Bay to Breakers Report; How a Beginner Begins Running

This crowd literally goes for miles

From the top of Hayes Hill, the costumed parade stretches from one end of SF to the other.

I know I promised that I would be posting some running tips for the non-runner this time around, but I have to first give a quick recap to what might be the greatest race of all time, the 99th annual Bay to Breakers. Oh yes. The miles fly by when all you see is crazy costumes.

For those who don’t know, Bay to Breakers is a tradition, 3rd Sunday of every May, where tens of thousands of costumed folk get together and party their asses off, under the pretext of racing from the Embarcadero (well, Howard Street and Beale Street) to Ocean Beach.  It is a certified 12K (7.46 miles) race, and apparently wasn’t really a costumed freaky-drink fest until fairly recently. The first costumed runner was actually in 1940, and finished last. Here are some more interesting statistics.

One if by land...

The redcoats are coming!

I mentioned that my cadre of friends was going as cowboys and Indians, and both ends of Manifest Destiny did quite well with their costumes. They gathered at a friend’s house and drank themselves damn near to oblivion, while I was busy trying to gain access to a pre-race port-o-potty at 8 in the morning.

This is for the buffalo!

Custer's last stand?

Since I registered late, I was in the slowest corral. This meant that I was doomed to be in the crowdy crowd for most of the early part of the race, as funneling something like 70,000 people through one street is like trying to flush a combo of hair and marshmallows down the sink drain. In fact, I didn’t even officially cross the starting line of the race until 8:22.

It was slow going until the top of Hayes hill, which is a little before the 3 mile mark. In fact, I had to walk a fair portion of it due to the pure congestion of slow joggers, walkers, and quasi-runners. Dodging folk was a little bit fun, but weaving probably added a considerable distance to my race.

Pocahontas got nothin'

My little squaw, Jello-shotted and ready to race!

Once you hit the top of Hayes hill, it’s all downhill through Golden Gate Park. In addition, it clears out, and it’s my home training ground to boot, so that’s what I started kicking it into high gear. Mile 3-7 took me 29 minutes, while the first 2.8 miles took me 26 and a half minutes.

Overall, I was very proud of my run. I finished in 1:02:03, 3308 out of 24,000+ finishers. It would have been much faster had I run in a quicker corral and avoided the crowds, but who cares…I ain’t no competitive runner, except against myself, and I judge my performance favorably.

Some of the highlights of a crazy crazy day, in no particular order:

– Dressed as a cow, I run under the photo takers three separate times. Once by myself, once with a chicken, and once with a 60 year old guy with a turban on

Does it get any better?

Perfect. Sorry about the watermark, I'm too broke to buy.

Farm animals unite!

Also awesome.

– Standing next to the Jesus-freaks who were yelling at the runners about their sin and nudity, and yelling at the runners to “enjoy your lives!; Don’t let anyone force their beliefs on you!; Sin is fun!” and the like.


Adam and Eve?

– Some killer floats
– The DJs and bands that dotted the course
– Getting free beers from strangers. Many beers.
– Running into a high school mate and getting a 90-second synopsis of her life since 2002 (she’s getting married soon).
– Running into a college friend who had lost her group, drinking champagne with her, and talking about Burning Man
– Getting free drinks and pastries from a few gay men who wanted me to convert. I politely declined (their advances, that is. I kept the drinks and muffin.)
– Seeing not a single fight, or really any problems besides a few overboard drinkers.
– High-fiving a lot of fellow cows.
– …and dozens more fun things.

I can’t wait for number 100.

Dey Took Are JERRRBS!

A political point, perhaps?

Anyway, on to some tips for fellow novice runners.

I would say that one of the most important things that gets you to actually start running is to have a calendared goal in mind. Sign up for some race, even if it’s a 5K, and start running with that in mind. The pressure to perform always gets the motivational juices flowing.

Start slow. Real slow. You might say something along the lines of “my body can’t handle running” or “I don’t think my knees can take it.” You’d be surprised what your body can handle, if you just get in to it real slow. I’ve had knee issues in the past, but I started by running 15-20 minutes twice per week, and very slowly, and my body was able to handle it quite well. Scale up or down depending on your fitness level, and for the first few weeks avoid getting sore.  If you get sore, scale back a little.

Day to day motivation can be hard to come by, so you need to come up with small victories.  One of the most satisfying things to me is running from landmark to landmark, even if it’s just from home to a major intersection and back. If it’s something you typically drive, you’ll be amazed at how easy just running it seems, once you’ve done it. For example, I’ve run from my house to the ocean, around Land’s End trail, and back home. Or from North Beach, across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. Or from my house in Kensington down to San Pablo, up to UC Berkeley, and back. Before you know it, you’ll be covering a lot of ground. There’s no better way to surprise yourself.

Stretch. Seriously. It feels really good. And you’ll actually get more flexible, because your blood is circulating a lot better.

Get ready to watch your legs change. Whenever you start doing a new activity, like climbing, the muscles that you haven’t been using in that particular manner will expand like crazy. If you’ve been stuck in a rut, doing the same workout for years and not seeing much improvement, it’s a pretty cool feeling to see rapid improvement. My calves, for example, would look incredible in heels right now. And given that I live in San Francisco, it’s not too far-fetched.

I can’t really speak to the idea of a training partner.  I don’t like running with other people, as I prefer my own pace, and I don’t like trying to talk and run at the same time.  Then again, I also don’t run with music, and that seems to worry most people.  So do whatever you feel like on this one.

Finally, keep a log of your miles.  They’ll accumulate faster than you can come up with a better acronym for Adidas than that Outkast song, and at the end of the training, you can impress your friends with some serious numbers.  Happy trails!


2 Responses to “Bay to Breakers Report; How a Beginner Begins Running”

  1. great photos, great run. I’m impressed.

  2. Enjoyed reading your blog!

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