Partying in the Streets of San Francisco: Bay to Breakers 2006

Bonggamom's note: this is an old post I wrote for the Silicon Valley Moms in 2006.  I'm reposting it here to celebrate the 101st Bay to Breakers race, held yesterday in San Francisco.

Yesterday was the 2006 Bay to Breakers race. B2B is the longest consecutively running footrace in the world, a San Francisco tradition. Every year, about 80,000 people walk/run/party the 12k (7.46 mile) course. Many are in costume and many wear nothing whatsoever. This is my 4th B2B; the last time I ran was in 2002. 2003 passed by (too busy), then 2004 (too exhausted) and 2005 (too disorganized). By 2006 I had run out of excuses, so I recruited my friend and avid racewalker, the Divine Ms. B. Since we walked most of the course instead of running it like I had in previous years, I had plenty of time to relax, observe, and really enjoy what was going on around me:

Pre-race (6:30AM - 7:59AM): Here I am, runner #31495, waiting for the starting gun and raring to go. People are warming up, chatting, tossing beach balls and tortillas into the crowd. My daughter wished me luck last night with "I hope you win, mama!". No chance of that.

Mile 1 (8:17 AM): Finally! I can't believe it's taken us 17 minutes just to get to the official starting line. The road is already slippery from all the flying tortillas that have landed on the ground. A group of about 20 people get a good laugh -- they're dressed as salmon, and they're running in the opposite direction to everyone else.

Mile 2 (9:00 AM): The seeded runners have long since finished, and we're just starting up the Hayes Street Hill. I can't believe we are going so slowly. We pass a group of naked people and I can't resist having my picture taken with them. Farther up, we run into Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat. Ms. B approaches them like a starstruck fan and has her picture taken with them to show her daughters.

Mile 3: There's a little more space now, and we can finally quicken our strides. The sun is out and we are starting to break a sweat. People on the sidewalks and in buildings are partying and cheering us on. We look up and see a half-naked Elvis partying away on a balcony.

Mile 4: We slow down to get another drink at one of the official stations, but the volunteers have run out of cups. A bit further on, we pass a church. Services are over, and congregation members have set up their own little water stand. We gratefully gulp down several cupfuls -- bless them!

Mile 5 (9:58 AM): I bid goodbye to B and I'm off and running, weaving in and out among the walkers. The course starts to go downhill, the sun is shining, and I feel great. I should have started running at mile 4, not 5. Even more naked people, with yellow hats that say Bare to Breakers.

Mile 6: Here come the cameras! Loudspeakers instruct us to show our race numbers and wave and smile. More naked people, a couple of Elvis guys and some guys in suits with giant umbrellas, but serious runners like me have no time to gawk at these people.

Mile 7: Another photo op, but this time I'm too tired to smile for the camera. My legs feel like lead and I really want to stop and walk. I'm bored, too -- these 2 miles have seemed longer than the first 5 because B isn't here chatting with me. I should have started running at mile 6, not 5.

Mile 7.5 (10:22AM): Ahh, The Finish Line! I ran the last 2.46 miles in about 24 minutes, which is just under 6 mph. I'm pleased about my willpower and proud of myself for not stopping.

Post-race (10:23AM - now): My race is over, but my B2B experience isn't, not quite yet. I turn around to look for B, camera in hand to capture her crossing the finish line. As I wait, I study the people arriving. Three blind mice, girls in bikinis, a naked and barefoot man, and ordinary people like you and me. All of them happy and proud, with that same look of satisfaction, achievement and enjoyment on their faces. Here comes B, running triumphantly. We did it!

We pose for yet another photo, this time with Britney Spears and K-Fed impersonators, complete with a baby doll with a bloody forehead. On the way home, my butt and thighs are aching, but I'm already thinking about downloading the photos into the computer, digitally covering up the naughty bits, and sending them to my family.

As the Tshirt says, I survived Bay to Breakers. See you next year!

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