Mary Wacera (left, 41) in action at the World's Best 10K in San Juan (© Organisers)
Kenyans Bedan Karoki and Mary Wacera made a brilliant debut on the Teodoro Moscoso bridge and prevailed over a large African contingent to become the 2014 champions at the World’s Best 10K, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, whose 17th edition was held Sunday (23) afternoon in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan.
For world and Olympic 10,000m finalist Karoki and 2006 world junior bronze medallist Wacera, it was their most important road win of their international career.
How the races unfolded
With temperatures hovering around 27°C, a large group of about 20 runners, led by New Zealander Zane Robertson, followed a pedestrian pace, covering the first three kilometres in nine minutes.
The lead pack hit the half-way mark in 14:26 and was reduced to six men after eight kilometres.
Karoki made his move with two kilometres to go, gaining a 50-meter lead that increased by the time he crossed the finish line in 28:35, the second-slowest winning time since the race became international in 2000.
“I felt a strong wind, especially in the first kilometres. That’s why I stayed in the pack. When I saw the time after the eighth kilometre, I decided it was the right moment to break away,” said the 23-year-old, who was followed by his fellow countrymen Vincent Chepkok (28:46), Kenneth Kipkemoi (28:51), Paul Tanui (28:59) and John Kipkoech (29:04).
Karoki maintained the Kenyan dominance at the World’s Best 10k, following the footsteps of another countryman, four-time winner Sammy Kitwara, who was absent this time.
In the women’s race, fifteen athletes also followed a conservative pace in the first third of the race, covering the first three kilometres in 10:09.
Progressively, the lead group shrank to four with two kilometres to go on Barbosa Avenue. Wacera made her move and her countrywomen Gladys Cherono, Linet Masai and defending champion Joyce Chepkirui could not respond.
The 25-year-old went on to win in 32:06, a personal best on the road by more than a minute-and-a-half. World 10,000m silver medallist Cherono settled for second in 32:09, followed by Masai (32:13), who repeated her third-place finish from 2012.
“I am satisfied with the win, but I was not sure until I crossed the finish line,” said the winner, who praised her hosts for a good organisation.
Ethiopia’s world 10,000m bronze medallist Belaynesh Oljira followed in fourth (32:24), ahead of Chepkirui (32:32).
Ethiopian Sentayehu Ejigu, winner in 2011, finished eighth in 33:06, one spot higher than Kenya’s world and Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Sally Kipyego (33:14).
Both winners pocketed $15,000 each for their effort.
Mizael Carrera (30:47) and two-time CAC Games champion Beverly Ramos (34:26) took the top honours among Puerto Rican runners. For Ramos, it was her fourth consecutive title.
Out of 10,715 runners who started the race at 5:25pm local time, 9052 finished.
The race was 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 edition honoured Sara Rosario, president of the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee. Past honourees include two-time world silver and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Javier Culson.
The World’s Best 10K, which earned the status of IAAF Gold Label in 2008, witnessed the still-standing world 10km record in 2003, when Britain’s marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe ran 30:21.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF