22 FEB 2013 Preview San Juan, Puerto Rico

Kitwara eyes fourth title, Ejigu vs Chepkirui at San Juan

Third San Juan victory for Sammy Kitwara (Organisers)Third San Juan victory for Sammy Kitwara (Organisers) © Copyright

Kenya’s Sammy Kitwara is eying a fourth title while Sentayehu Ejigu and Joyce Chepkirui are set for a showdown at the 16th World’s Best 10K, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (27) afternoon on the Teodoro Moscoso bridge in the Puerto Rican capital.

Twenty-six-year-old Kitwara became the first man to win three titles on the fast Puerto Rican course in 2012 and is hoping for a fourth and third consecutive win this time. He first won in 2009 with a course record of 27:26, broken a year later by his countryman Moses Ndiema Masai (27:19).

Kitwara has since set his new goals on the Marathon. He made his debut at the distance with an impressive 2:05:54 for fourth Chicago last autumn. So far this year he has run a 62:25 Half-marathon in Holland in January.

One of his closest rivals here last year, Eritrea’s Half-marathon World record-holder Zersenay Tadese is back to make for an exciting race.

Four-time World Half-marathon champion Zersenay Tadese is back to try to improve his third placing from last year, when he made his World’s Best 10km debut. For the 31-year old, it will be his first race of 2013.

Other top contenders include Kenya’s John Kipkoech, Edwin Kipyego and Emmanuel Bett.

Ejigu back to reclaim title

The women’s race promises a close battle between Ethiopia’s Sentayehu Ejigu and Kenya’s Joyce Chepkirui.

In 2011 Ejigu became the first Ethiopian woman to take the top honours in the Puerto Rican race. She is back and aiming for a second win, but should expect a strong challenge from 2012 Olympian Chepkirui, who wants to improve on her second placing from last year.

For both, it will be their first race of the year. Chepkirui ranks fifth on the 10km all-time World Lists with 30:38 from 2011. Her countrywoman and two-time World Championships medallist Sylvia Kibet also has high ambitions in her debut on Puerto Rican soil.

Other top names confirmed are Kenya’s Diane Chepkemoi, Veronica Nyaruai and Lineth Chepkurui, Burundi’s Diane Nukuri-Johnson, Ethiopia’s Genet Ayalew and USA’s Lisa Uhl.

Double 2011 World champion, 2012 Olympic medallist and three-time World’s Best 10km winner Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya will miss the event this year.

The course record of 30:21, set by British Paula Radcliffe in 2003, still remains as a World record.

Two-time CAC Games champion Beverly Ramos, first among local women in 2011 and 2012, is looking at a top-10 finish in her third participation here.

“On behalf of all Puerto Rico, we would like to welcome all elite athletes. Feel like home and I wish you the best in the race,” Ramos told them at a press conference.

Race director Rafael B Acosta was pleased to announce that 10,078 runners from 11 countries have registered for Sunday’s race. The winners will pocket US$15,000, with prize money awarded to the top ten finishers. A $100,000 check is available for a World record as well as a $10,000 bonus for those breaking the 27:30 and 31:00 barriers.

A storied history

The first race on the Teodoro Moscoso bridge was held on 23 February 1998 on the occasion of the bridge’s fourth anniversary. A total of 1215 runners participated and local stars Jacinto Rodríguez and Sandra Arroyo took the inaugural titles.

From its very beginning, the race was conceived as a special event with a close cooperation between the local government and community, the private sector and the media to become one of the most important annual sporting events in Puerto Rico.

The race became international in 2000 and was won by former Marathon World record-holders Khalid Kannouchi (28:35) and Tegla Loroupe (31:30). Participation increased to 2053 finishers.

In 2003, Britain’s Marathon World record-holder Paula Radcliffe smashed the World record with a still-standing 30:21. In 2008, the World’s Best 10km earned the status of IAAF Gold Label.

Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF

PAST CHAMPIONS (international race)

2000 (2053 finishers)
Khalid Kannouchi (MAR) 28:35 and Tegla Loroupe (KEN) 31:30

2001 (3281 finishers)
Paul Tergat (KEN) 28:25 and Lornah Kiplagat (KEN) 31:37

2002 (4615 finishers)
Hendrick Ramaala (RSA) 28:15 and Paula Radcliffe (GBR) 30:43

2003 (7044 finishers)
Hendrick Ramaala (RSA) 28:16 and Paula Radcliffe (GBR) 30:21 WR

2004 (8841 finishers)
John Korir (KEN) 27:47 and Lornah Kiplagat (NED) 30:41

2005 (9876 finishers)
John Korir (KEN) 27:55 and Lornah Kiplagat (NED) 32:11

2006 (11,409 finishers)
Wilson Kiprotich (KEN) 27:44 and Lornah Kiplagat (NED) 30:50

2007 (12,481 finishers)
Gilbert Okari (KEN) 28:08 and Lornah Kiplagat (NED) 31:05

2008 (11,449 finishers)
Deriba Merga (ETH) 28:03 and Lornah Kiplagat (NED) 31:02

2009 (10,652 finishers)
Sammy Kitawara (KEN) 27:26 and Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) 31:12

2010 (7918 finishers)
Moses Masai (KEN) 27:19 and Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) 31:07

2011 (10,950 registered runners)
Sammy Kitwara (KEN) 27:35 and Sentayehu Ejigu (ETH) 31:50

2012 (9286 finishers)
Sammy Kitwara (KEN) 28:02 and Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) 30:47