I’d like to welcome our guest blogger: Ami Kelly Hodge [pictured above (center) with her hands in the air]. With the recent announcement about the changes in the ING Bay to Breakers 12k, I thought it would be appropriate to have someone blog about it with B2B experience… please enjoy:
When I first read that ING, the major sponsor for the San Francisco Bay To Breakers, was going to put in place a zero-tolerance policyon alcohol consumption, floats and nudity for all future races, my first reaction was “Well, there goes another San Francisco institution”. Last year we saw the City try to put an end to the annual Halloween party in the Castro and now this! All because a few bad apples are spoiling what have always been fairly harmless celebratory events.
Originally created in 1912 as a way for San Francisco citizens to let off steam while still dealing with the repercussions of the 1906 Earthquake, Bay To Breakers has historically been regarded as more than just a foot race across town. Participants have been encouraged to show off their uniqueness, which perfectly reflects the diversity of The City. The 12K race, which begins near the Embarcadero and ends along the Great Highway, next to the Pacific Ocean, has attracted a record number of participants. Currently, the average number of registrants is between 70,000 and 80,000. Typically the front of the pack will consist of elite and seeded runners (including the “world premier” centipede runners) while the rear will be made up of less serious or slower partakers. The former of which have been a bone of contention for neighbors and sponsors over the past few years.
For the most part, the middle to the “back of the pack” includes folks dressed in costume or even riding on home-made floats which often contain a relevant theme to current events. Oh yeah, did I mention there were nude runners, too? Harking back to the late 1970’s, a growing number of people, affectionately known as “Bare To Breakers” have been daring to let it all hang out from start to finish. In addition to the motley group of runners, live bands and encouraging friends, family and neighbors line the way to keep people motivated. This party-like atmosphere tends to attract revelers more than someone just trying to get in a good workout or make a PR (Personal Record).
I first ran Bay To Breakers in 2001. My son, Nathan, was two and my husband and I decided we would take turns pushing him in the jogging stroller. I had actually been dragging my heels (no pun intended) when it came to running a 12K. I really was not in good shape at that time. Even before I had kids I did not have the kind of stamina that I do now. My parents, who had been going annually for over 10 years, tried tirelessly to get me to come out and walk with them. Finally, I reached a point where I was seeing the benefits of jogging and decided I would take a stab at B2B. While we didn’t run the entire race, we did manage to complete it in a little over two hours.
Needless to say, I was originally apprehensive to complete B2B. Walking, in and of itself, for 7.46 miles seemed like a daunting task. But with all the amusing diversions, I found myself so distracted I didn’t notice how much I was really exerting. By the time the race was over, it didn’t seem that difficult. I think that’s a real positive aspect of Bay To Breakers. It encourages people who normally wouldn’t want to run or walk that distance because they are in the midst of literally, an entertaining atmosphere.
It’s hard not to feel uplifted while being at Bay To Breakers and this is something we can all benefit from especially now. With the current economic crisis and financial woes spreading like wildfire, it’s nice to have an outlet like B2B where we can be amongst others who want to spread joy and positive vibes. It’s an event that is a great opportunity to forget about your troubles and jump-start those endorphins.
Now, as far as the folks that go a step further in their exuberance by getting inebriated at 8:30AM and acting like rude drunks should really be discouraged from coming out to the race. Unfortunately, drinking alcohol and Bay To Breakers has historically gone hand in hand. There is actually a group of people who plan months in advance on the best ways to get totally sh**faced during this event. To be honest, I don’t personally object to the consumption of alcohol during B2B (technically it IS illegal…but so is public nudity!). I do take offense to disrespectful behavior. Apparently, last year’s B2B had an outrageously high number of incidents of idiots who chose to use people’s doorways as toilets. I know there is the argument that B2B planners could have put out more porta-potties but frankly, that’s ridiculous. This was never as a big a problem in previous years.
Other than this particular group of morons, there is no other aspect to Bay To Breakers that I would change (with the exception of some of the nude participants. Obviously, I realize this is completely subjective). I always adhere to two theories: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and If it doesn’t hurt anyone then it’s ok. Rather than squash a harmless tradition, I feel ING and Bay To Breaker organizers need to address the main issue at hand: removing the stumbling drunks who look like they’re about to vomit. Trust me, anyone who is running naked, wearing a penguin costume or trying to push a float up Hayes Street Hill will not be consuming large quantities of alcohol. At least not until AFTER the race!
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Thank you for that wonderful post Ami. All photos above were taken by Ami’s friend, Reese Williams.
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.