Running in the 'Meda: It's Bay to Breakers time!

Running in the 'Meda: It's Bay to Breakers time!

Marty Beene

It's mid-May, so you know what that means, right?

Bay to Breakers!

I wrote about race strategy and my 2014 experience last year, and I wrote about training for the "B2B" earlier this year. This week, let's cover the overall scene.

With the advent of inexpensive and reliable chip timing, race management for a large event like this is significantly improved. In the early years of rapid growth of the B2B, semi-bandit runners would wreck the experience for many of us trying to actually race it. These were runners who registered, but then, in order to avoid the terribly crowded (and, hence, slow-moving) conditions at the start, would jump into the race from side streets in the first few blocks. With the huge number of runners - over 100,000 in some years - it was impossible to control.

Now, any runner wanting to run the event as a race can do so by signing up for an appropriate starting position, and they can expect a safe and sane experience. This, plus the fact that you have to cross the electronic threshold at the starting line to have your time registered, eliminates the demand for the side street entries.

They have also simplified the qualification standards for entry into the seeded and sub-seeded divisions. In past years, there were times categorized by age and race distance which often made no sense (e.g., a qualifying time using one distance was significantly more difficult to achieve than for a different distance). Now, for example, the sub-seeded qualification is simply to run under seven minutes per mile pace for a race of 10k or longer (B2B is a 12k). All of this means that the more competitive-minded runners do get to "race" it together, while the casual runners and walkers are accommodated further back.

Another "innovation" that started last year was the complete prohibition of alcohol on the course. I've never understood the desire to get drunk at 7 a.m. (or any other time, for that matter) and then try to walk or jog seven and a half miles. Does it really feel that good?

The result of the alcohol prohibition is a more uniformly happy and actually conscious field. The party crowd may be surprised to find out that people actually have lots and lots of fun, but without the bad things that can accompany heavy drinking.

The costumes are seemingly more and more creative every year. There are always some that are inexplicable - you literally have no idea what they are supposed to be. Others choose political or at least topical themes and almost always make everyone laugh.

Many runners - even serious ones - will at least wear some costume accessory, like in 1985 when defending Olympic marathon champion (and Maine native) Joan Benoit Samuelson crossed the B2B finish line wearing lobster-like oven mitts. I'm not really a costume person, but I did wear my bib number from 1978 a few years back.

Then there are those who wear no costumes at all. Believe it or not, some of the naked runners run really fast. There was one year that I was running very well, and struggled to pull ahead of a naked guy who was covered in red body paint - not to finish ahead of him, but just to make sure he didn't appear in my race photo at the six-mile mark.

The year before last, the weather was a little warmer than usual, and I saw more naked runners than ever. It doesn't look all that comfortable to me, but it seems that plenty of people enjoy doing it. To be fair, though, if you're wearing running shoes, does it still count as "naked"?

Hope to see you at the starting line at 8 a.m. this Sunday!

Marty Beene, a USA Track & Field certified coach, is owner of Be The Runner; he coaches adults from beginners to veterans individually and in groups. He plans to enjoy the cool weather Sunday morning; afterward, he can be reached at marty@BeTheRunner.com.