One of the largest running races in the world – routinely attracting more than 50,000 participants – the Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco takes place annually on the third Sunday in May, and involves... ... read more
One of the largest running races in the world – routinely attracting more than 50,000 participants – the Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco takes place annually on the third Sunday in May, and involves everyone from elite athletes who sprint the 12K route in a half-hour to crazily costumed friends who prod along at a pace just above a slow walk.
Beginning near the famed Embarcadero waterfront a few blocks from the San Francisco Bay, the Bay to Breakers route leads runners west up several glute-busting city hills and through Golden Gate Park before terminating at the Great Highway, steps from the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.
Unchanged since it was first held back in 1912, the San Francisco Bay to Breakers is the longest-running (pun intended) race in the world, and though city officials have tried to impose a ban on alcohol, drunkenness, and nudity since 2009, you’re likely to see a good bit (pun also intended) of people jangling their privates in the wind and slamming beers while they run.
Spectators can also join in the fun, with several thousand people routinely lining the SF race route so they can see what costumes the participants devised this year, as well as dole out free drinks or hose runners down with cold water on hot days.
All fun aside, the race can be quite competitive despite the fact that the International Association of Athletics Federations doesn’t officially recognize 12K run times. This is certainly true for Centipedes, which has been a race staple since 1978 and involves several runners competing as a single unit.
The race is also known for attracting a sizeable number of bandits – runners who didn’t register to participate – and it was estimated that nearly half of the 60,000 runners in 2010 (including Mayor Gavin Newsom) were unregistered.
Whether they ran, walked, or just drove straight to Golden Gate Park, everyone can participate in Footstock once the race is over, a post-Bay to Breakers festival held in the park’s Speedway Meadow that includes a costume competition, stunt performances, live bands, and even a little cabaret, all taking place from 8pm till about 1am.
Bay to Breakers entry fees begin at $57/person, with additional $72 and $89.50 registration packets also available, which include t-shirts and other race benefits. Participants are grouped into five separate “corrals” based on their predicted run times, with the elite athletes starting first and the largest mass of costumed drunkards stumbling up the rear.
If you only do one race in San Francisco, the Bay to Breakers race is the one to do.