Already the most successful man in the history of the race, Sammy Kitwara will aim for a record sixth win at the World’s Best 10k, an IAAF Gold Label Race, to be held on Sunday (28) on San Juan’s Teodoro Moscoso bridge.
“I am feeling very well,” said the 29-year old Kenyan during a press conference on Thursday. “I had a great preparation for this race and we will see what happens on Sunday. It should be faster race than last year. I know the competition will be tough but I don’t feel any pressure. I will run the best I can.”
It will be the first race of the year for the 2010 world half-marathon bronze medallist. Having won five times between 2009 and 2015, Kitwara will try to equal Lorna Kiplagat’s six wins in the Puerto Rican event.
For the first time in the 19-year history of the race, organisers moved the start time to 7am instead of 5:25pm to favour faster times by avoiding the stronger afternoon winds.
Kitwara should find strong opposition from at least two of his compatriots: Stephen Sambu and Bedan Karoki. Stephen Sambu finished third last year before running a world-leading 27:30 for 10km two months later in Manchester.
Karoki savoured victory in San Juan in 2014 and will try to come out on top again after a successful season last year that saw him claim the silver medal at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Guiyang 2015 and finish fourth in the 10,000m at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.
In the women’s race, Belaynesh Oljira is back to defend her title. The 2013 world 10,000m silver medallist from Ethiopia will run her first road race of the year after two cross-country events in January.
“I want to repeat my win from last year,” she said. “The Kenyans are very strong, but I am well prepared.”
She is expected to face a former champion, Kenya’s 2014 winner Mercy Wacera, who wants to bounce back from her disappointing seventh-place finish last year. The world half-marathon silver medallist won last month’s Houston Half Marathon in a PB of 1:06:29 and was recently named on Kenya’s team for the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff.
Another Kenyan, Cynthia Limo, wants to improve on her runner-up performance from last year. She finished second to Wacera in Houston but then went on to clock a world-leading 1:06:04 at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon two weeks ago.
The World’s Best 10k will also host the inaugural NACAC Road Race Cup. The top three teams – combining the time of the top-ranked man and woman from the NACAC region – will receive US$20,000, US$10,000 and US$5000 respectively.
Puerto Rico’s best ranked athletes in 2015 – two-time Central American and Caribbean Games champion Beverly Ramos and Mizael Carrera – will also toe the start line on Sunday.
The course records belong to Kenya’s Moses Masai (27:19), set in 2010, and Britain’s Paula Radcliffe (30:21), set in 2003. Radcliffe’s time still stands as a world record.
The winners will pocket US$15,000, with prize money awarded to the top 10 finishers. A US$100,000 cheque is available for a world record.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF