aviewfromthebrink.typepad.com > Bay To Breakers 2009

Everything seemed to be working against city officials yesterday at Bay to Breakers 2009. They had announced that public intoxication and nudity would not be tolerated this year, however, plus-90 degree heat and tens of thousands of people trashed plans for cracking down on the 98th running of this annual bacchanal as much as they trashed the route from San Francisco Bay to the Pacific at Ocean Beach. *** Though many kegs of beer were confiscated and a few people were arrested, police say there were no reports of injuries from fights. *** It's understood that this really is an official "race" but it's no secret that most "runners" who show up aren't really all that interested in who wins; though they are interested in seeing and being seen as they put forth all the effort required to finish the course. Considering the level of booze consumption, just reaching the finish line could be considered a genuine achievement. *** Bay to Breakers is a seven-plus mile, or 12 kilometer race from one side of San Francisco to the other, with the competition including world-class runners from every continent. It goes from sea level at the Embarcadero, uphill at a grade that hits ll.15 percent at one point, to 215 feet above sea level, then back down to sea level again via the beautiful Golden Gate Park, which, conveniently enough, is basically my front yard. *** This year Sammy Kitwara, 22, of Kenya broke the all-time record for this race, coming in at 33 minutes, 31 seconds, topping the previous record by 11 seconds and earning him $40,000. The Kenyans traditionally dominate this race. *** Teyba Erkesso, 26, of Ethiopia was the fastest woman this year at 38 minutes, 29 seconds and she earned $7,000. She missed breaking the all-time women's record for this race by seven seconds. *** Sponsors claim that the Bay to Breakers race is the oldest consecutively run footrace in the world. Established in 1912 as the San Francisco Cross City Race to raise the city's spirits after the earthquake a half-dozen years earlier, it was held on New Year's Day, had slightly less than 200 people running and Robert Jackson Vlught won with a time of 44 minutes and 10 seconds. *** The first female to participate was Bobbie Burke, who ran disguised as a man in 1940. This was the first year that anyone wore a costume in the race but she was not alone; a man dressed as the pirate Captain Kidd, and, perhaps establishing a tradition for costumed runners that continues to this day, he came in dead last. *** It was moved to the month of May in 1949, saw attendence drop to a low of 25 runners in 1963 and was renamed Bay to Breakers the next year. *** The youngest winner, Maryetta Boitano, was only 10 years-old in 1974, when she won the women's division and set a women's standard record with a time of 43:22. She first ran the Bay to Breakers as a 5 year-old in 1969 and also went on to win the women's division in 1975 and '76. *** In 1986 the race made the Guiness World Book of Records as the world's largest foot race, with 78,769 registered runners and an estimated total participation of 110,000. *** In 1993 it became the first official 12 Kilometer National Championship recognized by the US Track and Field Association. *** While the foot-race aspects of this event are interesting, they're not quite what really what make this race truly special. To see what does make it something different from just about all other races, please review the photographs below.

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