Kenya’s Sammy Kitwara and Vivian Cheruiyot ran smart races to claim their third crown at the 15th World’s Best 10K, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (26) afternoon on the Teodoro Moscoso bridge in the Puerto Rican capital.
Facing a strong head wind in the first third of the race, the 25-year old defending champion crossed the finish line in 28:02, the slowest winning time since 2008, but enough to make history as he became the first man to win three titles on the fast Puerto Rican course.
Coming back from an absence in 2011, double World champion and 2011 Laureus Sportswoman of the Year Vivian Cheruiyot ran 30:47, a personal best, the fourth fastest winning time ever and the fastest at the 15th World’s Best 10K since 2004, to regain the crown she won in 2009 and 2010.
With three titles, the 28-year-old now trails Kenyan-born Dutch six-time winner Lorna Kiplagat as the second most decorated woman in the 15-year history of the race.
How the races unfolded -
As soon as former Major League Baseball star Jorge Posada flagged off the race at 5:25pm local time, a group of 15 runners took and traded the lead but raced at a more conservative pace due to a strong head wind. The group passed the first kilometre at 2:54, the second (5:45) and third at 8:41, 26 seconds off the course record pace.
After the turn-around, Kenyan Junior and race debutant Paul Lonyangata move to the front and sped up to 11:22 at the fourth kilometre and 14:02 at the halfway mark, thanks in part of the tail wind. He was closely followed by five men.
At a slight descent around the sixth kilometre, Kitwara sped up and progressively began to separate himself from the chase pack. By the eighth kilometre, covered in 22:24, he had built an eight-second lead over countryman and former World record holder Mikah Kogo.
With two wins and a second place in 2010, Kitwara kept a solid pace and was not challenged to cruise to an easy win in 28:02.
“My goal today was the win, without focusing on a specific time. I noticed the group began to slow down and I knew it was the right time to break away. I sped up until I managed to lead alone,” said Kitwara.
Making their debut on Puerto Rican soil, Kenyan Vicent Chepkok (28:11) and Eritrea’s World Half Marathon record holder and 2004 Olympic medallist Zersenay Tadese (28:13) joined him on the podium.
Another debutant here, Ethiopia's 2011 world cross country champion and 2011 World 10,000m medallist Imane Merga failed to impress and had to settle for a distant seventh in 28:40.
In the women’s race, Kenyan Emily Chibet and 2011 World 10,000m bronze medallist Linet Masai were the early leaders, but Joyce Chepkirui and Cheruiyot were close on their heels.
After the Kenyan quartet of Cheruiyot, Chepkirui, Masai and Chibet led through the first three kilometres (9:21), Cheruiyot moved to a solo lead and began to run close to World record pace with a 2:57-minute split in the fifth kilometre to hit the half way mark in 15:15.
She followed up with sub three-minute kilometres, but her World record ambitions were dashed in the ninth kilometre (covered in 3:11) and settled for victory still in a personal best of 30:47.
“I am very pleased with my performance. I ran a smart race and reacted well to every situation,” commented a happy Cheruiyot.
National Cross Country champion Chepkirui (31:09) and Masai (31:15) completed a Kenyan sweep. The first non-Kenyan home was Olympic 10,000m medallist Shalane Flanagan (32:20), in sixth position.
The course records, set by Kenyan Moses Masai (27:19 in 2010) and British Paula Radcliffe (30:21in 2003), remained intact. Radcliffe’s time still stands as a World record.
Both winners collected $15,000 for their effort. Cheruiyot pocketed an extra $10,000 for dipping under the 31-minute barrier.
As in the past editions, double CAC Games champion Beverly Ramos was the first local woman home, in 17th place after a 35:19 effort. Denides Veles took the top honours among Puerto Ricans for the first time. He completed the distance in 31:13.
Out of the 10,995 runners who started the race, 9,287 finished.
The World's Best 10k on the Teodoro Moscoso bridge and the Bogota International Half Marathon are the only races in Latin America to have earned gold, silver or bronze label status in the IAAF Road Race calendar.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
1. Vivian Cheruiyot, KEN 30:47
2. Joyce Chepkirui, KEN 31:09
3. Linet Masai, KEN 31:15
4. Emily Chibet, KEN 32:03
5. Winnie Jepkemoi, KEN 32:19
6. Shalane Flanagan, USA 32:20
7. Pauline Kurikwiang, KEN 32:35
8. Sule Utura Gebo, ETH 32:50
9. Tetiana Shmyrko, UKR 33:25
10. Elizaveta Grechishikova, RU 33:36
1. Sammy Kitwara, KEN 28:02
2. Vicent Chepkok, KEN 28:11
3. Zersenay Tadese, ERI 28:13
4. Mikah Kogo, KEN 28:17
5. Wilson Kiprop, KEN 28:17
6. Lucas Rotich, KEN 28:32
7. Imane Merga, ETH 28:40
8. Paul Lonyangata, KEN 28:42
9. Paul Tanui Kipngeich, KEN 28:47
10. Mark Kiptoo, KEN 28:58