Molly Huddle sets American half-marathon mark in Houston

HOUSTON -- Two-time Olympian Molly Huddle broke the record for the fastest half-marathon by an American woman while competing in the Houston Marathon on Sunday.

Huddle crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 7 minutes, 25 seconds. Her time broke the previous record by 9 seconds, set by Deena Kastor in 2006.

"Just to be in the company of Deena Kastor, who had such a great marathon career, gives me a lot of confidence," Huddle said. "It's a really special thing. I really think the women's marathoners and half-marathoners in the [United States] are so good right now, I still don't feel like that record is out of reach.

"I moved it down a little bit, but I still think there's a couple of women that can gun for it," she said.

Ethiopia's Ruti Aga won the women's half-marathon in a personal-best 1:06:39, beating her previous mark of 1:08:07.

"I was happy that I achieved that, in the future I hope to do even better," Aga said through a translator.

In the men's marathon, Bazu Worku, trailing Ethiopian countryman Yitayal Atnafu by 23 seconds with about 2 miles left, turned on the jets to win the race for the third straight time.

"Yitayal, my competitor, we train together," Worku said through a translator. "I know that he is a very strong person and trains very well. When he put so much into his pace after 25 kilometers, then I realized he cannot finish with that pace. Then I applied my strategy."

This is the third straight year Atnafu finished second at the Houston Marathon.

Biruktayit Degefa won the women's marathon.

Degefa captured her second women's title at the Houston Marathon, finishing with a time of 2:24:51. She has competed in the race five years in a row.

"When I come to Houston, I feel a special joy," Degefa said. "I consider Houston as my hometown. As if I'm coming to a family. These five years, I know Houston very well. I come very prepared, and I knew I would win today."

An Ethiopian runner has won the women's title for 12 straight years.

Jake Robertson of New Zealand won the men's half-marathon in 1:00:01, tying a personal record. He finished 39 seconds off the race record.

"Since winning the race, everybody's reminding me of the time, I get more and more upset with the time," Robertson said with a laugh. "Thinking about the caliber of the field I beat today, I'm ecstatic, still. It was amazing racing, and the way I felt doing it."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.