Emily Sisson Smashes Her Own American Record + Other Biggest Winners From Houston
Emily Sisson took 19 seconds off her own American record and finished second in 1:06:52 at the Houston Half Marathon on Sunday.
2023 is off to a hot start! While collegians around the country are coming back from winter break and pros like Abby Steiner are opening up their indoor campaigns, all eyes in the distance world were on the Chevron Houston Marathon this weekend. Houston traditionally features deep, high-caliber half marathon fields and hosted Keira D’Amato’s American record in the full distance in 2022.
There was even more attention on the shorter event this year as the abbreviated qualifying window for the 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials only allows half marathon times from January to December 2023 to count for qualifying purposes, so Houston represented the first major event where runners could book their tickets to Orlando with a half marathon performance.
To continue reading the newsletter and all of our year-round track and field and running coverage, subscribe here + tell your friends.
In case you missed the action yesterday morning, here’s what you need to know about what happened in Houston:
Emily Sisson broke her own U.S. record in the half marathon:
– 2023 is off to a fantastic start for Sisson as she took 19 seconds off her own American record with a 66:52 runner-up finish. Her previous record was 67:11 from last year’s USATF Half-Marathon Championships in Indianapolis.
– The time now clears up any confusion over the fastest-ever U.S. women’s half marathon performance. Sisson is the first American woman to run under 67 minutes in a record-eligible course. Kara Goucher clocked a 66:57 at the 2007 Great North Run but the course is considered a slightly-aided course.
– What she said after the race: “I think I could have run a little more evenly so I’m hoping to run another half and run even faster.” She did get out a bit quick - her first 5km of 15:31 put her close to 65-minute pace early - but the eventual winner, Hiwot Gebremaryam, went out even faster.
Ethiopia’s Hiwot Gebremaryam won the race in 66:28:
– Gebremaryam, who also goes by Hiwot Gebrekidan, sent it even harder than Sisson, hitting 5km in 15:14 and 10km in 30:52. She hit halfway just off the course record pace, which also happens to be the fastest women’s half marathon run on U.S. soil.
– In November, she finished 3rd at the BAA Half Marathon in 71:06 - nearly 5 full minutes slower than her performance yesterday. That should help contextualize just how tough the course in Boston is for those who’ve never run it.
– Gebremaryam entered the race with a 66:47 personal best. Given that her full marathon best is 2:19:10 and the longer distances appear to be more to her taste, it suggests that Sisson, with a 2:18:29 personal best, could run much faster in the half.
Other notable results from the women’s half marathon:
– Molly Huddle was the second American across the finish line in 1:10:01 for fifth place. This is definitely her best performance since giving birth to her daughter last April, and it officially qualifies her for the 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials.
– Jenny Simpson made her half marathon debut and finished ninth overall in 1:10:35, finishing right next to her husband Jason. The 11-time U.S. champion on the track has now secured her first U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying mark. The race will be held in her hometown of Orlando, Florida in Feb. 2024, so she’ll have some home field advantage and local pride on the line should she compete.
– Anna Dibaba (4th, 1:09:22) won the duel against her sister, three-time Olympic gold medalist Tirunesh Dibaba (16th, 1:11:35). It was Tirunesh’s first race in four years - she had two children in between, her second and third (born 2019 and 2021) - but the elder Dibaba is still only 37 years old.
– Vanessa Fraser finished 13th in 1:11:00 for her half marathon debut. Fraser left Bowerman Track Club in 2022 but continues to be coached by BTC assistant Shalane Flanagan.
Men’s Half Marathon Comes Down To A Sprint Finish
– NN Running Team’s Ethiopian stud Leul Gebresilase managed to get past HOKA NAZ Elite and Kenya’s Wesley Kiptoo in the closing meters of the race to win in 60:34. Kiptoo lowered his personal best by 52 seconds.
– Kiptoo, an NCAA champ at Iowa State, has had a strong first year on the pro circuit with NAZ Elite. He’s raced distances ranging from the 1 mile to the half marathon and his new 60:35 personal best is a team record and - as far as the CITIUS team can ascertain - the fastest half marathon ever run in a pair of HOKAs.
Other notable results from the men’s half marathon:
– Conner Mantz was the top American with a 1:01:12 for sixth place. Mantz led some of the middle miles of the race but could not respond when Gebresilase and Kiptoo made their move. After this, the BYU grad will be gearing up for his second career marathon in Boston in April.
– Edward Cheserek finished eighth in 1:01:51. Like his fellow NCAA champ, Cheserek was in the lead pack for the race's first half but didn’t have the gears late. This was his fourth go at the half marathon distance and his third in the last year, which has left some fans wondering when we’ll get a marathon debut out of the King…
– Shura Kitata, the 2020 London champion, 2022 NYC runner-up, and one of the few men to ever beat Eliud Kipchoge in a marathon, was never in contention in the second half of the race and wound up 7th in 61:16.
A Stumble At The End Decides The Men’s Marathon
– Ethiopia’s Tsedat Ayana tripped himself up just meters from the finish line and was passed by Kenya’s Dominic Ondoro, who won in 2:10:36. This is Ondoro’s second career victory in Houston after winning the 2017 edition of the race in 2:12:05.
– Teshome Mekonen, who became a U.S. citizen in 2022, ran a personal best of 2:11:05 to finish third. With a half marathon PB of 60:02 in 2018, he could still end up being a major factor in Orlando.
– The weather conditions in Houston were not great but not terrible, and it seems that the heat (in the 60s by the end of the marathon) and humidity did seem to impact the full marathon times more than the half. Nearly all of the top runners recorded positive splits and only 13 finishers dipped below 2:18:00.
Other notable men’s marathon performances
– Parker Stinson ran his fastest marathon since 2019 with a 2:12:11 for fourth place. Stinson got off to an ambitious start, hitting halfway in 64:46, and paid the price in the final 10 kilometers.
– Tyler Pennel was fifth in 2:12:16. This marked his first marathon finish since the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials. Pennel ran smart, one of only two men in the top 10 to negative-split; he hit halfway in 66:26 and came back in 65:50. His time was also an 18-second personal best.
Hitomi Niiya Gives The Japanese Record A Scare
– Japanese half marathon record holder Hitomi Niiya won the women’s marathon in 2:19:24, just 12 seconds shy of the national record set by Mizuki Noguchi, which has stood since 2005. This was Niiya’s first race since withdrawing from last summer’s World Championships marathon due to a positive test for COVID.
– Niiya, who had the help of a male pacer for most of the race, really only let the record slip away in the final mile of the race. At 40km (24.8 miles), she was on track to finish in 2:19:11. So close!
Other notable women’s marathon performances:
– ZAP Endurance’s Tristin van Ord was the top American woman in fourth place with a 2:27:07. She took more than two minutes off her personal best of 2:29:32 from last year’s Rotterdam Marathon.
– Maegan Krifchin ran 2:30:16 for sixth place in her fourth marathon in the last three months. She will also run the Boston Marathon in April.
– As in the men’s race, the weather seemed to slowed things down a bit, and only 14 women (9 of them American) finished under 2:37:00, the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials standard.
That does it for this edition of the CITIUS MAG Newsletter. Thanks for reading! Did we miss a performance that stood out to you? Email us with your thoughts.
Are you enjoying our coverage? The more people we reach, the better we’ll get! Share this newsletter with your friends, family and fellow running junkies.
Want more? Keep up with all of our latest breaking news + content by following us on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.
🙏 Chris Chavez (@ChrisChavez) and David Melly (@DavidMellyRuns)