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A Runner and a Resident Have Their Say on Bay to Breakers

| May 14, 2011
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Amanda Stupi, The Runner:

Amanda Stupi in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Amanda Stupi before one of the many Bay Area races she runs.

I’m approaching this year’s Bay to Breakers with a healthy mix of anticipation, skepticism and anxiety. I’ve run the Bay to Breakers twice — I registered, I trained, heck — Jerry Rice even handed me my post-race drink one year. I’ve also “done” the Bay to Breakers several times, meaning I didn’t register, but rather joined halfway along the route, and sampled adult beverages along the way.

By far, I had more fun the years I ran. There’s something about struggling up the Hayes Street Hill only to be passed by an elderly man in a gold lamé miniskirt that’s just awesome. Humbling, but awesome.

And let’s not forget the cheering crowds which merge into one giant house party. Music pumps out of open doors and windows, on-lookers dance on jam-packed stoops, and strangers cheer one another with Dixie cups of beer.

No other race comes close to being this spirited. Seeing the costumes alone is worth the price of entry (which was rather steep this year).

But as exhilarating as the race atmosphere is, I’ve stayed away from B2B the past few years, largely because it simply got disgusting. I grew tired of Muni buses that smelled like puke, of the mob mentality that, yes, justified public fornication, and the trashing of a park that I bicycle through everyday.

But I’m back this year. Why? Well, I’m not sure exactly — probably because it’s the 100th year of the race, and because the race bridges the time gap between the half marathons on my calendar and helps keeps me in shape. But honestly, it may be mostly because whenever I don’t do the Bay to Breakers I feel like I’m missing out on something. Not going to Bay to Breakers feels a lot like sitting home alone on a Friday night — fun’s happening all around you, just out of your reach.

Despite my griping about the ickiness, I hope that this year’s safety efforts don’t sanitize the event too much. The official Bay to Breakers website reads like an anti-drug PSA, complete with corny family photos. I’m also a bit nervous about the use of corrals at the starting line. After all, this is the race with a tradition of flying tortillas at the starting line. Somehow I don’t think the B2B crowd, even those of us who run on a regular basis, is ready for a paced start.

But all that said, I’m not even sure that it’s even possible to sanitize Bay to Breakers. That’s the thing about a mob mentality — the mob is generally too large to contain with rules.

So come Sunday, I’ll be putting on my sneakers and maybe some glitter or a boa, and see what the 100th running of the Bay to Breakers has to offer. And if you pass me on Hayes, be sure to wave.

Lisa Pickoff-White, The Resident:

Lisa Pickoff-White at Eddie's Cafe in Western Addition

I love costumes, and I especially love costume parties. I own 12 hats, three pairs of fairy wings, and entire closet of homemade Renaissance Fair stuff from when I worked at one. Which is one of the major reasons that I love San Francisco — no one is afraid to dress up and have a good time here.

And then I moved to the panhandle.

At first I was excited about Bay to Breakers. It was practically in my backyard! I could people watch and take photos from the comfort of my own home, and use the bathroom with ease. It was a good time: smurfs, beer flowing out of a mushroom, people in funny hats, and the ever-present naked old men. It was like Christmas for local bars and liquor stores.

Then … someone threw up on my potted plants. Which eventually led to the death of a Rhododendron. A few blocks down, on the way to Lucky for some replenishments, I spotted a young woman puking her guts up and shaking. She was all alone, as her friends walked away. At the grocery store, which is apparently the spot to buy liquor for the race, the lines were 30 people deep, all of them buying booze. Walking down to Fell to catch the rest of the parade I noticed that the streets began smelling something awful due to the stream of people urinating just about anywhere, despite 900 port-a-potties close by. Beer bottles, water bottles and wrappers of stuff were scattered on the streets for days.

Look, I don’t mind the nudity, I don’t mind the drinking, and I actually love the inventive costumes. But please, please, please pick up your garbage, take care of your drunk friends, and leave my innocent plants alone.

(Amanda and Lisa are Interactive Producers at KQED.)

So how do some of the race participants think this year will go? Reporter Caitlin Esch tried to find out:

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