Just went to my first Bay to Breaker and it was a BLAST! So glad I made it, especially after almost giving up the day before. Here are the 7 things I learned from this very first Bay to Breaker experience.
1. It’s OK to crash it. While the event officials said that unregistered runners will be kicked off the course, there are several reasons they won’t or even can’t enforce this policy. First, The sidewalks are open to public, so you could well pretend that you happen to be in the mood of walking from Embarcadero to Ocean beach on a beautiful Sunday morning in weird costume. Second, number tags are hard to see under fancy costumes anyway, no cop will ever bother stopping a man only to realize his tag is inside the funny looking banana skin. 3. Everyone crashes it. Yeah, that’s sadly true, but crashing Bay to Breaker is not recommended here; If you can afford it, pay the registration fee to support organizing such a wonderful event.
2. Wear costume or stay at home. I didn’t wear costume this year, and felt so embarrassed and shameful. Wearing plain blue hoodie and black running shorts, I looked like an idiot walking among wild animals, superheros, Tetris and dressed-up good-looking European sailors. The flashy green accent on my shoes and shorts may make me not as dumb as people who came in their super-casual grocery shopping attires, but still, this will be the last time I come to Bay to Breaker without a proper costume.
3. Walk, not run. My friend who wished to spectate the event drove in from south bay around 9 a.m. and thought she would miss the better part of the race. It turned out that she not only joined a great portion of it, but also received a finisher’s medal, only that the race is not a real “race” — it’s just a long stroll. There are way too many things at Bay to Breaker to just run by: hot chicks in bikinis, old flabby naked man, cops that hard to tell whether in uniforms or costumes, music stations on Hayes, people watchers on the roofs, drunkies in the Panhandle, bisons in the Golden Gate Park, whirling wind on the Ocean Beach. Bay to Breaker is a kaleidoscope of color, joy, exuberance that makes San Francisco San Francisco, so walk it and walk slowly. (However, to get a finisher’s medal, you do need to finish this year’s 12K before 12:30 p.m.)
Too many things to see at Bay to Breaker that I lost focus.
4. The more, the merrier. Bay to Breaker is a party for social animals, not for loners. Your happiness and excitement grow exponentially in the number of buddies coming with you. If Batman comes alone, well, that’s sort of cool, but Batman vs. Spiderman is way cooler. How about them with all the avengers? Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk…WOW!
5. No alcohol, no asshole. The first half means there is no tolerance for drinking along the entire course, which is pretty easy to understand. This year curb-side drinking is reduced though not completely eliminated by several new practices including the closure of Alamo Square, which makes the event both less exciting and much safer. The second half is fairly literal too. I do admire minimalism, but “nothing” is definitely not the best thing to wear at Bay to Breaker. Well, this doesn’t apply to hot sixpack guys.
6. 12K is longer than you think.I usually run 5 miles a time during my half marathon training without feeling too exhausted at the end, but yesterday I spent more than three hours on this 12K course and it felt like even longer. In fact, San Francisco is a city with an area of 7 miles by 7 miles, so walking across it sounds pretty easy. Yet anyone who thinks so forgets that San Francisco is dense, hilly, beautiful and Bay to Breaker is not just a 12K race. It’s a culture experience, a city party, a chance to be immersed in the liveliness of this city, a process to create and nourish the course, rather than merely running it.
7. San Francisco is an amazing city. I’ve walked in many streets in different neighborhoods of San Francisco. California Street is my favorite hilly route, with its wide, straight, steep road pointing to the sky and cable cars cutting through from the peak; yet Hayes Street completely grabbed my heart yesterday. In the most iconic Bay to Breaker viewpoint, the gentle slope in Hayes valley is guarded by two rows of magnificent Victorian houses, the two lane street between them filled with clamor and crowd all the way from the bottom of the hill to the top. It’s a scene that everyone sees wants to be a part of, however small that part is. It made me proud, it made me alive.