Sunday: Bay to Breakers to jam San Francisco

Annual race/event will tangle streets with up to 60,000 participants, floats, serious runners and costumed strollers

Tens of thousands of participants, including thousands from the Palo Alto/Stanford area, are preparing for the annual Bay to Breakers event -- much more than a race -- across San Francisco on Sunday.

Running is merely an afterthought for many participants who spend more time preparing costumes than training for the 7.46-mile race.

Starting at around 7 a.m., the course will take racers -- costumed or not -- from the Embarcadero to the notorious Hayes Street Hill, then downhill along the Panhandle and through Golden Gate Park.

These areas will be closed off to vehicles, and for people thinking of going anywhere in San Francisco on Sunday, be warned.

Organizers have registered 48 creative floats so far that will roll behind the runners, Race Manager Angela Fang said. This is the first year participants were required to pay a $250 fee to register floats. The fee includes up to 20 persons with the float.

Whereas in previous years floats were required to exit the course in Golden Gate Park, Fang said this year floats are required to exit the course at the entrance to the park near the Conservatory of Flowers.

Fang said this is because last year there were about 30 floats abandoned at the edge of the park that had to be cleaned up.

"We're trying to make the event a little bit better for the impacted neighborhoods," she said.

There will be facilities available at this exit point for participants to park their floats, and racers can pick them up any time before 6 p.m., Fang said.

In addition to the walkers and creative floats, Bay to Breakers has also attracted an impressive line-up of world record holders, all vying for the $25,000 bonus for the winner of the race. Runners this year will include Sammy Kitwara, of Kenya, who broke both the course and world-records last year by finishing in 33:31.

Bay to Breakers had an estimated 60,000 participants last year, most of whom ran or walked the course dressed in full costume, body paint, or just tennis shoes and a smile. This year, sunny weather predictions for the weekend promise an equally impressive showing of racers.

San Francisco police said they will have officers deployed throughout the event, and that there will be zero tolerance for public drunkenness and public urination. The police department has coordinated with race organizers this year to remove kegs and bottles of alcohol from the race.

BART will open two hours earlier than the regular 8 a.m. starting time and run extra long trains on Sunday to accommodate racers. The early trains will run at 20 minute intervals starting at 6 a.m. BART is encouraging riders to buy two-way tickets before the race, and reminds riders that proper attire is required despite the "anything goes" attitude of the race.

-- Bay City News and Palo Alto Weekly staff

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