Kenya’s Mary Wacera successfully defended her title at the World’s Best 10k in San Juan, winning the IAAF Gold Label Road Race in 31:41 on Sunday (26).
Meanwhile, USA's Samuel Chelanga ran 28:19 to win the men’s race by two seconds from Phillip Langat.
On a new course without the landmark Teodoro Moscoso Bridge, a lead pack of seven women passed through the first three kilometres in 9:12 with Wacera running alongside the likes of world 10,000m silver medallist Gelete Burka, Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska and Kenya’s Magdalene Masai.
By the eight-kilometre mark, reached in 25:13, just three women were left out in front: Wacera, Masai and Burka. But, as was the case in 2014 and 2016, Wacera proved to have the strongest finish and she went on to win in 31:41, her fastest winning time in San Juan.
Daska overtook a fading Burka to take second place in 31:59, two seconds ahead of her compatriot.
Wacera now becomes the second most decorated woman in the history of the race after six-time winner Lornah Kiplagat.
“It was a hot day,” said Wacera, the world half-marathon bronze medallist. “I felt a lot of pain in my calves, but it was a good course, better (than the previous one).”
The men’s race was even closer. Chelanga ran as part of an 11-man pack through the first three kilometres in 8:27. Only five of those – Chelanga, Langat, Stephen Sambu, Thomas Longosiwa and Belay Tilahun – were able to maintain that pace through to the latter stages and they passed the eight-kilometre point in 22:36.
Tilahun, Longosiwa and Sambu eventually drifted back, leaving just Chelanga and Langat out in front. Chelanga had a bit more in reserve, though, as he forged ahead to the line and won in 28:19, two seconds ahead of Langat. Sambu and Longosiwa finished third and fourth in 28:34 and 28:37 respectively.
“It was an exciting race and people cheered us on," said Chelanga, who turned 32 just three days before the race. "It was humid, but I expected it being in Puerto Rico. I tried to stay in the lead pack and be patient. I sped up during the ninth kilometre and no one responded. It feels great to take your first win of the year here."
The top local runners were Mizael Carrera and Olympian Beverly Ramos with respective times of 30:44 and 34:06. It was a record seventh victory for Ramos and a fourth for Carrera.
The 20th San Juan World’s Best 10k drew more than 6500 runners and honoured Puerto Rico’s Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez. The race also served as the NACAC 10k Cup, which was won by the USA ahead of Canada and Puerto Rico.
The new course took runners from the Sixto Escobar Park to the scenic Old San Juan, a UNESCO World Heritage site, before returning to the same park to complete the 10km course.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe ran the race following his participation at the annual NACAC Council in San Juan. The two-time Olympic gold medallist covered the distance in 48:05.
1 Samuel Chelanga (USA) 28:19
2 Phillip Langat (KEN) 28:21
3 Stephen Sambu (KEN) 28:34
4 Thomas Longosiwa (KEN) 28:37
5 Belay Tilahun (ETH) 28:42
6 Isaac Mwangi (KEN) 28:47
7 Debeli Gezmu (ETH) 28:57
8 Ismail Juma (TAN) 28:58
1 Mary Wacera (KEN) 31:41
2 Mamitu Daska (ETH) 31:59
3 Gelete Burka (ETH) 32:01
4 Magdalene Masai (KEN) 32:06
5 Aliphine Bolton (USA) 32:11
6 Risper Gesabwa (KEN) 32:16
7 Monicah Ngige (KEN) 32:21