Centipedes in sneakers, running garbage cans and tray-balancing waiters—they’re all part of what’s undoubtedly one of the wackiest foot races in the world. Bay to Breakers, a late-May jaunt that’s the oldest consecutively run annual race in the world (it debuted in 1912), starts along San Francisco’s bayfront Embarcadero. From there, tens of thousands of participants snake west along a city-slicing route (including the dreaded Hayes Street Hill, where cumbersome costumes can take their toll) to its finish just under eight miles (12k) away at the breakers on Ocean Beach.
True to the spirit of the city, anywhere along the route is party time, with bands and musicians playing from doorways, mixing in their tunes with the cheering from an estimated 100,000 spectators. The anything-goes feel of the event is encouraged at every turn, perhaps most notably by the fact that even race officials do not enforce any kind of registration requirement.
Every year, there are a good number of professionals from all over the world competing who quickly distance themselves from the throngs and take home the top prizes, but that’s not the only way to go home a winner from this race. Prizes are awarded for the fastest “centipede” (the Bay to Breakers tradition of 13 or more runners competing as a group, linked by bungee cord or other safe device), the fastest “splitpede” (co-ed), and the top-finishing “minipede” (a centipede comprised of runners in ninth grade or younger).
Getting there: With so many participating both in the procession of runners and on the sidelines, race day is a crowded day in the City by the Bay. You can get a rundown of all the shuttles and public transportation options to get to the event and advice about how to secure parking at the Race Day Transportation page of the Bay to Breakers site.
Insider tip: If you want more of a challenge than the standard-issue Bay to Breakers race, in 2018, the Breakers Bonus was introduced, allowing runners to increase their run distance from a 12k to a 15k.