Kenya’s Sammy Kitwara and Vivian Cheruiyot will aim for their third victory 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.
Defending champion Kitwara, 25, will try to become the first man to win three titles on the fast Puerto Rican course, but he is likely to face strong opposition from Ethiopia’s 2011 runner-up Dejen Gebremeskel, 2011 World Cross Country champion and World 10,000m bronze medallist Imane Merga, as well as Eritrea’s Half Marathon World record holder Zersenay Tadese, who will make his debut here.
The men’s elite race features 23 African runners, including double 2010 Commonwealth Games champion Moses Kipsiro of Uganda and former 10km World record holder Micah Kogo of Kenya. With such depth, Kenyan Moses Masai’s course record of 27:19, set in 2010, is again under serious threat.
Kitwara is currently tied with South African Hendrick Ramaala and Kenyan John Korir as the only three double winners on the Teodoro Moscoso bridge.
After missing the 2011 edition, double World champion and Laureus Sportswoman of the Year 2011 Vivian Cheruiyot is eying a third crown after winning in 2009 and 2010.
The 28-year-old seems to have recovered from a flu that sidelined her from the Birmingham Indoor Meeting and wants to regain the women’s title for Kenya.
Cheruiyot will be joined by other top contenders, including her countrywomen Linet Masai, the 2011 World 10,000m bronze medallist, Joyce Chepkirui and US record holder Shalane Flanagan, who qualified for the London Olympics in the marathon a month ago.
Last year’s winner Sentayehu Ejigu of Ethiopia will be absent this year. The course record of 30:21, set by British Paula Radcliffe in 2003, still remains as a World record.
Luis Soto and two-time CAC Games champion Beverly Ramos, the first Puerto Rican runners to cross the finish line in 2011, will return this year.
The weekend of athletic festivities also includes a fitness festival Friday and Saturday at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum. On Sunday, the World’s Best 10k will also feature a duathlon, a wheelchair race and Kids Mini Race.
The winners will pocket U$15,000, with prize money awarded to the top ten finishers. A $100,000 check is available for a World record as well as $10,000 for those breaking the 27:30 and 31:00 barriers.
A storied History
The first race on the Teodoro Moscoso 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 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, Moroccan-born American Khalid Kannouchi (28:35) and Kenya’s Tegla Loroupe (31:30). Participation increased to 2053 finishers.
In 2003, British Marathon World record holder Paula Radcliffe smashed the World record with a still standing 30:21. The race earned the status of IAAF Gold Label in 2008.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
Past champions (international race):
2000 (2,053 finishers)
Khalid Kannouchi MAR 28:35 and Tegla Loroupe KEN 31:30
2001 (3,281 finishers)
Paul Tergat KEN 28:25 and Lornah Kiplagat KEN 31:37
2002 (4,615 finishers)
Hendrick Ramaala RSA 28:15 and Paula Radcliffe GBR 30:43
2003 (7,044 finishers)
Hendrick Ramaala RSA 28:16 and Paula Radcliffe GBR 30:21 WR
2004 (8,841 finishers)
John Korir KEN 27:47 and Lornah Kiplagat NED 30:41
2005 (9,876 finishers)
John Korir KEN 27:55 and Lornah Kiplagat NED 32:11
2006 (11,409 finishers)
Wilson Kebenei 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 (7,918 finishers)
Moses Ndiema 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