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ING Bay to Breakers is a 12K (7.46 miles) course. From sea level at the Embarcadero the course rises steeply along Hayes Street Hill. Around the 2.5-mile mark runners climb an 11.15% grade between Fillmore and Steiner, bringing them to the highest point in the race, approximately 215 feet above sea level. The remainder of the course gradually flows downhill alongside the Panhandle and through Golden Gate Park.
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Bay to Breakers History
At 5:13am on April 18, 1906, a devastating earthquake – that would become one of history’s most notorious natural disasters - rocked San Francisco. The subsequent fire and destruction were unimaginable, and many feared the City would be gone forever. But San Franciscans, displaying their typical fortitude and innovation, immediately began rebuilding the city and producing events to lift their morale. One of those events, the Cross City Race – known better today as ING Bay to Breakers – was first run in 1912 as a precursor to the world-class athletic events planned for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. There were less than 200 participants that first year and Robert Jackson Vlught was the first person to ever cross the finish line, with a finishing time of 44:10.
Since then, Bay to Breakers has prevailed as a testament to San Francisco’s uniqueness and audacity. Each year, the race is a glorious celebration of the human spirit – a giant wave of athleticism, fun, frivolity, and determination flowing across the City from the bay to the ocean. It is one of the largest footraces in the world with 65,000 + participants and 100,000 + spectators annually. As the race grew in size it even set a Guinness Book record, with 110,000 participants, in 1986. The course is challenging and beautiful, and consistently attracts top athletes in the sport. But it isn't just a race for the serious runner.
In the true spirit of San Francisco the race is a celebration for everyone. Thousands of costumed participants join with families, weekend runners and people just out for a stroll. As they make their way through the heart of San Francisco they are cheered by thousands of spectators and live music along the course. They also have to dodge the "spawning salmon" who each year make their way from the Finish line, through the masses, to the Start.
Throughout its long history Bay to Breakers has been a showplace for the City's irrepressible color and its affection for eclectic traditions. Although runners come from across the country and all points of the globe, the race is still quintessential San Francisco and a true reflection of life between the breakers and the Bay.