HOUSTON — Through the first half of the men's and women's Houston Marathon, it looked like the Ethiopians' grip on the race could be coming to an end.
Gebo Burka and Biruktayit Degefa made sure that didn't happen. Both came from behind to win on Sunday.
This was the eighth straight year an Ethiopian man won in Houston and the 10th straight year an Ethiopian woman did so.
Burka, along with countrymen Girmay Gebru and Yitayal Atanfu, trailed Poland's Artur Kozlowski by 1 minute, 1 second through 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) but rallied to overtake Kozlowski by 24.8 miles (40 kilometers).
Burka said through a translator that he knew he would catch Kozlowski.
"There was a car in front of us, but I saw him (Kozlowski) after 17 kilometers," Burka said. "I was surprised, but I tried to catch up with him at 35 kilometers."
Burka, who finished in second place in Houston last year, pulled away from Gebru with less than a mile to go to win in 2:10:54. Gebru was second, behind Burka by 11 seconds. Kozlowski finished fifth.
"I knew the race track better," Burka said. "I was disappointed when I didn't win last year. I am very happy to win the race this year."
The win was Burka's fifth career marathon victory, with the last one coming in Sydney in 2014.
The top American was Tyler Jermann at 2:18:33.
Degefa trailed Australia's Lisa Weightman by 44 seconds through 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) before claiming the lead at 18.6 miles (30 kilometers). Vomiting several times while passing Weightman, Degefa pulled away from there. She won in 2:26:07.
Degefa, who finished third in Houston in 2015, won her first marathon since October, when she won in Des Moines, Iowa.
Weightman jumped out to an 18-second lead 3.11 miles (5 kilometers) in and widened it to 50 seconds over Degefa at 9.32 miles (15 kilometers). Weightman finished second, 1:28 behind Degefa.
Degefa said through a translator that she knew when she passed Weightman, she was going to win.
"I was running with everyone," Degefa said. "I felt like I was by myself. I was trying to make the pace maker run faster. When he didn't do it, I did it on my own because I was wanting to pass the Australian who was in front of me."
The top American was Cinthya Paucar Segura, who finished in tenth, 13:47 behind Degefa.
Kenya's Mary Wacera ran the fastest half on U.S. soil at 1:6:29 to beat countrywoman Cynthia Limo by 12 seconds.
Wacera beat the Houston half marathon course record by nearly two minutes. Ethiopia's Belaynesh Olijara held the previous record at 1:8:26 in 2012. Wacera's time was the ninth fastest all-time women's half marathon.
"Coming into this race, I knew I was in good form," Wacera said. "I ran fast. I am really happy. I was hoping I could break the course record, but I wasn't too sure. You're never too sure."
The previous fastest women's half marathon on U.S. soil was 1:7:11 set by New Zealand's Kim Smith in September 2011 in Philadelphia.
The top American finisher was Sara Hall at 1:10:07, finishing in fifth place.
In the men's half marathon, Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa sprinted over the final quarter-mile to pull away from countryman Mosinet Geremew to win in 1:00:37. Geremew finished 8 seconds back of Desisa.
Desisa's time was the third-fastest time behind Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa's 59:22 in 2012 and American Ryan Hall's 59:43 in 2007.
The top American was Luke Puskedra, who finishd 52 seconds behind Desisa.