Bay to Breakers is an annual race in San Francisco, where runners traverse the city from the Bay of San Francisco to the Pacific Ocean. But what makes it special is that somehow, somewhere along its 102-year-old history, it also turned into a gigantic day-time costume party for thousands of people who have no intention of running.

I joined the race at 6th & Howard, more of a parade by the time I arrived at 8:30am, 90 minutes after the start a mile away. By this time the course was filled with people in costume casually walking, and at times limbo dancing. The weather was sunny. I walked almost 7 miles to the end point at Ocean Beach, arriving long after the course had closed. Most of the partiers walked to Golden Gate park and just stayed there.

Bay to Breakers

Locals call the Bay to Breakers event “drunk straight pride,” which seemed like a good fit. The dominant costume theme was the American flag. The best costume I saw was based on the cat breading meme; two guys dressed as cats with giant slices of bread over their faces.

What’s awesome about this event is it is unique to San Francisco. As a tourist, it seemed to define what makes the city special. I’ve read how the city has cracked down on the race’s transformation into a version of Mardi Gras, banning the floats that people used to create. There is still much drinking, but there were several points where police had gathered, stepping in to take open cans of beer out of people’s hands, usually without saying a word, just grabbing the can before the reveler knew what’s going on. The bulk of the route was open to the sidewalks, but there were a few points where fencing bordered the sides, though there was no effort to remove people who didn’t have official race bibs, at least not at the time I walked the route.

The city of San Francisco has something wonderful here, something that has grown organically, that no other city has. It seems odd that they have to pretend the best part of Bay to Breakers is unsanctioned and therefore discouraged.

Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers

Bay to Breakers

More photos via the b2b2013 tag.

Bay to Breakers Is San Francisco

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