Sammy Kitwara winning the World's Best 10K in Puerto Rico (© Alvin Rodriguez)
Sammy Kitwara took his fourth title while Joyce Chepkirui savoured her first as they completed a Kenyan at the 16th World’s Best 10K, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan on Sunday (24).
The winner in the immediate past two editions, 26-year old Kitwara astutely followed all the moves in what was initially a tactical race before covering the second half over a minute faster than the first to win in 28:42, the slowest winning time since the race became a major international race in 2000.
After the 5:25pm start, 40-year old Luis Rivera took an early lead that grow to up to 40 metres during the first third of the race.
Rivera - who was to finish as the top local runner in 12th place - was then caught by a large African chasing group, who took control and covered the first 5km in 14:55. The real race started in earnest after the sixth kilometre, when Kitawa started to speed up and move away from his closest rivals.
He took advantage up a slight uphill on Barbosa Avenue to move away for good and continued to accelerate to build an insurmountable an advantage as he approached the finish line on the on the Teodoro Moscoso bridge.
With a 13:47-minute split in the second half, the 26-year old secured his fourth victory. In addition to a streak of three consecutive triumphs, he had also won in 2009 and came second in 2010.
“I felt great. It was hot and humid, but I am used to those conditions in my country. I was certain I could win after the sixth kilometre. I just followed my pace and won,” commented the winner.
Julius Kogo finished second in 28:48 while Kenneth Kiprop was third in 28:59 to complete a Kenyan podium. Eritrea’s 2004 Olympic medallist and four-time IAAF World Half Marathon champion and World record holder Zersenay Tadesse could not repeat his third place finish of 2012 as he lost contact with the leaders and slipped back to seventh in 29:08.
In the women’s race, Chepkirui ran in a nine-woman lead pack until the first half, when she moved away from the rest and went to win her first title in 31:40, improving on her second place 12 months ago.
“I felt very well. The wind is always a factor, but I managed to run fast and at the right time. I am honoured to have won here for the first time,” said the 24-year-old.
As in the men’s race, Kenya swept the top three spots with Liveth Chepkirui second in 32:10 and Esther Chemtai third in 32:18.
Ethiopia’s 2011 winner Sentayehu Ejigu was surprisingly never a threat to Chepkirui and her compatriots, and finished a distant ninth in 33:59, one place ahead of Beverly Ramos, who set a new course record for female local runners in 34:12.
Out of 10,078 registered runners, 7882 started the race and 7813 Finished (4796 men and 3017 women).
This year, the race honoured 71-year old former weightlifter Fernando Luis Báez, who became the first Puerto Rican athlete to win a gold medal at the Pan American Games, when he won in 1967. He also took a bronze medal at the 1970 World Championships.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF