Birhanu Gedefa on his way to victory at the Houston Marathon (Victah Sailer / organisers) © Copyright
General News Houston, USA

Gedefa, Worku and Shone lead Houston Marathon fields

The past two men’s champions and three of the top four women from the 2015 edition of the Chevron Houston Marathon will return to the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race on 17 January.

“The group that our elite athlete committee has assembled, including a two-time men’s marathon winner and the second and third-place finishers from the 2015 women’s marathon, are undoubtedly capable of high-level performances and we can only hope for optimal conditions,” said race director Brant Kotch.

“We are also particularly eager to see what the international stars can do on our half marathon course: we have Boston Marathon and World Championships marathon winners on display in those races. All of the races have the potential to be lightning-fast.”

Bazu Worku, the winner in 2013 in 2014, will look to become just the third man in the 44-year history of the race to win three times in Houston.

Fellow Ethiopian Birhanu Gedefa will seek to emulate Worku in successfully defending his title.

Out to challenge them will be 2015 Daegu Marathon champion Girmay Birhanu of Ethiopia, who owns a personal best of 2:05:49 from his third-place finish at the 2014 Dubai Marathon.

Kenya’s Dominic Ondoro will look to break the seven-year winning streak by Ethiopian athletes in Houston. The 27-year-old finished just outside the podium last year and has a PB of 2:08:00.

Guteni Shone, the runner-up in 2015, leads the women’s field. Back in January the 24-year-old smashed her PB by seven minutes to take second place in 2:23:32 in Houston, just nine seconds behind the winner. Three months later, Shone comfortably won the Seoul Marathon.

Compatriot Biruktayit Eshetu Degefa, who also set a PB in Houston 12 months ago to finish third, will return to US soil, as will 2015 fourth-place finisher Sechale Dalasa.

Australia’s Lisa Weightman will be contesting her first marathon for more than two years. She set her PB of 2:26:05 in her most recent race over the classic distance, the 2013 Melbourne Marathon.

High-quality half marathon

Held on the same day as the marathon, the Aramco Houston Half Marathon boasts a quality line-up for both the men’s and women’s races.

Mare Dibaba will be contesting her first race since winning the world marathon title in Beijing. The Ethiopian has a PB of 1:07:13, which is more than a minute faster than the course record of 1:08:26 set in 2012 by Belaynesh Oljira.

World half-marathon silver medallist Mary Wacera and fellow Kenyan Cynthia Limo, the fastest woman in the field with a PB of 1:07:02 are also entered. Buzunesh Deba, the 2014 Boston Marathon runner-up, will be contesting her first half marathon in Houston, having finished second in the marathon in 2013.

Lelisa Desisa leads the men’s field. The Boston Marathon champion is undefeated in the half marathon since 2012 and has a PB of 59:30 for the distance.

But compatriot Mosinet Geremew, who has a personal best of 59:11, will be the fastest man in the field.

USA’s 2015 winner Diego Estrada will return to Houston to defend his title, having won 12 months ago with a PB of 1:00:51.

Organisers for the IAAF

Marathon elite field (with PBs)

Men
Bazu Worku (ETH) 2:05:25
Girmay Birhanu (ETH) 2:05:49
Dominic Ondoro (KEN) 2:08:00
Birhanu Gedefa (ETH) 2:08:03
Artur Kozlowski (POL) 2:10:58
Mario Macias (USA) 2:15:55
Sage Canaday (USA) 2:16:52
Pardon Ndhlovu (ZIM) 2:16:52
Yitayal Atnafu (ETH) debut
Jovanny Godinez (USA) debut
Duncan Kwemboi (KEN) debut

Women
Guteni Shone (ETH) 2:23:32
Biruktayit Eshetu Degefa (ETH) 2:23:51
Lisa Weightman (AUS) 2:26:05
Sechale Dalasa (ETH) 2:26:27
Emily Samoei (KEN) 2:26:52
Rachel Hannah (CAN) 2:33:30
Ayantu Dakebo (ETH) 2:33:59
Jovana De La Cruz (PER) 2:35:03
Ariana Hilborn (USA) 2:35:21