COURTESY DAVID CRUZDiane Johnson

Elite take race seriously, mostly

Bay to Breakers might be best known for the colorful costumes and party atmosphere, but that doesn't mean no runners will be taking it seriously today.

The event, now in its 103rd year, always draws its share of elite runners, though returning women's champion Diane Johnson said it's not as stressful as other events.

“It's fun and people are dressed up and they're being silly,” she said. “Sometimes it's nice to go to one of those races like this and just kind of enjoy.

“I never go there with any pressure,” she added. “I always want to do well because they do all the work to bring us in, but it's a great event and it's more laid back and fun. Even at the finish line it's fun all the time. Sometimes you need that because you have these big races we go to and it's hard to relax.”

Brendan Reilly, Johnson's agent, said this event fits well with Johnson, who is originally from Burundi in Africa but now trains in Iowa.

“She loves it,” he said. “She can have a beer, she loves to party, she loves to goof around. She's about the most Americanized African runner I've ever come across. She gets what it's all about.”

Reilly also represents two other runners in the race, Kevin Kipruto Kochei and Hillary Kipruto Cheshire, both of whom came to the U.S. for the first time in the past two weeks. He said the difference for them is that their native Kenya is just beginning to get races that don't include a trip to the Olympics as a part of the reward at the finish line.

An extra incentive will be available, however, as the first male and first female to the top of the Hayes Street Hill will get $2,500 as part of the Under Armor MapMyRun Hayes Hill Challenge. Reilly said that money, which amounts to two years' salary in Kenya, has motivated all three of his runners to make that push early in the race.

Johnson said whether or not she makes a push will depend on how she feels when she gets to that point.</p>

“Of course I'm going to try,” she said. “But it's not going to be the first thing I go for. It's going to be getting in my own race, and if I get there in the right timing, I'll do it.”

The opening gun goes off at 8 a.m. The race is expected to have 40,000 runners competing for more than $70,000 in total prize money.

Bay to BreakersDiane JohnsonOther SportsSan Francisco

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