The History of Bay to Breakers
Of all of San Francisco’s unique traditions, none captivates the entire city the way Bay to Breakers does. It’s an annual testament to the creativity, community and resilience that make our city such a popular destination.
It also has a rich history. Here are some facts about the Bay to Breakers you can share along the course this year, whether you’re racing up Heartbreak Hill or cheering at the finish line on the Great Highway.
Please Note: The 2021 Bay to Breakers will be a virtual event that you can participate in from wherever you are, from May 16 to June 2. Register here.
The race began in 1912. It was meant to raise the spirits of a city still recovering from the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and build excitement for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Bay to Breakers continued well beyond those original goals, and is now recognized as the longest consecutively run foot race in the world.
It also held the world record for largest footrace for 24 years. The 1986 Bay to Breakers had 110,000 participants. That’s more than twice the capacity of Oracle Park!
It’s a race for everyone. You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to run in Bay to Breakers (although many have!). The race, like San Francisco itself, has always been open to everyone. Participants of all ages, abilities and nationalities join in every year.
It’s a showcase of creativity. For Bay to Breakers, it’s not just about when you cross the finish line. t’s also about what you’re wearing when you do. Every year, participants try to outdo one another by crafting some truly outrageous costumes. You can see some of our favorites from years past in this gallery.
Watch out for centipedes. We don’t mean the kind you might find in your backyard. In Bay to Breakers, a centipede is a group of runners competing as a unit. The idea first caught on in the late 1970s, and Bay to Breakers is now the official site of the World Centipede Running Championships.
Whether you’re planning to lace up your sneakers or watch with your neighbors, there are plenty of ways to prepare. Be sure to check out our tips for runners and revelers, and enjoy this year’s Bay to Breakers!