Peninsula native vying for centipede mark at Bay to Breakers 

Armen Vartanian has been gathering co-workers and other Bay Area runners to participate in breaking the world record for the longest centipede, but he won’t be participating personally. That’s because Vartanian, an elite runner and 2012 Olympic hopeful marathoner, will be attempting to set a record for fastest centipede.

Centipede racing is a huge deal among the elite athletes running in the ING Bay to Breakers, which simultaneously is host to the World Centipede Running Championships.

The elite centipede competition involves 13 runners who must stay connected from start to finish. Vartanian said he’s gathering his ringers to break the course record of 37 minutes, 39 seconds set in 1990.

His team includes several marathoners who have qualified for the Olympic trials, along with college stars and a Dipsea Race champion.

The Peninsula-raised Vartanian said watching the elite runners at Bay to Breakers as a child inspired him. In 2001, the same year he began training for triathlons, Vartanian became the youngest to qualify for Ironman Hawaii. Several years later, after recovering from injuries that sidelined him for months, he placed 33rd at the Boston Marathon after only three months of training.

At the Chicago Marathon in October, he said he’s gunning to best the Olympic trials qualifying mark of 2 hours, 19 minutes.

But at Sunday’s Bay to Breakers, Vartanian said he hopes that he and his teammates can inspire young people in the way he was inspired.

“It’s definitely the hometown race,” he said. “Whether you are in the running community or not, you know of the Bay to Breakers.”

Human centipede needs entrants

You don’t have to be an Olympic medalist — or even a high school track star — to break a world record in San Francisco on Sunday.

Adding to the many zany ideas that color the annual running of the ING Bay to Breakers, registered athletes are being asked to help shatter the record for the world’s longest human centipede, which would require thousands of runners to be bound together for the first 30 meters of the 12-kilometer race from downtown to Ocean Beach.

The current longest human centipede record is 2,026 people, set in Japan, race organizers said.

That feat should be beatable for several reasons. One, there are a large number of potential participants involved — 32,000 registered for the race last year. Also, the lead organizer for the world-record attempt, Armen Vartanian, works for the company known to connect thousands of people: LinkedIn.

“We want to express that we all work hard, but that we also want to try to find some balance in our lives,” said Vartanian, 30, who works in financial planning and analysis at the company. — Mike Aldax

Centipede history

Key dates for ING Bay to Breakers:

1978: Centipedes founded by Dwayne “Peanut” Harms from the men’s track team at UC Davis; trophies first awarded to special division of race called “centipedes,” or 13 runners connected as unit

1989: Qualifying men’s and women’s centipedes officially compete among seeded runners

1990: Reebok Aggies sets course record for fastest men’s time of 37 minutes, 39 seconds

1990: Reebok Aggies sets course record for fastest women’s time of 47 minutes, 36 seconds

Source: ING Bay to Breakers


ING Bay to Breakers

Details of the 99th annual footrace through The City:

When: Sunday

Start time: 8 a.m.

Where: Starts at Beale and Howard streets, finishes at Great Highway

Length: 12 kilometers (7.46 miles)

How to register:

Online registration ends: Noon Thursday

Source: ING Bay to Breakers

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