More elite runners coming to Houston marathon

January 7, 2013 5:46:24 PM PST
Thousands of people are coming to town for the Chevron Houston Marathon on Sunday, and this year some of the best runners in the world will be lining up.

Memorial Drive is right around mile 20 of Sunday's marathon course. While regular runners will be coming through there anywhere from about two and a half to four and a half hours into the race, the elite runners will pass by just 90 minutes after the starting gun fires.

When Alex Lopez runs his fifth Houston Aramco Half Marathon on Sunday, he expects he'll turn in a respectable time and feel pretty good about his efforts.

"I'm hoping maybe two hours and 10 minutes, two hours," Lopez said. "Yeah I'm ready for it."

And that's probably how most of the other 30,000 half-marathoners and marathoners feel -- except maybe the elites.

"Running 14 miles per hour for 13 to 26 miles is hard for us everyday people to wrap our brains around," said Wade Morehead, marathon executive director.

Houston will see more of the world's best runners than ever before.

"This year, we've made a commitment to bring in a deeper competitive field for the elites," Morehead said. "We're really excited about the quality of talent we have coming."

Among them are marathoners Bezunesh Deba, whose personal record is 2:23:19, and Merima Mohammed of Ethiopia, whose personal record is 2:23:04.

On the men's side are Bazu Worku, who ran the Berlin Marathon in an astounding 2:05:25, and Debebe Tolassa with a personal record of 2:07:41

In the half marathon, American Meb Keflizighi can run it in about an hour. And he's not even the top seed.

And Houston may help them all run a little faster.

"We've got one of the fastest courses in the industry," Morehead said. "Both the Aramco Houston Half Marathon and the Chevron Houston Marathon are known for being fast courses."

Seeing so many of the world's great runners racing on Houston's roads will be a treat for spectators.

And for most runners, who will never ever see the elites, crossing the finish line in their own time is reward enough.

"I just like the challenge and the fitness of it," Lopez said.

The winner of the marathon gets $40,000 and an extra $15,000 for setting a course record, which isn't bad for a couple of hours of work.

We should point out there's a bonus of $50,000 if a world record is set in the half marathon -- that may be the race to keep an eye on this Sunday.

Watch the marathon live Sunday on ABC13 and Our coverage begins just before 7am. You can also Tweet @abc13houston with hashtag #houmarathon to wish runners luck, and you could see your Tweet on air during our broadcast!