Long distance specialist Sammy Kitwara ran away from the field of nearly 40,000 competitors in San Francisco on Sunday morning, posting a time of 34:40.5, in the 101st running of the Zazzle Bay to Breakers race.
The 25-year-old Kenyan seems to have found his groove in the Bay area, as this was his third win in four years. Due to a scheduling conflict, he didn't participate in the lone contest that he didn't win (2010).
Finishing in third, fourth and fifth place were Direba Merga, Lani Kiplagat and Tesfaye Sendeku, respectively.
Kitwara, who is in the midst of building his own Bay to Breakers dynasty, said after the race that he wasn't completely content with winning because he wasn't able to win the $25,000 prize that he so coveted. That prize is awarded to the runner who crosses the finish line before all other competitors, regardless of gender. Hey, I guess it's not enough to run 12K (7.46 miles) in just over a half hour. He must really need that $25,000 to feel even better about himself. He also failed to best his own course record of 33:31 that he set in 2009.
Ethiopian Mamitu Daska of the women's group actually crossed the finish line first with a time of 39:02.4 thanks in part to a gender-equalization system that has the women start ahead of the men. She received a payout of $25,000, while Kitwara grabbed $7,000 for being the first male finisher and an extra $5,000 for being the first male competitor to cross the Hayes Street Hill marker.
The race has come a long way since its inaugural running that only registered 186 participants. The race is one-of-a-kind in the way that it blends humor with competitive running. The real serious runners set their sights on setting course records, while some of the not-so-serious competitors use boozing to get themselves through the day. (And no, I didn't go scouring the Internet for a picture like that; it's taken straight from the race).
Other participants got plenty of attention with their extravagant costumes and it was easy to tell that at least a select few of the participants were not interested in the competitive aspect of the race. Especially Holly Kelly and the singing Oompa Loompas, who won the best musical theme costume contest and a $500 Zazzle shopping spree.
There was one family who each dressed up as a different San Francisco landmark. How someone dresses up as the Golden Gate bridge or Alcatraz is beyond my imagination, but they won tickets to a San Francisco Giants game for their efforts.
Other costume contest winners include Jerry Koyanagi as "Techno Man," John Hearny, who dressed up as the Bay to Breakers 100th anniversary birthday cake, and Emily Wang and the Royal Runaway Party, who each ran the race as a member of the British Royal family.
While Kitwara certainly didn't expect any competition from the costume wearers, he surely expected the serious competitors to put up more of a fight. He crossed the finish line nearly 19 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, fellow Kenyan Allan Kiprono.
As for the American participants, Meb Keflezighi, Brian Harvey, Steve Murdock and Daniel Filipcik finished in sixth, seventh, eighth and 10th place in the race, respectively.
The annual race begins at the corner of Howard and Beale, winding its way to the Great Highway at Ocean Beach. Competitors dealt with brutal uphill terrain and less than cool temperatures this year.
Quite an interesting tradition that the Bay area has going on here that incorporates competitive spirit into good old-fashioned family fun.