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Nine Athletes to Watch at the 2024 Houston Marathon

Our editors break down who to follow at the first big American race of 2024

Last Updated:
Nine Athletes to Watch at the 2024 Houston Marathon 1

The Houston Marathon has multiple intriguing storylines, including a potentially lightning fast half-marathon debut, an American soil record attempt by Kenyan great Hellen Obiri, and a slew of athletes in both the women’s and men’s fields vying for the Paris Olympic Games standard.

Update (Jan. 12, 8:45 a.m. ET): Canadian Moh Ahmed, who was slated to race his debut at the half-marathon in Houston, was forced to withdraw due to a hamstring injury. Read more details here.


Key athletes to watch in The half-marathon

Nine Athletes to Watch at the 2024 Houston Marathon 2

Hellen Obiri

Half-Marathon
Kenya πŸ‡°πŸ‡ͺ
Age: 34
World Athletics Profile

Personal Bests:
Marathon: 2:21:38 (Boston, 2023)
Half-marathon: 1:04:22, RAK, Dubai, 2022)
πŸ₯ˆ 2020 Olympic – 5,000m
πŸ₯‡ 2019, 2017 World Athletics Championships – 5,000m
πŸ₯ˆ 2022 World Athletics Championships – 10,000m
πŸ₯‡ 2023 Boston Marathon
πŸ₯‡ 2023 New York City Marathon

What To Watch For:
The fastest half-marathon ever run by a woman on U.S. soil is 1:05:03, which took place in 2022 on this same course in Houston. Obiri is a seasoned veteran of the highest order, now appearing to be at her apex as a road runner. She’s coming off a stellar year, with two wins in Boston and New York on tough courses. She can test out her speed in Houston, and see if she can get close to her 1:04:22 PR. Also keep an eye on what’s on her feet. She trains with the On Athletics Club in Boulder, CO.
(Photo: Erik van Leeuwen)

Jessy’s Prediction: 1:04:48; fast, but not PB fast.
Michael’s Prediction: 1:05:01 for the easy win
Alex’s Prediction: 1:05:36. Saves the big jets for later.


Kelati Weini

Weini Kelati

Half-Marathon
U.S.A πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ
Age: 27
World Athletics Profile

Personal Bests:
5,000m: 14:53 (Montesson, France 2023)
10,000m: 31:04 (London, 2023)
πŸ₯‡ 2019 NCAA Cross-Country Championships
πŸ₯‡ 2019 NCAA Track Championships – 10,000m

What To Watch For:
Keteli cleaned up in her senior year in college, winning both the cross-country title and the 10,000m outdoor championship for the University of New Mexico. Since then, she’s turned pro, signing with Under Armour and moving up the road to Flagstaff to train with the Dark Sky Distance group. She’s raced well internationally as a full-time athlete, including strong performances in big-time Diamond League events and the World 5K Road championships (she placed seventh). Look for her to hold her own, and maybe surprise with a podium performance. She started showing some serious upside in the 10K in 2023, and has grit to her finish.

Jessy’s Prediction: 1:06:32, I see a podium from her.
Michael’s Prediction: 1:07:30, for third. Fantastic debut.
Alex’s Prediction: 1:06:48. Promising debut.


Nine Athletes to Watch at the 2024 Houston Marathon 3

sara Hall

Half-Marathon
U.S.A
 πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ
Age: 40
World Athletics Profile

Personal Bests:
Half-Marathon: 1:07:15 (Houston, 2022)
Marathon: 2:20:32 (Marathon Project, 2020)
5th, 2022 World Athletics Championships – Marathon
πŸ₯ˆ 2022 Houston Half-Marathon

What To Watch For:
Sara Hall always seems to be on the cusp of greatness, only for something to go awry. She’s briefly held the American record in both the half and marathon, only to lose it in short order, and never regain it. She’s run a number of Marathon Majors in quality times, finishing in the top 10. She had a fantastic 2022, placing fifth at Worlds in the marathon, and running 2:22 in Tokyo. She’s preparing to run the Olympic Trials on Feb. 3, and this race will be pivotal to test her fitness. And she could run a masters national record in the process.

Jessy’s Prediction: 1:09:00; not expecting anything special.
Michael’s Prediction: 1:08:51; good, not great.
Alex’s Prediction: 1:07:31. Because she pops them off when we least expect it.


Nine Athletes to Watch at the 2024 Houston Marathon 4

Galen Rupp

Half-Marathon
U.S.A
πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ
Age: 37
World Athletics Profile

Personal Bests:
Half marathon: 59:47 (Rome 2018)
Marathon:
2:06:07 (Prague 2018)
πŸ₯‰ 2016 Olympics – marathon
πŸ₯ˆ 2012 Olympics – 10,000m
πŸ₯‡ 2017 Boston Marathon
πŸ₯‡ 2017 Chicago Marathon
πŸ₯ˆ 2021 Chicago Marathon

What To Watch For:
Rupp narrowly missed the Olympic “A” standard in Chicago last fall, so he’s now hoping to qualify by running well at next month’s Olympic Trials in Orlando, grabbing a top three finish, and then waiting to see if he makes the cut through World Athletics’ needlessly complex qualification system. Rupp has battled so many injuries in recent years, it’s just noteworthy that he’s back running well.

Jessy’s Prediction: 1:03:05; I just don’t see him being back in form after his tough last few years.
Michael’s Prediction: 1:01:13, and Rupp says “On to Orlando.”
Alex’s Prediction: 60:47. There aren’t enough nose strips in the world to take down Moh.


For details on how to live stream the race, complete elite start list, and the complete elite start list, read our complete guide for Sunday’s race in Houston:

And be sure to follow our live updates for the 2024 Houston Marathon and Half-Marathon beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET. (Both races start at 8:01 a.m. ET.)


Key Athletes to Watch in The Marathon

Bruktayit Degefa

Bruktayit Degefa

Marathon
Ethiopia
πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Ή
Age: 33
World Athletics Profile

Personal Bests:
Half marathon: 1:09:41 (Trento 2022)
Marathon: 2:21:34 (Valencia, 2022)
πŸ₯‡ 2016 Houston Marathon
πŸ₯‡ 2018 Houston Marathon
πŸ₯‡ 2019 Houston Maratho

What To Watch For:
Degefa knows Houston really well. She’s run the race seven times, winning three titles, along with two second places and a third and fourth. Degefa’s been training at altitude in Colorado as an Adidas athlete, and until 2023 raced a lot, often going for three marathons a year, along with the American road race circuit. She’s a tough competitor, finishing top 10 in Boston twice. She didn’t race at all in 2023, so she’ll be itching to make this one count.

Jessy’s Prediction: 2:20:49; rust buster, PB, still takes the W.
Michael’s Prediction: 2:20:11, new PR and the W.
Alex’s Prediction: 2:22:16. Cruises solo in the second half.


Nine Athletes to Watch at the 2024 Houston Marathon 5

Bosena Mulati

Marathon
Ethiopia
πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Ή
Age: 23
World Athletics Profile

Personal Bests:
10,000m: 30:17 (Eugene, 2022)
Half marathon: 1:05:46 (RAK, UAE, 2022)
5th, 2022 RAK Half-Marath
8th, 2022 World Athletics Championships – 10,000m
Houston is her marathon debut

What To Watch For:
Mulati is just 23, but has done a significant amount of racing on the international circuit. She’s been in several fast, world-class road and track events, particularly in the past two years. The apex of her career thus far has to be her eighth place finish in the hotly contested World Championship 10,000m in Eugene in 2022. She trains with a legit group in Adddis, which includes Marathon Major champions. All her numbers point to this, her debut in the marathon, at around a 2:20-21. She should be right there in the lead pack at least through halfway, and perhaps all the way to the finish.

Jessy’s Prediction: 2:18:44. She’ll go out with the leader, but fade. Still a great time.
Michael’s Prediction: 2:21:30, fades a bit, but solid debut.
Alex’s Prediction: 2:23:49. Rookie gets humbled by last 10 miles.


Vicoty Chepngeno

Vicoty Chepngeno

Marathon
Kenya
πŸ‡°πŸ‡ͺ
Age: 30
World Athletics Profile

Personal Bests:
10K: 30:14 (Catellon, 2022)
Half marathon: 1:05:03 (Houston, 2022)
πŸ₯‡ 2022 Houston Half-Marathon
Houston is her marathon debut

What To Watch For:
Chepngeno has a lot of road racing experience, particularly in the U.S. She’s won the Philly Half and a slew of other shorter distance events in America, but her standout career performance thus far was in Houston in 2022. At the time, it was the 11th fastest half-marathon of all time. It’s still an American soil record. She was supposed to debut in the marathon in Tokyo last year, but it didn’t come together for her. She’ll be going for the win in Houston, and if she can get well under 2:20 she’ll be hoping to put her name in as an outside shot for the Kenyan Olympic team.

Jessy’s Prediction: 2:22:01; I think she can run a fast half, but not two in a row
Michael’s Prediction: 2:20:13; goes out hard, fades to second.
Alex’s Prediction: 2:21:13. Leads after 21k, never looks back.


Nine Athletes to Watch at the 2024 Houston Marathon 6

Natasha Wodak

Marathon
Canada πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦
Age: 42
World Athletics Profile

Personal Bests:
Half-marathon: 1:09:41 (Houston 2020)
Marathon: 2:23:12 – Canadian record (Berlin 2022)
13th, 2021 Olympics – marathon
15th, 2023 Olympics – marathon

What To Watch For:
For Wodak, and a group of Canadians, Brits, Germans and Mexicans, the primary focus will be running 2:36:50, which is the Olympic marathon “A” standard. In Wodak’s case, she should get selected for Canada regardless of the outcome in Houston, as she’s accrued enough “points” in World Athletics byzantine qualification system to be selected. She’s also the country’s best marathon runner, with a significant drop off after her and compatriot Malindi Elmore. But it would be reassuring if Wodak could cruise to a 2:25-6 and punch her Air France flight.

Jessy’s Prediction: 2:26:40; easily under standard.
Michael’s Prediction: 2:26:36. Like a Swiss watch.
Alex’s Prediction: 2:25:35. On staggeringly-even splits.


Nine Athletes to Watch at the 2024 Houston Marathon 7

Deresa Geleta

Marathon
Ethiopia πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Ή
Age: 28
World Athletics Profile

Personal Bests:
Marathon: 2:05:51 (Dubai, 2023)
πŸ₯‡ 2023 Beijing Marathon
πŸ₯ˆ 2023 Dubai Marathon

What To Watch For:
Geleta has steadily improved his standing on the marathon circuit, progressing from C-level events to a bigger stage, with his breakthrough being in Dubai last February. By time alone, Geleta is the top seeded runner in the marathon, but he’ll have his hands full, going up against a pair of past Houston champions.

Jessy’s Prediction: 2:06:16; another photo finish?
Michael’s Prediction: 2:06:30; wins, but barely.
Alex’s Prediction: 2:05:32. A small PB for the rising star.


UPDATE (Jan. 12, 8:45 a.m. ET): Moh Ahmed Scratched From the Start List

Ahmed injured his hamstring in his final workout in preparation for Houston, and has decided to forego the race. We decided to leave this athlete profile in place so you can muse about what could have been in Houston.

Nine Athletes to Watch at the 2024 Houston Marathon 8

Moh Ahmed

Half-Marathon
Canada
πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦
Age: 33
World Athletics Profile

Personal Bests:
5000 m: 12:47.20 – North American record (Portland 2020)
10,000 m: 26:34.14 Canadian record (San Juan Capistrano 2022)
πŸ₯ˆ 2020 Olympic – 5,000m
πŸ₯ˆ 2019 World Athletics Championships – 5,000m
*Scratched (injury)

What To Watch For:
Moh Ahmed is a tantalizing talent when contemplating what he could become as a full-time road racer. He’s competed at the very highest level on the track in both the 5,000m and 10,000m, so he’s shown durability and incredible speed. The question with a Ahmed, like so many before him, is: can he translate all that speed over the long haul? And will he “get” the longer distance grind. If he can seamlessly level up from the track to the half-marathon, Ryan Hall’s longstanding North American record in the half-marathon, could be in danger.

Jessy’s Prediction: 59:48; He’s at least taking the Canadian record
Michael’s Prediction: 59:07. He’s too good to fail.
Alex’s Prediction: 58:58. With mouth agape and bulging eyes.


Photo of author
Investigative journalist and editor based in Toronto

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