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How to participate in the Bay to Breakers race without going crazy

Updated on October 14, 2012

My race results 2009

Whew! I just ran the 98th annual Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco today! It was an amazing experience, and I'm so glad that I did it. However, I received a lot of pointers from people about not just how to run the race, but how to get there, what to do once you're there, and so on. I'd like to share a little about what I've learned from my experience and what others have told me.

Registration: Registration was fairly easy; I'd certainly recommend doing so online. However, if you plan on participating next year, definitely try to keep up on when registration opens so you can do so as early as possible. The race is always the third Sunday in May, so keep that in mind. You want to register early so you can get a good place in the race lineup. There are five "corrals" that you are placed in, and each corral is meant for different levels of racers. For instance, corral A is for the fastest racers, and they are at the front of the line so they don't have to worry about slower people getting in their way. However, my friend and I registered pretty late, so we were automatically placed in corral D, and it was difficult to get around the walkers and the people in the crazy costumes.

Another thing: You really don't have to register. By the time that we paid, it was $53 or so. However, my boyfriend walked the race for fun and didn't pay anything. But it was nice to get a shirt, and the race people record your scores with a little tag to put on your shoe, and take photos, etc. There's also the costume contest and other parts. Weigh the pros and cons.

Preparation: I don't know everything about running distances, but you should train by running frequently depending on the distance (Bay to Breakers is a 12K, or about 7.5 miles). I ran no more than 6 miles at a time to prepare; you should try not to run the full race distance until race day.

I also ate balanced meals weeks before the race, and lots of carbs the day before, fruit leather the morning of the race, and lots of water and Gatorade to help replace the salts I lost through sweat.

Check the weather beforehand to see if you will be okay in your costume or if you should strip down.

Items: I brought my race bib and tag; I did not bring safety pins, and the tent ran out of them, so I had to borrow some from some generous people... I would just say to bring your own. I also brought a bottle of water, suntan lotion, the map and information that I was mailed, and a cell phone to tell my mom when I finished the race! A camera is also a good idea. Thankfully my BF carried this stuff for me, but a fanny pack isn't a bad idea.

Costumes: If you're racing, definitely wear something that you won't get too hot in, that will get in your way, or that you'll chafe in. Be creative and don't wait until the day before!

Transportation: Although I live in San Jose, it wasn't difficult to get to the race because I took the Caltrain; I was advised to try to avoid the parking costs and hassles, and I'm glad that it worked out. However, while the ride there was an hour, the ride back was 2.

Along the Embarcadero, there were reasonably priced parking lots for around $10, but make sure to get there nice and early!

At the end of the race, chances are that you will want a way to get back to your car, which is probably 7 miles away. There's a MUNI shuttle that will take you anywhere, and you can buy a day pass. However, try to get it before you get to the race so you won't have to pay $7.

During: Wear suntan lotion, take advantage of all of the water stations, try to keep in the shade, and have a great time! There's a hill near the middle of the course, and it can be a killer if you haven't trained for it. It's not bad, but just be ready for it.

After: Keep walking and don't stop for a little while! Do a little cooldown jog. Drink plenty of water and/or Gatorade, and don't forget to stop by Footstock to get your free "I Survived the Bay to Breakers" T-shirt, free samples, and free music. Enjoy your victory!


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