Facing very different challenges en route to their trophy belt buckles, Meb Keflezighi and Serena Burla triumphed on Sunday, January 19, at Houston’s Aramco Half Marathon, a race that doubled as the 2014 USA Half Marathon Championship.
For Burla, Let’s Run reports, it was an uncontested jaunt through the streets of Houston, as she jumped out to an early lead and went the distance. Given her history with the event, she hardly needed anyone in front to lead the way.
At both the 2010 and 2011 Houston Half Marathons, Burla finished second, and at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, also held in Houston, she passed out before crossing the tape. This year, the bridesmaid turned bride, so to speak, finishing in 1:10:48 to earn the U.S. Half Marathon title.
“You got to just finish the job,” Burla told herself during the race, according to the Houston Chronicle. “You got to get home. You have to cross that finish line first.”
Second place went to Lauren Kleppin, who crossed in 1:12:12, edging out third-place finisher Caitlin Comfort by a mere four-tenths of a second.
Keflezighi, by contrast, has never had trouble finishing the job in Houston. In 2009, he won the Aramco Half Marathon, and in 2012, he took first in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials there, earning a trip to the London Olympics, where he finished in fourth.
This time out, Keflezighi hung with the lead group and pushed the pace several times before finally breaking away at the 10-mile mark. The 38-year-old crossed just ahead of Aaron Braun and Josphat Boit, who finished in 1:01:38 and 1:01:41, respectively.
While Keflezighi was thrilled to have won his 22nd career title, he’s already thinking about No. 23, which could come 13 weeks from now at the Boston Marathon.
“I’m a front runner—I look to push the pace,” Keflezighi said afterward, according to Let’s Run. “I feel delighted to be healthy and with the blessing with God, I’ll be Healthy in Boston and ready to go for the title.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg