San Francisco Chronicle
BREAKERS BACK IN THE RUNNING
Beloved footrace draws thousands after pandemic pause
The Bay to Breakers footrace returned to San Francisco streets Sunday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, with its wacky costumes, political sloganeering, cheering spectators and, at least initially, a thick layer of fog.
Despite the rather chilly morning, thousands of racers dashed from one end of the city to the other in varying levels of dress, from skimpy running gear and spandex to hardly anything at all — a tradition at the one-of-a-kind event, which dates back more than a century.
“We’re just loving being here. It’s San Francisco at its finest,” said Joan Canning, a native of Ireland and now a Central Valley resident who ran the race with her friend Melissa Agass, before gesturing to a nude man wearing a green leprechaun hat. “Top of the mornin’ to you!”
The roughly 7½-mile trek began shortly after 8 a.m., with the toprated — and serious — runners first out of the gate at Main and Howard streets near the Embarcadero. Competitors proceeded
“We’re just loving being here. It’s San Francisco at its finest.” Runner Joan Canning, from Ireland by way of the Central Valley
through downtown, Hayes Valley, the Panhandle and Golden Gate Park, finishing at Ocean Beach.
The fastest time was recorded by San Diego runner Reid Buchanan, who completed the course in 36 minutes and 10 seconds. The top female finisher was
San Francisco resident Julia Vasquez, finishing in 42 minutes and 5 seconds. It’s the first time an American man and woman have won the race since 1981.
In another first, the event included a category for nonbinary runners, after a backlash to plans to give awards to only the top male and female finishers. Cal Calamia, a schoolteacher from San Francisco, was the top nonbinary finisher. The 25-year-old finished the race in 47 minutes and 3 seconds.
“I feel so overwhelmed with emotion, I could really cry,” Calamia told The Chronicle. “Now that I know that when the community advocates and pushes for something we can make a change like this, I don’t see why we would stop here. I’m hoping that this opens up more space for trans and nonbinary athletes to know that they are welcome in sports.”
Organizers of Bay to Breakers said there were 14,000 people who ran the race Sunday. Thousands more lined the course to watch the runners and take in the merriment for the first time since 2019.
The event was held virtually the past two years. Runners were encouraged to wear costumes and run their own routes, then upload selfies and their results online with the #baytobreakers hashtag.
Stephanie Graham-Helwig, who lives a block away from the route on Fell Street, set up camp chairs at the Panhandle to watch the race with her parents and husband, and said she’s missed the tradition.
“We’ve seen lots of good costumes,” she said. “‘Space Jam’ is my favorite. And there’s naked people, per usual.”
Graham-Helwig’s infant son, Mason, also wore a costume for the occasion: a Grogu “Baby Yoda” onesie to ward off the chill.
Several streets were closed for at least part of the morning as runners passed through.
Tiffany Wilson ran the race with her children Cara, 13, and Caleb, 16. The family was dressed as the game “rock, paper, scissors.”
“We knew we wanted to be a trio. This seemed fun and different,” said Wilson, noting it was their first time running the event.
Caleb Wilson joked he had “no clue” what Bay to Breakers was before coming to the race.
“There’s some interesting costumes,” he said. “And ... no costumes.”
Among the more popular apparel at the race were the ever-present tutus, worn by all genders and seemingly a Bay to Breakers tradition. Spandex costumes ranging from superheroes to Pokémon
“We’ve seen a lot of people with flags. This is very encouraging. It’s important to share messages of support.” Marina Valyeva, with Nova Ukraine
were also popular, as were costumes with wings, glitter and rainbow motifs.
Several runners also wore or waved blue and yellow Ukrainian flags, to show support for the country during the Russian invasion. At the finish-line festival, the nonprofit organization Nova Ukraine operated a tent where it sought donations for relief efforts in the country.
“We’ve seen a lot of people with flags,” said Marina Valyeva, a volunteer with the group. “This is very encouraging. It’s important to share messages of support. I’m afraid what may happen is that people will get used” to the invasion.
In years past, Bay to Breakers has had a reputation for partying and open consumption of alcohol, but no major problems were reported this year. By the finish line, the smell of marijuana was very present.
Bay to Breakers started in 1912 as part of a series of morale-building civic programs to assist in the city’s recovery from the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire. This is the 108th year the race has been held.