Hundreds of tortillas flew through through the air as we joined over
75,000 runners at the starting line of the Bay to Breakers. Originally
a portable pre-race snack, the tortillas make excellent frisbees and
people bring bags of them to throw. At 7:30am, getting hit in the
head with a tortilla definitely wakes you up.
This was the first Bay to Breakers for both Lilly and me. We dressed
as St. Pauli Girl/Swiss Miss/Beer Wench/Heidi/Whatever. At the shuttle
pick-up point one lady thought they were the uniforms for the nearby
Wendy's. The costumes turned out to be a blessing when Lilly and I
got separated around Mile 2. Someone saw her looking around and said
"There's someone dressed just like you down the street."
In a crowd of tens of thousands, we still managed to get noticed.
The 7.5-mile course runs from near the Bay Bridge to the shores of
the Pacific at Golden Gate Park, where waves break onto the shore
(hence the name of the race). Photographers, film crews, reporters
and a helicopter were on hand to capture the spectacle. We waited
for half an hour for the 8am start, but it took over 5 minutes to
reach the starting line.
It's a safe bet that most of the participants walk rather than run
the course. More block party than footrace, the Bay to Breakers has
a different sort of pre-race carbo load. Kegs of beer are taken along,
usually in decorated shopping carts. Ambitious teams create rolling
bars, like the tiki bar complete with stereo and blenders. Others
opt for more portable beverages, like the wine box backpack.
The costumes are what make this race unlike any other. There were
so many teams I wish I had gotten pictures of - especially the salmon
who start at the hill and run upstream to the starting line - but
I did manage to get a few good shots, including land sharks, human
sushi, and a prime sample of a popular no-costume costume.
There were countless teams who went a step beyond just dressing up.
The Gropenator was popular, with huge foam hands that groped anything
in its path. One team recreated San Francisco landmarks, with one
A Bay to Breakers icon, the Elvis team was 45 strong this year. Their
tradition is to crash the course and run with the elite runners at
the start of the race, though they can only keep up the pace for about
half a block. We caught up with the Elvii near the hill.
Another Bay to Breakers tradition is the lack of costume. There was
a rumor that the police would be cracking down on naked runners, but
we still saw plenty. Most were nothing to write home about, but a
few embraced the spirit, like this body-painted team that actually
The infamous hill looks menacing, but we really didn't think it was
that big a deal. It did make for an impressive view the surge of people
made their way up and over. For those with elaborate floats and bars,
this must be the hardest part of the course.
The spectators are as much a part of the action as the runners. Bands
of all genre and ability dotted the course, and music blasted from
porches and rooftops. People also turned there hoses on to help the
runners cool down, though one little girl had fun blasting unsuspecting
The last third of the course goes through Golden Gate Park, taking
us past soccer fields, picnic grounds, the Hall of Flowers and sleepy
buffalo. Just before the park ends at the ocean I stopped to pose
by the windmill. My costume transcended borders.
The end at last - a beautiful day at Ocean Beach, though from the
finish line it was another half a mile to the post-race party to pick
up our t-shirts and catch the shuttle home. Not a bad day for our
first year out. Next year we plan to get a big group going with a
cool theme - and maybe even our own rolling keg...