Sammy Kiprop Kitwara and Vivian Cheruiyot ran personal bests and the former produced a course record as the World’s Best 10K crowned new champions on Sunday (1) and witnessed the second Kenyan double on the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge here.
The Puerto Rican event, now in its 12th running, is the only in Latin America to be part of the IAAF Label Road Race circuit, and holds the highest distinction as a Gold label race.
As soon as Puerto Rican baseball star Bernie Williams flagged off the race, a large group of Africans moved to the front. With the first kilometre run in 2:34 minutes, it was clear the course record was at risk.
Halfway into the race, the lead group shrank to seven men, running 30 seconds faster than the course record pace.
Kitwara made his move after the seventh kilometre and soon built up a 30 metres advantage. His compatriots could not respond and he went to cross the finish line in 27:26 minutes, 17 seconds faster that the previous course best, held by Wilson Kiprotich since 2006.
Silas Kipruto was the last to drop to the 21-year-old’s fast tempo and had to be content with the runner-up position (27:45) as in 2008. Wilson Kipsang (27:46) also repeated his third place finish from last year and was closely followed by Sammy Kosgei (27:49). For the first time, four men broke the 28-minute barrier at the World’s Best 10K.
Ethiopia’s defending champion Deribe Merga dropped out after the 3km mark.
“I am shocked by the time and I am proud of the win. It is my first time here. I ran faster at the 7km mark because I have a slow finish and could not risk reaching the final straight with the other guys,” Kitwara explained. Despite the hot and humid conditions, he managed to improve his personal best by almost 20 seconds.
The new champion began to make his name in road circuit in 2008 when he won a few European races, including the Paris 20km. His previous 10km best was 27:44 from his win in Utrecht, on September 28, 2008. This season, he was second at the National Police Cross Country Championships and finished seventh at the World Championships Trials, both in Nairobi.
In the women’s race, Cheruiyot deprived Lornah Kiplagat of a seventh title, including six in a row, after the tiny runner from Kenya pulled away after the 5km mark.
Fresh from a national indoor 3000m record eight days earlier in Birmingham, UK, Cheruiyot followed the defending champion in the early lead pack, also made up of Ethiopian Dire Tune and fellow Kenyan Jane Kiptoo.
After the 5km mark (15:30) Cheruiyot made her move and quickly opened up a 10m advantage. By the sixth kilometer, she was 50m ahead and with two kilometres to go, her cushion had increased to 23 seconds.
She never looked back and cruised to victory in 31:12 minutes, a new personal best by 20 seconds. Kiplagat held on for second (31:45) and held off the late surge by Tune, who finished third in 31:55.
“I did not feel threatened after the first half. I felt strong and made a decisive break after 5k. When I realized Lornah and the other girls could not follow me, I tried to build up a comfortable lead, as I did not know the course. I wanted to avoid surprises in the last staged”, said the 25-year-old Cheruiyot.
The 1.55m tall Cheruiyot has started her season on a high note, improving the 3000m national indoor record (8:30.53) in Birmingham, on 21 February. The 2007 World Championships 5000m bronze medallist also holds the Kenyan standard in this distance with 14:22.51.
It was the second Kenyan double at the World’s Best 10K and the first one since 2001, when Paul Tergat and Kiplagat, then running for her country of origin, won the second international edition.
Both runners were rewarded with $ 20,000 for their wins and an extra $ 10,000 for time bonuses. The men ranked second to fourth also received $10,000 each for breaking the 28-minute barrier. The winners each declared their desire to return to Puerto Rico in 2010 to defend their titles. Cheruiyot was more ambitions and expressed her goal to break British Paula Radcliffe’s World and course record of 30:21, set in 2003.
Zenaida Maldonado and Luis Collazo repeated their honours as the first Puerto Ricans to cross the finish line, in 12th and 25th places, respectively.
Maldonado stopped the clock in 35:09 minutes, the best time by a local woman, for her second consecutive win. She pocketed $12,200 for her effort. Collazo led among the national runners for the third time in 30:06.
Race director Rafael Acosta was satisfied with the overall outcome of the 12th edition and was pleased to see four men dipping under 28 minutes.
“This ratifies the competitive level of this edition. It was windy today. Otherwise, we could have seen more men breaking that mark. The most important thing is that the people could enjoy the event in a family atmosphere”, he stated.
A total of 9547 runners (6183 men and 3364 women) finished the race.
The 2009 edition was dedicated to Bernie Williams, who competed at the 1984 CAC Junior Championships in Athletics before taking up baseball.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
1. Sammy Kitawara KEN 27:26 PB CR
2. Silas Kipruto KEN 27:45
3. Wilson Kipsang KEN 27:45
4. Sammy Kosgei KEN 27:49
5. Moses Kipsiro UGA 28:01
6. Kiplimo Kimutai KEN 28:04
7. William Chebor KEN 28:06
8. Tilahun Regassa ETH 28:25
9. Peter Kamais KEN 28:28
10. John Korir KEN 28:35
1. Vivian Cheruiyot KEN 31:12 PB
2. Lornah Kiplagat NED 31:45
3. Dire Tune ETH 31:55
4. Shalane Flanagan USA 32:25
5. Jane Kiptoo KEN 32:30
6. Ashu Kasim ETH 32:41
7. Beylanesh Fekadu ETH 33:05
8. Irene Limiika KEN 33:20
9. Rehima Kedir ETH 33:52
10. Teyba Erkesso ETH 34:28
CR- Course Record
PB- Personal Best
For more information, please go to www.wb10k.com