January 12, 2017
Like the men’s race, the 2017 Aramco Houston Half Marathon women’s race lost some star power this week with the withdrawal of world marathon champion Mare Dibaba. But Kenya’s Mary Wacera (far left on image to the right below), who blazed a 66:29 to win here last year — the fastest female half marathon ever on U.S. soil — returns after taking bronze at the World Half Champs last year, though she only ran 69:06 for 6th her last time out in New Delhi. Her top competition figures to be Frankfurt Marathon champion Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia, whose PR of 66:28 is a tick faster than Wacera’s.
On paper, the top Americans are Aliphine Tuliamuk and Kellyn Taylor. Tuliamuk (69:16 pb) won U.S. titles at 5k, 20k and 25k in 2016 and ran the full marathon in Houston last year, clocking 2:35:35. Taylor was 6th at the Olympic Marathon Trials and came back five months later to take fourth in the Olympic Trials 10k on the track (Tuliamuk was 8th). Taylor had initially planned to run the New York City Marathon last fall, but her body wasn’t responding to training. As best as she and her coach, Ben Rosario, can figure, that was due to the fatigue of training for two separate Olympic Trials in 2016.
Taylor, 30, took three weeks off in the fall and stuck around Flagstaff taking firefighter classes before traveling to Jamaica on vacation. Yes, firefighter classes. Taylor needs one more certification before going to the academy and applying for a job, but she will wait until her running career is over before she pursues it full-time.
Taylor has not yet hit her normal top-end training volume of 100-110 miles per week but, with a spring marathon on the horizon (not announced yet), she doesn’t have a need to ramp up into serious training yet. She’s taking a conservative approach to Houston.
“Her PR is 1:10:59, which is kind of — I’m sure she would say this as well — is kind of slow for someone who has a 31:40 [10k] PR and 2:28 [marathon] PR,” said Rosario. “So I think she can definitely run faster. I don’t know if she’ll do it this Sunday or not, but I wouldn’t be totally surprised if she PR’d if the weather is decent.”
Behind Tuliamuk and Taylor, Sara Hall (5th in 70:07 last year) and Jordan Hasay are also entered. Hall was the U.S.’s top finisher at the World Half Champs last year, taking 15th overall, while Houston is the first serious half marathon of Hasay’s life (she ran one in San Francisco in 2015, but that was more of a glorified tempo). Sunday’s race could be an important checkpoint for Hasay, who will be making her marathon debut in Boston in April. Though the 25-year-old’s track career has sputtered in recent years, she won the U.S. 10-mile title in October and could be suited for longer distances on the roads.
More: 2017 Aramco Houston Half Marathon Preview: Leonard Korir Takes on Olympic Silver Medallist Feyisa Lilesa & 59:48 Man Yigrem Demelash
*Preview of 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon: Elkanah Kibet Chases a Spot on the 2017 World Championship Team As Becky Wade Runs At Home