Bay to Breakers 2013: Complete Guide to San Francisco 12k Extravaganza

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVMay 19, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 17:  A runner wearing a costume takes part in the ING Bay to Breakers race May 17, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  Now in its 98th year, the ING Bay to Breakers 12K is one of the world's largest and oldest footraces, featuring world-class athletes in addition to costumed runners.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

For one Saturday in May, the Bay to Breakers 12-kilometer marathon encompasses the city of San Francisco with everything from long-distance runners to drunken costume-wearers to streakers, and this year figures to be no different.

The race has built up a tradition of one of the most entertaining mass-organized sports spectacles of the year, as registered runners race through the crowded course that's often covered in unregistered participants looking to enjoy the event's tradition. 

Let's dive in and check out everything you need to know in this complete guide of the 2013 Bay to Breakers. 


When: Sunday, May 18 at 7 a.m. PT

Where: San Francisco



This year's Bay to Breakers starts out at Howard and Main streets and stretches down to Ocean Beach. 

A full map of the race route can be found here.


Event's Tradition

The Bay to Breakers is far more than a 12k race that a few people dress up funny and pre-game for. It's one of the biggest events of the year for a huge city that embraces creativity and standing out from the pack.

Matt Striker of the San Francisco Travel Association summed it up best to the San Francisco Chronicle

"It's a 12-kilometer art project," said Striker. The race is a "pressure release valve for those of us that live here."

People come to the Bay to Breakers for a number of reasons. First off, there are those who are actively participating in the race in order to compete either with the field or themselves.

Next, and perhaps the most numerous, are those who embrace it as a celebratory city event, often coming in costumes and downing a few drinks before they go.

Then there are the huge amounts of spectators watching to enjoy one of the most unique days in San Francisco. The fact of the matter is, it's far more than a 12k. 


Don't Get Lost!

For a good chunk of the participants, the race will be a short-lived experience after running about a mile and tiring yourself out. 

All of a sudden, you're a mile away from where you parked your car and met with your friends, and there's no way of going back the way you came with the race still going on. 

If you're not going to be running the entire race, have a plan on how far you're going to run and how you'll reconvene and get back to where you need to go. Perhaps a friend lives nearby that you can visit while the race continues to make the surroundings hard to navigate.



Public nudity just became illegal in San Francisco (it took that long?), according to the city's local CBS affiliate, but of course, they found a way to make an exception for the tradition-rich Bay to Breakers. 

It sounds like those lucky enough to have a May 19 birthday will be able to don the birthday suits during the 12k event. Or if you're not special enough for it to be your birthday, I guess they've made an exception to that, too.



If you're feeling adventurous and flashy, yet not enough so to go fully nude, find the craziest costume you have and put it on.

San Francisco's public show up in everything from fairy outfits to full bear suits to run in the event.

If you aren't trying to compete for victory or post the best time possible, go ahead and throw something goofy on. After all, it's what has made this event so popular. 


Think Twice About Bringing Your Kids

Other than the nudity, drunkenness, dangerous hordes of people and occasional violence, the Bay to Breakers is a family-style event. (I hope you caught the sarcasm there.)

Unless you want to explain to little Johnny what those funny-looking people are funneling in the parking lot or why they're not allowed to take their pants off, it might be a good idea to hire a babysitter while you go participate in the festivities. 



Whenever mass groups of people organize to drink and have a good time, bad things tend to happen. Unfortunately, the Bay to Breakers is no exception as a 30-year-old man was killed following last year's event (via San Francisco Appeal). 

There's a fine line between having fun and crossing the line, and too often we see a celebratory event turn into tragedy. And with thousands of people running alongside you, it's easy to trip up. Always be careful of where you are and how much space you have, because one slip-up could result in getting trampled. 


More Information

Are you looking for something about the Bay to Breakers that we've failed to cover? Check out the official Bay to Breakers website for everything else you need to know.