FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Rising Ethiopian Stars at Forefront of 2012 Chevron Houston Marathon
But Aussie Benita Willis, Canada's Simon Bairu Looking to Crash Party
HOUSTON (Jan. 7, 2012) – An electric mix of proven veterans and potential
stars will come together on Sunday, January 15, to compete on equal footing
in the 40th Chevron Houston Marathon.
The race, which begins at 7:00 a.m., features a first prize of $35,000 for
both the men's and women's winner. The Chevron Houston Marathon is one of
four races to be hosted the weekend of January 14-15 by the Houston
Marathon Committee. On Saturday, January 14, the men's and women's U.S.
Olympic Trials Marathon for the first time will be contested on the same
day on the same course, while on Sunday the Aramco Houston Half Marathon,
with its top international field, will begin at the same time as the
To no one's surprise, Ethiopia is well-represented. On the women's side,
that country's flag has flown in victory here for the past five years, and
twice (Dire Tune, 2008; Teyba Erkesso, 2010) the winning woman has gone on
to become Boston Marathon champion the same year.
This time, the charge will be led by Alemitu Abera, who is coming back to
the Chevron Houston Marathon for another try after finishing third last
year. Abera, 26, brings a personal best of 2:26:33, set last year at the
Daegu International Marathon in South Korea, and posted a 2011 victory
(2:27:56) in the Istanbul Marathon. Joining her are Fatuma Sado, who at
just 20 has already run 2:28:01 in finishing second to Abera in Istanbul;
Serkalem Abrha, 24, who won the California International Marathon just last
month in 2:33:40 and brings a personal best of 2:32:06; and Yihunlish
Delelecha, who in 2011 won the Pittsburgh Marathon in a personal best of
2:30:39 and followed that up with a victory at Grandma's Marathon in
Duluth, MN, just a month later.
Challenging them will be two veteran Olympians. Nuta Olaru, 41, has been
competing on the world stage since 1996, and ran the 2004 Olympic Marathon
for her native Romania. In 2009, Olaru placed second here in 2:27:30, and
brings a personal best of 2:24:33 from her runner-up finish in Chicago in
2004. Olaru, who lives in Longmont, CO, recently became a U.S. citizen.
Hoping to guarantee selection to her fourth Olympic team, Benita Willis is
a threat to become the Chevron Houston Marathon's first champion, male or
female, from Australia. Willis, 32, represented her country at the Olympic
Games in 2000 at 5000 meters, 2004 at 10,000 meters and 2008 in the
marathon, and is the 2004 World Cross Country Champion. Her personal best
of 2:22:36, set in Chicago in 2006, is the fastest in the field, and a win
at the Zappos.com Rock ‘n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon last month in
1:10:40 puts her firmly in the hunt in Houston.
Highlighting the men's race are Demessew Tsega, 23, and Debebe Tolossa, 31.
Tsega comes to Houston with a personal best of 2:09:44, set in winning the
Reims Marathon last October in his 26.2-mile debut; Tolossa's 2:09:57 from
the Venice Marathon that same month was a personal best by more than six
Trying to break up the Ethiopian stronghold will be Simon Bairu, a
28-year-old Canadian looking to complete his first 26.2-miler and earn a
shot at being named to his country's Olympic marathon squad. Already the
Canadian record-holder at 10,000 meters (27:26.63), Bairu has run a half
marathon in 1:02:08 and won the Dodge Latin Music Miami Beach Half Marathon
last month in 1:05:38.
About the Houston Marathon Committee, Inc.
Established in 1972, the Houston Marathon Committee, Inc. (HMC), a Running
USA Founding Member, annually organizes the nation's premier winter
marathon, half-marathon, 5K and kids' fun run. In 2011, more than 30,000
runners participated in four race weekend events organized by 7,500
volunteers, creating Houston's largest single-day sporting event. In
addition to hosting numerous world-renowned road races, including the USA
Men's and Women's Half Marathon Championships since 2005 and 2007,
respectively, and the 1992 U.S. Women's Olympic Marathon Trials, HMC will
host the 2012 U.S. Men's and Women's Olympic Team Trials - Marathon on
January 14, 2012.