The dense morning fog lifted just in time for the start of the 10th annual UAE Healthy Kidney 10K in Central Park this morning, but it left behind a blanket of humidity that made the race especially tough. Nearly 8,000 runners completed the slog, with the pros up front delivering some of the fastest times ever seen in Central Park despite the swampy conditions.
Stephen Sambu, of Kenya, won the men’s race in 27 minutes and 39 seconds, destroying his competition in what he called the “best race” of his career. Joyce Chepkirui, also of Kenya, took the women’s race in 31:17. Both won $25,000 from the race’s sponsor, United Arab Emirates, for their wins—the largest cash prize for a 10K in the United States.
Sambu hung back for the first 5K, just behind last year’s winner, fellow Kenyan Leonard Patrick Komon, who holds world records in both the 10K and 15K. Finishing today’s race in 28:17, Komon said the humidity slowed him down. "I ran my best today, but I wasn’t moving as well as I’d have liked," he said after the race, still dripping with sweat. Daniel Meucci, of Italy, took 3rd just two seconds later, in 28:19.
Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia and Mary Wacera of Kenya trailed Chepkirui, finishing in 31:40 and 31:52, respectively.
Meanwhile, mid-pack runners like Steven McWilliams agreed that the humidity made it “a hard day to PR.” But lack of sleep might have played a part too, he admits with a laugh. A bartender at Flaming Saddles in Hell’s Kitchen, McWilliams spent last night slinging drinks and dancing on the bar in cowboy boots until 4:30 a.m. – a sacrifice he’s willing to make to get his 9+1 guaranteed entry for the 2015 New York City Marathon and to make sure he’s in shape for the Brooklyn Half next Saturday.
He’ll go through the same routine tomorrow, at the Japan Day 4-Miler, but he’s not complaining. “I had a great time,” he said, “and I really like the medals—they’re heavy!”