Bay to Breakers

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Location: San Francisco, California – Distance: 7.47 miles

Date: Sunday, May 21, 2017 – Weather: °

Start elevation: 67
Elevation Gain:  346′ – Max Elevation:  294 ′ 

I can’t believe I’ve never participated in Bay to Breakers before. I’ve seen pictures and heard the crazy stories, but I’ve never experienced it until now. This past Sunday I finally got to experience the weird and wonderful spirit of San Francisco, with outrageous costumes, quirky traditions, live bands, and plenty of bare flesh around the 12-kilometer route.

The course was pretty hilly (Hayes Street Hill, 0.69-mile, 5.5-percent grade stretch beginning at mile two) we weaved west through the city and passed through nine different neighborhoods and through the Golden Gate Park to then finish at the Great Highway along the Pacific Coast’s Ocean Beach.

Overall, I felt like I had a great race. I was nervous going into it because I didn’t (and still don’t) feel prepared running hills. Hills in San Francisco can be big, small, long, or short, we’ve got all types of hills here and they’ll for sure ware you out! But on Sunday I pushed my nerves away and ended up running the entire course – even up Hayes Hill! I may not have the best time, but in the end I met my goal –  to run the full course.

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View from the top of Hayes Street Hill.
Here are a few  wacky things that I’ve learned make Bay to Breakers a one-of-a-kind event.
1. It’s really two events: The elite race and the costume party that follows.

There is usually an impressive group of elites jostling for position at the starting line and after the fast runners, the fun really starts. The iconic pink gorilla, whose official new name is Ape Hashbury, leads the costumed masses, which included super heroes, hippies, drag queens, sharks, salmon, and those wearing nothing but their birthday suits.

2. Watch out for flying tortillas at the start.

Be on the lookout at the start of the race for flying tortillas. The origin of the tortilla toss is unclear…

3. You just might get passed by a centipede.

The fascinating tradition of centipede running — in which teams of no less than 13 runners are linked together by a rope or bungee cord — originated at Bay to Breakers in 1978. It is still going strong and the race serves as the world championships of the Centipede Running Division.

4. You can run naked – and you’ll be in good company.

Affectionately known as Bare to Breakers, Bay to Breakers is one of the exceptions to San Francisco’s ban on public nudity, which went into effect in 2013. And although race officials are aiming to make the event more family friendly, Holmes conceded that “this is the hand that we’ve been dealt, and we know that is a part of the race.”

5. The race boasts some seriously cool history.

The nuttiness of  Bay to Breakers’ can overshadow its origins, which traces back more than a century. The idea for the race arose from the rubble of a city destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and resulting fire; organizers thought a run across the city would lift spirits. On Jan. 1, 1912, 186 runners competed in the 12.1-kilometer Cross-City Race through downtown. The race was eventually renamed Bay to Breakers to drum up more interest, and in 1986, there were about 110,000 total participants, including both registered runners and bandits, earning the race a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Largest Footrace. One little-known fact: Despite San Francisco’s reputation as a progressive city, women were not allowed to compete until 1971.