SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Elite runners from the Bay Area taking part in this Sunday’s Bay to Breakers race said they approve of the new rules meant to crack down on public drunkenness and rowdy behavior.

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Neil McDonagh grew up in the Sunset watching all the costumes and the centipedes. He even ran it once in the fifth grade. Now McDonagh is a world class road racer vying with impossibly thin Kenyans for the $25,000 winner’s bonus.

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“The organizers have made a strong push to clean up the image, and I think that is a great move,” he said.

Once he reaches Ocean Beach, though, anything could happen.

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“I may just throw my sweat pants back on at the finish line and jog backwards on the course and go meet some friends and enjoy the actual Bay To Breakers experience that most everyone gets a part of,” McDonagh said.

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The real race will be over before most of the casual runners have seen their first centipede jog by, but today’s spectators could be tomorrow’s competitors, says elite racer Yiou Wang of Mill Valley.

“I love the spirit of the race. My friends have a fantastic time. It’s a great event in that it gets people who might not be into running or racing to actually just be involved,” she said.

The centennial race will also be her first Bay To Breakers. And ironically some her friends didn’t even realize there was a real race in the middle of all the madness.

She’s not worried about getting distracted by the zaniness as she tries to outkick the Kenyans and Ethiopians.

“A lot of the party is going to happen much later,” she said.

“I’m hoping I’ll be done and on my way home before all the craziness hits the city.”

But Wang and McDonagh both agreed the party atmosphere helps make this a special event, even for the Olympic level athletes.

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