January 4, 2018
Fans of American distance running are already eagerly anticipating this year’s Boston Marathon, which features one of the greatest collections of U.S. female talent ever assembled: Shalane Flanagan (3rd fastest American marathoner ever), Molly Huddle (US 10k record holder), Jordan Hasay (2nd fastest American marathoner ever), and Desi Linden (5th fastest American marathoner ever). But if you can’t wait until April, next weekend’s Aramco Houston Half Marathon on January 14 should whet your appetite as it’s going to be incredible, based on the elite fields that were released today.
From an American perspective, the biggest storyline is the showdown between Huddle (67:41 pb), the second-fastest half marathoner in U.S. history, and Hasay (67:55 pb), the third-fastest half marathoner in U.S. history. Both women are within striking distance of Deena Kastor‘s American record of 67:34 and if the weather cooperates, the mark could well go down. However, it’s possible that breaking the record may not be enough to win the race, as the race features three women who have broken 66:30, led by Kenya’s Edith Chelimo, who ran 65:52 (#7 all-time) to win the Cardiff Half Marathon in October.
With six sub-60 runners in the men’s field, including Berlin Marathon runner-up Guye Adola of Ethiopia and London Marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru, the men’s race also figures to be one of the most competitive half marathons ever run on American soil.
Let’s run through a few quick thoughts on the races (we’ve included the lengthy entry lists at the bottom of the article).
1) Huddle vs. Hasay
This is the matchup that American fans will be salivating over for the first four months of this year and possibly until Flanagan retires. Though Boston is Huddle and Hasay’s ultimate goal, we know that Huddle has been locked in on Houston for several months. When we spoke to her at the New York City Marathon on November 2, Huddle told us that she’d like to break 67:00. That’s an ambitious goal — 67:00 is 41 seconds faster than Huddle’s PR, and 34 seconds faster than the Deena Kastor’s 67:34 American record* — but there’s reason to believe Huddle can run significantly faster than she already has. Huddle’s 10,000 pb of 30:13 is worth 66:31 according to Jack Daniels’ VDOT. Huddle made her half marathon debut in 2014, but since the start of 2015, she’s raced the distance just three times. All came at the NYC Half, and all were Huddle victories. In Houston, Huddle will have women to chase and a faster course to do it on.
“New York is pretty fast, but Houston’s really fast,” Huddle said.
*Kara Goucher ran 66:57 at the 2007 Great North Run, but the course is not record-eligible
Talk of Hasay beating Huddle or chasing the American record would have been ridiculous a year ago, but after a sensational 2017 season, both are distinct possibilities in Houston. Hasay ran 68:40 in her half marathon debut in Houston a year ago, and that performance came in warm, humid conditions (65 degrees, 98% humidity). Hasay showed much better in her second half marathon in Prague in April, running 67:55, before clocking 70:42 in Philadelphia in September. That last result can be ignored, however. Once again, conditions were humid, and Hasay was training through it anyway. The evidence? She ran 2:20:57 for the full marathon distance in Chicago three weeks later.
As well as Hasay ran last year, Huddle should still be regarded as the favorite. She’s never lost to Hasay in her career (9-0), and her PRs on the track (14:42/30:13) are far better than Hasay’s (15:28/31:39). But Hasay has shown that she’s a different runner on the roads, and her HM best is just 14 seconds behind Huddle’s. It should be a terrific race.
The one variable is the weather. If it’s muggy like last year, that might scupper any record attempt before it gets going. But right now, the long-range forecast for Houston looks good (high of 57 on race day per Weather.com). If that holds, the American record may be on borrowed time.
2) The men’s race will be one of the deepest half marathons ever on U.S. soil
60 flat has been broken at least 341 times in history but hardly ever in the US of A. It’s hard to believe, but 60 flat has only been broken nine times on US soil — twice in Houston (Ryan Hall 59:43 in 2007, Feyisa Lelisa 59:22 in 2012), six times in Philly and once in Tempe (Haile G).
There have only been three races on US soil where multiple people broke 60 flat in the same race: the 2011, 2013, and 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathons, each of which featured two men under 60 flat.
This year’s race in Houston could see several more men dip under the hour mark, however. Just check out the list of studs who are running:
- Alex Korio, Kenya (58:51 pb): Ran 37-second PR of 58:51 in Copenhagen in September.
- Guye Adola, Ethiopia (59:06 pb): 2014 World Half champs bronze medalist ran the fastest debut marathon in history in September: 2:03:46 in Berlin, where he almost toppled Eliud Kipchoge.
- Daniel Wanjiru, Kenya (59:20 pb): Won Amsterdam Marathon in 2016 and London Marathon in 2017.
- Feyisa Lilesa, Ethiopia (59:22 pb): Set the Houston course record of 59:22 in 2012 and was runner-up by a step last year. 2016 Olympic marathon silver medalist.
- Leonard Barsoton, Kenya (59:28 pb): 2017 Kenyan XC champion and runner-up at 2017 World XC champs.
26:56 10k man Jemal Yimer of Ethiopia, who was 4th at World XC and 5th at Worlds in the 10k, is also entered in what would be his marathon debut, though his agent Malcolm Anderson informs us that Yimer may be forced to scratch due to visa issues.
3) Can any of the Americans surprise?
The Houston Half Marathon has seen its share of breakout performances through the years, from Ryan Hall’s 59:43 in 2007 to Diego Estrada‘s 60:51 in 2015 to Jordan Hasay’s 68:40 last year. Who will be the next American to surprise in Houston?
Unfortunately, we can’t tell you who it will be — if we could, it wouldn’t be a surprise. Estrada is back, as is Luke Puskedra, who ran 61:36 here as an undergrad at Oregon in 2012. Sam Chelanga (61:04 pb), Noah Droddy (61:48 pb), and 43-year-old Bernard Lagat (62:33 pb) are among the other notables U.S. men, while Canadian Cam Levins is making his half debut. One under-the-radar guy worth monitoring: Augustus Maiyo (62:33 pb), one of Scott Simmons‘ WCAP athletes who finished 7th in last year’s Boston Marathon.
The women’s race also includes road ace Aliphine Tuliamuk (69:16 pb) and former NCAA 10k champ Emma Bates (74:57), but the real studs are the international runners. We already mentioned 65:52 woman Edith Chelimo, but there’s also 66-minute women Eunice Chumba and Mary Wacera, major marathon champions Helah Kiprop (2016 Tokyo) and Tigist Tufa (2015 London), 2:20 marathoner/Berlin runner-up Ruti Aga, and 14:27 5,000 runner Caroline Chepkoech. Huddle and Hasay will have their hands full.
Full elite fields
|Men’s Half Marathon||Personal Best|
|Alex Korio Oloitiptit||0:58:51|
|Guye Adola Idemo||0:59:06|
|Justus Kipkogei Kangogo||0:59:31|
|Wilfred Kimeli Kimitei||1:00:12|
|Temesgen Daba Ejerssa||1:01:08|
|Jemal Yimer||Debut (possible scratch)|
|Women’s Half Marathon||Personal Best|
|Dibabe Kuma Lema||1:10:47|
|Jovana de la Cruz||1:13:19|