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Kosgei sets North American all-comers’ record at Houston Half

Brigid Kosgei on her way to winning the Houston Half Marathon (Victah Sailer) © Copyright

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 21 – Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei showed she is in great shape ahead of her London Marathon appearance in April by winning the Aramco Houston Half Marathon by almost a minute and breaking the North American all-comers’ record with 1:05:50 on Sunday.

On a cold morning with temperatures only just above freezing, the opening five kilometres were covered in a comfortable 16:07 with about nine women forming the lead pack, but Kosgei and fellow Kenyan Fancy Chemutai soon upped the pace, reaching 10 kilometres in 31:33.

Only Ruti Aga and Gladys Cherono, two of the fastest marathon runners in history, were able to stick with the pace, but even they couldn’t handle it for too long.

Kosgei and Chemutai reached 15 kilometres in 46:52 – having covered the 10-kilometre section between five and 15 kilometres in 30:45 – and had opened up a gap of 17 seconds on Aga. Cherono was a further 24 seconds in arrears.

Chemutai then began to struggle while Kosgei relentlessly continued out in front. She went on to cross the finish line in 1:05:50, moving to 11th on the world all-time list and taking 45 seconds off her lifetime best. Her time also took 39 seconds off the previous North American all-comers’ record, set by Mary Wacera at the 2016 Houston Half Marathon.

Aga made up a bit of ground in the closing stages but Chemutai held on to second place in 1:06:48, almost two minutes shy of the PB she set when winning the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon last year. Aga, the defending champion, finished third on this occasion in 1:06:56.

Monicah Ngige was rewarded with a big PB of 1:07:29 in fourth, while USA’s Emily Sisson missed breaking the North American record by just five seconds, clocking 1:07:30 for fifth place.

In the men’s contest, Shura Kitata timed his race to perfection to win in 1:00:11 and finish just three seconds ahead of fellow Ethiopian Jemal Yimer.

Kitata, the runner-up at last year’s London and New York City marathons, was part of a large lead group through the first five kilometres (14:30). The pack whittled down slightly to six men as 10 kilometres was reached in 28:32, then Geoffrey Koech started a fade a few kilometres later, leaving five men to reach 15 kilometres in 42:49.

Kitata still had Yimer, Bedan Karoki and Tanzania’s Gabriel Geay for company at the 20-kilometre point (57:16). Geay then started to drop off the lead pack while Yimer put in a slight surge at the front, but he had mistakenly followed the lead vehicle as it turned off the course near the finish.

Yimer managed to regain the lead, but Kitata and Karoki were still close behind. As they approached the final bend, Kitata unleashed his finishing kick and Yimer couldn’t respond as the duo crossed the line in 1:00:11 and 1:00:14 respectively.

Karoki finished third in 1:00:18, comfortably ahead of Geay’s PB of 1:00:26.