By Brian Stites

CARMEL (KPIX) — Swept up in every canceled mass gathering event under the sun was one that’s typically shrouded in fog. San Francisco’s famed Bay to Breakers race that runs from downtown to Ocean Beach was originally schedule for the last Sunday in May, instead it was moved to September 20th.

In 109 years, the race has never been canceled and Carmel’s Ken Byk is hoping tradition won’t be broken because of a pandemic.

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A decade ago, Byk crossed the finish line along San Francisco’s Great Highway, and about a minute later he collapsed in a heap on the pavement after suffering cardiac arrest.

That year, KPIX profiled Byk as he was recovering from quadruple bypass surgery. At the time, Byk was searching for the fellow runner who initially performed CPR and ultimately saved his life.

In 2011 he finally tracked down Ruth Rodgers, an anesthesiologist from the Bay Area. The pair have remained close friends since that harrowing day.

“Turned out that the newspaper photographer had pictures with her (Bay to Breakers) bib number on it,” Byk said. Meeting Rodgers only reinforced the reality that he is very luck to be alive.

“She was badgered at the finish line that I was dead and there was nothing more that she could do,” Byk said of Rodgers feverish attempts at CPR. “She ignored everyone and ultimately saved my life.”

Even after the ambulance picked him up, paramedics told Rodgers that Byk was likely headed to the morgue because he didn’t have a pulse for an estimated 20-40 minutes. Byk explained that new research suggests first responders give up on patients too soon when performing CPR.

Ruth Rodgers did not.

“I’ve had a decade of life that I just as easily wouldn’t have,” Byk said.

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In the years following, Byk moved from the peninsula to Carmel, but never skips a chance to run in the Bay to Breakers — with Rodgers by his side.

He says he no longer sweats the small stuff in life “and the big stuff.” Even pandemics.







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