For the eighth straight year, Ethiopia ruled the Houston Marathon. Gebo Burka scampered to victory on the men's side Sunday and Biruktayit Degefa did the same for the women, marking the eighth consecutive year Ethiopians have swept the events.
Burka won in an unofficial time of two hours, 10 minutes and 55 seconds. His time is the slowest by a men's winner since 2008. Degefa's unofficial time was two hours, 26 minutes and seven seconds, which was the slowest since 2011. Runners faced a strong breeze that kept the packs from a fast pace.
|4||Margarita Hernandez Flores||02:29:53|
|5||Jovana De La Cruz Capani||02:31:33|
Girmay Girbu of Ethiopia finished second, while defending champion Birhanu Gedefa was third. Girbu and Gedefa were the only two runners within a minute of Burka. Yitayal Atanfu of Ethiopia and Artur Kozlowski of Poland rounded out the top five. Kozlowski was the only non-Ethiopian among the first six runners.
On the women's side, Degefa was more than a minute ahead of second-place Lisa Weightman. The Aussie was making a comeback at age 37. While no men in the top 10 were older than 31, the women's side featured 38-year-old Agnieszka Gortel-Maciuk finishing seventh. Sechale Dalasa of Ethiopia was third, Margarita Hernandez Flores fourth and Jovana De La Cruz Capani rounded out the top five.
"I was running with everyone," Degefa said, per the Associated Press (via Yahoo News). "I felt like I was by myself. I was trying to make the pace-maker run faster. When he didn't do it, I did it on my own because I was wanting to pass the Australian who was in front of me."
The highest-placing runner from the U.S. came on the men's side, with Daverso Ramos Acevedo finishing ninth. Cinthya Paucar Segura was the top U.S. runner for the women in 10th.
For both Burka and Degefa, this win was a year in the making. Burka, who won the 2014 Los Angeles Marathon, was the event's runner-up last year. Degefa finished third.
"I knew the race track better," Burka said, per the Associated Press (via Yahoo News). "I was disappointed when I didn't win last year. I am very happy to win the race this year."
Burka has won five marathons in his career, but this was his first since 2014. Degefa was most recently victorious in Des Moines last year.
Given the conditions, both should walk away proud of their accomplishment. Burka and Degefa were close to victory last year before faltering and returned this year to overtake their competitors. The Houston Marathon might not get the national recognition of other major events on the calendar, but it could be used as a catapult for the rest of 2016.