Back in my running and jogging days, I ran in several editions of the Bay to Breakers Footrace in San Francisco. Back then, the race often experienced record numbers of entrants, and lived up to its name as the world’s largest footrace. It begins at the foot of San Francisco Bay, then winds through the streets of the City, through Golden Gate Park, and finally onto the Great Highway and the Pacific Ocean (ie the breakers).
The first race, known as the Cross City Race, began in 1912, as a precursor to the world class events planned for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. The race was won by Robert Jackson Vlught with a time of 44:10, and with only 200 racers. It was in 1986, the Race set a Guinness Book record with 110,000 racers, me included.
The race has always been a celebration of life, and a show of the City’s spirit and soul. The racers include families, costumed runners, centipedes, weekend runners, strollers, walkers, and naked runners. The color and tradition is uniquely San Francisco. But the runners from Kenya tend to dominate the medals in both women’s and men’s races.
The race is now always run on the third Sunday in May, right after the Kentucky Derby (first Sunday in May), and Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May). However, to my great disappointment, nude runners have been banned, though I am sure some unsanctioned runners will expose themselves completely.
Alcohol on the course is also prohibited. The plethora of wheeled objects and floats cannot be motorized, nor taller than 9 feet. For you green runners, dumpsters are placed throughout the race course for water bottles and food wrappers. Most years now, more people watch the race than participate in the race itself.
The race is certified by the USA Track and Field at 12K (7.46 miles). The course starts at sea level near San Francisco Bay, and rises steeply on the famous Hayes Street Hill. At the 2.5 mile mark, the race reaches its highest point at Fillmore and Steiner, 215 feet above sea level. The race course then gradually flows back down to the ocean near sea level.
A couple of other events are sandwiched around the race itself. First, on Friday, the Greater Body Expo is held at the Civic Auditorium. Vendors display, sell, and give away running related goods and services. Then, after the race, Footstock is held in Golden Gate Park at the Polo Field. There is no charge, and beer flows freely. All types of running equipment and shoes are on display. And this is where the runners can collect their valued Bay to Breakers Official T shirt for completing the race.
Having run the race about ten times, it is definitely more fun to run in a group. It makes for a great photo when passing through the official photo zone in the Park. But it also makes it difficult to maneuver around other groups, or floats, And the Hayes Street Hill is overrated as “cardiac” hill. The flow of runners slows due to the hill, to the point where it is better to run in place or even walk.
But most of you are curious about the naked runners. Funny thing, I never really looked for them. But just when I least expected it, I would pass a naked runner, or see someone stripping along the way. But as soon as that happens, the nude runner is surrounded by other runners, especially if she is a good looking, nicely figured woman.
It would usually take me about an hour to finish the race. The big problem is that most of us are just crossing the start line when the elite runners are already finished! But thankfully, my running days are behind me. It would be fun to watch the race, but the crowds are just unbearable. It is much more comfortable to watch it on television.
BTW, I do not miss this event at all. But it is truly an ONLY in San Francisco treat!