Parker Stinson returns to Texas

Parker Stinson returns to Texas

Parker Stinson said he could have been a contender in his return to Texas on Sunday. If someone had asked him the day he registered for the 2023 Chevron Houston Marathon if he had a chance to win a snowball, he would have stuck his neck out and said yes.

But now? No. The former Texas high school champion from Cedar Park near Austin, where four generations of his family live, is a realist.

“I ran (2 hours, 10 minutes, 53 seconds) and I feel like I’m back in that kind of shape,” Stinson said, noting Kenyan James Ngandu’s winning time of 2:11:03 from 2022. “When I saw Houston was won in 2:11 last year, I wanted to sign up right away, thinking it really was a race I could win, or at least get a top three (finish). But fast forward. It’s gone now a (worst of) COVID year, the funds are back and (race organizers) brought in some really fast guys, 2:06 guys.”

Well, a guy almost 2:06. Based on personal bests, the strong favorite would be Ethiopia’s Tsedat Ayana, who clocked 2:06:18. Behind him, Kenyan Evans Sambu ran with 2:07:43, Ethiopian Dominic Ondoro with 2:08 and Kenta Uchida of Japan with 2:08:12.

“I would never count anything out,” Stinson said, “but it’s going to be tough. It’s a really special field, a stellar field. If you’d talked to me a few months ago, I would have believed that I was racing for a top-three (finish) or even a win.”

The Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon return to downtown Houston on Sunday, January 15, starting at the intersection of Congress and Fannin and ending at the intersection of Lamar and Crawford.

Ken Ellis/Houston Chronicle

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A place in the top five has become his revised goal. This would also likely make him the first American to cross the line.

“I’m fit and excited,” said the 30-year-old Stinson. “I have a chance to run really fast and be close to my friends and family. This has always been a fun event. My friends and I would go down and run on the open roads and watch the race.”

As it happened, he was in the crowd in 2007 when then-24-year-old Ryan Hall finished first and ran the fastest half-marathon ever by an American-born runner in 59:43.

“His splits were so astronomical I couldn’t process it,” Stinson said. “I was pretty good, but he was running a full minute (per mile) faster than me. It blew my mind.”

Stinson admitted it would have been a great experience to go up against the current fastest American marathoner, Conner Mantz, but Mantz decided to enter the Aramco Half Marathon instead. When Stinson was asked if a “rivalry” existed between him and his 25-year-old compatriot — both are former U.S. U-20 10,000-meter champions — he was quick to demur.

“I have a lot of respect for Conner,” he said. “I’m a big fan of Conner’s. He is a special athlete. Maybe I’m closing it, or I can close the gap, but there’s no rivalry. He’s in a different league now.”

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