Joyce Chepkirui winning the 2013 World's Best 10K in Puerto Rico (© Alvin Rodriguez)
Kenya’s Joyce Chepkirui will defend her title while the men’s race will crown a new champion at the 17th World’s Best 10K, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (23) afternoon on the Teodoro Moscoso bridge in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan.
Chepkirui improved from second in 2012 to a comfortable win in 2013, a season in which she went on to run 30:37 in Berlin to move to sixth place on the world all-time list for 10km.
On Sunday, the 25-year-old is expected to face strong opposition from 2011 winner Sentayehu Ejigu of Ethiopia, and her fellow Kenyans Gladys Cherono, the world 10,000m silver medallist, Linet Masai, third in 2012, and Lineth Chepkurui, runner-up in 2013.
Ejigu, the only Ethiopian woman to claim the top spot in the history of the race, will be joined by two other decorated compatriots: 2013 world cross-country and 10,000m bronze medallist Belaynesh Oljira and 2009 world marathon bronze medallist Aselefech Mergia.
Kenyan streak expected to continue
In the absence of four-time winner Sammy Kitwara from the men’s race, Kenyans are still aiming to keep the winning tradition in San Juan, only interrupted once since 2004 when Deriba Merga took the race in 2008.
The strong Kenyan contingent is led by Kenneth Kiprop, third in 2013, 2011 world cross-country bronze medallist Vincent Chepkok, who finished second here in 2012, and 2010 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Daniel Salel.
Coming from two cross-country victories this season, world 10,000m bronze medallist Paul Tanui hopes to improve his ninth-place finish from 2012.
Other top names are double 2010 Commonwealth Games champion Moses Kipsiro of Uganda, twice Amsterdam Marathon winner Wilson Chebet of Kenya and 2011 world cross-country champion Imane Merga as the top Ethiopian hopeful.
In total, there are 23 elite men and 18 women confirmed for the race, set to start at 5:25pm local time on Sunday.
The course records belong to Kenya’s Moses Ndiema Masai (27:19), set in 2010, and Britain’s Paula Radcliffe (30:21), run in 2003. Radcliffe’s time still stands as a world record.
Two-time CAC Games champion Beverly Ramos is eyeing a fourth title among Puerto Rican runners, having led the local women in the past three consecutive editions.
The World’s Best 10k and Bogotá’s Carrera de la Mujer in September are the only IAAF Label road-races held in Latin America.
In a press conference, race director Rafael Acosta stated that 13,100 runners registered for the 2014 edition, an increase from 10,078 in 2013.
The race will be preceded by a Fitness Festival on Friday and Saturday at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum, followed by a duathlon and a kids’ race on Sunday.
The 2014 World’s Best 10k will honour Sara Rosario, president of the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee. Past honourees include two-time world silver and Olympic bronze medallist Javier Culson.
The winners will pocket U$15,000, with prize money awarded to the top ten finishers. A $100,000 cheque 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 a 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 US runner Khalid Kannouchi (28:35) and Kenya’s Tegla Loroupe (31:30). Participation increased to 2053 finishers.
In 2003, Britain’s marathon world record-holder Radcliffe smashed the world record with a still-standing 30:21. In 2008, the World’s Best 10K earned the status of IAAF Gold Label.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF