While January might not seem like the optimal time of year to race, the Houston Marathon doesn’t play by the rules. Drawn by the cool weather, flat course, and talented competition, thousands of elite and regular runners alike flock to the Texas city each winter to run a fast tune-up race or hit a time qualifying standard for other marathons.
This year’s race on Sunday, January 19, promises to be extra exciting because it falls on the final day to qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, which kick off just six weeks later in Atlanta. Many runners who have already qualified for Trials are using the Houston Half as a tune-up race before the big day on February 29, while others are running the marathon with hopes to clock a last-chance OTQ.
Here, we’ll fill you in on how to stream the races and what elites to watch for.
How to Watch the Houston Marathon
When: Sunday, January 19
Time: The half marathon and marathon races start at 7:01 a.m. CT (8:01 a.m. ET) in Houston.
Where to watch: Houston locals can tune in to ABC-13 for live coverage from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. CT. If you live elsewhere in the country, you can watch a livestream of the marathon here and half marathon here starting at 7 a.m. CT on race day. You can also .
Who to Watch in the Houston Half Marathon
The women’s half marathon is particularly star-studded this year. Dominant American distance runners like Molly Huddle, Sara Hall, and Aliphine Tuliamuk—all of whom ran sub-2:27 marathons in 2019—will compete with a talented international field that includes 1:05:07 half marathoner Caroline Chepkoech Kipkirui of Kenya and Ethiopian Ruti Aga, who won the 2018 Houston Half in 1:06:39 and finished third in the New York City Marathon last year.
In 2018, Huddle set the current American half marathon record, 1:07:25, in Houston. As one of the favorites to make the Olympic team next month, she will no doubt be gunning for the top American spot once again. Meanwhile, Hall—who clocked a massive marathon PR of 2:22:16 in Berlin last fall—told Runner’s World, “Houston is an opportunity to come down from altitude and do something faster.”
“My main goals are to sharpen the race instincts, remember that pain, rehearse all the race things, and to make marathon pace feel slow,” Hall said.
In the men’s half marathon, nine runners are entered with sub-60:00 seed times, including Ethiopian record-holder Jemal Yimer and past champions Jake Robertson (2018) of New Zealand and Shura Kitata (2019) of Ethiopia.
In the American field, NCAA 10K record holder Sam Chelanga is apparently making a comeback to the roads after retiring in 2018; he has the top U.S. seed time going into the race. Chelanga will be up against 2016 Olympic marathoner Jared Ward; Diego Estrada, who competed for Mexico in the 2012 Olympic 10,000 meters; and Shadrack Biwott, who placed third at Boston in 2018.
The race will also feature other U.S. men looking for a dress rehearsal before the Trials, including Matt Llano and Andrew Epperson. Last year’s top American, Tinman Elite runner Reed Fischer, will also be returning to race.
Who to Watch in the Houston Marathon
In the men’s marathon, the field is led by Hassan El Abbassi of Bahrain, who is seeded with a time of 2:04:43. Behind Abbassi, a competitive lead pack that includes 10 sub-2:10 men will undoubtedly push the pace. Craig Hunt of Flagstaff, Arizona, has the fastest seed time for Americans, 2:15:29.
Headlining the women’s race is returning champion Biruktayit Degefa of Ethiopia, who is seeded first with a time of 2:22:40. The U.S. field is led by marathoner Neely Spence Gracey, who ran her fastest marathon (2:34:55) in 2016 before taking a step back from competition to start a family. After a hard two years of training setbacks and injuries, Gracey is aiming to OTQ at Houston before the qualifying window closes. Former Oregon distance star Alexi Pappas, who competes for Greece, will also be racing 26.2 and looking to PR.
Along with the elites, the marathon will feature dozens of men and women hoping to OTQ before the buzzer. As of January 14, around 40 women had expressed interest in joining the OTQ (sub-2:45) pace group at Houston, according to pacer Rick Powell. Men aiming to qualify for Trials in the marathon must finish in sub-2:19.
Be sure to check back at Runner’s World for recaps and highlights from race day.
Digital Editor Hailey first got hooked on running news as an intern with Running Times, and now she reports on elite runners and cyclists, feel-good stories, and training pieces for Runner’s World and Bicycling magazines.