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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Unreal: Bay to Breakers

posted by on May 22 at 12:15 PM


I can’t figure out the right way to Slog about Bay to Breakers. Words and even pictures hardly do it justice.

This past weekend marked the 97th year the 7.5-mile footrace has been run over the same course through San Francisco, making it the longest consecutively-run race in the world. Every year, some ten thousand competitors register and run the course, starting at the Embarcadero (the Bay), weaving through downtown, the Western Addition, and Golden Gate Park, to finish at Ocean Beach (the Breakers).

Another 70 thousand runners walk the course, mostly in costume, or naked, and in various states of inebriation. It’s a block party a hundred blocks long. It’s the best San Francisco holiday out of many. Like Burning Man, it’s one of those things that everyone should experience once in their lives. Unlike Burning Man, it’s something I see myself doing every year for the rest of my life, as long as I’m able.

Bay to Breakers is the most grand expression of civic pride I’ve ever been a part of. Bands and DJs rock out on street corners, mobile soundsystems cruise the streets, elaborate floats are built and pushed to accommodate bars, kegs, beer pong, dance floors. There are no spectators. Everybody walks, runs, or rolls. You reach the top of Alamo Square—the halfway point, and the only hill on the course—and look down from the peak. In both directions, thousands of people of all stripes are celebrating life for the best of all reasons: Because it’s there.

This year was a spectacularly sunny day. Along with 20 or so friends dressed in vintage track suits, I helped pull a granny basket and a tricked-out shopping cart, filled with 14 cases of iced PBR. We made it a few miles before we pulled over in Golden Gate Park and sat in the shade, drinking beer and freaking out with the freaks.

I’m a man of simple pleasures. All it takes to make me happy is 80 thousand costumed revelers drinking cocktails at 9 in the morning, parading through San Francisco on a gorgeous day, listening to a GnR cover band crank out “Paradise City” from a float being pushed by 12 women in bikinis.

More pics after the jump. Like I said, words, pictures, video—its all not even the half of it.










RSS icon Comments


Seattle sucks.

Posted by DOUG. | May 22, 2007 12:22 PM

SF rules.

Posted by Dougsf | May 22, 2007 12:35 PM

Also: Seattle sucks.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | May 22, 2007 12:42 PM

Young Frank says it's not Boomer, it's pronounced Boomer!

Posted by almost rhymes with hummer | May 22, 2007 12:55 PM

If I've ever been to an event that truly is for EVERYONE, it's Bay to Breakers. It was originally concieved as moral-boosting-every-get-together-thingy a few years after the 1906 quake/fire leveled the city, and if you ever go, you really still has that vibe.

There's a lot be said, also, about the forward momentum (the "race" element) and the constant flow of people that I think keeps the crowds attitude from degenerating into the aggressive/drunken/brovado so many events this size can foster. Very little of that at BtB.

What I mean to say is, GOOD TIMES.

Posted by Dougsf | May 22, 2007 1:05 PM

Seattle might not be SF but we certainly aren't as sucky as like 20,000 other city's. We are near the top in coolness, hipness, etc. We just need to stamp out a little bit more of that Seattle teatotler mentality. People here fear being drunk and out of control. I say, let go people. Get drunk in public, prefereable with 80,000 other people in costume walking through the streets.

Posted by junk butt | May 22, 2007 1:11 PM

I love BtB! This year it was quite a bit more white & hipster than usual. It is just like a roaming block party where everyone is happily wasted by noon. That's the best part - almost everyone is a happy drunk when they are drunk at Bay To Breakers.
San Francisco can't have enough costume parties. Even if a third of the men were wearing "dick in a box" costumes, which got old fast.

Posted by Dee in SF | May 22, 2007 1:13 PM

Why did I move back to Seattle from SF?

Posted by Andrew | May 22, 2007 1:14 PM

Until we can drink at strip clubs, festivals and all-ages shows, we shall not be free. Beer gardens are Abu Ghraib!

Posted by DOUG. | May 22, 2007 1:17 PM

Well, Seattle has the Wells Fargo Torchlight Run at Seafair presented by UnitedHealthcare! You could wear a goofy costume. I kind of like being able to actually run in the Torchlight but it wouldn't be that hard to turn it into an unauthorized parade in front of thousands.

Posted by j | May 22, 2007 1:22 PM

Biggest regret about the 8 months I lived in SF? I moved there the weekend before BtB...and didn't go.

NYC is great and all...but it doesn't have anything like this...

Posted by Joey the Girl | May 22, 2007 1:23 PM

For the last several years, I've preferred staying in Berkeley and Walnut Creek rather than SF. The YMCA in Berkeley in beyond coolness regarding location, price and accomodations. And Walnut Creek is an outstanding example of a sterile, safe haven populated by USA's affluence. And still, like my last visit to WC in Feb this year, there are minute and rare instances, like talking with the cashier at Trader Joes. She looked and spoke like she had just commuted from the trailer park, plus she was missing a few fron teeth. A moment of something came over me, it was a nice feeling. But honestly, I'd be more than content if I never visited CA again.

Posted by Garrett | May 22, 2007 1:43 PM

Well Garrett, good times just aren't for everyone.

# 6, agree. Seattle is a lot better than 75% of the other cities I can think of living in.

Posted by Dougsf | May 22, 2007 1:49 PM

Berkeley's a nice place to live (I went to school there) but I don't think I'd go out of my way to visit it.

Posted by Angry Andrew | May 22, 2007 1:56 PM

I lived for 3 years right on the course on Hayes right about the top of the Hayes Street hill. Loved going and watching it.

Couple years ago some people were pushing a canopy bed with a sign that read "Michael Jackson's Daycare."

Agree with #8.

Posted by Chris | May 22, 2007 2:19 PM

Did anyone who went catch the band playing at "Footstock" at the end? They are called Squaretape and my friend is the singer. He was so pumped about getting to do that performance. Would love to hear if anyone saw them play and what you thought.

Posted by Meg | May 22, 2007 2:34 PM

Some old neighbors of mine (I used to live on the course as well, in the panhandle) would bring out a giant wooly mammoth that dispensed beer cans from it anus.

Posted by Dougsf | May 22, 2007 2:49 PM

yes, we Saint Franciscans pretty much do rule.

Thank you for the compliments.
I gratefully except them on behalf of my fair City.

Posted by mycho | May 22, 2007 3:07 PM

I happened to stumble across a similar (yet much smaller) event in Portland earlier this year: the Urban Iditarod.

I think this event also got its start in San Francisco, but the Portland sampling we witnessed was plenty weird and looked like a lot of fun.

Posted by Explorer | May 22, 2007 3:22 PM

Angry Andrew: I was the fool then that went out of my way to visit. Less than a visit, it was just two days primarily to see the Roches. They don't come out west very often.

That link in mind, I don't think i got back to the yahoo group with a review. The Freight & Salvage Coffee House in Berkeley has to be one of the coolest venues I've ever been to. The Roches were excellent, but that was a given, having seen them twice before. The only not-so-good times of the evening, was when i got my copy of Zero Church signed by the sisters. I asked Suzzy about their producer and how they decided to go for such trippy guitar effects on the ending songs of Why the Long Face. She got a stern look on her face and sort of pretended not to hear me, don't know. Maggie, in tow for that matter, gave me a robotic 'thank you' when I told her that "One Season" is close to be being the most perfect song written of the last 50 years. Anyway the signed cd pamphlet hangs on my kitchen wall.

The YMCA in Berkeley includes free usage of the weight room, swimming pool, and B-Ball courts. Good Times, if you're into that sort of thing. I met a woman who was staying there and after we repacked her car, and went strolling through the Farmer's Market a block away, we walked up the hill to the amazing Botanical Gardens of the university. Waiting for a bus to get back to town, a guy in a beat up old Ford F-150 stopped and gave us a lift.

I guess I just don't need the validation of 1000s of people participating in the same event around me to have a good time.

Posted by Garrett | May 22, 2007 3:50 PM

I think Seattle is ready for a new weird giant gathering like BtB. We are sorta on the verge of it. It is there waiting to happen. I mean the Solstice is kinda funky and weird but it has its own traditions and should not be co-opted.

The Gay Pride event wants to be more outrageous. More and more straight boys want to dress up in crazy costumes (pink fuzzy hats, thong underwear and a boa) and prance around making out with girls and boys.

There is a Come one Come all Seattle Weird Parade just waiting to happen. It's something like a BtB, Solstice Parade, Burning Man, Burlesque, Artsy, Festivale, Hedonistic Love Everyone and Have some fun Run, Walk, and Parade rolled into one.

Posted by junk butt | May 22, 2007 4:00 PM

I think I saw Brick Tamlin kill someone with a Trident.

By the way, is there anyone quite as disturbing as SpongeBob NoPants?

Posted by MoPo | May 22, 2007 4:53 PM

Yeah, yeah, celebration of life, diversity, freakitude, yadda yadda...

I want to know who won the race and what his time was, damn it.

Posted by segal | May 22, 2007 8:45 PM

Kenya's John Korir

Korir, 31, crossed the finish line at Ocean Beach with a time of 34 minutes and 44 seconds.

The first female runner to cross the finish line was Edna Kiplagat, also of Kenya, with a time of 38 minutes and 55 seconds.

This year marked the first time a woman has been first across the Bay to Breakers finish line, according to race spokeswoman Katherine Ambellan. Kiplagat, 27, actually finished just ahead of Korir because the women are given an approximately 5-minute head start, Ambellan said.

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