybar.com. " We did it when we both were injured." Lauren won the 2010 USATF title at 5,000m outdoors in June and Stephanie's day of discovery was today, January 29, 2011 in Houston!

So, fifty weeks from now, many of the runners from the USATF half marathon champs yesterday and some from the Chevron Marathon today will be battling for the three seats on each podium for the men and women's marathon teams. Who will it be now, as the song goes?

We will have to wait just under fifty weeks, or 351 days to see whose dreams become reality. My guess is that we will have some surprises on both teams. Somewhere, in a lot of snow, some elite marathoners are training, knowing that their lives may change in Houston next year at the U.S. Olympic Trials for the marathon.

Greg McMillan and his team should receive some kudos on their athletes continuing to develop from journeyman athletes into serious Olympic Trials contenders. With Gotcher,
Arciniaga and Rothstein here, his Team should be well represented in 2012. Again, the team concept from McMillan to Hansons to Mammoth to Oregon Project, is what has revolutionized and revitalized American distance running. 

RBR and the Running Network will be here! Thanks for following over coverage today, and special thanks to Steve Karpas, managing director, and Brett Koch, Race Director of the Chevron Houston Marathon for supporting our national meetings in Houston for the past two years!

See you on the roads or on the track soon!

Daska-DabaA-Houston11.jpg Mamitu Daska & Bekana Daba, 2011 Chevron Marathon winners, pose for Victah, photo by PhotoRun.net.

One final note: Toni Reavis did the media room honors of updating us during the entire race, with thoughtful bon mots, and accurate information and minutae that made the four hours of writing a bit less tedious! Thanks Toni, who should be doing TV on any event in our sport.


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