Thursday, May 21, 2015


There are very few things as truly San Franciscan as Bay to Breakers. It's a 40,000 person springtime Sunday party, a race through the city, and Halloween all rolled in to one. San Francisco is Bay to Breakers and Bay to Breakers is San Francisco.

I remember my first Bay to Breakers (B2B). I had been living in San Francisco for about five months, newly returned from the Peace Corps. I wasn't yet a runner. I had only a few friends. I wasn't a big drinker. But somehow I found myself in a Bay to Breakers group, complete with matching t-shirts, a float, and all the beer we could fit in a shopping cart. 

Our theme was the Duff beer guy

That first B2B had a lot of firsts for me. The first time I tried skateboarding. The first time I entered a race. The first time I tossed tortillas in the air and passed men and women in salmon costumes running the opposite direction. And I definitely didn't make it to to ocean (aka the breakers). Still true today, B2B 2007 was the only time in my life I have been drunk before 8am (that wasn't from the night before).

B2B costumes can get pretty elaborate. I'm always impressed.

Proudly, my Bay to Breakers 2008 was not a repeat performance. Over these past seven years I have slept through the race, watched the race in Hayes Valley with friends, driven my boyfriend to the start of the race, cheered on random runners near the end of the race, and run the race myself. I  long ago learned that the best way to avoid the late drunkenness of those walking the race with floats, yet still experience the costumes and massive groups of people, was to run the race myself. Alongside all the people. To be one of the people. To make it to the end and then hit the bbq. Because Bay to Breakers is also San Francisco's official welcome to summer.

 Racing through this amazing city with 40,000 other people is quite an experience!

Thus, as I found late May quickly approaching, I couldn't think of a more appropriate first race post-marathon. Which is why I chose to run Bay to Breakers 2015. It would be my return to running short races (a quick 12K or 7.5 miler). It would be my first race back from so many things; from the flu, from new orthotics, from running once a week, if at all. But most importantly, it would be my first race back from the marathon.

The starting line of Bay to Breakers 2015

It's a strange feeling, running a short race. I found myself exactly on pace. And enjoying the scenery. And the costumes. But I also found myself anxious to be finished already. To be at the finish line, enjoying coconut water and potato chips. To be home already and in a hot shower. But I was still in the middle of the race. But by mile six I was just ready to be finished. So I sped up.

But then I began to really think about enjoying what I was doing. To realize how fun it was to run with no preparation. How I didn't pick out a special running outfit the night before or bother with goo. How easy it was to run a negative split - finally! (A negative split means running the second half of a race faster than the first. It's always a mini-goal of mine and I knew I had done it this time!) I also knew I didn't PR, but I didn't care. Because, I realized, it was a little chilly and slightly overcast most of the way; my perfect running weather. 

 Making it all the way to the beach (in costume) is always impressive

Most days I honestly don't know if I'll ever race again. I ran a marathon, for crying out loud. What else do I have to prove? I don't know if I have the patience to start training all over again. I don't know if I can run that distance again. I don't know if I should. And I don't know if I want to.

I'm not certain what the future has in store for me and road racing. The same can be said for Bay to Breakers. Every year there are more restrictions on the race, more police presence, fewer floats. But despite the mayhem, the nudity, the drunken sh$% show that it truly is, Bay to Breakers still belongs to San Franciscans. It is still ours. For over 100 years now we've been running across town, from the bay to the breakers. And I can't imagine spending the third Sunday in May any other way.

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