Monday, May 18, 2009

Hurray For The 2009 San Francisco Bay To Breakers!


It was with a sizeable amount of dread that I anticipated this past weekend's 98th Annual San Francisco Bay To Breakers.

Basically, The Bay To Breakers is a Dual Event:

It's One Part Serious Foot Race.

Officially, it's a USA Track & Field Certified 12K Run.
From San Francisco Bay to The Breakers.

Originally called "The Cross City Race", it was first run in 1912 - a precursor to the world-class athletic events organized for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition.

In that Inaugural Event, there were less than 200 participants. Robert Jackson Vlught was the first to cross the finish line, with a finishing time of 44 minutes and 10 seconds.

In recent years, it's been a safe bet that the Winning Woman Athlete and the Winning Male Athlete would be from Africa.

This year, 22-year-old Sammy Kitwara of Kenya was the first professional runner to cross the finish line. He set a course record, winning the seven mile race in an amazing 33 minutes, 31 seconds!

And, 26-year-old Ethiopian Teyba Erkesso was the first woman to cross the finish line - setting a personal best time of 38 minutes, 29 seconds.

I didn't know this until today, but the first place winners of the race each take home a prize of $25,000.

Another remarkable Evolution since the early days of the Race has Everything to do with the Second Part of this Event:

The Parade/Party Part.

The City knows to expect around 65,000+ registered participants... many of whom (individually and in groups) perennially invest a great deal of thought, time and work in the costumes they wear and the floats (yes, I said 'floats' - as in "Parade".) they display during the Race.

The City also knows to expect about 100,000+ jubilant, costumed (and frequently intoxicated) spectators annually. Kegs and open containers were abundant - that is, until this year's Event.

This year, the New Improvements/Enhancements included "Shared Enforcement of City Ordinances Regarding Alcohol" (open container and wasted-in-public): the "Leave No Trace" Statement/Keep Our City Clean (Dumpster locations were mapped.); Additional Port-A-Johns. Last Year's myopic 500-or-so didn't quite match the 165,000-or-so person Event. (Sigh...) It's ludicrous, but this actually needs to be said: "Just Because You Can Urinate/Defecate In Public Doesn't Mean You Should."

I am sincerely grateful to my Beloved City of San Francisco for finally setting a few new rules and regulations.

I have absolutely no problem with people stepping outside their usual Monday-Friday/9-5 comfort zones and - basically - Letting Their Freak Flags Fly. In fact, I'm all for it. And, I encourage them to Break Free and do so more than once or twice a year (the other oft-perceived 'safe' day to do so being All Hallow's Eve/Halloween.).

What I take serious issue with is what some of the colorful revelers would thoughtlessly do to our Beautiful & World-Famous San Francisco - particularly to Her Public Parks - along the Race Route.

After the 2008 Bay To Breakers, I headed to the Panhandle Park - between Oak Street and Fell Street - with Jessi the Dog...

What I saw when I looked into the Park from Oak Street made, I wanted to scream... I did scream, "Oh My F'g God!"

The Beautiful, Lush & Green Panhandle Park that I LOVE... the Park that countless men, women, children, tourists and dogs LOVE... was trashed beyond belief.

The word "TORNADO" came to mind - except that the trees were still standing. But, other than that, Park-wide swath of destruction looked the same.

My eyes welled up with tears.

It broke my heart that people could be so utterly thoughtless, callous and LAZY as to have left the Park looking like...

... Like the basement of a fraternity house after a three-day weekend beer bash.

I let Jessi run around - keeping a watchful eye on her - as I spent the next Two Hours picking up the trash and gathering together the recyclables left scattered helter-skelter by people who - at all other times - masquerade through Life as sentient beings.

At one point, I even had to call the Fire Department, because one particular group of Brainless, Beered-Up Bozoids had left a large, rectangular, aluminum tray - full of still-burning charcoal briquets on the grass... In the middle of a Park where people play Frisbee, catch, volleyball... where young children run around... and where people's beloved dogs run and play...

And, not one of them would ever expect nor would they want to suddenly set a foot or a tender paw down into a tray of red-hot coals!

I went to pick up the tray, found it was still Hot and that it was burning the grass underneath and around it. That's when I called the Fire Department.

I waited for them to arrive... I had to wait for them and direct them to its location. Otherwise, they would never have found the tray in the grassy and tree-lined Park.

Needless to say, I was cursing the lazy, liquored-up litterers. In fact, I cursed their incompetent parents for birthing them.

But, this year, it was Different...

Gloriously Different!

I don't know if it was the New Rules and Regulations...

Or, if it was possibly that the worst offenders died of alcohol poisoning since last year's debacle. :)

Again, I returned to the Park with Jessi the Dog. This time, I brought a large trash bag with me - just in case.

And - I am thrilled to say that the Panhandle Park survived this year's Bay To Breakers Bacchinalia with much less damage than last year.


Thank You, San Francisco.

And, Thank You, Bay To Breakers Revelers.

You've restored some of my faith in Homo-Sapiens and their ability to choose to not be pathologically self-destructive.



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