Gedefa, Arage win Houston with PRs for Ethiopia sweep

HOUSTON (AP) Ethiopians swept the men’s and women’s titles at the Houston Marathon.

Birhanu Gedefa came from behind in the last mile to win in a personal record of 2 hours, 8 minutes, 3 seconds on Sunday, and countrywoman Yebrgual Arage also came from behind for a PR, winning in 2:23:23.

Gebo Burka broke away from Debebe Tolossa at the 23-mile mark, extending his lead to 14 seconds by the 25-mile mark, but Gedefa closed the gap quickly, passing his countryman with a quarter mile to go, beating his previous personal best set in Rome in 2012 at 2:11:30 and winning his first marathon.

”I had some pain at the beginning,” Gedefa said through an interpreter. ”Once I reached the 400 meters, I was encouraged. I wanted to finish in 2:07, but I couldn’t make it.”

Temperatures rose through the upper 50s during the race, and the lack of elevation helped the Ethiopians, who are used to training in thinner air.

”The reason we do well here is because we work hard over there,” Gedefa said. ”The weather and altitude here is very comfortable.”

Diego Estrada won the men’s U.S. Half Marathon Championships in 60:51, and Kim Conley won the women’s U.S. Half Marathon Championships in 69:44.

In the half, Estrada pulled away from the lead pack around the four-mile mark, growing the lead to 20 seconds over Matthew Llano and Jared Ward by the halfway point of the race and cruising to his first half marathon championship, besting Ward by 51 seconds. Defending champion Meb Keflezighi finished fourth.

Conley began to pull away from the pack around the 10-mile mark and grew her lead to 22 seconds over Brianne Nelson by the 12-mile mark. Conley, who was the 2014 US 10,000 meter champion, won her first half marathon championship. Nelson finished second 32 seconds behind Conley.