Bad Weather, Good Competition in Houston Marathon and Half
by Jon Gugala
HOUSTON, Tex. - "The weather was very bad," said Bazu Worku, winner of the 2013 Houston Marathon.
From women's half marthon winner Mamitu Daska: "At times the rain was so [bad] that it was hard to open my eyes."
"Our legs were numb and cold," said Feyisa Lilesa, winner of the men's half.
In sum: the weather for the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Half Marathon on January 13 was less than ideal. It was cold, windy, and wet, and pretty much everyone that was given a microphone after the race said as much.
But despite poor conditions, to those who risked strong moves were rewarded with wins.
In the women's marathon, Merima Mohammed, who led the field going into the race with her PR of 2:23:06, was part of an early group that ran aggressive from the gun. Coming through the half in 1:10:56, Mohammed, with Buzunesh Deba and Meskerem Assefa,ran tightly packed behind their pacers.
It was Mohammed, moving first, who shattered the pack between 20 and 21 miles. She'd have eight seconds on the chase group by 35K, and once away, would grow her lead, taking the win in 2:23:37. She was only 23 seconds off the course record, set last year by Alemitu Abera.
This feat is even more amazing when viewed in light of her fourth-place finish in Shanghai on December 2. There she ran 2:25:21, which means in two marathons, in a little over a month, she averaged 2:24:29.
"It's our job," Mohammed, 20, said of the conditions. "In the future we will do better. We will be very successful."
Buzunesh Deba, second in the 2011 New York City Marathon, would consolidate to hold on for second in 2:24:26, and in third wasMeskerem Assefa, 2:25:17, completing the Ethiopian sweep of the top three places.
Tera Moody, who due to injury last raced a marathon in the 2011 World Championships, was the top American, finishing sixth in 2:39:10. Kelly Calway, of Manitou Springs, Colo., was seventh and second American in 2:41:53.
"I didn't really know what to expect out there today," Moody said. "I've never had so many problems or felt so terrible in a marathon. I would have liked to have run a little faster, but I will say you have to start somewhere."
In the men's race, Worku slogged through the early pace with six men and nearly as many pacers, hitting the half in 65:26. Then he moved decisively, so much so that the second half seemed like a glory lap, without another runner in sight. He would jog through the tape unhurried in 2:10:17 for his first major marathon win.
"My plan was to do much better than this," he said. "We felt like the wind was throwing us out."
Teferi Balcha, 31, followed, finishing in 2:12:50, and Solomon
Mollo was third in 2:14:37. The top American was Andrew Carlson, seventh, in 2:17:16, and Sergio Reyes was ninth in 2:19:27. Mike Reneau and Fernando Cabada would not finish.
"Clearly today wasn't the success that I wanted," Carlson, who ran 2:11:24 in his debut at the Trials last year, said. "Early on, it was just figure out how to get to the finish line."
The men's half marathon started and ended as a two-man battle between Lilesa and Deriba Merga. They went out hard, dropping any chance of outside interruption.
Lilesa, at 20 years old, had youth; Merga, at 32, had experience. Under course conditions youth prevailed, with Lilesa's 61:54 over Merga in 62:00, decided in the last half mile.
Lilesa, who set the course record of 59:22 last year, talked about how Merga's tactic was to break him early: "From the start, I knew that the other guy wanted to beat me," he said. "But I knew that when it came [the finish], I could beat him. I knew I had a faster pace than him at the end."
In third was Wilson Erupe of Kenya in 62:12, and the top American, Shadrack Biwott, was fourth in 62:23. Luke Puskedra, formerly of the University of Oregon, was fifth in 62:32, and Aaron Braun, debuting, was sixth in 62:52.
Biwott, who recently joined Team Run Eugene in Eugene, Ore., watched the early leaders move, and decided to . . . not. "It paid off," he said.
In the women's race, Mamitu Daska, who won the full marathon in 2011, ran solo for her second win in Houston, finishing in 69:53.
"If the weather was perfect, I planned on breaking the course record," she said, "but to run in this type of condition and win is a very happy moment for me."
Behind was Caroline Kilel in 71:58, and Hellen Jemutai was third in 72:34. Lisa Uhl, racing her second time since leaving the Schumacher-coached Oregon Track Club Portland, was the top American in sixth, running 73:28, and Lindsay Tollefson was tenth in 1:20:22.
Uhl was not immediately available for comment after her race.
Complete results can be found at:http://results.houstonmarathon.com/2013/