Mamitu Daska has said that she would keep returning to compete in the Zazzle Bay to Breakers until she’s won it.
After doing just that in dominant fashion on Sunday, event organizers might need to find another reason for the Ethiopian phenom to return to compete again next year.
The soft-spoken 28-year-old separated herself from the pack after the first mile and never looked back in the 101st running of the 12-kilometer footrace, which ran under blue skies Sunday. The race starts at Howard and Beale streets, snakes through Golden Gate Park and ends on the Great Highway.
Daska not only won the women’s field in 39 minutes, 2 seconds, but was also the first runner to cross the finish line. She built such an early lead that she was able to hold off men’s winner Sammy Kitwara (34:41). The elite men’s field started the race about four minutes behind the elite women.
Being the first person, man or woman, to cross the finish line earned Daska the grand prize of $25,000. She netted an additional $7,000 for topping the women’s field, and another $5,000 for climbing Hayes Street Hill first.
Diane Nukuri Johnson, 27, the Burundi Olympian marathoner who ran at the University of Iowa, placed second for the women in 40:02. Jelliah Tinega of Kenya was third in 40:33.
Daska showed how experience can help at Bay to Breakers, which with its hills and sharp turns makes the colorful and storied race challenging, said Josh Muxen, the race’s elite athlete coordinator. She placed second in Bay to Breakers last year and third in 2010. Earlier this year, she won the 12K Lilac Bloomsday event.
After racing out to an early lead, Daska appeared to suffer a cramp more than halfway through the race. But she fought through it, keeping hold of a comfortable lead until the final meters, when Kitwara made his move. After crossing the finish line alone, she fell to the pavement and kissed the ground. Even then, it would take several minutes before Daska would smile.
“I am happy,” the Ethiopian eventually admitted.
The world record for the women is 38:07, set by Lineth Chepkurui of Kenya in 2010. Chepkurui did not compete in Bay to Breakers this year.