Bay to Breakers Route – How Bay To Breakers Works? (Except Being Fun!)

How Bay To Breakers Works - Course Route

If you live in San Francisco, there is a good chance that you have participated in Bay to Breakers.

If you haven’t, then you know someone who has. As a way to lift the spirits of the city after the dreadful 1906 Earthquake, Bay to Breakers has been around for well over 100 years.

  • What is Bay to Breakers: Relaxed and fun footrace in San Francisco
  • Distance: 12k (12.01 km / 7.46 miles)
  • Date: Third Sunday in May
  • When was it started: 1912 (the world’s oldest annual footrace)

In fact, it has run for more consecutive years than any other footrace in history. In all those years, the Bay to Breakers route has changed very little and is a big reason for its legacy.

In this article, we will showcase the Bay to Breakers course route – from its starting point out by San Francisco Bay through the city and finishing by Ocean Beach with the cool Pacific Ocean breeze.

What Is Bay To Breakers?

Bay to Breakers is a 12 km footrace that runs west through San Francisco and finishes at the Great Highway by Ocean Beach.

On paper, Bay to Breakers may look like any other city footrace, but it is much more.

It is a race known for whacky costumes!

Bay to Breakers is a symbol of San Francisco’s quirkiness, and its residents do not hold back. It is not uncommon to see Spongebob Squarepants running alongside Daffy Duck while they proceed to chug a beer together.

Of course, the race also has its fair share of serious runners who can complete the entire course in under 40 minutes comfortably.

The current men’s record stands at 33:31 minutes and was set by Sammy Kitwara in 2009. Women’s record is 38:07 by Lineth Chepkurui in 2010.

But, with anywhere from 70,000 and 80,000 participants taking part in this across-city epic, it’s not all so serious. For most, it’s about having fun, meeting friends, and enjoying all the benefits of a fun run.

What Is The Bay To Breakers Course Route?

The Bay to Breakers route takes participants from San Francisco Bay to its picturesque endpoint down by the surf of Ocean Beach.

The 12-kilometer (7.46-mile) route is a U.S Track & Field (USAT&F) certified point-to-point course. However, because its start and finish lines are set so far apart, runner race times aren’t always eligible for records.

A decision on time-eligibility is determined by race officials prior to the start of the race. If no prominent tailwind is detected, the race times will be regarded by USAT&F.

The Bay to Breakers course route tracks east to west across the city. Hugging the peninsula, it runs right through downtown San Francisco – the heart of the city. It famously begins on Howard Street close by to the Embarcadero.

Bay to Breakers route map from MapMyRun.
The Bay to Breakers Race course map from MapMyRun

More details on the Bay to Breakers route on MapMyRun:

Embarcadero is the eastern waterfront and roadway of the Port of San Fransisco. This means the course, in essence, runs from the far east to the far west of the city.

From Howard Street, the race tracks west to Ninth Street where it then cuts north up Hayes Street. From Hayes Street, the race takes runners up, up, and up to Divisadero Street.

This is the race’s only major hill, but, with a gradient of 11.5%, it sure is a challenge for the less fit/ more fun crew of runners

Divisadero is a long street that tracks through a large portion of central San Fran. After a slight turn south on Divisadero, the course then turns west onto Fell Street. Fell Street eventually becomes John F. Kennedy Memorial Drive.

Running along this famous street of the city, runners will come to Golden Gate Park and that is when they know the end is near.

Once they pass through Golden Gate Park it is about 2 miles until the finish line. The Great Highway at Ocean Beach is where the race ends.

Many participants will take a well-earned dip in the ocean after the race.

What To Expect Along The Course Route?

What To Expect Along The Course Route?

Bay to Breakers isn’t what you would necessarily call a “normal” footrace. Two things that aren’t out of place along its course route are water stations and portable toilets.

The big difference between Bay to Breakers and most other footraces is the sheer amount of people who consider it a party first and a footrace second.

Because thousands of participants partake in drinking alcohol while “running the race”, its organizers have had to line the race with hundreds more portable toilets than a 12 km running race would normally require.

What’s more, is that there are even make-shift parties set up along the course route. Whether it is a DJ booth on the side of the road, or a front-garden party serving up fruity punch – the residents of San Fran ensure it is a fun experience for all.

What Is Some Bay To Breakers Traditions?

As you would expect, a race that has been running for over one hundred years is bound to have its own list of traditions. The traditions of Bay to Breakers are a testament to its longevity.

People who would never normally run such a race jump at the chance to have a fun day out and the traditions are what keep them coming back, year in, year out.

Once the serious runners have flown by, the streets turn into one big party. A carnival-like atmosphere sweeps across the city as spectators and participants alike let their hair down and have a good time.

Costumes are definitely the most popular and identifiable tradition of Bay to Breakers. It was in 1940 that the first official participant crossed the finish line (last) in a Captain Kidd costume, and the idea has grown in popularity ever since.

Man running with a funny costume.

Some of the more comfortable participants will actually sport nothing at all and run the entire race in the nude. Although it is not technically allowed, race officials, tend to turn a blind eye to nudity on the day – this is San Francisco after all.

Other traditions include centipede racing, tortilla throwing, salmon swimming, and festival floats. These are just a few more Bay to Breakers traditions that put the fun into funny.

FAQ – How to Prepare for The Race

What Day Is Bay to Breakers 2023?

The race is usually held on the third Sunday in May.
The organizer has not yet announced the final date for 2023. Based on previous years, the date is either 14.5. or 21.5.2023.

How to Sign-up

To participate in the race, you’ll have to register beforehand. More information:

Check the FAQ section for more info about how to receive or collect your race bib:

Get a Costume

Costumes are a hallmark of Bay to Breakers. There will be everything from comic book heroes to anything-you-can-think-of.

Where to Stay

Near the race start, there are a few official partner hotels (Hyatt Regency or Harbor Court Hotel). They are the best options to eliminate the need to travel in the morning.

How to Get There

Take public transportation to Embarcadero Station, or ride share (allow extra time for traffic jams).

How Long Is Bay to Breaker?

12k (12.01 km / 7.46 miles)

Do People Actually Run Bay to Breakers?

Despite being a race, it isn’t one where you have to finish fast.

As the course records show, some will run as fast as they can.

After all the runners have started, you can safely begin walking and enjoying the route.

But there is a time limit. 1 pm is the official closing time of the finish line.

The Bay to Breakers is a fun and easygoing event. The route is lined with thousands of spectators cheering and playing live music.

How Long Does It Take to Run Bay to Breakers?

If you’re new to running, you might run one mile somewhere between 12 to 15 minutes.

If you could keep up that speed, running the Bay to Breakers 7.5 miles course would take around 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 50 minutes.

If you walk the route at a leisure pace, it would take around 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Elite marathon runners average a mile in about 4 to 5 minutes, which leads to around 35 minutes.

Bay to Breakers Course Records

  • Men 33:31 (Sammy Kitwara 2009)
  • Women 38:07 (Lineth Chepkurui 2010)

What Time Does the Bay to Breakers Start?

The start time for the race is 8 am.

Based on your planned pace, there are 10 different starting corrals.

Each corral starts with 5-10 minutes intervals between 8 am to 9 am.

The slowest corral is for 12+ minutes per mile pace, and it is for walkers and families starting at 8:55 am.

It is advisable to arrive 45 minutes before your scheduled start time. Each corral has its own starting point.

Plan for Your Next Event

The Bay to Breakers is the most famous footrace in San Francisco. Other options include the Giant Race at Oracle Park.

Can You Walk the Route Outside of Race Time?

You can walk the route outside the race. The route leads you through various San Francisco landscapes. It probably takes around 3 h to complete. It is one option for walking if you are visiting San Francisco. Dogs are welcome and may be off-leash in some areas.

The Bottom Line

So there you have it. The weird, wacky, and wonderful race of Bay to Breakers. San Francisco is a city built on its quirky, care-free energy, and never is it more evident than on Bay to Breakers day.

Leave your inhibitions and judgment at the edge of the Santa Cruz Mountain Range and come on down to San Fran in mid-May to witness a race of pure freedom, fun, and joy.

Read more: The most unique fun runs across America.

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