eric sun/special to the S.f. examinerDiane Johnson was the first female finisher of Bay to Breakers this year.

Diane Johnson wins second Bay to Breakers race in a row

Just weeks removed from a 12th-place finish at the London Marathon, American Diane Johnson defended her Bay to Breakers title with a time of 40 minutes, 15 seconds — 3 seconds better than last year's winning time. She earned a $3,000 prize.

Johnson spent several weeks recuperating from the London race, held on April 14, and only began training in earnest for Sunday's 12-kilometer (7.46-mile) race 2½ weeks ago.

A scaffolding issue at the crest of Hayes Street caused a 25-minute delay to the scheduled 8 a.m. start, but Johnson shrugged that distraction aside to head out in front of the women's field for the first 2 miles of the race.

At the Hayes Street Hill, the pace quickened and several female runners overtook Johnson, but she kept to her plan.

“Right before the hill, there was a push, but I just kept with my stride, and my pace, to the top,” Johnson said. “The goal was to get my pace and start pushing once we got past the hill. That's exactly what I did last year, and it's what I did today.”

Johnson made her definitive move some 800 meters after the hill, and managed to keep her reacquired lead ahead of eventual second-place finisher Sara Hall (USA).

Sophy Jepchirchir of Kenya finished third.

“Sara is an amazing runner, and she was definitely getting closer,” Johnson said. “I knew if she was with me in the last 100 meters, she'd have a good chance to beat me. I only had my strength to go on.”

This race kicks off the summer season of distance racing, Johnson said, noting that the laid-back vibe and fervent crowd support make it the “perfect place to start.”

“Considering I just came off a marathon, and I've only been training for a couple of weeks, I felt good,” Johnson said. “There's always good runners here. It's a little hard to get going, and this race feels like a sprint, but I'm really glad with how it went.”

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