Grey skies, persistent light rain and high humitity didn’t hamper the nearly 17,000 runners in the 39th Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Services Half Marathon. And it certainly didn't bother Bekena Daba. The 22-year-old Ethiopian runner broke the course record, finishing the 26.2-mile race in a 2:07:04.
Daba became the third Ethiopian to win the race for the third year in a row. His time was 33 seconds faster than last year's winner, Teshome Gelana, who ran under much better conditions.
Mamitu Daska, 27, also of Ethiopia, won the women’s race. She pulled away from Kasim Ashu, also from Eithiopia, at the 24-mile mark to win in a time of 2:26:33, the third fastest women's time in Houston Marathon history.
Daba and Daska each received $35,000 for their race wins.
Spectators with umbrellas, rain jackets, and rain boots lined the course to cheer the winners and encourage love ones, friends and strangers. Despite the light rain, bands performed along the way every few miles, and cheering stations sponsored by local businesses provided support and plenty of excitement to carry the runners through the damp race. Many non-professional runners stopped to give hugs to family members, high fives to strangers, or grab a towel. Some runners wore plastic bags over their shirts to keep water from their clothes and stay warm, whereas others ran without shirts.
Some runners had seen better races. Elite athlete Brett Gotcher, 26, of Flagstaff, Ariz., came in sixth place but had hoped to do much better.
"The wheels started to fall off around Mile 18 and by the next few I was just falling apart," Gotcher said after the race. "Then I saw dozens of kids with my picture on their shirts and I just had to finish or I'd be embarrassed."
Stephanie Rothstein, 27, also of Flagstaff, was pleased to come in third among women, with a sub-2:30 marathon for her first time. She was diagnosed with Celiac Disease earlier this year, which shut down her running for months prior.
“This race was where dreams become reality,” Rothstein said. “I am very pleased with my performance.”
The 2012 Houston Marathon promises ever more excitement next year because the city will host the U.S. Olympic Team Trials the day prior to the big race.
Men 1st place: Bekena Daba, 22, Ethiopia 2:07:04
Men 2nd place: Nicholas Arciniaga, 27, USA (Flagstaff, AZ) 2:11:30
Men 3rd place: Wilfred Murgor, 22, Kenya 2:11:41
Women 1st place: Mamitu Daska, 27, Ethiopia 2:26:33
Women 2nd place: Ashu Kasim, 26, Ethiopia 2:27:47
Women 3rd place: Stephanie Rothstein, 27, USA (Flagstaff, AZ) 2:29:35
In the Aramco Services Half Marathon, Jeff Eggleston took first place among men with a 1:08 time while and Colleen DeReuck won top spot among women with a 1:16:19 time.