Two non-East Africans ruled the road for far longer than might have been expected Sunday morning, but Ethiopians inevitably took charge approaching the home stretch in both races, ensuring the country’s head-lock on the Chevron Houston Marathon would continue for another year.
Gebo Burka made a final kick to slip past countryman Girmay Gebru to win the men’s race, while Biruktayit Degefa easily won the women’s championship. Burka was the runner-up last year, when Degefa placed a disappointing third on a day when she was considered a strong favorites.
Neither of the champions would come close to challenging the course records. Burka ran a 2:10:55 unofficially, more than four minutes slower the 2:06:51 by Tariku Jufar in 2012. Degefa unofficially ran 2:26:07, more than three minutes slower than the best-ever 2:23:14 by another Ethiopian, Alemitu Abera, ran in 2012.
Lisa Weightman, a 37-year-old Australian who recently had a baby, had surprisingly set the women’s pace for the first 30K before being overtaken by Degefa, although she closed strong enough to cling to second place with a 2:27:35. Artur KozLowski, a Polish runner who turns 32 Tuesday, also ran all by his lonesome through the 30K mark before be caught and dropped by Burka, Gebru and Bazu Worku, the winner here in 2013 and 2014. KozLowski wound up fifth.
The last non-Ethiopian to win the men’s race was David Cheruiyot in 2008. On the women’s side, it was Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova in 2006. The three-time champion Cheruiyot is Kenyan, Sultanova-Zhdanova Russian.