Following the devastation of the 1906 earthquake and the subsequent depression that gripped the city of San Francisco, city officials decided to raise spirits by hosting a race across the city. First held in 1912, Bay to Breakers has become the largest and longest unchanged race in the world. Sunday May 15th, was the 100th running of Bay to Breakers, and I was glad to be a part of the historic event.
In my previous four Bay to Breakers, I drunkenly stumbled the 12k, but in honor of the 100th running, I decided to run it sober. My New Year’s resolution was to train for the race, but my dislike of running for the sake of running killed my enthusiasm for training. So without any preparation whatsoever, I awoke at 4am on the day of the race, on four hours of sleep, to make it to the starting line by 7, and attempt to complete the race in a respectable time.
Hopping off BART right as the race began, I found my way through the crowds to Corral C and joined other stragglers as we rushed to join the mob that was crossing the starting line. Any sleepiness I had was washed away by an announcer commenting on costumes, his voice blared over speakers that lined the area around the starting line.
As I crossed the starting line it was impossible not to notice the hundreds of tortillas that littered the street – a Bay to Breakers tradition I’ve come to learn about, although I’ve never seen the initial tossing of the tortillas, only the aftermath.
Trying to run Bay to Breakers is very much like rushing somewhere in weekend traffic – everyone has a different speed they’re comfortable going, so you have to weave through the crowd, frequently getting stuck behind a wall of walkers or very slow runners. Taking into account the impossibility of running full-speed and my occasional stops to take photos, I was pleased with myself for finishing the first mile in 11 minutes.
Although the race went by much faster running it sober, it seemed much longer. The long uphill section that I recalled being the halfway point was only in the second mile of the race.
In an attempt to reduce the number of incidents involving overly-intoxicated walkers, the city said police would be escorting visibly drunk participants to a holding pen to stay until they sobered up. However, I didn’t notice a single pen, but more than enough over-the-top drunks. Previously, I would have said the pens are just another attempt to kill the fun of Bay to Breakers, but after running it sober and witnessing a stumbling drunk yell “show us your tits” to a very young girl watching in her pajamas with her father, followed by a string of profanity at other onlookers, perhaps its not such a bad idea.
The city’s crackdown on nudity also proved unsuccessful as many old men shamelessly strutted around in their birthday suits. Two women wore costumes that I thought were great, the nudity patrol – their mission was to encourage only those who should go nude to go nude and dissuade those who shouldn’t.
The forecast was for rain and possible thunderstorms, but it only drizzled for maybe five minutes while I was running the race, and was only partly cloudy for most of the race.
To my surprise, I was able to keep a steady pace, weaving through the crowd while stopping every so often to take pictures for the race without getting tired. Before I knew it I could see the breakers signifying the end of the race and then it was over. My time was 1:51:19 (24,293rd of 43,930), a bit slower than my goal time of 1:30:00, but much better than my previous best time of “did not finish: could not find the finish line”.
By the end I felt I could easily have gone a few more miles, and it turned out that the finish line was far from the end. After finishing the race, participants were encouraged to attend Footstock – a festival with food and music, and where we would get our shirts and commemorative medals, which was held in the middle of Golden Gate Park, another mile and a half walk.
After getting an awesome commemorative medal
and really disappointing t-shirt that is more like an undershirt, I found my way to the costume contest. Some were rather impressive:
Heavy Metal Superheroes
The Royal Wedding
100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall
The Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and the Three-eyed Fish
Bob Ross and a Happy Tree
and…Betty Bubble Butt
I really enjoyed running Bay to Breakers and intend on beating my time next year.
See all of my photos from Bay To Breakers here.