Runners don’t let rain dampen spirits at San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers

By Margie Mason, The Associated Press
Monday May 20, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO – Some 75,000 racers slogged through early morning mist and rains Sunday, but the wacky San Francisco spirit synonymous with the Bay to Breakers footrace shone bright in everything from a ‘trailer-trash’ float to a few runners sporting nothing but a smile. 

“It’s so much fun,” said Catherine Wagner, dressed as Wonder Woman for her seventh race. “It’s the quintessential San Francisco moment.” 

The 7.46-mile, 91st annual race was a sea of color as it snaked its way up and down the city’s famous Hayes Street hill. World-class runners meshed with costumed participants in one of the nation’s oldest and largest footraces. 

James Koskei, the defending champion from Kenya, shaved 16 seconds off last year’s time to finish in first place at 34 minutes, 3 seconds, with his competitors, Tom Nayariki (34:05) and Simson Limareng (34:06) coming in right behind him. Kenyans swept the top nine spots in the race. 

“The race was very, very competitive,” Koskei said. “Competitors were stronger than last year.” 

The top woman finisher was Luminita Talpos of Romania at 39:15. She narrowly avoided a collision when the fleet-footed Microsoft-sponsored centipede in front of her stumbled on the final stretch. A centipede is a team of runners tethered together and competing as a unit, often with the unspoken goal of trying to beat the fastest woman. 

But for the majority of runners, many of whom were lugging picnic baskets and beer kegs, it was all about huffing it to the finish line at Golden Gate Park where they would kick back on the grass with friends and family to enjoy food and music. 

“We’re going to have a barbecue at the end,” said Adam Conway of San Diego, holding a plastic battle shield and pushing a Roman chariot equipped with a grill, keg, doughnuts and sausage.