Course Record Falls At The Houston Marathon

Even with a bathroom break, the winner ran the fastest time in the world this year.

DABA DAZZLES WITH HOUSTON MARATHON RECORD

By David Monti (c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

HOUSTON (30-Jan) — Bekana Daba –all 58 kilograms of him– was on a roll. Running in just his second marathon, the 22 year-old Ethiopian with sub-13:00 5000-meter speed, had long ago dumped all of his rivals at the Chevron Houston Marathon, overcome the sometimes heavy rain and high humidity, and was on pace to break 2:07.

Then nature called.

“He stopped to go to the bathroom,” explained his manager Hussein Makke, causing Daba to blush at the post-race press conference. “He just drank too much.”

In the 26th mile (42nd kilometer), Daba ducked into a portable toilet along the course to get much needed relief, before lopping 33 seconds off of compatriot Teshome Gelana’s one year-old course record.

His finish time of 2:07:04 was the fastest marathon time run in the world this year, and put him four minutes ahead of surprise runner-up Nick Arciniaga of Flagstaff, Ariz.

“This competition is my second in marathon,” said the English-speaking Daba who made an uninspired marathon debut in Amsterdam last October in 2:14:40. “At that time I was not ready.” Daba, who recently switched his shoe company affiliation from adidas to Nike, said he did two months of solid preparation for today’s race under coach Haji Adilo in Addis Ababa, whom he called “an honest man and a good man.”

He ran comfortably through half-way in 1:04:17 in a pack of six, which included Americans Arciniaga and Brett Gotcher, Kenyans Wilfred Murgor and John Kales, and Ethiopian Hussen Adelo. After 25 kilometers, Daba and Murgor surged ahead, running a swift 14:22 for the next 5 kilometers, a pace which Murgor soon found to be too much. That left Daba to splash through Houston’s streets alone. “It was raining and cold,” Daba said shaking his head. “Because the rain is not 2:06.”

Maybe not. But after his bathroom break, he sprinted the final 200 meters along the Avenida de las Americas to resounding cheers from the crowd gathered outside of the George R. Brown Convention Center. His victory was worth $35,000, and Daba hoped that his performance here today would earn him an invitation to another marathon, perhaps Paris in April, he said.

Arciniaga, who had entered the race primarily to pace his Team USA Arizona teammate Brett Gotcher, caught the flagging Murgor with less than a kilometer to go. “I caught him with 400 to go,” said Arciniaga sitting barefoot in the press room. “I was saying, ‘dig down, dig down.” Arciniaga, 27, was clocked in 2:11:30, breaking his personal best time by 18 seconds and, more importantly, recording an Olympic Games qualifying performance on an IAAF-recognized course.

His reaction was mixed, given that Gotcher struggled in the second half to finish sixth in 2:19:30.

Gotcher ran 2:10:36 here last year in his debut at the distance. “I feel really bad for him,” Arciniaga said. “I’m disappointed for him and Martin (Fagan),” who was forced to drop out because of an ankle injury. “It’s definitely bittersweet.”

The women’s race came down to a two-woman battle between Ethiopians Mamitu Daska and Ashu Kasim who, like Daba, are coached by Haji Adilo. They followed male pacemaker Genna Tufa through halfway in 1:12:16, then past 30 kilometers when he retired. “The pacemaker left us at 31 km,” said Daska, 27, through a translator, the 2009 Bolder Boulder 10-K champion. “The two of us were running and I took the pace.” Both athletes slowed, but Kasim, 26, couldn’t keep up with her teammate.

Daska went on to win in 2:26:33, also winning $35,000. Kasim followed next in 2:27:47, and less than two minutes later Team USA Arizona’s Stephanie Rothstein came home with a big personal best of 2:29:35. That makes the former U.C. Santa Barbara athlete the fourth-fastest American qualifier for next year’s Olympic Trials Marathon here. “Words can’t really describe it,” said the 27 year-old who spent two years ill and injured until she found out she had celiac disease, got treatment and changed her diet to avoid gluten and dairy. “Dreams really became reality today.”

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