Vivian Cheruiyot collecting San Juan 10K victory No. 3 (© Organisers)
Four-time world champion Vivian Cheruiyot and the most successful man in the history of the race, Sammy Kitwara, are both returning to the World's Best 10k, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, whose 18th edition will be held on Sunday afternoon (1) on the Teodoro Moscoso bridge in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Cheruiyot continues her comeback trail after giving birth to a boy, Allan, last October. Sunday’s race will be her first one on the road since her 2012 World Best’s 10k win, when she became the third-fastest woman in the history of the event.
Also winner in 2009 and 2010, the 31-year old is aiming for a fourth crown in San Juan to confirm herself as the second most successful woman in the history of the race, only behind Dutch Lornah Kiplagat, who claimed seven trophies between 2001 and 2008.
Cheruiyot is expected to face strong opposition from fellow Kenyan and defending champion Mary Wacera, Ethiopia’s 2011 winner Sentayehu Ejigu and another Kenyan, 2009 world 10,000m champion Linet Masai, who has stepped on the podium twice in San Juan, finishing third in 2012 and 2014.
The star-studded field includes other top 10,000m specialists, including Kenya’s Betsy Saina and Risper Gesabwa and Ethiopia’s world championships bronze medallists Ayalew Wude (in 2009) and Belaynesh Oljira (2013).
World cross country championships-bound and 2014 Commonwealth Games 5000m silver medallist Janet Kisa of Kenya is also in the mix, as is European cross-country champion Gemma Steel.
Fifth win beckons for Kitwara
Kitwara, who missed the 2014 edition, aims to claim his fifth victory after winning in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013. It will be the first race in 2015 for the 28-year old, who has also been successful in the marathon following his 2:04:28 personal best runner-up performance in Chicago last autumn.
He is expected to relive the duel with countryman Julius Kogo, who followed him across the finish line six seconds later at the 2013 edition. Kogo has shown a fine early season form with his world-leading 28:05 win in Edinburg, Texas, earlier this month.
The battle to crown a new champion this Sunday features other strong candidates, including Kenya’s world 10,000m bronze medallist Paul Tanui and two other sub-27-minute 10,000m runners: Stephen Sambu and Kenneth Kipkemoi (also third in 2014), as well as Bahrain’s Asian Games champion El Hassan El Abbassi and Uganda’s three-time Commonwealth Games champion Moses Kipsiro.
Two 5000m specialists, Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew and Kenya’s Olympic bronze medallist Thomas Longosiwa, will try their luck at a longer distance, as well as Morocco’s 2012 world indoor 1500m champion and Olympic bronze medallist Abdalaati Iguider.
Last year’s champion Bedan Karoki will skip the race on focus on the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, which is being held in Guiyang, China, on 28 March.
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 World’s Best 10k, the Santiago de Chile Marathon and Bogota’s International Marathon and Carrera de la Mujer are the only IAAF Label road races in Latin America.
With registration still open, organisers expect to exceed 12,000 runners on Sunday. The World’s Best 10k weekend starts on Friday with a Fitness Festival. Prior to the 10km race, 200m, 400m and 600m races will be contested for 600 children aged between seven and 11, as well as a duathlon.
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.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF