How to: Bay to Breakers for first-timers

by mo on 06/8/2012

What is Bay to Breakers?

The slowest race you’ll ever run and the fastest party you’ll ever go to.
Tens of thousands of people partying their way across the entire city, in the morning, in ridiculous outfits. Would you expect anything less from San Francisco?

Above average number of giraffes in Hayes Valley.

Assembling the Crew

Having a good crew is essential. 5-15 people seem manageable. Make sure they’re swaggin’. Organize them somehow — I recommend the internet. And if they’ve never done Bay 2 Breakers before, you are gonna have to give them the rundown, which is partially the reason I’m writing this guide… I wish I’d had one! (Seriously, people in this city will NOT believe you when you say they need to wake up before noon for something).


People overthink this part. Yes, people wear crazy costumes (or nothing at all) on Bay2Breakers, but you don’t HAVE to dress up as a tetris piece or a mob of gay dinosaurs, as long as you look a little bit strange. Most of my crew polished off their outfits with random items from my closet — a pirate hat here, a pink apron there, a skirt used to affix a broccoli to a head, and a gay @ facebook shirt. Just everyday items that can be found in any wardrobe, really!

Anyway, Bay 2 Breakers is a good opportunity to get some use out that item of clothing you can ONLY wear at Halloween…or Pride… or Coachella… or Dolores Park… OKAY, there’s a lot of opportunity in San Francisco to wear ridiculous clothing ALWAYS, but whatever. Go wild.

Do: Wear comfy socks and shoes. Remember, you’re not only walking 7 miles, you’re DANCING 7 miles.
Don’t: Wear anything warm. Seriously, you will be burnin’ up in that crowd of 70k party-people.

Booze Purchase & Transportation

– Stick mostly to wine and mixed drinks. A little beer is okay, but it’s sort of heavier than it’s worth.
– Use Nalgene bottles, flasks, etc. because you can potentially get glass bottles confiscated and that’s just tragic. Personal recommendation: use Voss water bottles, mostly so you can run around the city saying “LIKE A VOSS” all day.
– Bring your own bag. It’s way easier if every person just carries all their stuff and is self-sufficient. A Camelback or one of those drawstring bags should do the trick.
– Make any dairy-based drinks because it’s going to be hot, and ew.

Other things to pack:
– phone, keys, wallet
– camera
– SUNBLOCK (please please please. Oh, and use it.)
– sunglasses

The Night Before

Do: Assemble everyone at a single apartment, or a couple of close-by apartments. This is to make sure you avoid:
– people oversleeping
– attempting to meet up with people at the event itself, which is way too chaotic, crowded, hard to coordinate, and your phone will stop working due to the crowds. It’s just really best if everyone starts out together.
Mix your drinks and refrigerate as necessary, put everything else in your bag
Don’t: Party too hard or too late. Pre-festing is encouraged, but seriously, go to bed people.

How early do I have to wake up?

If your friends are at all sane, they will be initially appalled at the idea of waking up before noon on a SUNDAY. However, it needs to be done. Or, as @iamnirav so eloquently put it:

As far as I can tell, there are several reasonable options of when/where to start, depending on how hard you want to go and how early your’e willing to wake up:

7 AM @ Embarcadero (Howard & Beale)
This is when the actual race starts, so the runners will go at the front and the partiers will start to trail along behind. Some people even pre-party this, but like, WHY.

9 AM @ Civic Center
This is what we ended up doing — after initially going to an abandoned Embarcadero, we backtracked and found ourselves towards the middle of the party @ Civic Center at 9. Totes reasonable! And unless my crew wants to go harder in the paint next year, I’d be willing to do this again.

11 AM @ Alamo Square or Noon @ NoPa
For the peeps who aren’t going to alter their schedule drastically for this holiday, meet up halfway. Warning: halfway here means everyone will be thoroughly trashed, NoPa is pretty much a shitshow. But if you’re down, join right in.

I have no idea after that, but why would you want to join like, midway through the park? Street partying is the best part — you can party in a park in the afternoon EVERY WEEKEND if you want.

The Morning of:

– Wake up the crew and finish up any last-minute drink/costume setup
– Figure out what to do about breakfast. Eat at home, bring food with, or stop somewhere along the way are all fine options, but all the Starbucks’ etc. in the financial district probably will be closed.
– Shower, if you can avoid it. Cuz you’re sure as hell gonna need a shower afterwards
– Hold up the crew by being slow. Get your shit together, kid!
– Stress! Enough logistics, it’s time to start having fun!!!

BREAKING THE BAY, a story in pictures and times (and some more do’s and don’ts):

We finally found the 50k other peeps.
9:30 AM
Do: Find yourself amongst these haps, on Hayes, after your trek from Civic Center

10 AM
Do: Take a breakfast stop @ Cafe International for some fancy schmancy bagels and cream cheese. The back patio can be yours!

Apparently this was another Twitter person's party... it was also the best party all day, until it got broken up.
11 AM
Do: Stop and dance in the street at the parties along the way.  This one was defs the raddest!

Coworker sighting #1, @chanian
Do: Say hi to your coworkers when you run into them!  Its only polite!

PASS THE BROCCOLI, our fan says.
Do: Toss your coworkers a broccoli, when appropriate.

Bodski communicating some very important information.  #srsbusiness
Don’t: Lose members of your group at this point, since your phones will be the most useless they have ever been. Note Bodski doing some serious logistics with Polly here as we pass by Alamo Square.

If your group is anything like ours, it’s time to take a break and chill out for a while. Also, a good point to have the noon-risers to meet up. We obvs stopped at the incredibly conveniently located BharKrall Motel.

Ford is unimpressed.
Do: Hang out on the roof.  Wave to Sutro tower.

Broccoli takes a nap.
Don’t: Fall off the roof. #awk

1 PM
Do: Have a daytime dance party in the living room. Recommended playlist.

Ford getting beamed up.
Don’t: you stop the music.

Aaron uses jedi mind tricks on Ben.
Do: Discover hidden acrobatic and Jedi talents of your friends.

2 PM
Do: Embark on the second half of the journey and make your way into Golden Gate Park. Now is the time to throw on that long-sleeved shirt you picked up at your pit stop.
Don’t: Force it. If it’s time to stop, you’d best be stopping. Also, don’t get separated from the group.

So we left my place and then...we're AT THE BEACH!!! #Breaking #PoandMollyWin!!!
4 PM
Do: A victory dance in the ocean

Do: Hug yo friends
Don’t: Worry about where Nathan went (you’ll find him on your doorstep when you make it home), or worry about all the freezing water and sand up in your clothes. WORTH IT.

When you’re ready, peel yourselves off the beach and hop on a bus (the 5 worked out well for us) and go take a nap and make some tacos. <3

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