Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Bay To Breakers - The Mardi Gras of Footraces

On May 18th I ran Bay To Breakers.  It's a 12K race from the San Francisco Bay, through the city to the Pacific Coast's Ocean Beach.  It's also the oldest consecutively run annual footrace in the world and is a staple to San Francisco both for the race and the party.  Unless you've seen it, it's hard to explain but here's my list of the top 10 things that make B2B so unique:
  1. Only 35,000 actually register for the race but close to 100K participate in some way.  Either by running/walking portions of it, spectating, finish-line party, house parties along the route or running/walking the entire thing as rogue participants.
  2. There is A LOT of drinking involved - I was offered at least four different kinds of alcohol before I even entered the start corral.  I declined because I was actually looking to run it and unidentifiable liquids from a Stranger Dangers Camelback usually doesn't end well.
  3. The costumes are out of control.  You will see the most creative and amazing costumes which include huge groups, theme music, floats etc...
    Even playing the Tetris music 
  4. You will see a lot of nudity.  I was in corral B which means the majority of the madness was behind me.  Yet I counted 24 fully naked runners during my seven miles.  This does not include the hundreds that were mostly nude.
  5. Hayes St. Hill is no joke.
    There is a hill challenge mid race as well - timed separately
  6. Despite the madness it's a beautiful course that takes you past some iconic SF sites and quite a few elites show up to run B2B.
    Alamo Square Park
  7. Tortilla Toss - For some reason it's always been tradition to throw tortillas in the air to pass time when you're waiting to cross the start line.  Picture hundreds of tortillas flying through the air.
    The aftermath
  8. Centipede Division - There is a separate division where you run as a team of 13 people who are connected as a unit.  Apparently it's pretty competitive too.  There is a Head Pede, a pacer/floater in case someone has to drop and B2B is the official World Centipede Running Championship.
    Mens LinkedIn Team
  9. It's got some great history - Not only is the oldest consecutive race, at  one point it was the largest footrace in the world with 110,000 registrants.  Now there is a race in Australia that's bigger and B2B official numbers have dropped since most don't register.  It was started in 1912 as a way to lift the cities spirits after the 1906 earthquake and it's a point of pride for SF residents.
  10. The Spawning Salmon - The salmon have always been my favorite part!  Every year a huge group dresses like salmon and runs the course backwards (upstream).  It's amazing to watch them navigate through thousands of people in the opposite direction.  It's hilarious and their costumes are pretty legit.  I got really excited when I saw them around Mile 3ish this year.
    These spawners couldn't handle the current

    At least they get to go down Hayes Hill instead of up
It's such a bizarre mix of partiers, families and serious runners in a Mardi Gras like atmosphere. When I was in high school my dad would bring my brother and I down from OR to go to a Giants game and run B2B.  I hadn't seen or experienced it since then - 20 years ago.  My plan was to run it with the caveat that I knew it would be slow so I'd try to take in the experience.  It was a bad plan, I should have done one or the other.

For future years I'll plan on running or experiencing but not both.  I think the best way to do B2B is to line up in corral A and actually try to race the course as much as possible.  Or go all out in costumes, with drinks and friends and just take your time while enjoying the madness and house parties along the way.

This year I was a tweener in B2B purgatory.  I didn't have a costume (lame) and was in Corral B which meant I was in the thick of it all for the first few miles.  I heard from some runner friends that Corral A is the only option if you want to actually run the course.  Corral B made for tons of stopping because it was so crowded.  Even when I was running it was only shuffling since there were so many people.  Once I got to Hayes Hill, it really thinned out and became mostly runners but at that point I had already been stopping to talk with people, take pics etc... so I was in a non-race mind frame.  I wanted to turn around and head back to see all the non-runners come through. I didn't but I wanted to.

If you are a purist runner and don't like being around intoxicated people in a giant street party then this is not the race for you. Personally I think it should be on every runners bucket list just for the experience. Some of the things you just have to see to believe.  It's a blast and I will definitely participate in some form as long as I live in this city!

UA Shirt & Finishers Medal
Overall Time: 1:19:04
Pace: 10:37 min/mile
Gender Place: 2317 / 15,073 - gives you an idea of how many actually run

In other news:

May Stats:
Running: 35 Miles
Spin: 52 Miles
Weights/HIT: 1.5 hours
Yoga: 2 hours
Total Miles: 87

Big Sur recovery plus a week of illness made for a really light run month but  I stepped up my spinning and got in some good core training.  June is looking to be much higher mileage and I am officially back on the bike, as in outside.  Mind. Blown.  Now if I could just find my way back into the pool.


  1. We made the mistake of registering for Corral E since we always have outfits and walk it so we can people watch. This year we decided last minute to run it and we won't EVER do that again starting in corral E. we barely survived!

    1. I can't even imagine! I almost went into E because I couldn't find the entry point to B but I am so glad I walked the extra 4 blocks. B was bad enough - corral A from here on out.

  2. Awesome!!! B2B is super fun!!! Glad you had fun!! The medal looks awesome!!!!