Five Takeaways from Houston

By: Kyle Markley

Earlier this month the Chevron Houston Marathon hosted some of the fastest runners from across the world. Between the full marathon and half there were several major storylines that took place over the weekend. Here are my top five takeaways from both races.

1. Emily Sisson is the Future of American Road Racing

(Photo: Citius Mag)

At this point, everyone in the running world has seen that Sisson ran a 66:52 to walk away with American record in the half marathon. But what’s even more incredible is the fact that within four months Sisson has broken two American records, running 2:18:29 in the Chicago Marathon and then the Houston half this month. After the race Sission stated that the biggest help to breaking the record was running with a group of male runners, rather than herself like she did when she first broke the record last spring. After the race Sisson spoke on the fact that having people to pace of off really made a difference, even if that meant going out faster than she expected. Her feats have provided yet another reason why Sisson is the future of American road running. These past several years names like Molly Seidel, Keira D’Amato, and Sara Hall have been the headliners for U.S. women. But Sisson has quietly been building a resume that is tough to argue even against these three. Sisson has competed in the last two World Outdoor Championships and 2020 Olympic Games. She currently has 2 American records and looks to be a contender to make the team in both the 10,000m and Marathon next year at the Paris Olympics. The sky is the limit for her, and at this moment nothing seems out of reach.

2. Northern Arizona Elite is a Restocked and Reloaded Team

(Photo: Chevron Houston Marathon)

In the men’s half marathon Wesley Kiptoo, former Iowa State National Champion and Hoka NAZ Elite athlete, finished 2nd in a photo finish with a time of 1:00:34. Kiptoo is one of the main pieces in the NAZ rebranding. NAZ of old was known mostly as 10k-marathoners, but the recent coaching addition of Alan Culpepper and Jenna Wrieden to Ben Rosario’s staff has reshaped the team into an 800m-marathon racing squad. Kiptoo is just one of many young athletes on the squad that has shown promise on the roads and track. Kiptoo in particular showcased a glimpse of the future of NAZ with a nail-biting second place finish in Houston. Not only getting a PR but showing his versatility from 5k to road. Houston kicked off the start to what I believe will be the year of NAZ Elite showing they are back to being on top of the podium with this new squad.

3. Brooks Struck Gold with Colin Bennie

(Photo Colin Bennie Instagram)

One of the big storylines before the race festivities was recent addition of former Reebok Boston Track Club standout to the Run Happy team. Bennie the 2020 Olympic Trials 8th place finisher and Top American in the Boston Marathon in 2021, announced his signing via Instagram on January 14th. The All American at Syracuse ran the half marathon in a time of 1:03:17 to finish 17th overall, and 5th American. After the race Bennie said when looking for a new sponsorship, Brooks stood out because of their focus on running and the great culture the company has. Bennie is currently training in San Francisco, a change from his former east coast home. But is still being coached by Chris Fox, who was his coach throughout his time at Syracuse and Reebok. With the addition of Bennie, Brooks is building an arsenal when it comes to the 26.2 distance. Bennie already has the times to compete with some of the best in the distance. Then add in some of the sports cutting edge footwear technology Brooks is producing, and you have yourself a contender to make the Olympic team in 2024.

4. Parker Stinson is BACK!

(Photo: Chevron Houston Marathon Instagram)

The native of Boulder ended a two-year hiatus from the big 26.2 by finishing 4th in a tough race. Stinson ran a majority of the race alone only to fight back to finish 2:12:11 and roughly two minutes behind the winner. He has always been one of those gritty, leave it all on the line runners that I can’t help but root for. He might not have the fastest times in the field, or be the top American, but he is someone who runs with his heart of his sleeve and puts in the work day in and day out. Someone who could contend for an Olympic spot if the cards align with training and staying injury free. Stinson is someone who still has a ways to go in the marathon, but with his work ethic and attitude, I believe he will reach his potential and become one of the top Americans in the next several years. Because who doesn’t want to see that man on the podium? I sure do!

5. Conner Mantz is looking Dangerous

(Conner Mantz Instagram)

My last talking point is the Provo prodigy himself, Conner Mantz. Mantz finished 6th with a time of 1:01:12 and the top American spot. Since finishing as the top American in Chicago last fall, Mantz has quickly become America’s next top marathoner after Galen Rupp. His decision to move up to the distance has proven a smart one with his endurance and patience for the longer distances. From the gun in Houston Mantz put himself in a position to achieve his goal of running 60 flat. And even on a windy day, with a race that played out more like a fartlek workout versus an even split race. He still was able to walk away with a top 10 finish and some experience under his belt. Before the race Mantz’s only concern was getting out in good position on the starting line. After the race he was quoted as saying he didn’t get out the way he wanted to and had to use more energy to get into position than he liked. A mistake that is learned with time and experience and is something I believe he will master very soon. Mantz runs every race fearless. And with the Marathon Olympic Trials in about a year’s time, I believe this skill will help Mantz will solidify his place as the future of American marathoning by qualifying for Paris 2024. Houston 2023 did not disappoint! Having all these phenomenal runners was truly a sight to be seen by fans and spectators alike. What was your favorite moment from race weekend? Drop a comment below!