Some of the world's fastest runners from as far as Kenya sat together at a luncheon in San Francisco Friday to talk about competing in the 98th annual Bay to Breakers 12k run in the city this morning.
Defending women's champion Lineth Chepkurui, 21, from Kenya ran the fastest 10 miles in the world this year and will be competing against Olympians and former world record holders in the Sunday event, according to ING race organizers.
However, her toughest competition might very well be from California.
Deena Kastor, 36, from Mammoth Lakes, runs 5k and 10k marathons and holds eight American records and formerly held a world record. Kastor also won the 2004 Olympic bronze medal in the marathon category.
But Kastor said she was admittedly a little unsettled when she saw the city's infamous hills.
"The fact that a hill looked so intimidating by car is pretty impressive,'' she said.
In regard to her competition she said, "I've got my work cut out for me,'' adding that she is ready to race.
Oakland resident Magda Lewy-Boulet, 33, holds the American and Bay Area title for Bay to Breakers in 2006 and 2007.
Lewy-Boulet also placed second in the 2008 Olympic trials after leading for about 23 miles, according to race organizers.
The U.S. has held a Bay to Breakers race winner title since 1993.
But the competition isn't the only things runners have to worry about. Aside from unruly weather and intimidating climbs such as the Haight Street hill, the race is infamous for its thousands of participants in outrageous costumes.
Peter Gilmore, 32, from San Mateo has ran in the race at least three times in the past and at today's luncheon discussed one event in which about a dozen Elvis Presley impersonators jumped in and started running with the leaders.
"It just doesn't happen anywhere else," Gilmore said, who has been a top Bay Area runner in past races.
According to race organizers, the first costumed runner participated as Captain Kidd in 1940 and finished last. Last year about 60,000 people took over the streets with floats, racy costumes and sometimes nudity.
The men will also have a dramatic competition this year.
Two-time defending champion John Korir, 33, from Kenya, is up against two-time Bay to Breakers champion Gilbert Okari, who is back after battling an injury in 2007.
Okari, 30, and also from Kenya, won the race in 2005 and 2006.
Korir agreed with Gilmore about the race's spontaneity.
"I think I was somewhat scared the first time I came,'' he said. "Now I'm getting used to it."
Newcomers and old timers from as far as Russia, Japan and Switzerland will be competing starting at 8 a.m. from downtown San Francisco to the Polo Field in Golden Gate Park.
The race's Web site, http://www.ingbaytobreakers.com, has descriptions of 40 of its most elite competitors.