By John Crowley | Staff Writer
Published on Monday, May 17, 2004
For the most part, the Kenyan runners in the 93rd Albertsons Bay to Breakers brought with them a long list of accomplishments, resumes overflowing with the excellence that is synonymous with their nation's road-racing history.
And then there is Benjamin Maiyo, whose humble biography simply states his nationality, age and a pair of times from 2002, one at the distance of 5 kilometers, the other at 10K.
It's time to add another entry to his competitive ledger, which while short, is nevertheless impressive. The 25-year-old Maiyo was the class of the field Sunday, easily outdistancing three-time champion and fellow countryman James Koskei for his first victory on the 7.46-mile (12K) San Francisco course. His win, in a time of 34 minutes, 50 seconds, marked the 14th straight year the world's largest footrace was won by a Kenyan.
Whether it's the weekend warrior with a blister or the world-class athlete with a tight hamstring, on a sunny but windy day the famed Hayes Street Hill proved to be the difference-maker.
Three Kenyans ---- Maiyo, Koskei and John Itati ---- broke from a pack of 14 runners as they ascended the challenging half-mile incline, which rises to a height of 200 feet above sea level.
Itati, who finished second to Koskei last year, surged ahead as they approached the 2-mile mark. At one point, the trio's pace threatened to approach Ismael Kirui's 1993 race record of 33:42.
But the 30-year-old Itati, who won the 2003 Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City in an impressive 3:56, did not have legs for the long haul.
Maiyo and Koskei reeled him in at the crest of the Hayes Street hill. By the time they'd reached the bottom, Maiyo had established a 10-yard lead over Koskei, who could not shake Itati.
"I looked back and I felt strong and I decided to go," Maiyo said. "I was ready for (Koskei) because I was feeling that my shape was good."
Koskei was nursing a hamstring strain that's plagued him for the last three months. It caused him to pull out of last month's Boston Marathon, and it left him defenseless to Maiyo's charge as they made their way west toward Golden Gate Park.
"It didn't happen. I tried to will myself but it didn't happen," Koskei said of his bid to match Arturo Barrios (1987-'88-'89-'90) as a four-time champion. "[Finishing second] was not by accident. It was difficult to accelerate. It's not so bad, but my leg did not want me to push."
Maiyo, whose top 5K (13:02) and 10K (27:07) times rank him among the world's elite, was in control at the 20-minute mark as the three runners passed by the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.
"This race has belonged to (Koskei) but today I can say that it was mine," said Maiyo, who was making his first Albertsons Bay to Breakers appearance.
Maiyo, clad in a black singlet and black shorts, breezed down the 400-yard beachfront stretch toward the finish line. Koskei, wearing white and black, finished at 35:01 with Itati, all in red, crossing the line in 35:12.
Kenyans occupied the top seven spots: A trio of youngsters, 23-year-old Reuben Chebii (35:43), 21-year-old Linus Maiyo (35:49) and 20-year-old Patrick Nthiwa (36:16) finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively; countryman Nelson Kiplagat (36:17) was seventh.
The top American finisher was eighth-place Peter Julian of Boulder, Colo. He engaged Nthiwa and Kiplagat in a furious sprint down the stretch but fell just short in a time of 36:18. Palo Alto's Greg Jimmerson (36.33) was the top Bay Area finisher, followed by Peter Gilmore of Menlo Park, the winner of the 2003 San Francisco Marathon, in a time of 36:53. San Francisco's Chris Lundstrom, the former Stanford standout, was The City's top finisher. He was 11th in a time of 37:32.
"It would be a shame not to run Bay to Breakers, being a San Francisco runner," Lundstrom said. "I was hoping to run under 37, but that's OK. I run the race because it's fun. You have to take everything in stride ---- the flying tortillas, the running Elvises. It's a little hard to stay focused, but it's a great time."
Men's race Top five overall:
- Benjamin Maiyo, Kenya
- James Koskei
- John Itati
- Reuben Chebii
- Linus Maiyo
Top Bay Area runner: Greg Jimmerson, Los Altos Hill
Top American: Peter Julian, Boulder, Colo.
Top Centipede: Autodesk
Facts (from official race website)
- The race is the longest consecutively run footrace in the world.
- More than 70,000 runners participate annually. They run the gamut from serious world-class athletes, through more modest weekend warriors, to the costumed contenders who set this race apart from all others.
- No women participated until 1940, when Bobbie Burke unofficially entered and finished the race. It was not until 1971 that the first officially registered woman, Dr. Frances Conley, crossed the finish line.
- Each year, our Medical Staff will treat about 450 runners, mostly for blisters and muscle strains.
- There are 520 portable toilets at the event.
- 8,500 cases of water will be distributed along the course and throughout the Bay to Breakers weekend.
Click here for page 1 of Bay to Breakers.
No Naked Runners, thank heavens!
If you want to see more nudity, just sign up for next year's race!