Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ethiopia's Jufar wins Houston Marathon

HOUSTON (AP) -- Ethiopian runners swept the Houston full and half marathons in record times on Sunday.
Tariku Jufar won the men's marathon in 2 hours, 6 minutes and 51 seconds, eclipsing the previous best time of 2:07.04 set last year by Ethiopia's Bekana Daba. Jufar is the fourth straight men's champion from the African nation, and the fourth straight runner to win in a record time.
Alemitu Abera won the women's race in 2:23.14. The previous record was 2:23.53, set by Ethiopia's Teyba Erkesso in 2010.
In the men's half marathon, Feyisa Lelisa won in a personal-best 59:22. That eclipsed the course and American record set by Ryan Hall in the 2007 U.S. Half Marathon championship (59:43).
Belaynesh Oljira won the women's half marathon in 1:08.26, breaking Shalane Flanagan's record time of 1:09.41, set in 2010.
The races were held one day after the city hosted the U.S. Marathon trials, run on a different route. Meb Keflezighi won the men's trial and Flanagan was the first woman across the finish line.
The weather on Sunday morning was ideal, with a clear sky and a temperature of 52 degrees. A total of 8,249 runners started the marathon, and another 9,409 started the half-marathon.
The early lead pack, made up of three Kenyans and four Ethiopians, reached the 5-kilometer mark in just under 15 minutes. The group was down to five runners after eight miles and each of the splits were under five minutes to that point.
The Ethiopian trio of Demessew Tsega, Debebe Tolossa and Jufar steadily widened their margin with each mile. They covered Mile 20 in 5:05, and Jufar moved in front by himself by Mile 24.
Abera kept pace with the men for a while, opening an early 11-second lead on the rest of the women's field.
Running stride for stride with a male pacer, Abera was more than a minute ahead of her closest competitor at the 10-kilometer mark. The 26-year-old Abera had three top-three finishes in marathons in 2011, winning in Istanbul last September.
Lelisa set the tone for the Ethiopians, breaking away from the pack early in the half marathon. He rounded the final turn and finished in a full sprint.
Oljira fought off a challenge from 2011 Boston Marathon champion Caroline Kilel in the final strides, winning by two seconds.
Tolossa finished the men's marathon in 2:07.41 and Tsega was third in 2:11.13. Benita Willis was second in the women's race, and her time (2:28.24) was good enough to earn her a spot on the Australian OIympic team headed for London this summer.
The marathon is sponsored by Chevron, and the half marathon is sponsored by Aramco.