With the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon scheduled to begin at 6:50am on Sunday, January 20th, runners, fans, and organizers have already begun streaming into the city. Over 250,000 fans attended the race last year, and with fan favorites like Jim Walmsley and Tommy Puzey taking the course, there’s good reason to expect even larger crowds this year.
Aramco Houston Half Marathon
Photo credit: Houston Half Marathon
The weekend’s biggest draws may actually be running in the Aramco Houston Half Marathon. Neither of last year’s winners (Jake Robertson of New Zealand at 1:00:01 and Ruti Aga of Ethiopia at 1:06:39) will be participating, but two new entries appear poised to take their places.
Men’s Half Marathon – 59:22 (Feyisa Lilesa, 2012)
Women’s Half Marathon – 1:06:29* (Mary Wacera, 2016)
Photo Credit: Aramco Houston Half Marathon women’s winner Ruti Aga
Since he won the 2018 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, Jim Walmsley has cemented his reputation as one of the United States’ premiere ultra runners. Sunday, he’ll show off his road racing chops as he attempts to break the 01:04:00 threshold for an Olympic Trial qualifier. Success is far from a given: Walmsley’s last road race came back in 2014 at the Missoula Half, where his 1:09:38 wouldn’t have made the cut.
Meanwhile, Fancy Chemutai’s 1:04:52 came only one second off of a new world record in 2018. She’ll vie for the record in Houston now, and is a heavy favorite for first in the women’s field, with a chance to record the fastest women’s half-marathon time on U.S. soil.
Chevron Houston Marathon
The Chevron Houston Marathon promises to be no less exciting. Once again the most anticipated drama in that race will come from a notable absence. Bazu Worku of Ethiopia won the race for a second consecutive year in 2018 with a time of 02:08:30. Worku is not listed among this year’s Elite Field, leaving a big hole at the front of the pack.
Men’s Marathon – 2:06:51 (Tariku Jufar, 2012)
Women’s Marathon – 2:23:14 (Alemitu Abera, 2012)
Photo credit: Molly Huddle
Looking to fill that hole in the men’s race will be Worku’s countryman and last year’s runner-up Yitayal Atnafu, who hopes to improve on his own 02:09:07. Atnafu lead Worku until the very last leg of the marathon in 2018.
After winning the women’s race with a time of 02:24:51 last year, Biruktayit Degefa returns looking to become the first woman since 2010 to defend the course title.
Another runner to watch here is Tommy Puzey, whose win in 02:25:53 at the 2018 Toyota Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon, has garnered major attention. He’ll need to shave serious time to make a wave in Houston, but we’re not ready to count him out.
The Houston Hundred
Ultra running enthusiasts will also be closely watching Izzo Ultra Running’s Izzo Brothers. They’ll be running the first 73.8 miles of their 100 on treadmills at the Houston Marathon Health & Fitness EXPO, then running the Chevron Houston Marathon with the rest of the field to finish it out. EXPO visitors can donate to the Houston Marathon Foundation for a chance to run alongside the brothers for a few minutes or a few miles!
Photo Credit: Chevron Houston Marathon men’s winner Bazu Worku crossing the finish line.
Run for a Reason
Of course, it wouldn’t be The Chevron Houston Marathon without the Run for a Reason Program. Each year the event raises over two-million dollars to benefits its 64 charity partners, totaling over $28-million since the event began in 1995.