Thousands of runners crowded the start lines of both the full marathon and half marathon on race day, Jan. 13, to fulfill their dream of participating in one of the most celebrated running events in the United States — and indeed around the world — despite bouts of pouring rain that continued to drench the streets of Houston. It was the official 41st running of the Houston Marathon — an annual tradition that has grown into the city’s largest single sporting event. This year, the marathon weekend drew 25,000 registrants — a record number — from all 50 states and 26 countries. Of the total number of runners, about 10,000 participated in the Aramco Houston Half Marathon. This was the ninth consecutive year for Aramco Services Co. (ASC) to sponsor the half marathon. Joining the runners this year were 27 ASC employees who participated in the half marathon, four who participated in the marathon, and 21 who joined the 5K race held the previous day. Also present were more than 200 ASC volunteers, their family members and friends who distributed race packets, shirts, finisher medals and breakfast to the runners and also assisted with cleanup activities. Since ASC first began sponsoring the half marathon in 2005, the number of participants has nearly doubled. "As a company, Aramco Services has chosen to sponsor this race because of our long-standing commitment to the communities where our employees live and work," ASC Public Affairs director Ali Al-Mutairi said. "The goal of this partnership is simple: to help make a positive difference in the city of Houston." Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa, 22, won the men’s half marathon with a time of 1:01:54. The women’s top finisher was Mamitu Daska, 29, also from Ethiopia, who crossed the finish line with a time of 1:09:53. Lilesa won the title last year as well, and Daska is the first-ever woman to win the marathon and half marathon at Houston. Full marathon winners were Bazu Worku, 22, for the men’s race and Merima Mohammed, 20, for the women’s race — with respective times of 2:10:17 and 2:23:27. Both are also from Ethiopia.