San Francisco's 89th Bay to Breakers lives up to its crazy, boozy reputation

Credit: J.P. DeLauri/
SAN FRANCISCO Halloween, mobile keg parties and characters from the days when people said make love, not war rolled through the streets of San Francisco on Sunday for the worlds largest foot race.

Approximately 70,000 people about 20,000 of whom were unofficial made their way in all forms from the Marina District in front of San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean for the 89th annual Bay to Breakers.

Among the thousands of costumed participants walking or running the seven-mile race were men running fully naked, women exposing their breasts, people dressed as ex-presidents and a personal computer. Others who werent so bold just ran in their underwear. After the finish, the crowd made their way over to Footstock, an all-day party with barbecues, bands and plenty of booze.

And yes, there were a few runners who did take it all seriously. Kenyan Rueben Cheruiyot, 26, won the mens division in 34:54. Colleen DeReuck won the womens division in a record 38:42. Both picked up a $10,000 prize for their wins.

The Kenyan victory was the 10th consecutive mens win for the African country in the event. Cheruiyot led all the way from the Hayes Street hill, where he picked up an extra $500 for being the first to the top. The heat played a role, as his finish was the second slowest since the mid 1980s. Countryman Ismail Kirui finished second in 35:25.

DeReuck, 36, bettered Delillah Asiago's 1995 record time by 19 seconds. Russian Lydia Grigorieva, 26, took second at 39:37.

Bay to Breakers started in 1912 as a way to raise money for victims of the 1906 earthquake and fire that devastated San Francisco. Over the years the race has become more of a local spectacle than an athletic event. Today more people come to see the freaks than to see the elite athletes. Perhaps the idea was spawned when a women ran disguised as a man in the 1940s it wasnt until 1971 when both sexes were allowed to run.

The race almost fizzled out in the 1960s when smoking grass was more popular then running on it. When the fitness craze and the running boom started in the 1970s, Bay to Breakers exploded to host as many as 100,000 runners during the 1980s.

San Francisco isnt a sports town, said cab driver John Schumaker, who has been driving in the city since the late 1970s. Its an event town.

Bay to Breakers is probably the only race where youll see more participants drinking alcohol than water.

Several groups had the idea of rolling a keg of beer in a shopping cart with Footstock or Bust as their motto.

Were not feeling it, said one 20-something reveler pushing a cart of Heineken when asked if he knew that alcohol, running and 80-degree temperatures is a bad mix. We will tomorrow, though.

The software worker from Pacific Heights asked not to be identified, perhaps not to blow his cover when he calls in sick Monday.

Pushing a keg seven-plus miles, especially when it includes going up the famed Hayes Street Hill, is quite a feat, but these partiers were definitely upstaged by what was just turning the corner onto Great Highway.

With music blaring, a fully equipped tiki-hut-style bar with televisions and a bartender serving beer and margaritas made its way through the finish line to a roaring crowd.

Once you get over the hill its not bad. Going down the hill is tough, said Darren Schleph, who was the creator of the tiki hut along with his wife Liz and others from nearby Walnut Creek. Going down we have to put the brakes on. The people up front get a little wet. Our first year we made the front page of the (San Francisco) Chronicle. The headline said: It beats the hell out of running.

It started about 10 years ago and its evolved into the massive amount of tiki hut you see today, Liz Schleph said. We walk it, serve margaritas and beer on tap and then have a big spaghetti feast at the end.

The bar is 21 feet long by 16 feet wide, and when empty it weighs 4,000 pounds 6,000 when fully stocked. Several members of the group take turns pushing, walking, drinking, walking, pushing and drinking.

At mile 3 they made a pit stop and swapped out the empty kegs for full ones. During a typical Bay to Breakers, theyll consume 25 to 30 kegs of beer and 15 kegs of margaritas.

Two years ago we were in a Miller Genuine Draft commercial after they discovered us at Bay to Breakers, Schleph said.

So much for Gatorade.

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