Gezahegn, Merachi Win 48th Annual Houston Marathon

by Clay Shaw

HOUSTON, TX, JANUARY 19, 2020—Askale Merachi of Ethiopia has always been one of my favorite athletes.  She was one of my invited athletes for the Lancaster Race Against Racism 5K, was a house guest before her win at the 2017 Tom Ausherman Memorial 5 Miler, and a two-time winner of the Broad Street 10 Miler in Philadelphia. Through the past few years with hard work and training, Askale improved steadily.  Some eye-catching results in New York City races, followed by a 2:24:13 win in Los Angeles in 2019, which is now the fastest women’s marathon time ever in California.  Joan Benoit Samuelson’s mark of 2:24:52 set in the 1984 LA Olympics lasted 35 years.  Askale hails from the famous running town of Bekoji, and is first cousin of the great Derartu Tulu. 

In Houston, Askale trusted her training and broke from the others just 10K into the race, and went on to win in a new personal best of 2:23:29.  Headwinds in the final 10K slowed her and the men as they may have had course records on an ideal day. Two-time Houston champion Biruktayit Degefa of Ethiopia was second in 2:24:47.  Malindi Elmore of Canada set a new Canadian record of 2:24:50.    The first USA runner was Adriana Nelson of Colorado who had an OQ of 2:33:18 and finished 8th.  Of special interest, Neely Spence-Gracey, former Shippensburg star, admittedly not in peak shape after three years of injury, did an OQ of 2:44:03, to earn a spot at the starting line in Atlanta.

Kelkile Gezahegn of Ethiopia turned on the jets in the final 5K to win easily in 2:08:36.  Bonsa Dida of Ethiopia was second in 2:10:37.  Amanuel Mesel of Eritrea was third in 2:11:04.  Gezhagen and the other podium finishers along with Benson Seurei of Bahrain 2:11:51 (4th), and Stephen Scullion of Ireland 2:11:52, 5th and a PB, had separated themselves after 15 miles.  Craig Hunt of Arizona was the top USA runner with an 8th place finish, an  OQ.  Twelve men and 18 women earned OQs in Houston on the last day of qualification.

In the half-marathon Jemel Yimer of Ethiopia won in a thrilling finish with a 59:25, Bernard Ngeno of Kenya was one second back in 59:26, and Shadrack Korir was two seconds back in third with a 59:27.   Hitomi Niiya of Japan set a national record of 1:06:38 in winning the half-marathon.  Brillian Kipkoech of Kenya was second in 1:08:08, and Caroline Chepkoech of Kenya was third in 1:08:13.

Top 20 Women

  1. 2:23:29 Askale Merachi ETH
  2. 2:24:47 Biruktayit Degefa ETH
  3. 2:24:50 Malindi Elmore CAN
  4. 2:24:54 Meseret Belete ETH
  5. 2:29:22 Bekelech Gudeta ETH
  6. 2:29:32 Ursula Sanchez MEX
  7. 2:32:36 Andrea Soraya Limon MEX
  8. 2:33:18 Adriana Nelson CO
  9. 2:33:40 Gebiyanesh Gedamu ETH
  10. 2:34:26 Alexi Pappas GRE
  11. 2:34:46 Ayantu Dakebo Hailemaryam ETH
  12. 2:34:46 Kathya Garcia MEX
  13. 2:34:57 Brenda Flores MEX
  14. 2:35:29 Dylan Hassett IRL
  15. 2:36:47 Anne Johnston CAN
  16. 2:38:47 Sandra Lopez MEX
  17. 2:39:43 Gisela Olalde MEX
  18. 2:40:40 Liz Berkholtz WI
  19. 2:42:20 Mitzari Lozano MEX
  20. 2:42:54 Hanna Christensen WI

Top 20 Men

  1. 2:08:36 Kelkile Gezahegn ETH
  2. 2:10:37 Bonsa Dida ETH
  3. 2:11:04 Amanuel Mesel ERI
  4. 2:11:51 Benson Seurei BRN
  5. 2:11:52 Stephen Scullion IRL
  6. 2:13:32 Belay Tilahun Bezabeh ETH
  7. 2:15:26 Tariku Bekele ETH
  8. 2:17:18 Craig Hunt AZ
  9. 2:17:23 Joseph Niemiec SC
  10. 2:18:00 Steven Martinez CA
  11. 2:18:12 Kevin Colon WA
  12. 2:18:16 Matt Lenehan CA
  13. 2:18:31 Michael Eaton WA
  14. 2:18:33 Stewart Harwell CA
  15. 2:18:35 Tom Slattery NY
  16. 2:18:37 Alec Baldwin CO
  17. 2:18:39 Argeo Cruz FL
  18. 2:18:44 Nick French TN
  19. 2:18:45 Nicholas Spector CA
  20. 2:19:04 Robert Murphy IN
A comfortable and confident athlete at work. Askale Merachi of Ethiopia on way to a 2:23:29 personal best and victory at the 2020 Chevron Houston Marathon. (Photo by Victor Sailer: Chevron Houston Marathon Race Committee)
Askale Merachi of Bekoji, Ethiopia wins the 2020 Chevron Houston Marathon in 2:23:29, setting personal best. (Photo by Victor Sailer: Chevron Houston Marathon Race Committee)
Adriana Nelson of Boulder, CO is quite happy and can still stand on one foot after running 2:33:18 at the Chevron Houston Marathon. Adriana was top USA finisher and 8th overall. (Photo courtesy of Adriana Nelson)

Categories: Race Coverage

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