2023 Houston Half Marathon Recap
Emily Sisson shattered her own American record in the half marathon by finishing in 1:06:52. She is now the first American woman to break the 1:07 barrier after placing second behind race winner Hiwot Gebremaryam of Ethiopia, who ran 1:06:28.
Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase Aleme won the men’s half in a sprint finish. He ran 1:00:34—less than a second ahead of runner-up Wesley Kiptoo of Kenya.
Emily Sisson Re-Breaks Her Own American Record
Sisson improved on her record the hard way by going out fast, slowing down slightly through the last sections, and kicking it in towards the finish. After Gebremaryam broke the race open in the first few miles—by 5K, she was already 17 seconds ahead of the chase pack—Sisson ran with Jessica Warner-Judd of Great Britain through 15K. The American record-holder averaged 5-minute mile pace through the first 5K but struggled in the latter half of the course, clocking 5:12 miles around 20K.
“I went out a little too fast the first 5K or so, so the last few miles I was definitely feeling it,” Sisson said on the ABC 13 broadcast.
But Sisson pushed through the discomfort as she neared the finish line to make history once again. “I’m really excited about it. I really wanted to break 67 minutes and I’m happy I did,” she said. “I actually think I could have run a little more evenly so I’m already hoping to run another half and even try to run faster.”
Sisson broke the American record for the first time in May 2022 at the USATF Half Marathon Road Championships in Indianapolis. The Providence College alum won the national title in 1:07:11, four seconds faster than the previous American record set by Sara Hall less than four months earlier at the 2022 Houston Half Marathon.
Prior to the U.S. championships, Sisson came extremely close to the mark on two occasions. When the record was 1:07:25 (held by her former training partner Molly Huddle), she ran 1:07:30 in 2019 and 1:07:26 in 2020.
Last year, the momentum continued in a big way for Sisson when she broke the American record in the marathon. In October, she demolished the time by running 2:18:29 in Chicago—lowering the previous record set by Keira D’Amato at the 2022 Houston Marathon by 43 seconds.
Close Finish in the Men’s Half Marathon
The men’s half marathon featured one of the most exciting finishes of the day. After pulling away from the chase pack together with a few miles remaining, Aleme and Kiptoo battled down to the wire. The East African competitors fought through the homestretch—where Kiptoo kept looking back to assess the distance between himself and his rival—until Aleme sprinted ahead at the last second to claim the victory.
Aleme’s performance follows a breakthrough season, which included a runner-up finish at the 2022 London Marathon in October.
Conner Mantz was the first American to finish after placing sixth in 1:01:12.
Past Greats Return to Racing, While Familiar Faces Make Debuts
In addition to Sisson’s record, there were several other notable performances in the Houston women’s half marathon, including Huddle in her postpartum return to competitive racing. The previous American record-holder finished fifth in 1:10:01 almost nine months after welcoming her daughter. In her 13.1 debut, former 1500-meter specialist and Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson placed ninth in 1:10:35. Also making her debut, Vanessa Fraser finished 13th in 1:11:00. All three had room to spare in achieving the standard to compete at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
Three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba also made her highly anticipated return. In the Ethiopian's first race in four years, she finished 16th in 1:11:35.
posted Sunday January 15th
by TAYLOR DUTCH Runners World