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April 30, 2011

Bob Burnett - Race Spotlight with the Grandson of the First Bay to Breakers Champion!

Written by Dena Evans





Bob Burnett returns original 1912 Bay to Breakers trophy to race General Manager Angela Fang



Bob Burnett is a self described “avid sportsman” who has done plenty of mountain climbing, road cycling, and regular recreational golf.  As with many of our Focus-N-Fly trainees, he will be attempting the Zazzle Bay to Breakers for the first time…..with one huge difference.  Bob’s maternal grandfather, Bobby Vlaught, was the very first winner of the “Cross City Race” in 1912.  As a St. Mary’s student, Vlaught won the race twice before ceding the crown in 1914 to the previous year’s runner-up.  Burnett will literally carry history with him on May 15 as he will complete the race carrying the original winner’s trophy earned by his grandfather.


With only a couple weeks before the race, Burnett sat down with us for a few minutes to share more about his story.


Coach:  So, is running something that has run through the bloodlines directly or are you just taking it up now?

BB:  I’m not a runner at all, but I’m trying to become one.  This was going well in the beginning and I thought the  [Focus-N-Fly online training] program was great.  There were lots of options.   Lately, I’ve started developing some problems with my calves, so it has been harder to follow the plan.  But I will definitely finish.


Coach:  Were you close to your grandfather when you were younger?  Was he able to share some of this history with you?

BB:  My grandfather passed away when I was 10-11 years old.  I never knew of his accomplishments until I started going through the scrapbooks and finding out about all the things he did.   Nobody every really talked about those types of things then.

He was a real humble guy, so he wouldn’t have been a bragger.  He was just an ultimate sportsman.   He won the first two against this his big rival, and the two were good friends.  One the third one, he finally beat my grandfather, but he had really gracious things to say.

Coach:  Had you been thinking a while about running the 100th in honor of your grandfather?

BB:  I Thought I was going to run in 2012, but then realized 2011 was the actual 100th.   A few months ago, I sent an email to the regular info address mentioning my grandfather and the history, and not knowing how much they would really care about it.  But, they called back within 2 hours!

Coach:  What do you think your grandfather might say about the Bay to Breakers race were he around today to see it?

BB:  My grandfather would be proud to see how the competition is still very strong. Despite the changes in the city, the race has still endured.

Coach:  You’ve done a bunch of other outdoor activities including high altitude mountatin climbing, but this is your first running challenge.  What is your goal?

BB:  This is a challenging thing. I hope I can run faster than I walk at 23,000 feet.

Coach:  What is something you do remember your grandfather teaching you as a kid?

BB:  They lived up at 1855 Pacific Avenue for many years.  We used to go up there as kids for holidays, but when you are 8-9 years old, the city doesn’t captivate you that much.  So, one day, to get us out of the house, he asked us if we wanted to go watch people bowl at an alley close by.  I told him that I wanted to bowl myself, and that I wasn’t much interested in watching the other people. He told me then that there is more to sports than just doing them yourself, it is a chance to watch others doing their best as well.

Last modified on September 12, 2011
Dena Evans

Dena Evans

Dena Evans joined runcoach in July, 2008 and has a wide range of experience working with athletes of all stripes- from youth to veteran division competitors, novice to international caliber athletes.

From 1999-2005, she served on the Stanford Track & Field/ Cross Country staff. Dena earned NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honors in 2003 as Stanford won the NCAA Division I Championship. She was named Pac-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003-04, and West Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

From 2006-08, she worked with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, helping to expand the after school fitness programs for elementary school aged girls to Mountain View, East Menlo Park, and Redwood City. She has also served both the Stanford Center on Ethics and the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession as a program coordinator.

Dena graduated from Stanford in 1996.

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