Running in the 'Meda: Bay to Breakers wrap-up

Running in the 'Meda: Bay to Breakers wrap-up

Marty Beene

This year's Bay to Breakers was a little unusual. Not dramatically so, but definitely unique.

As a sub-seeded runner, it has always been easy to get a properly timed warmup, not to mention proper hydration (knowing that you could use the Port-A-Potty a few minutes before the start). Over the past few years they've gone to chip timing, which has made the start less chaotic than in past years because people know that their official time only starts when they cross the line, not when the horn sounds. They also have started the waves with time between each wave - this year the plan was three minutes of separation.

My routine was going completely as planned - I even got to warm up side-by-side with several world class runners from Africa. I made my last trip to the bathroom so that I entered the elite/seeded/sub-seeded corral at 7:50 a.m. They had a few last minute announcements, a six-minute version of the "Star Spangled Banner" that included about 14,000 notes (which were, thankfully, in tune), and then ... "We're just waiting for an all-clear - should be just a minute."

After about 10 minutes, I could see people had stepped out in front of the starting line for some jogging, etc. to stay loose. At about a quarter after 8, I went up and did some of that. At 8:20, I realized that I kind of had to pee again. Not too bad, but, looking ahead about 30 minutes I hustled over to the side, hopped the fence, and zipped the 150 yards down Main Street to the Port-A-Potties. No sooner did I step into it than I heard "O.K.! 30 seconds to the start!" I finished what I was doing, heard the starting horn, then burst outside and started sprinting back to the start line. Argh!

If I had known that they were still going to keep "Corral A" behind the line for the planned three minute separation, I would have just taken my time getting back there. But I feared they would just start everyone right away because of the already-long delay. I envisioned having to weave in and out of 10 zillion joggers and walkers for the first two miles. They didn't. As soon as I got to the start, I went right across the start line, thus starting my own official time, and had 100 meters of empty space in front of me. Oh, and I was now in oxygen debt. Not exactly the start I wanted.

My pacing was off in the beginning because of the start situation, but then I hit miles two, three, four and five only a few seconds slower than my plan for each mile. Miles six and seven were supposed to be fast (for me anyway). Instead, I ran each of these miles 13 seconds slower than my plan - my legs just couldn't go any faster. The Mile Seven marker comes after a short, gentle, surprisingly uncomfortable uphill, but is then followed by a great downhill that I had forgotten about, so I ran with whatever gusto I could manage. I gave it my best sprint to the finish, and I'm pretty sure no one passed me in the last 100 meters or so.

Earlier, I had followed two of the competitive women's centipedes for much of the race, which was great - they were experienced runners going at a very consistent pace. One was dressed in white dress shirts, colorful sports bras, and underwear-type bottoms. Spectators continually shouted "Risky Business!!" to them all along the course. The other was a ladybug theme - very cute, with red shorts, black shirts, and black spots glued to their legs. They got lots of applause along the way, too. I did my best to catch them, but both finished ahead of me. I did not see as many naked runners as in the past, perhaps due to the cooler temperature this year.

My official time was 52:59, which, at exactly one minute slower than my goal, was definitely disappointing. My training was much better this year than last, yet I only ran nine seconds faster. My conclusion is that none of my "faster" workouts were done faster than about 6:45 pace, so I was not geared up for the kind of speed I wanted to have late in the race.

I ended up in 23rd place out of 1,035 in my age group (50-54). I found 242 Alamedans in the results (I was sixth), led by recent Cal Poly alum Derek Thomas in a blazing 39:37 (25th overall). My age group nemesis John West was the second fastest from the Island, at 48:44, good enough for fifth in the 50-54 group. The first Alameda woman was one of my former Hornet student-athletes, UCLA freshman Kelly Hosokawa, crossing in 55:32, seventh among Alamedans and in her age group. Congrats to all!

What was your B2B experience? Tell me in the comments.

Marty Beene, a USA Track & Field certified coach, is owner of Be The Runner; he coaches adults from beginners to veterans individually and in groups. Marty can be reached at


Submitted by Russ Grant (not verified) on Fri, May 23, 2014

Great article on your B2B race.

Submitted by Marty Beene on Fri, May 23, 2014

Thanks, Russ - it was really fun!