26 FEB 2009 Preview San Juan, Puerto Rico

Kiplagat and Merga to defend titles at World’s Best 10K - PREVIEW

Lornah Kiplagat retains title in San Juan in 2008 (Denni Lozza - Island Photography)Lornah Kiplagat retains title in San Juan in 2008 (Denni Lozza - Island Photography) © Copyright

Lornah Kiplagat returns to Puerto Rico for the ninth time in the last 10 years and joins Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga to defend their titles at the World’s Best 10K, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, to be held on Sunday (1 March) starting 5.25pm local time (March 1) on the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge here.

WOMEN

A six-time winner, five consecutively, the three-time World Half Marathon / Road Running champion is widely expected here for what is one of her favourite races.

Already dubbed my the local media as the queen of the World’s Best 10K, the 34-year old Dutchwoman will however find a tougher opposition compared to previous years.

Running in this race since it became international in 2000, Kiplagat only missed the 2003 edition. She won in 2001 and has been unbeaten since 2004, when she beat Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe to set her best time in San Juan (30:41).

World marathon record holder and two-time World’s Best 10K winner Radcliffe has held the World and course record of 30:21 since 2003.

A number of 10km specialists have joined the 2009 field, including Turkey’s Elvan Abeylegesse, the double 2008 Olympic silver medallist and USA’s Shalane Flanagan, the Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist in Beijing.

Fresh off her national indoor 3000m record (8:30.53) last Saturday in Birmingham, Vivian Cheruiyot will also test herself over the 10k distance. The 2007 World Championships 5000m silver medallist knows she will needs to run as fast or quicker than her 10km best of 31:32 to clinch the victory on the Caribbean island.

Ethiopia’s Mestawet Tufa, runner-up in 2008, and Kenya’s veteran Edith Masai and Lineth Chepkurui, sixth in 2008, round up a solid women’s field.
NB. Info UPDATED 5 March

MEN

In the men’s race 2007 IAAF World Road Running Championships bronze medallist Deriba Merga is back here to defend his 2008 victory.

In that race last year Merga took advantage of a mistake by Kenya’s Silas Kipruto, who followed a motorcycle carrying the TV camera to the wrong side of a fence and lost his lead with less than 400m to go to the finish line. In the process, he became the first Ethiopian to win the race, and six months later finished fourth at the 2008 Olympic Marathon in Beijing.

Early this season, 26-year-old Merga won the Houston Marathon on January 18 (2:07:52) and finished third last Friday at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in UAE (59:18).

Kipruto is also back and will make sure not to follow the cameras this time. His countrymen, two-time winner (2004-2005) John Kipruto Korir, 2005 World 5000m champion Benjamin Limo and Wilson Kipsang, third in 2008, will also contest for the top honours, as well as Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro, the 2007 Osaka World Championships 5,000m bronze medallist.

Wilson Kiprotich holds the course record of 27:43 minutes, set in 2006, but finished a distant seventh in 2007 and missed the podium last year by just two seconds.

General information

A total of 26 men and 19 women from 11 countries are registered in the elite category.

There is $20,000 for the winners, a $10,000 bonus for breaking 28 and 31 minutes, respectively, and a $100,000 reward for a world record.

Olympic marathon champions Samuel Wanjiru and Constantina Tomescu, former world marathon record holders Paul Tergat (Kenya), Khalid Khannouchi (USA), Radcliffe, Tegla Loroupe, Hendrick Ramaala are just some of the most heralded names that have run on the bridge course.

From 1200 registered participants to over 14,372 in 2008, the World’s Best 10km is the only race in Latin America to be part of the IAAF Label Road Races. In 2008, it was granted the Gold Label status.

With registrations closed on Tuesday, race director Rafael Acosta anticipates another mass celebration among the 13,000 plus participants. “We expect a great sports festival all this weekend,” he said.

As it is usual in every edition to dedicate the annual race to an outstanding Puerto Rican sportsperson, the 12th edition in 2009 will honour former New York Yankees star Bernie Williams, who competed at the 1984 CAC Junior Championships in Athletics before taking up baseball.

Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF


For more information, please go to ww.wb10k.com