TWINKIE FEELERS prepare for San Francisco Bay To Breakers Race

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2006 Bay To Breakers

By Elizabeth Daley
Bay City News

Sunday’s 12-kilometer Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco, which began as a small local contest in 1912, attracts runners from all over the world who see the race as both a recognized athletic competition and a colorful costume party.

This year the race features live bands and an official “centipede” racing category, in which runners linked in chains of 13 arrange themselves to resemble the insect with “Twinkie feelers” and “a stinger of appropriate design and toxicity,” according to the race Web site.

Centipede inventor Doug Peck said he first thought of a racing centipede when he saw the elaborate costumes of Bay to Breakers racers in the late 1970s. He decided that he wanted to run with members of his running club, the Aggies, in a chain, so he went to the club and asked who wanted to join him.

“Twelve people raised their hands, and that’s how the official rules were devised,” Peck said.

“It actually took us the first few miles to learn how to run without choking each other,” said Peck, whose team of seeded runners donned antennae for the 1978 race.

While centipedes are fast, Peck, who hopes to set a record time this year as a member of a centipede of runners over age 50, said a centipede has never won.

Recreational runner Lita Martinez said she enjoys the race “because it’s organized chaos.”

Martinez, who has been running the race for about 10 years, since she was 12 years old, said the only visible change she has noticed is that “in the past five years the rates of public nudity have gone down. Police are enforcing those rules more strictly, that’s just my observation.”

On Sunday, Bay Area Rapid Transit will be running extra trains from all East Bay locations, Millbrae and Daly City to downtown San Francisco beginning at 6 a.m. to help move runners and onlookers to the race. Stations will be open at 5:30 a.m.

However despite the “anything goes” attitude of the race, BART will require train passengers to wear proper attire, including shoes on all trains. Bicycles will not be permitted on early morning BART trains, and even though participants might need early morning carbs, eating continues to be forbidden at BART stations or on trains.

This year’s race begins at 8 a.m. at The Embarcadero at Howard Street, and heads through Golden Gate Park before ending at Great Highway.

Racers wishing to know their official time will wear electronic chips in their shoelaces to record start and finish times, according to race organizers.

Many San Francisco streets will be closed as result of the race.

Closures will begin to take effect on selected streets on Sunday at 12:01 a.m., with the last roadway closure ending at 3:00 p.m. The Embarcadero and 19th Avenue/Park Presidio will remain open in both directions at all times.

Details on roadway closures are available online on the Bay to Breakers Web site.

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