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Running joke: Bay to Breakers returns, goofiness and all

Runners take off at the start of the race as bystanders look on at Howard Street during the Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, Calif. on Sunday, May 15, 2022. | Felix Uribe Jr

Call it “Straight Pride,” call it an excuse to pound mango White Claws at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, or call it a legitimate, century-old footrace with an 11% grade near Alamo Square that can exhaust even the most extraordinary athletes, Bay to Breakers is a part of San Francisco culture like no other outdoor event.

First run in 1912 as part of San Francisco’s post-earthquake recovery, it’s both a respected competition and a moderately disreputable orgy of drunkenness and occasional public urination. (Ever-cheeky SFist publishes an annual guide to liquor stores along the route.) And whether you’re wearing a bib or dressed as a banana, the return of Sunday’s eight-mile trek across town is a symbol of a city slowly returning to whatever it is that passes for normal around here.

It’s seldom without some controversy, however. This year, observers pointed out that John Kane, the CEO of Capstone Events—the company that has owned Bay to Breakers since 2019—has donated to numerous archconservative legislators and causes. The organizers announced this week that awards would be bestowed for the fastest nonbinary runners, reversing course after an outcry. 

If reversing course is your calling, you can always be one of the “salmon” who starts from the ocean and runs east toward the Bay, against the proverbial tide. As with anything in San Francisco, you do you.

Astrid Kane can be reached at