Meanwhile, Somewhere in California… (aka: Bay to Breakers)

Last Sunday, my 16yo daughter and I went to a huge party. Well, actually, it was a party disguised as one of the world’s largest footraces. Bay to Breakers is held every spring in my favorite city, San Francisco. With tens of thousands of participants dressed in zany costumes and ready for fun, it is a race like no other. The goal? To run 8 miles, from San Francisco Bay, through the heart of the city, all the way to Ocean Beach.

My daughter and me Bay to Breakers

My daughter and I joined the throngs in our corral, as we have done in other races. Only this time, we were all decked out as the Sun and the Moon (or Night and Day, I still haven’t decided).  To have time for our costumes and makeup, then to commute to the city by car and by BART train, we had to wake up at 4:00am, and then do a little shivering until the real sun showed up to warm things up a little.

It was crazy how many people there were in the streets! We were surrounded by bananas, flamingos, superheroes of every kind, cowboys, pirates, and then some. We found Waldo again and again. We spotted a school of Salmon running upstream. There were too many furries to count. And, in true San Francisco fashion, there were also way too many naked runners to count. That made us giggle at the start of the race, but after a mile or two, we were like, “Eh. Just another costume.”

img_0082

img_0095img_0083

Before the race began, we joined in the time-honored tradition of throwing tortillas in the air. Why? I have no idea! But it was super fun (except for that one my daughter accidentally threw at the back of someone’s head. Whoops). We also threw beach balls around the crowd, and cheered until our voices were hoarse. And then, it was Go time.

Bay to Breakers salmon swimming upstream

I was a little nervous at the start, because this was my first time ever running beside another person. I’m pretty used to running alone, with music in my ears, and didn’t think I could make it very far without that. I also didn’t think I could keep up with my daughter, who runs cross-country and has far better stamina. But she slowed down, or I sped up, and we managed to carry on conversations and laugh our heads off the whole way. We weaved in and out of a group of people dressed like In ‘N’ Out Burger staff. We chased a dozen giant doughnuts. We orbited around an Earth, ducked under a limbo stick, and sang along to music playing from my iPhone and the numerous speakers blasting around the city. And yes, that was us doing gran jetés and piqué turns through Golden Gate Park. We couldn’t help it. Blame the gymnast / dancer in both of us.

img_0104img_0109

What was just as much fun as running in Bay to Breakers dressed as the sun? Giving sunshine to the other runners. I was having so much fun, that I couldn’t help but reflect it back to those around me.

“Eh-oh!” I called out as I passed a Teletubby.

“Vive la France!” I called out to a runner wearing a beret and waving a French flag.

“The emperor has no clothes!” I called out to a naked guy wearing only a crown and short cape.

“Imposters!” I accused an entire running group dressed like suns.

We were having such a blast, that both my daughter and I were surprised when we reached the finish line at the beach. So soon? That felt more like a five or six mile run than eight miles. But lucky for us, that meant we still had energy to enjoy the huge finish line area extension of the party, with a live band, free swag, and all kinds of great free food. We even took home an entire case of vanilla flax milk (so yum).

img_0118img_0116

I am not much of a party person, but I would run Bay to Breakers again in a heartbeat. Next year, I may dress as a superhero. Or a flamenco dancer. Or a soccer mom. But no matter what I choose to wear, I will always bring the sunshine.

Game On! (A Family Legacy of Sport)

“Are you ready for the kickoff tomorrow night?” My mom asked me on the telephone. “Cowboys against the Giants.”

“Um, Mom, aren’t you supposed to wish me a happy birthday first?” I asked, amused.

“Oh yes. That too,” said Mom. “Now don’t forget tomorrow night.”

As if I could. I come from a family that worships at the at the altar of football . It is probably fair to say that growing up in my family, Kickoff Day in September was more revered than the first day of school, and the Superbowl was like the true New Year’s Day. Game Nights were family nights, with everyone gathered around the television, beers and sodas in hand, screaming noisily at the screen.

Okay, everyone except for me. Why? Because I preferred to sit in a corner of the living room with a book to my nose, scowling whenever the room erupted with cries of “TOUCHDOWN!” and “INTERCEPTION!” Football was a sport that grew on me over the years, like smooth jazz music and fine wines.

That said, it was impossible to avoid the influence of my sports-crazy family. From a very young age, I was taught that to speak against the Amazing San Francisco 49ers is like blasphemy. I remember standing outside on our balcony with my brother and sisters, looking toward the glittering lights of the Bay Area, blowing plastic vuvuzelas and screaming with pride that the Forty Niners had just won Superbowl XVI. We memorized the words to the We’re the Forty Niners song, which we played obsessively on the record player and sang at the top of our lungs.

Joe Montana, unarguably one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time

We’ve got the power!
We’ve got the heart!
We’ve got the soul!

We’re the FORTY NINERS!
We will rock you ’til we win the fight!

We’re the FORTY NINERS!
We’re dynamite!

School event on Monday nights? Nope, sorry, our family was busy. Phone ringing in the middle of a game? Ignore it. We were taught to look down our noses at Raiders fans, and to hate the Dallas Cowboys with a fiery passion reserved for the worst possible scumbags.  Ours was a San Francisco family, till death do us part.

Things are a little different today. My mother, who has long since relocated across the country, now roots for the New Orleans Saints. My oldest sisters have grown somewhat indifferent to football. And I am just a crazy about international football (aka soccer) as the American version. But a few things remain the same. In a family that has been separated by time, distance, and dramatically different lifestyles, there is still one thing that keeps us knit together, one reason to pick up the cell phone and call each other…as long there isn’t a game on.

Who’s got it better than us? NO ONE!

In honor of my Uncle Harrison (1946 – 2012), former college football star and receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.