With the Ultramarathon Man - Dean Karnazes at last year's B2B Expo.
As many of you now know by now, I didn't take part in the 102nd Bay To Breakers 12K on Sunday. A number of people were surprised, as late as Saturday afternoon when telling them. I've heard the comments from people such as "he's cheap to pay the going rate for a 12K these days." There was another mentioning that I was afraid to participate because of the unfortunate tragedy that happened in Boston in April.
For the first time since doing this event for 32 years, it was nice to see the race from a different perspective. Sunday morning, I woke up at about 5:45 am and left the apartment for a 13-15 mile training run. I decided to run west along the Presidio route and through Land's End before heading south to Golden Gate Park. Roughly about 7:00 am, I was at the Great Highway and Kennedy Drive, the west end of the park.
Continuing in the park, I decided to run east towards Sperckles Lake which is a little over six miles into the race. Surprisingly, there weren't much in the way of spectators that I've seen in the past while running. The weather was fantastic with blue skies and no wind! A few minutes later, I saw the first runners. Tolossa Gedefa from Ethiopia was running in front followed by U.S. Olympian - Ryan Hall. Hall, in the red Asics singlet, was attempting to become the first American since Ed Eyestone in 1986 to win the event. Gedefa and Hall finished one-two.
Continuing east, I was surprised, not only at the lack of the SFPD, but the number of backpacks that the midpack runners were wearing. I thought that the SFPD was going to crack down on that. Also, there were numerous runners that had no bib numbers as well as the usual nude runners. I wondered how it was in other areas of the course, especially in the Panhandle and Alamo Square where I avoided running this year.
However, from my perspective, it was great to see the top runners run right before your very eyes. I had only seen this a couple of other times at the San Francisco Marathon. There were some very good runners today. There was a little nostalgia when seeing the original U.C. Davis centipede, the founders and first winners of the centipede division back in the late 1970s. I didn't feel old after all out there.
In the park, it seemed like smooth sailing for the runners but a lack of spectators. In defense, there was another event on Sunday with the Tour de California bike race that began at the Marina Green.
I've already talked too much about why I didn't run this year. For the first time since 1991, I didn't enter. Here is the list:
1.) High entry fee.
2). No participant medals (only given out in 2011 and 2012). Seems like the runners are paying more for less.
3). Course change at about the seven mile mark that didn't make any kind of sense.
4). Increased entry fee in early March before the Across The Bay 12K race.
5). Despite a 48 hour reduction in the entry fee (I believe in May), the corral that I was in the past several years was already filled. No way was I going to pay and wait in a 16 minute a mile corral when averaging eight minutes a mile in this event!
6). Had made a commitment in late February to run the San Francisco Marathon in June.
7). Have been disappointed with the race organization for several years. Didn't see much of an improvement this year.
This year is not the first time that I've been disappointed with this race. It probably won't be the last either!
The 1977 Bay To Breakers had become an event that the race organizer at the time, Frank Geis, needed some much needed help. The race became uncontrollable with unofficial runners jumping in from side streets and more. I was knocked down twice in 1977, but got up with scrapes on my legs and finished in the top 100. Until there was better organization, I didn't return until 1982, thanks to a conversation with Len Wallach and his organization. In 1984, Len was instrumental with the success of the Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games and his role with the men's and women's marathons.
In the 1990s, I suggested time after time to the Bay To Breakers organizers that they needed to do a wave start. It was something that I first saw in 1984 when running in Boulder, Colorado with the Bolder Boulder 10K. It's very successful at doing it as is the Boston and New York City Marathons currently. The organization didn't seem to think it was important.
Then in 2001, the Examiner newspaper changed ownership. Initially, things seemed the same as year's past. There was a change of television stations covering the event from KPIX to KGO. Remembering how both stations handled it, they did it well with professionalism.
In 2002, it really changed with KRON 4 taking over the televison coverage. It seemed that KRON 4 treated it more of a comedy show rather than a race-event that KGO and KPIX provided. In 2010, KRON didn't even show it live despite the fact that they had the rights to the telecast. That year, the course record was broken, an unfortunate happening for the race organizers and the television station.
The entry fees have skyrocketed thanks to a change of sponsorship from Albertson's to ING to Zazzle. The collectable t-shirts were more than a disappointment. The 100th edition t-shirt was a disaster when compared with the past t-shirts that we saw at the expo. It was reminiscing to see the t-shirts from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. The following year, there was no t-shirt for the first time since the early 1980s unless you wanted to pay $40 for one (thanks to Zazzle)!
There has been an increased problem with drinking in several neighborhoods. There were some issues with a lack of porta-potties in several areas which caused some ugly scenes in the Alamo Square and Panhandle areas. The rumblings of canceling the event even before the centennial race in 2011 made headlines.
Another tradition known as Footstock has been eliminated. You could pick up your t-shirt at the Polo Fields, listen to some music, meet friends and unwind after a cross city 12K
The organizers haven't been totally wrong though. Several years ago, they're finally using the wave system nearly 20 years after my initial conversations with previous organizers. It has made the race more smooth, especially what I've experienced over the years. Then, of course, there are less entrants now than in years past.
There seems to be less people jumping in from the side streets, something that was dangerous in the past. Thanks to the human walls early in the race, it has made it better.
Though Craigslist came on board late, there needed to be a major sponsor. Hopefully, it will be better than the last two sponsors.
I did see this year's t-shirt, but not too closely while spectating-running on this day. Definitely, the quality looked better than it did two years ago!
Despite all of what I posted in the above paragraphs, I still participated until this year. However, my seven reasons early in this post were the reasons I didn't run on this beautiful Sunday. Regrets? No way!
The third Sunday of May in 2014 will. hopefully, be another story. Definitely, I would like to run it again for the 33rd time!