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By David Monti
(c) 2008 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Part parade, part fashion show, and part road race, the 97th ING Bay to Breakers returns to the streets of San Francisco on Sunday, and organizers expect some 70,000 runners and walkers (about half of them unregistered) to take part.

Up front, the race is serious business.  Elite athlete coordinator Josh Muxen has assembled a strong field to chase a $74,000 prize money purse, including a special $25,000 ING Battle to the Breakers bonus which will be awarded to the first athlete to cross the finish line.  That could be a man or it could be a woman; women are given a four minute and 40 second headstart based on the difference between the male (33:42) and female (38:22) course records.

In addition, there is a $5000 bonus for the first man and first woman to reach the top of Hayes Street Hill, a beast of a climb which begins at the two mile mark on Franklin Street, rises 201 feet, and covers a distance of 0.69 miles.  Athletes can pocket the bonus as long as they also finish in the top-20.

"It's a lot steeper than any of the bigger hills in the major races," said Peter Gilmore, the top USA entrant in the race.

The first place man and women each earn $7,000, so it is possible for one athlete to earn $37,000 in bonus and prize money if he or she wins both bonuses.  That's what last year's women's champion, Edna Kiplagat, did.

The women's field is led by Kenyans Lineth Chepkurui, who won the Lilac Bloomsday Run (also a 12-K) on May 4, and the versatile Rose Kosgei, who won the Medtronic TC 1 Mile in Minneapolis last Thursday.  The top Ethiopians are Genet Getaneh, Tigist Tufa and Amane Gobena.  Alina Alekseyeva is the top entrant from Russia, and Clara Peterson (the former Clara Horowitz of Duke University) is the top American woman entered.

Not surprisingly, Kenyans are prominent the men's field.  Road racing veteran John Korir, who won the Bay to Breakers in 2007, is entered along with Julius Koskei, a brother of three-time champion James Koskei.  Haron Lagat, the former Texas Tech athlete, and Samuel Ndereba, one of Catherine Ndereba's brothers, are also entered.  Eritrean Yared Asmerom will be making his Bay to Breakers debut (the race has never had an Eritrean winner), and definitely has a chance at the title, as does Moroccan Ridouane Harroufi, recently second to Micah Kogo at Bloomsday, and Tanzanian John Yuda.

The Dutch financial giant, ING, became the title sponsor of this race in 2006, taking over for a supermarket chain.  ING also has the title sponsorship to four other road races in the United States: the ING Philadelphia Distance Run, ING Georgia Marathon, ING Miami Marathon, and ING New York City Marathon.

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