Ethiopians win Houston Marathon; US best is 7th

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The Associated Press

Posted on January 19, 2014 at 11:34 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 20 at 12:11 AM

HOUSTON (AP) - Ethiopians swept the Houston Marathon again Sunday.

Bazu Worku successfully defended his Houston title, breaking away in the last mile to win with the third fastest time in the marathon’s history. Abebech Bekele won the women’s race for her first marathon title.

This was the sixth straight year an Ethiopian man won in Houston and the eighth straight year an Ethiopian woman did so.

Worku and countryman Getachew Terfa were running side by side approaching the last mile when Worku pulled away to finish in 2 hours, 7 seven minutes, 32 seconds. The race record is 2:06:51, by Ethiopia’s Tariku Jufar in 2012.

Worku said through an interpreter he wanted to break the race record but was slowed by wind near the end.

“The course is very good,” Worku said. “I’m really happy to win this time. Last year it was very difficult because of the wind and the rain.”

Terfa finished 22 seconds behind Worku. Jose Antonio Uribe of Mexico finished in third.

“I knew that he would be major competitor,” Worku said, referring to Terfa. “When I looked back and saw that he was further away, I thought I would win the race.”

Bekele and countrywoman Biruktait Degefa were together through 22 miles before Bekele broke away and won in 2:25:52. Bekele’s best finish before this was runner-up in Rotterdam last year in 2:23:59.

“Winning here has given that energy and love for Houston,” Bekele said through an interpreter. “Houston is one of the highest places among the Ethiopian runners at this time.”

Bekele finished seven seconds ahead of countrywomen Meskerem Assefa. Gelete Burka, also of Ethiopia, was third.

“I realized from my knowledge of the other runners that they are middle distance runners, and they can sprint at the finish line,” Bekele said. “That is my weakness, so I have to start earlier. That is why I pushed earlier.”

The top U.S. man was Ian Burrell in seventh place at 2:13:26. American women were led by Heather Tanner in ninth at 2:42:19.

In the U.S. half marathon, Meb Keflezighi (1:01:23) won the race for the second time. Serena Burla (1:10:48) was the women’s winner.

Keflezighi’s time was the second best in the event, bettered only by Ryan Hall’s 59:43 in 2007, also in Houston. Aaron Braun finished 15 seconds behind Keflezighi while Josphat Boit was third.

“Once the gun goes off, it’s all about the mental game,” Keflezighi said. “For me, we started good. We were consistent. I tested the water to see if I could go away, but I couldn’t go away. ... I felt I would just give it a shot. Eventually, I made that move and got some gaps and more gaps.”

Burla finished second in Houston in 2010 and 2011. Lauren Kleppin was the runner-up, 84 seconds behind. Caitlin Comfort was third.

“It was kind of part of the race plan to see how the race would pan out over the first few miles, and then if I needed to go for it and make a move and if someone wanted to come with me, then so be it or charging ahead,” Burla said. “It was something that I had to make a choice, so I made a move and didn’t look back on it.”

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