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The Bay to Breakers is an annual footrace which takes place in San Franciscomarker, Californiamarker. The name reflects the fact that the race starts at the northeast end of the downtown area a few blocks from The Embarcaderomarker (adjacent to San Francisco Baymarker) and runs west through the city to finish at the Great Highway (adjacent to the Pacificmarker coast, where breakers crash onto Ocean Beachmarker). The race is 7.46 miles (12 kilometers) long, and is run on the third Sunday in May.


Many of the participants dress up in costume, some of which show off varying degrees of nudity.

Robert J. Vlught, a student at St. Mary's College and newspaper copy-boy, won the first annual Cross-City Race on January 1, 1912 in a time of 44:10. In 1965, the name of the race was changed to Bay to Breakers.

Started as a way to lift the city's spirits after the disastrous 1906 San Francisco earthquake, it is the longest consecutively run footrace in the world (other races' courses and lengths have changed over time). During World War II participation sometimes slipped below 50 registrants, but the tradition carried on. With 110,000 participants, the Bay to Breakers race held on May 18, 1986 was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest footrace. That record number was partly the product of the running fad of the 1980s; currently the average participation is between 70,000 and 80,000. Race organizers estimated a field of 60,000 participants in 2008, 33,000 of whom were registered. The San Francisco Examiner publishes a list of the first 10,000 finishers the day after the race each year.

Large numbers of participants walk the route behind the runners. Some participants dress in elaborate costumes or, though not technically allowed, wear nothing at all (except footwear), thus lending a party atmosphere to the event. One festive tradition is the tortilla toss, during which runners throw tortillas at one another to pass time (similar to balloon-batting at rock concerts).

Other oddities are always on the scene, including traditional characters such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man, as well as other unique characters spawned for the race. There is also a group of much-beloved "salmon," participants who don elaborate full-body costumes to stagger upstream through the race.

The route is typically dotted with various local bands performing. At the end of the race is "Footstock", a gathering where participants and spectators can enjoy musical performances by various musical acts.

In February 2009, city officials and race sponsors announced major changes to the race regulations. The regulations included an official ban on floats, alcohol, drunkenness and nudity. The changes were made to assuage the concerns of San Francisco residents along the parade route, who say the race has gotten out of hand in recent years. The news sparked outrage amongst many Bay Area residents who said the changes would destroy everything that has made the race a national treasure for most of the last century. On February 27, 2009, city officials and race organizers announced that they were lifting many of the restrictions. In particular, floats will now be allowed as long as they are registered, and nudity is not mentioned anywhere in the new restrictions. Although the bans on alcohol and drunkenness technically remain in effect, all "zero tolerance" language has been removed.


In 1978, Dwayne "Peanut" Harms of the UC Davismarker men's track team founded a special division of the race in which 13 runners are connected as a unit entitled "centipedes". An additional runner, a floater, usually the team captain, is allowed to run along untethered to pace the team or substitute for drop out runner. Despite the novelty, the centipede race is very competitive. The Men's Centipede winner's time in 2008 was below the Women's course record. Bay to Breakers is the official site of the World Centipede Running Championships.


The Bay to Breakers course

The initial course started at the Ferry Buildingmarker along Market Streetmarker to Golden Gate Avenue before turning onto Divisadero Street. In 1968, the start was moved from Market Street to Howard Street and the ascension to Divisadero moved to Hayes Street. In 1983, the course was shortened from 7.51 miles to an official 12K (7.46 miles). The current course turns west along Hayes Street and up Hayes Street Hill near Alamo Squaremarker. This is the only major incline in the race. After the hill, the race runs along the panhandlemarker and then west through Golden Gate Parkmarker, past the Conservatory of Flowersmarker, all the way to Great Highway and Ocean Beachmarker.

Men's winners

May 17, 2009 Sammy Kitwara Kenyamarker 33:31WR?
May 18, 2008 John Kipsang Korir Kenyamarker 34:24
May 16, 1993 Ismael Kirui Kenyamarker 33:42
January 1, 1912 Robert Jackson Vlught USAmarker 44:10

  • WR? - Bay to Breakers race organizers reported that this was the fastest 12 km ever run. The Association of Road Racing Statisticians reports that Simon Kigen of Kenya set a 12 km world record of 33:46 in Portland, Oregon in 1985; however, their records also note that Joseph Kimani of Kenya ran 33:31 in 1997 at the Arts Fest River Run in Evansville, Indiana.

Women's winners

May 17, 2009 Teyba Erkesso Ethiopiamarker 38:29
May 18, 2008 Lineth Chepkurui Kenyamarker 39:20
May 15, 2005 Asmae Leghzaoui Moroccomarker 38:22*
May 23, 1971 Frances Conley USAmarker 50:45

  • *current course record

Men's centipede winners

May 18, 2008 ASICS Aggies Men United Statesmarker 38:05

Women's centipede winners

May 18, 2008 ASICS Aggies Women United Statesmarker 47:47

See also


  2. Some references list his last name as "Viught"
  6. notes name change in 1963
  9. Breakers to Bay Salmon Run!
  10. SF Chronicle: Beer, Nudity Banned in Bay to Breakers
  11. SF Examiner: Bay to Breakers Jumps on Wagon
  12. [1]
  13. [2]

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