2023 Houston Marathon Results and Highlights
The Houston Marathon and Half Marathon are two of the fastest races in the US, and both take place on one exciting day. The competitive event was held once again with a record-breaking run and some memorable performances on Sunday, January 15.
Emily Sisson broke her American half marathon record by finishing in 1:06:52. She is now the first American woman to break the 1:07 barrier after finishing second behind race winner Hiwot Gebremaryam of Ethiopia, who ran 1:06:28.
Ethiopia’s Leul Gebresilase Aleme won the men’s half in a sprint finish. He ran 1:00:34—less than a second ahead of runner-up Wesley Kiptoo of Kenya.
In Houston’s closest finish since 1996, the men’s marathon was won by Dominic Ondoro. The Kenyan edged out Ethiopia’s Tsedat Ayana to claim victory in 2:10:36.
The women’s race saw another impressive run with Japan’s Hitomi Niiya winning in 2:19:24, more than six minutes ahead of the runner-up.
What else might you have missed from the Houston Marathon and Half Marathon? Check out the full list of highlights below.
Full results of the Houston Marathon and Half Marathon
Emily Sisson breaks her American record again
Sisson improved her record the hard way by going out fast, slowing down a bit through the final sections and hitting it towards the finish. After Gebremaryam broke open the race in the first few miles – by 5K she was already 17 seconds ahead of the chasing pack – Sisson ran with Great Britain’s Jessica Warner-Judd until 15K. The American record holder averaged a 5-minute pace in the first 5K, but struggled in the second half of the course, running a 5:12 mile around 20K.
“I went out a little too fast in the first 5K, so in the last few miles I was definitely feeling it,” Sisson said on the ABC 13 broadcast.
But Sisson overcame the discomfort as he approached the finish line to make history once again. “I’m very excited about it. I really wanted to rest 67 minutes and I’m glad I did,” she said. “I actually think I could have run a bit more evenly, so I’m already hoping to run another half and even try to run faster.”
Sisson broke the American record for the first time in May 2022 at the USATF Road Half Marathon Championships in Indianapolis. The Providence College alum won the national title in 1:07:11, four seconds faster than the previous American record set by Sara Hall less than four months ago at the 2022 Houston Half Marathon.
Before the US Championship, Sisson came incredibly close on two occasions. When the record was 1:07:25 (held by her former training partner Molly Huddle), she ran 1:07:30 in 2019 and 1:07:26 in 2020.
Last year, the momentum continued in a big way for Sisson when she broke the American record in the marathon. In October, she shattered the time by running 2:18:29 in Chicago, cutting the previous record set by Keira D’Amato at the 2022 Houston Marathon by 43 seconds.
Close finish in the men’s half marathon
The men’s half marathon featured one of the most exciting finishes of the day. After breaking away from the chase group together with several miles remaining, Aleme and Kiptoo battled to the wire. The East African rivals battled through the opener – where Kiptoo kept looking back to gauge the distance between him and his rival – until Aleme sprinted ahead at the last second to claim victory.
Aleme’s performance follows a breakthrough season, which included a runner-up finish at the 2022 London Marathon in October.
Conner Mantz was the first American to finish as he placed sixth in 1:01:12.
The greats of the past return to the races, while familiar faces make their debut
In addition to Sisson’s record, there were several other notable performances in the Houston Women’s Half Marathon, including Huddle in her postpartum return to competitive racing. The former American record holder finished fifth in 1:10:01 almost nine months after welcoming her daughter. In her 13.1 debut, former 1500m specialist and Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson placed ninth in 1:10:35. Also making her debut, Vanessa Fraser finished 13th in 1:11:00. All three had room to meet the standard to compete at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
Three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba also made her long-awaited comeback. In the Ethiopian’s first race in four years, she finished 16th in 1:11:35.
Another close call in the men’s marathon
In the men’s race, Ondoro became a two-time Houston champion six months after winning the 2022 Grandmothers Marathon in June.
The race also saw Americans take three top-five finishes. After switching his allegiance from Ethiopia to the United States last year, Teshome Mekonen has emerged as a rising star in the American ranks. On Sunday, he placed third in 2:11:05. Behind him, Parker Stinson finished fourth in 2:12:11, and Tyler Pennel placed fifth in 2:12:16.
Hitomi Niiya almost broke the Japanese record
In the women’s marathon, Niiya showed expert tactics as she increased her speed at the halfway mark to overtake early leader Muliye Dekeb Haylemariyam of Ethiopia. She continued to hold her position in the second half of the race and extend her lead in the later kilometers. Niiya was on pace to break the Japanese national record (2:19:12) but fell short by 12 seconds.
Haylemariyam finished second in 2:25:35, and fellow Ethiopian competitor Sintayehu Lewetegn was third in 2:26:33. American Tristin van Ord finished fourth in 2:27:07. Behind her, Maegan Krifchin continued her impressive marathon streak. After running three marathons in one month late last year, the pro runner finished sixth in 2:30:16.
Jobbinary Divisions debut in Houston
In the half marathon, Sam Bruns won the category in 1:24:30 to become the first non-binary winner in the event. Winter Parts finished second in 1:26:55, and Andrea Werth placed third in 1:55:20.
The top three non-binary finishers in each event received prizes.
Taylor Dutch is a writer and editor living in Austin, Texas, and a former NCAA track and field athlete who specializes in covering fitness, wellness and endurance sports. Her work has appeared in Runner’s World, SELF, Bicycling, Outside, and Podium Runner.