HOUSTON, TEXAS, January 15 — Emily Sisson pared 19 seconds off her American Record in finishing 2nd in the Aramco Half-Marathon. After adding a 2:18:29 marathon AR to her robust portfolio last October in Chicago, the 31-year old Providence grad returned to competition in fine form, saying, “I came here to make another good run and I am really excited about breaking the American Record.”
Sisson’s new standard of 66:52 behind Ethiopian Hiwot Gebrekidan’s 66:28 came on a flat and fast loop course. The route features prominently on the American half-marathon recordboard as the site for Ryan Hall’s longstanding 59:43 men’s standard, and Molly Huddle’s 67:25 AR from ’18 that was trimmed to 67:15 by Sara Hall last January.
After missing the then-AR by 5 seconds with a 67:30 effort in Houston in ’19, and a mere single second the following year in running 67:26 in Valencia, Sisson set her AR last May running 67:11 to win the USATF Championship in Indianapolis.
This race got off to a fast start with Gebrekidan blasting away from the field at the gun, blitzing the opening 5K in 15:14. Sisson was committed to a fast start but was almost 100m back at 15:31, and was left to fend for herself on what was a rather solo run, sans pacers.
After her very-paced record run in Chicago, Sisson chose to go it alone here, explaining, “I didn’t have a personal pacer; I thought that would be good to try to get into that racing mindset trying to race the people around me.”
“I talked to my coach Ray Treacy a couple of days ago and he told me that I’d be better off running 5:03 pace with the men rather than running 5:06 or 7 solo. I found a group and they were definitely going faster than that and I tried to hang on to that instead of running 13M solo.”
This strategy kept her on a brisk pace as she cruised through the second 5K segment in 15:48, crossing the 10K mat in 31:19. The hot tempo plus a little heat and humidity had her admitting, “I think that I misjudged the pace a bit to open it and really slowed down.”
She was able to steady herself, settling into a 3:12 kilometer pace covering the 10–15K segment in 16:01, and 15-20K in 16:06, before closing the final 1098m in 3:26 to push under 67:00 and well under her own standard. She also bettered Kara Goucher’s downhill course 66:57 from ’07 as the fastest all-conditions U.S. race ever.
“I felt good about my finish today,” Sisson said. “Especially as the last few miles felt pretty hard into the wind, and I was able to pick it up the last half-mile and I was happy to be able to do that.
“Next time I’ll try run a more even-paced race and I hope to run faster. It worked out OK, and I was happy to break 67:00.”
Sticking with her Providence mentor Treacy, the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor 5000 champ in ’15 has gone on to a very productive professional career.
With PRs of 14:53.84 and 30:49.57, and having competed in the ’17 London (9th) and ’19 Doha (10th) World Championships and the ’21 Tokyo Olympics (10th), Sisson has made a very successful transition to the roads and has found her best event in the 26-miler.
Heading into a yet-to-be-announced early-year marathon, Sisson admitted, “I still feel like a novice in the event. I have had decent training the last couple of months but it hasn’t been great. I’ve had little interruptions here and there, so I think that this is a very good starting point. I am just focusing on building from here, hoping for good health and training for some good competition in my spring marathon.”
Not lost among the competitors also looking for a good restart was 37-year-old Tirunesh Dibaba, who returned to competition after an extended maternity leave. Now with children aged 7, 3 and 1, and a year back to training she finished 16th in 71:35.
HOUSTON HALF-MARATHON RESULTS
1. Hiwot Gebrekidan (Eth) 66:28;
2. Emily Sisson (US) 66:52 AR (old AR 67:11 Sisson ’22) (15:31, 15:48 [31:19], 16:01 [47:20], 16:06 [63.26], 3:26);
3. Jessica Warner-Judd (GB) 67:19; 4. Anna Dibaba (Eth) 69:22; 5. Molly Huddle (US) 70:01; 6. Dominique Scott (SA) 70:07; 7. Erika Kemp (US) 70:14; 8. Lindsay Flanagan (US) 70:20; 9. Jenny Simpson (US) 70:35; 10. Jessie Cardin (US) 70:52;… 16. Tirunesh Dibaba (Eth) 71:35.
1. Leul Gebrselassie (Eth) 60:34; 2. Wesley Kiptoo (Ken) 60:35; 3. Mohamed Al Araby (Mor) 60:58; 4. Alberto Gonzalez Mindez (Gua) 61:03; 5. Zouhair Talbi (Mor) 61:08; 6. Conner Mantz (US) 61:12; 7. Shura Kitata (Eth) 61:16; 8. Edward Cheserek (Ken) 61:51; 9. Frank Lara (US) 62:00; 10. Brian Shrader (US) 62:17.