It was the saints vs. the sinners Sunday at Golden Gate Park. In what has come to be the Exotic Erotic Ball of running, the 90th Annual Examiner Bay to Breakers attracted Jesus Freaks and presumed atheists to heckle them. It attracted nudists and semi-nudists, bare-asses and - eegadzook – frontal nudity!! There were costumed runners in wedding-gowns, <I>faux</I> tuxedos, a guy walking in a cage, people with blue hair, purple hair, no hair. There were gays, straights and in-betweens. One guy claimed that the Dalai Lamai owned slaves, which he announced to the runners while telling them to “be happy, I know everything.” Rock bands of varied stripe lined the boulevards.
70,000 people showed up on a foggy morning that eventually turned into a sunny day. 45,00 of them were runners. Some were would-be athletes. Others were minimally athletic. Some had no business being there, but of course they had every right to do their thing. That is the spirit of the Bay to Breakers.
The youngest participant was “Bay” Lee, the third daughter of Ernie Lee, the course director who works for Peter Nantel’s West End Management, and his wife Bernadette. She was exactly one hour and 34 minutes old when the race started. “Bay”, you see, was born outside at the park when Bernadette went into sudden labor and just, well, delivered. Examiner publisher Ted Fang joked that her name would be Bay, but this cannot be confirmed. Mother and daughter were taken to a local hospital and are said to be fine.
Other than that, there were no major medical problems amongst the runners.
There were also some first class athletes.
Man, those Kenyans can run
It all started in 1968 when Kipchoge Keino stunned the world by defeating Jim Ryun of the U.S. in the high-altitude mile at Mexico City. Kenyans train on a mountain called “Mt. Agony” in their homeland. Keino’s gold medal came on the heels of another great African long-distance man, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopa, who won the 1964 Tokyo Marathon (see the opening credits of “Marathon Man” for film clips of Bikila).
Keino, a coach now in Kenya, is a revered icon.
“He tells me to train hard,” said James Koskei, who won the men’s competition at 34.19 over the 7.46-mile course. The run starts at Spear and Howard on the Bay, winds through downtown, over the hill, and into Golden Gate Park. It ends at JFK Drive at the Great Highway. “Mexico City was a major event in Kenyan running history.”
Koskei is almost seven years younger than the man he beat in a neck-to-neck contest, Reuben Cheruiyot.
“Yes, I acknowledge that he is the older man,” said Koskei with a sly smile. “I wanted to set the pace. We jockied for position. Previous races I have lost, but I didn’t think he had enough to pass me. I was telling him to come run with me, for the challenge, but it was friendly. I want somebody to run with, like in practice. The <Hayes Street> Hill pushed me at the beginning, but not at the end. Yes, it was tough. I was not in the lead at the hill, and was afraid Cheruiyot would have good kick down the hill. This was different from the race last year. It was better. I’ll buy him dinner. I like the weather better than humidity, like at Crescent City <a race he ran recently in New Orleans>.”
On the women’s side, Jane Ngotho came in number one at 40.35.
“I finished sixth last year,” said Ngotho, of Nyrri, Kenya. All of the top five finishers in the men’s and women’s races were Kenyan, with the exception of Morocco’s El Arbi Khattabi, who finished third at 34.40.
“Last year I did not feel so good,” continued Ngotho. <this year> “The hill was good, I was strong.”
Ngotho, who trains in Boulder, Colorado, smiled. She has a lovely smile that unmasks her guarded personality, but on this day in San Francisco, she was feeling pretty good.
“Kip Keino is a coach in Kenya,” she continued, like the others giving credit to the running great. “However, I have my own coach, and a manager. My coach did not come <to San Francisco>, but my manager did. Keino and many of the older runners in Kenya push the younger runners. It starts in school. First, we run to school and back. I ran five kilometers to school, in the morning and the evening. Plus, we have track clubs established with good coaching. Volleyball and football <soccer> are also popular. I get on TV in my country and I am well known there.”
As for the Bay to Breakers, that started 90 years ago, and the Examiner continues to maintain its sponsorship of the event.
“The race started several years after the Great Earthquake of 1906,” said Florence Fang, Ted Fang’s mother. “It’s very important for this paper to continue the tradition, and we’re very pleased to do so.”
Ted Fang seemed extra pleased. He was able to wear three hats on Sunday. First, he presided over the successful event sponsored by his paper. Second, as a publisher he had to be happy with all those potential subscribers who showed up. Thirdly, he was able to be a journalist.
It was Fang, you see, who broke the “Baby to Bay” story with a twinkle in his eye.
Lori Stich-Zimmerman was typical of the type of person who enjoyed participating. Her husband, Paul Zimmerman, won in the Master’s Division. Stich-Zimmerman is from Michigan, but lives in Oregon now.
“I was here for a wedding in Napa,” she related. “I got home at one AM and made it here for the race. People thought I was crazy, but that’s the spirit of runners.”
Stich-Zimmerman, who ran in the 1996 San Francisco Marathon, stretching from Marin over the Golden Gate Bridge, to Chinatown, then the ocean.
“I was running on adrenaline,” she said of her Sunday run operating one five hours sleep. She was not the only one.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism