Mary Wacera , World Half Silver Medallist, Eager to Continue Successful Year at Healthy Kidney 10-K
NEW YORK (09-May) — In the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, Kenya’s Mary Wacera watched as hundreds of New York City school children raced around a 300-meter track. Smiling from ear to ear, the 25-year-old mother thought of her daughter, Ann, who is back home in Nyahururu. She could envision her 3-year-old bundle of joy racing among the kids, having fun passing the baton off and screaming encouragement with glee.
“I think so, she is very active,” Wacera told Race Results Weekly, a grin spreading across her face. “It is fun and the kids are so nice. So friendly… She’d be just like them.”
Here for the tenth annual UAE Healthy Kidney 10-K, her first-ever race in New York City, Wacera is ready to give her all through one loop of Central Park. She hopes to claim victory, just like so many elementary and middle school children did here at the New York Road Runners Developmental Track & Field Series meet this afternoon.
If Wacera does win the $25,000 first place prize –the largest non-marathon first prize in the United States– it will only add to what has been a breakthrough year.
In February, Wacera traveled to Puerto Rico, surprising many by defeating a stellar field at the World’s Best 10-K. Timing 32:06 on a hot day, Wacera finished ahead of a long list of notable East African talent: Gladys Cherono, Linet Masai, Belaynesh Oljira, Joyce Chepkirui, Emily Chebet, Betsy Saina, Sentayehu Ejigu, and Sally Kipyego.
The moment Wacera crossed the finish line in San Juan, she knew her life had changed for the better.
“It was a life-changing moment because it boosted me to where I can get into the biggest races if I want. And I got [an] endorsement with Nike. It was a good day in my life. Yes,” she said, pausing to look back and reflect. “I think it’s a lot of things have changed.”
Before the World’s Best 10-K victory, Wacera couldn’t get into many notable fast races. Although she won the Kenyan National 5000m title in 2013 at altitude in 16:03.7 (racing under the name Mary Wachera), she was limited in her racing opportunities.
“Last year I didn’t have access to good races. So maybe I was in shape but the races I got I couldn’t perform. They were not faster, not many fast competitors,” she recalls. “When I went to the World’s Best, it changed a lot of things because that’s the race where I was selected to run the World Half.”
Indeed, winning the World’s Best 10-K helped earn Wacera a selection to the IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships in Denmark on March 29. At that race, Wacera earned a silver medal in a personal best time of 1:07:44. The only woman to beat her was teammate Gladys Cherono.
“At the World Half I ran my PB and I did so far so fast, I felt pretty good,” she said, smiling once again. “At the start of the year I knew I was in good shape but I didn’t know if it was going to be the best year of my career because you never can be sure.”
Although her personal best 10-K comes from France’s Les Foulees Monterelaises in 2012 (31:28), Wacera isn’t counting out a new personal record come Saturday. The event best stands at 33:09, a mark that should come tumbling down because this is the first year an elite women’s field is part of the UAE Healthy Kidney 10-K. There is also a massive $30,000 bonus for a sub-30:44 finish time for the winner.
“I think this is a very good start for the year and I hope everything can be the same [going forward]. I hope it can be a great year, a great end as well,” she said. “I think I will do good. I do not know how it will go [on Saturday] but I will do my best.”
Wacera will be up against Joyce Chepkirui, the fastest woman in the field and the Prague Half-Marathon champion, as well as four-time World Championships medalist Geleta Burka, and reigning NYRR Oakley Mini 10-K champion Mamitu Daska.
If Wacera duplicates her World’s Best 10-K performance and claims victory, she’d be over the moon, just like all the children running back and forth beside her on Friday at Manhattan’s Verizon Athletic Field.
“If I did that myself, I’d be so happy. I’m just hoping for the best,” she said.