04-Jan) -- Nearly four years ago in near-freezing conditions, Emily Sisson ran the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon and achieved what was then a surprising result. Behind Kenya's Brigid Kosgei, who would run what was the fastest-ever half-marathon on American soil (1:05:50), Sisson clipped through the 10-kilometer mark in a snappy 31:49, and went on to finish in 1:07:30, good for fifth place. Her time was just five seconds short of Molly Huddle's then USATF record of 1:07:25.
PHOTO: Emily Sisson winning the 2022 USATF 20-K Championships at the Faxon Law New Haven Road Race (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
Immediately after the race Sisson felt an odd mix of satisfaction and disappointment. She came into the race in great shape, but said that she had made an important tactical error: she decided not to wear her GPS watch and, instead, go off of the split times on the course.
"That's one of the mistakes I made," Sisson told reporters after the race. "I talked to my coach, Ray (Treacy) about wearing a GPS watch or not. We thought it would be better to go off the splits on the course (which she had trouble seeing). I think we went out a little too slow and it cost me some time."
On that cold day in Houston, Sisson had no way of knowing that a pandemic would sweep the world a year later and it would take her nearly two more years to run another fast half-marathon. In Valencia, Spain, in December, 2020, Sisson clocked 1:07:26, just one second short of Huddle's record.
"Definitely bittersweet," Sisson told Race Results Weekly via text message just after exiting drug testing in Valencia that morning. "Was disappointed to fall short of my goal but trying to keep things in perspective."
She wouldn't take another swing at Huddle's record until May 7, 2022, when --despite windy conditions-- she ran away with the USATF half-marathon title in Indianapolis, clocking 1:07:11 and finally breaking Huddle's record.
"Mission accomplished," a smiling Sisson told sideline reporter Chris Nickinson in her post-race broadcast interview on USATF.tv.
Sisson, 31, who represents New Balance, plans to return to Houston to run the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon on Sunday, January 15. When she lines up for the start just before dawn in Downtown Houston, she'll not only be the USATF half-marathon record holder, but also the marathon record holder. Last October in Chicago she clocked 2:18:29 to topple Keira D'Amato's record of 2:19:12 set at the Chevron Houston Marathon only nine months earlier. Sisson is excited to race again in Texas after she and husband Shane Quinn sold their home in Phoenix and moved to Flagstaff where she enjoys altitude training.
"I have really enjoyed racing here in the past and am excited to start my 2023 season in Houston," Sisson said through a media release yesterday. "I felt good coming out of Chicago and am really looking forward to another opportunity to race."
In Houston Sisson will face a strong field of women, seven of whom have broken 68 minutes for the half-marathon. The fastest are Ethiopia's Hiwot Gebrekidan (1:06:47) and Tirunesh Dibaba (1:06:50). Gebrekidan, 27, a marathoner, has twice broken 2:20 and has won marathons in Milano, Guangzhou, and Tiberias (Israel). Dibaba, 37, is a three-time Olympic gold medalist with a 2:17:56 marathon personal best. However, she hasn't competed in over four years. It had been widely assumed that she had retired.
"Houston is a famous race and my training has been going well," Dibaba said through a press release. "It seemed like the best way to test myself and see what could be next."
Also running will be three-time World Athletics Championships 1500m medalist Jenny Simpson. Simpson, 36, will be making her half-marathon debut as she continues her transition from track to road running under her new sponsor, Puma. The longest race of her career so far was the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile in Washington, D.C., in September, 2021, where she clocked a strong 52:16. That's equivalent to a 1:09:47 half-marathon. Most recently, she ran 16:07 to finish 17th at the USATF 5-K Championships last November hosted by the Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5-K.
"All of the racers I am learning from speak so highly of their experience with the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon," Simpson said through a statement. "It's the perfect place for me to make my half-marathon debut because the timing, course and organization are so well tested."
The 2023 Aramco Houston Half-Marathon and Chevron Houston Marathon will be broadcast live by ABC-13 (KTRK) in Houston on Sunday, January 15, at 7:00 a.m. CST (8:00 a.m. EST) at https://abc13.com/.