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Hitomi Niiya wins Houston half marathon

Hitomi Niiya went unchallenged and just crushed it on Sunday morning in the women’s half marathon of the 2020 Chevron Houston Marathon. Niiya covered the 13.1-mile course in 1:06:38, breaking a 13-year-old record for the fastest time by a Japanese women’s half marathon runner.

Jemal Yimer Mekonnen of Ethopia sprinted to the finish line to win the men’s half marathon in :59:24. Mekonnen, who finished second in this race last year, just missed the course record of :59:22.

Mekonnen is the third winner in Houston to finish in under an hour. Mekonnen’s pace was a 4-minute, 32-second mile.

Bernard Kipkorir Ngeno (Kenya) was a second behind Mekonnen, finishing in 59:26. Another second behind at :59:27 was Shadrack Kimining Korir (Kenya).

When Niiya was closing in on the finish, there was no runner within sight of the 31-year-old. She ran the third-fastest time in Houston on this course for women in the half marathon. Niiya, who represented Japan at the 2012 Summer Olympics, averaged a 5:05-minute mile.

Brillian Jepkorir Kipkoech (Kenya) ran second in the women’s race in 1:08:08, followed by Caroline Chepkoech Kipkirui (Kenya) in 1:08:13. Sara Hall was the top American woman finisher. Hall came in with a time of 1:08:55, for ninth place.

(01/19/2020) ⚡AMP
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Aramco Houston Half Marathon

Aramco Houston Half Marathon

The Chevron Houston Marathon offers participants a unique running experience in America's fourth largest city. The fast, flat, scenic single-loop course has been ranked as the "fastest winter marathon" and "second fastest marathon overall" by Ultimate Guide To Marathons. After 30 years of marathon-only competition, Houston added the half-marathon in 2002, with El Paso Energy as the sponsor. Today the...

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A year ago, Reed Fischer paid his own way to the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon this year he is excited for his return

Without a sponsor, the former Drake Bulldog didn’t have a racing uniform to wear.  So, he stopped by the race expo at the cavernous George R. Brown Convention Center to do some shopping.

“I bought just a plain, black Nike singlet,” Fischer told Race Results Weekly in an interview here today.  “I was, and still am, unsponsored.  So for me, I just wanted to have a very understated, mixed-brand look.”  He continued: “I just wanted people to know where I stood from a sponsorship standpoint.”

Holding the pace that his coach Tom Schwartz said he was capable of, Fischer ran the four 5-kilometer segments within the race in 14:51, 14:38, 14:41 and 14:49, respectively.  He pushed through the final 1097 meters in a brisk 3:07, and crossed the finish line in 1:02:06, s 51-second personal best.  Along the way, he set road PB’s for 10-K (29:29), 15-K (44:10) and 20-K (58:59).  He was also the first American, beating better-known athletes like Parker Stinson and Noah Droddy, and his time made him the sixth-fastest American at the half-marathon distance for 2019.

Was he surprised at his performance?

“Yes,” Fischer admitted.  “Maybe a bit more than I expected, to be completely honest.  Coach Schwartz and I knew I was in around 62-minute shape, so from a time standpoint I ran 62:06, basically right where we hoped that I could run.  But, I did not expect to crack the top-10 or be the top American.”

Fischer, who trains with the Tinman Elite group in Boulder, Colo., comes to this year’s race with a different mindset.  He was supposed to make his marathon debut in Chicago last October, but had to withdraw when he suffered a “mild stress reaction” in his left foot, according to his Instagram page.  It was a devastating setback for the young runner who had put together a very solid block of training.

“Working through my first injury as an athlete has been undoubtedly difficult, but I’ve found a new appreciation for running as a result,” Fischer posted on Instagram at the time.  “I’m incredibly grateful for my support team, they’ve helped keep me optimistic and get me back to running as quickly as possible.”

Revising his plans, Fischer will now make his marathon debut at the USA Olympic Trials Marathon on Saturday, February 29.  His race here on Sunday comes off of heavy marathon training and will provide a valuable test for his fitness.  He is trying for a nuanced approach.

“There two ways you can approach it,” Fischer explained.  “One, is you go and have a nice conservative day and feel good about where things are at, and maybe don’t run 100% of what you could.  Or, the other one’s, maybe, you say I’m just going to try and see if I can make something happen on some tired legs, go 100% effort and see if it pans out, or if you crash and burn.  I’m trying to toe the line between the two.  I’m trying to run really aggressively and rip the band-aid off.”  He continued: “I’m definitely fitter than last year.”

Fischer has been in Boulder two and a half years training with Tinman Elite, and he loves the camaraderie of the group.  The other athletes –Drew Hunter, Jeff Thies, Aaron Templeton, Joseph Berriatua, Connor Winter, Kyle Medina, Jordan Gusman, Sam Parsons, and Patrick Joseph– are middle-distance/5000m athletes, so Fischer is their long distance man (marathoner Brogan Austin is also part of Tinman, but he trains in Iowa). 

(01/18/2020) ⚡AMP
by David Monti
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Aramco Houston Half Marathon

Aramco Houston Half Marathon

The Chevron Houston Marathon offers participants a unique running experience in America's fourth largest city. The fast, flat, scenic single-loop course has been ranked as the "fastest winter marathon" and "second fastest marathon overall" by Ultimate Guide To Marathons. After 30 years of marathon-only competition, Houston added the half-marathon in 2002, with El Paso Energy as the sponsor. Today the...

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Jemal Yimer, Jared Ward, Sara Hall, Molly huddle and more on Tap at 2020 Houston Half Marathon

Year-in, year-out, no American half marathon assembles better fields than Houston. In addition to being the site of both the men’s (Ryan Hall, 2007) and women’s (Molly Huddle, 2018) American records, there is always a deep list of sub-60:00 men and sub-67:00 women on the start line. Last year, Brigid Kosgei kicked off one of the greatest years in the history of distance running with a win in Houston.

The international fields in Houston, which takes place on Sunday, are strong once again. But from an American perspective, the more intriguing storyline is the impending US Olympic Marathon Trials, to be held in six weeks’ time in Atlanta. Several top Trials contenders — Molly Huddle and Sara Hall on the women’s side, Jared Ward and Shadrack Biwott on the men’s — will be racing on Sunday, and while no result will make or break their Trials hopes, it does give us one last piece of evidence to go on. 

When Huddle debuted in the marathon, placing third in New York in 2016, it looked to be the first step in a journey that would culminate at the 2020 Olympic marathon. Among Americans, Huddle was the queen of all distances between 5k and the half marathon and her grind-it-out style seemed well-suited to marathon success.

Tuliamuk, the 2018 US half marathon champ, is an option, though she’s got progressively slower in Houston the last three years, from 69:58 in 2017 to 71:41 in 2018 to 72:03 last year. She’ll need to get back to her 2017 form to crack the top two Americans on Sunday.

Katy Jermann (née Moen) and Molly Seidel both ran 70:27 last year, tied for third-fastest in the US. Of the two, Seidel, who in 2015 broke the “Foot Locker curse” to win the the 2015 NCAA XC title, is the more intriguing prospect. Seidel had never run a half before October 2019, but Houston will be her third in three months, and she plans to make her marathon debut at the Trials.

With a 2:09 in Boston and two sixth-place finishes in New York, Jared Ward has been the most consistent American marathoner over the last 18 months. Beating him on Sunday doesn’t guarantee a repeat result next month in Atlanta, but it would be a positive sign for the other Olympic hopefuls in this field.

With a high of 59, the temperature looks great for running on Sunday, though 13 mph winds mean the conditions won’t be perfect. Still, with the talent on hand in Houston, there should be competitive races up front. In the men’s race, there’s no clear favorite.

Ethiopia’s Jemal Yimer (58:33), the fourth-fastest man ever, was a close second last year after taking a wrong turn late in the race. He went on to run 59:09 in Valencia in October, where he finished two seconds behind Kenya’s Bernard Ngeno, also entered in Houston. Andamlak Belihu had a terrific 2019 (26:53/59:10, 5th at Worlds in 10k), while the last two Houston champs, Shura Kitata of Ethiopia and Jake Robertson of New Zealand, return as well.

(01/17/2020) ⚡AMP
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Aramco Houston Half Marathon

Aramco Houston Half Marathon

The Chevron Houston Marathon offers participants a unique running experience in America's fourth largest city. The fast, flat, scenic single-loop course has been ranked as the "fastest winter marathon" and "second fastest marathon overall" by Ultimate Guide To Marathons. After 30 years of marathon-only competition, Houston added the half-marathon in 2002, with El Paso Energy as the sponsor. Today the...

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Caroline Chepkoech, the sixth all-time fastest runner at half marathon will lead Kenya's bid to conquer the Houston Half Marathon on Jan. 19

Kenyan Caroline Chepkoech, who has ruled out any hopes of competing at the Tokyo Olympics in the marathon, will have to calculate her steps to perfection if she has to beat Kenyan-turned Israeli Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, the reigning European 10,000m champion.

With a personal best time of 65:07, Chepkoech is the fastest ahead of Chemtai 66:09 and Ethiopians Burka (66:11), former champion Ruti Aga (66:39). Current champion Ethiopia's Biruktayit Degefa will also be back to defend her title.

"This will be a good testing ground ahead of the April marathon. The big challenge is here with top runners. But for me the focus is to improve the time and hopefully win the race," said Chepkoech on Wednesday.

Hassan El Abbassi (2:04:43) and Woldaregay Kelkile Gezahegn (2:05:56) are the quickest marathon entrants. Degefa's main opposition could come from fellow Ethiopian Askale Merachi.

In the men's race, Jemal Yimer, the fourth fastest of all time (58:33) is quickest in the line-up, one of eight sub-hour runners. Shura Kitata (59:16), Bernard Kipkorir (59:07) and Robertson (59:58) will oppose him.

Kipkorir will team up with compatriot Bernard Ngeno (59:07), Sam Chelanga (60:37) and Shadrack Biwott (61:25) to challenge the Ethiopians' dominance.

(01/09/2020) ⚡AMP
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Aramco Houston Half Marathon

Aramco Houston Half Marathon

The Chevron Houston Marathon offers participants a unique running experience in America's fourth largest city. The fast, flat, scenic single-loop course has been ranked as the "fastest winter marathon" and "second fastest marathon overall" by Ultimate Guide To Marathons. After 30 years of marathon-only competition, Houston added the half-marathon in 2002, with El Paso Energy as the sponsor. Today the...

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Sam Keen losses 200-pound weight and now is training for the upcoming Aramco Houston Half Marathon

Previous attempts at weight loss had temporary results at best, Keen added. “I was really good at losing 10 pounds and then giving up and gaining 20,” he said.

While stranded by the high waters, Keen started thinking about what he could do differently. “Something got into me that made me want to try harder and really commit,” he said.

First, he decided to cut carbs from his diet and fill up on protein instead. Then, he started to walk.

“At almost 400 pounds, walking is enough,” he said. “I’d go 20 minutes and a little less than a mile, which was a long way for me then.”

He increased his time and distance until he walked about four hours each day. “I listened to every podcast,” he said. “I pushed as much as my feet could bear.”

Keen dropped 100 pounds in six months. “That becomes addictive,” he said. “Instead of going to the bar and drinking a few beers, I’d go for a walk. I would walk to work, 2 miles each way.”

But after a while, walking four hours a day started to bore him. Then one day, he walked by Orangetheory Fitness, a gym known for hourlong classes combining cardio and strength training.

“I looked it up, and it scared me,” he said. “But that was a good thing. I wanted to do something that scared me. I needed a push.”

He liked that people of all fitness levels feel welcome. “I fell in love with it,” he said. “It was exactly what I needed.”

The support offered by the coaches, who push clients to meet their fitness goals, ended up being his favorite part. Head coach Austin McCafferty said that the feeling was mutual.

He first met Keen in a three-person training session with McCafferty’s wife. “Sam fit in perfectly with our group,” McCafferty said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Then, Keen shared his weight-loss story. “I would have never known,” McCafferty said. “It was just mind-blowing. It was truly astonishing to see.”

McCafferty added that Keen is a perfect example of dedication. “Progress starts one small step at a time,” McCafferty said. “You have to stay consistent, set your routine and have determination, like Sam did.”

With the help of the trainers, Keen noticed another benefit he hadn’t expected: “I started feeling confident. The coaches made me feel empowered. That was something I didn’t even know I needed.”

Before long, he was signing up for competitions at Orangetheory. Then, he started running outside more — and wanted to push that as well.

About six months ago, Keen and a friend signed up for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon in Florida. He downloaded a training plan online and competed in the race this fall. He also completed the La Porte By the Bay Half Marathon in November.

“Two years ago, I couldn’t walk a 5K,” Keen said. “Here I am, running without stopping 13.1 miles. Two years is not much time.”

He is now training for the upcoming Aramco Houston Half Marathon. He’ll run another in Austin in February, and a third in Fort Worth in March.

His goal now is to travel the country competing in races. He has a map ready to keep track. In May, he heads to Pittsburgh for his first full marathon. His second is in Seattle in June.

(01/06/2020) ⚡AMP
by Lindsay Peyton
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Aramco Houston Half Marathon

Aramco Houston Half Marathon

The Chevron Houston Marathon offers participants a unique running experience in America's fourth largest city. The fast, flat, scenic single-loop course has been ranked as the "fastest winter marathon" and "second fastest marathon overall" by Ultimate Guide To Marathons. After 30 years of marathon-only competition, Houston added the half-marathon in 2002, with El Paso Energy as the sponsor. Today the...

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Emily Sisson is now the second fastest American woman half marathoner

Emily Sisson became the second fastest half marathon American woman in history today in Houston.  Just two days after announcing her plans to debut at the London Marathon, Sisson finished fifth overall in a time of 1:07:30 at the 2019 Houston Half Marathon. 

Her performance on Sunday was just five seconds shy of the American record of 1:07:25 set by her mentor Molly Huddle in Houston last year.

it was a cold day but Emily went for it passing the 10k mark in an amazing 31:39.  That is faster than her best road 10k

Despite the windy conditions and the confusion with pace at certain points on the course, Sisson still managed to finish just five seconds shy of the American record in a new personal best of 1:07:30. The performance improved on her previous best by almost a full minute. 

“On hindsight, I probably should have worn a watch. I’ve never done a road race where I’ve tried to run a certain time. Normally, I’m just racing competition and not thinking about the time at all so this was kind of a first for me,” she said. “I definitely learned some lessons, but I’m really happy with it.”

(01/20/2019) ⚡AMP
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Aramco Houston Half Marathon

Aramco Houston Half Marathon

The Chevron Houston Marathon offers participants a unique running experience in America's fourth largest city. The fast, flat, scenic single-loop course has been ranked as the "fastest winter marathon" and "second fastest marathon overall" by Ultimate Guide To Marathons. After 30 years of marathon-only competition, Houston added the half-marathon in 2002, with El Paso Energy as the sponsor. Today the...

more...
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Emily Sisson is really focused on running a fast time Sunday at the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon

Emily Sisson’s focus for Sunday’s Aramco Houston Half-Marathon is all about running a fast time. The Team New Balance athlete admitted, however that she’s feeling a little out of her comfort zone.

 “I’m used to racing New York Half where I’m, like, really focused on all the competition.  I’m still really focused on that here, but I’ve never run on a really fast course before, so that was never on my mind, really.  It’s a good opportunity to run fast, so I’d like to break sixty-eight minutes.  I think that’s a realistic goal.”

The American record for the half-marathon is 1:07:25, a mark which Molly Huddle set on a chilly day here one year ago.  Only Huddle, Deena Kastor (1:07:34), and Jordan Hasay (1:07:55) have broken 1:08-flat on a record-quality course (Kara Goucher ran 1:06:57 on the slightly-aided Great North Run course in England in 2007). Sisson, 27, has the road racing chops to challenge Huddle’s mark, and said that her recent training in Arizona has her in very good form.

“I feel much more fit than I was two years ago when I ran my PR in New York,” Sisson observed.  “I know Molly made a comment about (my breaking) her record.  She wouldn’t say something like that, just say something like that.  So, I’m going to take that as a compliment that she thinks I’m fit and ready to run fast.”

At the NYC Half, women run separately from the men and typically start the race cautiously.  The weather is usually cold, the course is hilly, and the athletes like to warm into their pace.  Here, Sisson will have to get on her goal pace quickly, despite the fact that it will also be cold (just above freezing at the start).  She’s a little worried about that, especially with so many sub-elite men running near her and the other top women.

“It’s so different than New York,” Sisson explained.  “In New York I feel you have a little bit of a warm-up period.  We start in the park, then go over the Manhattan Bridge.  So, you’re like jogging the first 5-K.  It will be different going straight from the gun this time.  You start with the guys, so it will be hard to hold back a little bit.”

(01/19/2019) ⚡AMP
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2016 World Half Marathon bronze medallist Mary Wacera will run the Houston half Marathon as preparation for her full marathon debut

The 2016 World Half Marathon bronze medallist Mary Wacera’s preparations for her full marathon debut begins this weekend when she battles at Houston Half Marathon in the United States of America.

Wacera will run her first 42km race at this year’s Boston Marathon on April 15 and intends to use this weekend’s event as part of her build up.

She is not a stranger to the Houston streets having competed and won there before, the most memorable being her 1 hour, 06 minutes and 50 second victory last year, which was the fastest time on US soil.

“I am excited but nervous but Boston is not new to me. I have run several BAA 10Ks,” Wacera said about her upcoming marathon debut.

The half marathon specialist made her debut in road running competitions six years ago and won her first half marathon at the Saint Denis in 1:07:54.

She ran three half marathons in 2013, finishing third in the Nice and Mardi Gras half marathons and fifth at the Luanda half marathon in Angola.

But it is her win at the 2014 World’s Best 10K that raised her confidence a notch higher because she beat top names at the time including the defending champion, Joyce Chepkurui.

Having ran about 18 half marathons so far and finishing in podium positions in most of them, Wacera feels she is ripe for the longer distance.

(01/19/2019) ⚡AMP
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Texan Parker Stinson will run at Houston Half Marathon with a New Coach, Dathan Ritzenhein

Stinson and Ritzenhein have a relationship that stretches back a decade. They try not to worry about the fact that, should all go well, they’ll be racing each other for an Olympic berth next year.

Parker Stinson wants to make it clear: he wasn’t stalking Dathan Ritzenhein when they first met 10 years ago in Houston. Not exactly.

Stinson was a junior at Cedar Park High School outside of Austin, in town to catch a glimpse of the biggest pro running event in the state of Texas, the Houston Half Marathon. But more than anything, he was there to see Ritzenhein; multiple posters bearing his image hung in the Cedar Park locker room, including one from his bronze-medal performance in the junior race at the 2001 World Cross Country Championships (Ritz remains the last US junior, male or female, to medal in that race). Ritzenhein was 26 and fresh off his second Olympic appearance, where he finished 9th in the marathon in Beijing, and about to embark on a career year that would see him break Bob Kennedy‘s American record in the 5,000 meters and earn a bronze medal at the World Half Marathon Championships.

As Hudson and Ritzenhein were on their way to dinner, Sheard approached and introduced himself and Stinson. Stinson, a little starstruck at the time, doesn’t recall much about the interaction — “I just remember trying not to say anything weird” — but he knew one thing: Ritzenhein was now officially his favorite runner. That moment would mark the beginning of a crucial relationship in Stinson’s life, one that evolved from star-fanboy while he was in high school to mentor-mentee during his days at the University of Oregon, where Ritzenhein served as a volunteer coach in 2014.

Last fall, their relationship changed once again when Ritzenhein agreed to coach Stinson, who parted ways with his old coach, Hudson, after the Chicago Marathon. As fate would have it, Stinson’s first race under Ritzenhein comes Sunday at the Houston Half Marathon, a decade after their first meeting.

(01/19/2019) ⚡AMP
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Kenya's Fancy Chemutai has recovered from the ankle injury and is ready to run the Aramco Houston Half Marathon

Fancy Chemutai, the second fastest half marathon woman in history, leads top fields in Houston as she pushes for another top finish and boosts her chance of making the Kenya team to the World Championships.

Last year, Chemutai, 23, missed the world record held by compatriot Joyciline Jepkosgei when she won in Dubai clocking 64:52.

However, that push had taken a toll on her body as she injured her knee, which has kept her out of competition for almost six months.

"It is a challenge for me in Houston but when I say I am back, it means I have gauged myself. I will still fight for the medals. I am progressively returning to full fitness."

"I have sat down with my coach and I believe I have a chance to race again," said Chemutai, who currently trains in Iten.

(01/09/2019) ⚡AMP
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British athlete Dewi Griffiths will be running the Houston half marathon

Dewi Griffiths will line up in the half marathon hoping to lay down a marker before making a return to marathon racing later this year.

The Welshman, who ran a fantastic 2:09:49 marathon debut in 2017, had his 2018 season scuppered for the most part due to injury.

Griffiths made a steady return to action in the latter part of the year, building up to a 1:02:55 performance at the Cardiff hosted Commonwealth Half Marathon Championships in October, before ending on a high with a 28:49 10k at the Corrida de Houilles in France.

Among those Griffiths will face are five sub 60 minute athletes, including Kenyan trio Bedan Karoki Muchiri, Bernard Ngeno and Geoffrey Koech, while USA’s Shadrack Biwott and Bernard Lagat are also in the field.

(01/08/2019) ⚡AMP
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Sarah Attar Sets Saudi Arabria Half Marathon Record

Every time Sarah Attar runs a personal best, which she did Sunday in Houston with a 1:26:47 in the half marathon, she also sets a national record. Attar is the only elite female runner to represent Saudia Arabia and, as a 19-year-old in London in 2012, she became famous for becoming one of the first two women to represent the country in the Olympics. "There was a lot of backlash at the time," she said. But, when she crossed the finish line, "I had a standing ovation of, like, 80,000 people." (01/15/2018) ⚡AMP
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Lagat runs AR Masters for Half of 1:02:00 at Aramco

Bernard Lagat runs 1:02:00 for Masters American Record. Bernard retired from elite track & field on September 3, 2016, with a 3000 meters at ISTAF Berlin. Lagat spent much time each year training in Germany, and he decided that it would be a fitting way to end his athletics career. Bernard Lagat went out fast and furious and his 1:02:00 was impressive, a 32 second improvement on his PR. Looks like he could run under the World Masters record of 1:01:19! (01/15/2018) ⚡AMP
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