Simply winning the men’s field of the Zazzle Bay to Breakers is not enough anymore for Sammy Kitwara.
Having won the race the past three times he’s run it, the 25-year-old Kenyan speedster said he was disappointed following his victory in Sunday’s 101st running of the event, which starts at Howard and Beale streets, runs through Golden Gate Park and ends at the Great Highway.
Though he sped out to an early lead in the men’s field, which starts about four minutes after the women’s field, Kitwara was unable to catch up to 28-year-old Mamitu Daska on the Great Highway. Therefore, it was Daska who won the $25,000 grand prize that goes to the first person to cross the finish line, man or woman.
Kitwara finished in 34 minutes, 41 seconds, a far cry from his 2009 victory time of 33:31, which set a world record in the 12K. He also won Bay to Breakers in 2010, but did not compete last year due to a scheduling conflict.
Meanwhile, Daska finished in 39:02.
Allan Kiprono, 22, of Kenya, who finished third for the men last year, took second place this year in 34:49. Direba Merga of Ethiopia finished third in 35:43.
The talkative, good-humored Kitwara, who has become a fan favorite at the storied San Francisco race, complained of a slower than expected men’s field this year. He said his race strategy counted upon the pace of runners who’d been trailing him, but they weren’t keeping up. He said his swift start simply wasn’t fast enough to surpass Daska. He said he had been gunning for top prize money.
“If I could, I’d tell you what I’d do with $25,000,” Kitwara said jokingly after the race.
Still, Kitwara had plenty of reason to cheer. He still pulled in $7,000 for topping the men’s field, and an additional $5,000 for being the first male athlete to cross over the steep and treacherous Hayes Street Hill.
Kitwara is simply an incredible competitor, said Josh Muxen, the race’s elite athlete coordinator. Kitwara has crossed Hayes Street Hill first every time he’s run B2B, he said.
“When you’re as great an athlete as Sammy, you’re always pushing yourself toward that next competitive goal every time you run,” Muxen said.
Kitwara hinted at the possibility of coming back again to claim the top money prize.
“We thought about letting him win three trophies [Sunday], but his suitcase was full,” Muxen said.