Girls Run Wild

Bay to Breakers Running Virgin?

Posted on: May 11, 2011

In honor of Bay to Breakers this Sunday, I thought I’d share some insight on what to expect if you’ve never run or walked the 7.46 mile route before.  As for all of you little red cabooses who will be drinking from the rear, read along to see what it’s like to actually partake in the event for its intended purpose: a foot race.

This year’s race celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the run that brings participants from the foot of Market Street to the Great Highway.  The race began in 1912 as an effort to lift the city’s spirits after the devastating 1906 earthquake.  The number of participants exploded in the 1980’s: in 1986, with 110,00 runners, Bay the Breakers was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest footrace.  About 70,000 to 80,000 people take part in the event each year which has turned into much more that a foot race.  Race rules have changed significantly in the last couple of years in an attempt to appease angry neighbors whose front doorsteps were becoming public urinals.   This year the race has spelled out a ban on alcohol once again and stated early on that registration is imperative for ALL participants (read: Not just the runners).  The race was capped at 50,000 entrants and has been sold out since March.  The race will always be a crazy, wild ride as long as it continues – but with the banning of floats and (supposedly) open containers, race organizers hope to contain some of the debauchery and ensure the continuity of Bay to Breakers for another 100 years.

Enough about the history.  Now, what to expect.

Weather: Predicting the weather on Bay to Breakers Sunday is like predicting an Earthquake in San Francisco.  In the past five years I’ve run the race it’s rained, it’s been freezing cold, it’s been Indian Summeresque hot, and it’s been pleasant.  Without a doubt, however, whether the day starts off warm or cold, you will be a lot colder by the time you get to the finish line.  This year we’re looking at a 70% chance of rain and a high of 54 on Sunday.  Dress in layers (wear a hat!) – and maybe bribe someone to stand at the finish line with a dry, warm jacket in hand.

Transportation: Special express buses will be in operation on race day available to the public at a premium.  Information on bus routes and fares can be found here.  Regular buses running their normal Sunday schedules shouldn’t be charging an extra fare – just give yourself plenty of time to get downtown.  You want to drive downtown instead?  No comment.  If you’re not familiar with the City’s Outerlands, you might want to get to know the local bus schedule to find the closest buses home from the race route.  The N Judah, 31 Balboa, 5 Fulton, and 38 Geary are within walking distance of the finish line.  Another option is to park somewhere close to the finish line on Saturday night, which saves you the headache of having to take a bus home after the run.

Costumes: Not just for the drunken revelers.  It’s a lot more fun to run in costume – just make sure it’s something comfortable enough to endure 7.46 miles of bouncing up and down.  For costume ideas, just google Bay to Breakers and get inspired.

Water Breaks: Water is available at the foot of Hayes Street, at the bottom of the Hayes Street Hill, at the entrance to Golden Gate Park, and at the finish line.

The Starting Line: When you register for B2B you are given a corral number.  Check out this map to determine where you should start.  The starting line is a lot of fun-filled with flying tortillas and lots and lots and lots of cheering runners.  As you pass the starting line look out for Joe Montana – he lives in SOMA and was spotted last year taking photos of the runners.

Runners to the Left! Walkers to the Right!  No one ever follows these rules, but if you happen to read this, PLEASE try to run on the left, walk on the right.

The Hayes Street Hill: Possibly the most (in)famous geographic hurdle along the race is the Hayes Street Hill.  You begin the ascent around the 2.5 mile mark and follow about 4 blocks straight up the hill.  It’s.not.that.bad.  The neighbors come out to cheer you along and once you’re at the top, all you have to do is get through the Panhandle and then the rest of the race is downhill to the Ocean.  Also, it’s nearly impossible to sprint up the hill given the number of people in your way so you won’t feel pressure to move any faster than you can.

Hayes Street Hill

The Finish Line: The race finishes along the Great Highway right in front of the Beach Chalet.  Traditionally, runners follow the signs past the finish line to the cool down mile that takes you to Footstock at the Polo Fields Speedway Meadow.  Food and beer are available here for sale, t-shirts are available for pick up, and musical entertainment is on stage all day.  If you don’t want to venture up to the Polo Fields, take a walk through the park back along the race course and check out the crowd.  Or, head to the Park Chalet for some live music – local band Timmy Mezzy will be playing with Wooster ALL DAY LONG!  Don’t forget your phone, ID, and some cash.  This is also a good idea in case you wind up in the hospital, though the only people I’ve known to do that were definitely not running the race.

HAVE FUN! Enjoy the race – enjoy the sites, the sounds, the cheers, the music, the costumes – this is an event that could only happen in San Francisco.  Don’t get too grossed out by the first nude person you see – you’re bound to see a lot more.  Don’t run with an iPod on – there are way too many people around you and not being fully aware of your surroundings in such a crowded race can be dangerous.  Besides, there’s so much entertainment to absorb – why would you want to shut that out?


1 Response to "Bay to Breakers Running Virgin?"

[…] As I blogged about yesterday, the Polo Fields is home to the official B2B after party.  Food stands will be set up selling hot […]

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