Diane Nukuri-Johnson would like to run Bay to Breakers in a costume someday, maybe even a wedding dress. But on Sunday, she kept it simple en route to finishing first among women runners.
Wearing the traditional red-and-black runner’s attire, Nukuri-Johnson won her first Craigslist Bay to Breakers by zipping through the 12-kilometer course in 40:12, topping her second-place finish in last year’s race.
“It’s awesome; it’s like Halloween,” Nukuri-Johnson said of the costumed participants the race is well-known for. “Hopefully, when I’m done [with competitive] running, I’ll come back here and run one in a costume. I would love that.”
The Burundian runner finished second in this year’s New York City half-marathon and eighth in the Boston Marathon, but she wasn’t sure what to expect Sunday in the 102nd Bay to Breakers because she spent the week in Iowa attending her husband’s graduation from law school.
“I came here because I love the race,” she said. “It’s really cool and I just wanted to be part of it again.”
Nukuri-Johnson, 28, trailed second-place finisher Adrienne Herzog as she started running up the Hayes Street Hill, and for a moment doubt set in.
“I felt like I was running backwards,” Nukuri-Johnson said. “My legs started feeling tight just like they did toward the end of the Boston Marathon, and I thought, ‘This isn’t good.’”
Once she conquered the hill, she started closing ground and eventually passed Herzog, a Dutch runner, shorty after the 4-mile mark in Golden Gate Park.
“The first 4 miles are the hardest and I didn’t know the course really well,” said Herzog, who was running Bay to Breakers for the first time. “I maybe should have been a little more conservative.
As Nukuri-Johnson pushed through the park, she stretched her lead and eventually beat Herzog by 30 seconds. Berkeley’s Chelsea Reilley placed third with a time of 40:56.
Nukuri-Johnson said she will return next year to defend her title — but the bridal gown will remain in the closet for now.
“I would love to come back here every year if I can,” she said. “It’s fun and the people in San Francisco are great.”