I can’t believe that the race I have been training for, for the last six months, has already come and gone. It was definitely an adventure. My parents had run this particular race several times before, but hearing stories and actually seeing it were two very different things. To try to put the race in some context, if you have never seen it, I have to give you a little history. The race started in 1912, as a way to lift the city of San Francisco’s spirits after the 1906, earthquake. It has been run for more consecutive years over the same course and distance than any other foot race, and has become known more for the costumes the runner’s wear, or in a lot of cases don’t wear (this is San Francisco after all), than the actual race. People line the streets and throw parties at the houses along the course complete with local bands. This has attracted people from all over the world to partake in the race. This year there were people from 48 states and 42 different countries. The average number of participants is 70-80 thousand with only about half of those actually registering for the race. This makes it more of party than a race for most of the participants.
These are just a few of the tamer costumes I saw. I wanted to keep it more to the PG side than the R. I though the banana suits were particularly interesting. I had told Tony about the people who chose not to run in costume, but I don’t think he really believed me. I think he originally must have thought I was kidding because he was sure this had to be illegal. He couldn’t believe that the police along the route didn’t seem fazed at all by the nudity. He’s traveled a lot, even visited several foreign countries. This wasn’t even his first visit to San Francisco, but it was still an eye opener for a young man that’s spent most of his life in Nebraska. He originally planned to run in front of all us slow old people (typical 14-year-old thinking, any one over 30 is ancient), and meet us at the finish line. After the third or fourth naked dude, however, he changed his mind and decided there was something to be said for running by mom. It didn’t bother me as much as it did him. I just want to know why it’s never Thor or Captain America running around in the buff. Instead, it’s always the Penguin or Blob.
They divide the runners into “corrals” based on your mile times. We were in corral F. By the time it was our turn to run, the elite runners who got to go first had already finished the race. The waiting wasn’t too bad, we had plenty of thing to keep us busy waiting our turn. Not only did we get to entertain ourselves checking out all the different costumes, but they have a tradition of “Flying Tortillas”. Apparently they used to use Frisbees, but switched to tortillas for safety. People actually bring tortillas and there are hundreds of them being thrown around like Frisbees. Tony got a big kick out of this.
When it was finally our turn, it wasn’t really possible to start off running. There were just too many people. Tony and I ran probably a third of the course; walking when we had to and weaving in and out of the crowd to run when we could. Still we managed to average 15 minute miles, so I’m pretty pleased. It was definitely an adventure running past the parties and watching the people. There was one group dressed as wood cutters with one of their number in a tree costume, and they ran down the street after him pretending to chop him down. There was another guy that was dressed as a sumo wrestler. When another group of guys saw him, they yelled “sumo dance party” and they all started boogying with him. Tony kept pointing out different things as we went, and it was lots of fun watching him take in the experience.
I’m really glad that I went, and I enjoyed being able to share this with my son and other members of my family. I know from all the training and prep work that I did that I could have run the whole thing (well maybe not the Hayes street hill, it’s 2/3 of a mile with an average grade of 5.5, and 11% grade at the steepest). So, while I still can’t say I am a huge fan of running, I’m thinking that maybe I want to run another race. One that is more of an actual race than a party. Just so that I can see how I would do. I’m open to suggestions if anyone knows of a good 10K. I’d like it to be somewhere interesting. If I’m going to run, I want it to be someplace fun, preferably flat. I don’t enjoy running enough to be motivated by continuing to run in Nebraska. Maybe someday, but not today.