If some very public nudity bothers you, this is probably not the post you want to read. 😎
It is also a l o n g post. A lot happened and I’m not sure what to cut out.
May 21st was the annual Bay to Breakers Fun Run. Participants run from the Embarcadero on the San Francisco Bay across the city to the Pacific Ocean. Well… most walk. It started in 1912 as part of the recovery from the Great San Francisco Earthquake. Over the century-plus since then, it has evolved into the wild and crazy event it is today.
Having decided to participate, I needed to go into training. Not for the exertion of the walk. It is a casual stroll over 12 or 15 km. on easy terrain, depending on if you sign up for the bonus (I did.) A walk over such a short distance with only one minor hill is not much of a challenge. I needed to practice getting up at 5 am.
There was a time when I could rouse myself at such a time and be fully functional with only a few hours of sleep. I could also fall asleep anytime just by closing my eyes and relaxing. I could not have survived basic training otherwise. That no longer applies. I am an old man now. I need my sleep, or I am incapacitated. No amount of caffeine wakes me up that early nowadays. I had no proper costume for a zombie stumbling down the course.
As usual, my nefarious scheme was to stay (for free) at my sister-in-law’s. On Sunday, we’d drive to the BART station in Daly City. The train departed at 6:30 am to get us to the Emarcadero at 7:00. We were 40 minutes from Daly City, where we’d catch the BART at 6:30 to arrive at the Embarcadero at 7 am. Hence the need for a 5 am wakeup.
I drove up to San Jose with a friend I’d met on FaceBook and his partner. He helped with gas and food. I dropped them off at Lupin Lodge, a nudist resort in Los Gatos. Lupin Lodge is a beautiful place that offers a shuttle to the tail end of the B2B at 8:00. You get to commune with fellow nudists during the race and then get a free ride back.
Lupin Lodge also costs money. Plus, I like to do my own thing and not hang with a group. I don’t commune well. That’s a big reason why my wilderness hikes are solo.
Everyone is organized into corrals based on how fast they plan to go. At the head of the race are the serious runners. Those folks are further divided into seeded, sub-seeded, and Corral A. Behind them, there are the serious wannabe runners, Corral B. Then come the “go fast for a bit and then walk” people. That would be corrals C thru E, depending on your optimism. After that, we have the I’m walking this and hope I can make it to the end people, F, and G. H is supposed to be for families and handicapped. It is also where the bus from Lupin drops off, which gives you an idea of the cardio conditioning of most nudists. Start time is 8 am for seeded runners. Add a few minutes onto that for each successive corral.
I enter the corral from the rear and wave to Sis-in-law – who has already disappeared. She was looking for a warm place and a cup of coffee. I move forward to where most of the people are. It is 7:10 am, 48F, with a slight breeze and mist. I start to waver. Am I really up to this windchill, whatever it is? A decade ago, I did it in the pouring rain. I remembered a time when I comfortably freehiked up a hill only to discover my car thermometer said it was 32. All I need to do is stay moving, and I’ll be good. The clothes still stayed on until the corral started to move.
There are 3 other nude males in this corral, maybe a couple of thousand textiled folks. I said, “Hi!” The 3 didn’t respond. Sad, because all the textiled people I talked to were friendly.
At first, everyone in my corral starts jogging. Might even be doing an 11-minute mile pace. Within a couple of blocks, I could keep pace by walking fast. Within a mile, most of the group was walking, the joggers having gone well ahead. I remember the same thing in 2018 when I was in D Corral. I bet C just jogs a little farther before slowing down. I can keep up and not be an obstacle, which is what counts.
I love doing this nude. It is the ultimate expression of freedom. 😎
This year maybe a hundred nudies total, scattered through the slower corrals. Some only got here because of the Bare to Breakers Facebook group. Probably a 5 to 1 male-to-female ratio. I’ve given up worrying about gender imbalance. I have no interest in looking for a partner, so why should I care? I started in Corral E, which theoretically means I’m running at a 10-11 minute mile pace – for a few blocks, and then everyone slows down to walk.
OTOH, a hand full of guys are there to show off their erections and genital jewelry. They pose in the most visible place possible and then move to another spot. Perhaps a half dozen that I noticed. I think they are harmless, even funny in a way. Maybe even sad sometimes. Doctrinaire nudists are horrified by this behavior. In theory, this falls under the lewd behavior laws of the state, but SF PD doesn’t bother to enforce it.
They also minimally enforced the alcohol prohibitions this time around. (From 2017 thru 2019, they were pretty strict about it.) Along the route, there were several places you could get a beer. (I stopped at a couple.) There were also many more barricades along the route than in the past, creating no-go zones for the participants. The police effectively shut down all the party houses along the way. 😞 They were also very slack in requiring a bib to participate. None of the erection set was wearing bibs. Probably did not want to be easily identified later.
The nature of the participants has changed too. It is a slightly older crowd. The proportion of families has increased. Even if their parents accompanied them, I was not expecting to encounter so many children along the way. Mostly infants and toddlers in prams and being carried in slings. Very few school-aged ones. Families are supposed to start in H Corral, where most of the nudies also start. (I always start in the middle of the race.)
There were very few spectators this year. Thousands of people used to line the route. Tourists would run out and ask to have their pictures taken with me. People would laugh and make jokes and have fun with it. A mile down the road, you stopped being a naked runner and started being just another runner
This year nudity was nothing special to anyone from the start – probably due to the lack of tourists. I might as well be wearing a tracksuit. No OMGs, no comments. I struck up conversations with perfect strangers; they were friendly, and my lack of clothing didn’t come up. I didn’t see anyone staring at the other nudes along the way. It truly was a situation where being naked was just another costume option.
This led to a state I have only experienced on long hikes in the wild. I found myself occasionally forgetting that I was nude. I was just uninsulated. I wasn’t thinking about being naked, just about being chilly enough to keep moving for warmth. If nobody reacts – negatively or positively – to nudity, you can forget about it and just be. That’s how I wish it always could be. (Except warmer!)
There is a conflict doing something like this. You really want to enjoy the event and be totally in the moment. You also want to record the experience in images to share, which distracts from the experience by taking you out of the moment and into a procedure. This can turn into a variety of FOMO. Chasing down photos instead of doing fun things. Someone with a different starting point might come up with a different set of images, and later you’ll say, “Damn! I wish I could have gotten those pictures!”
In some ways, this was the most controlled B2B I’ve ever seen. The road was lined with rails in many places, limiting our ability to leave the street. People with houses on the route were told the police would proactively break up any parties that spilled into the street and threatened to slow the pace of the walkers. That would be just about every party. Probably trying to cut down on drunkenness.
At least they had outhouses spread out along the way. In the earlier B2Bs I’d been to, there were large clumps of them, but they were placed miles apart. Consequently, people ran off into the woods if it suddenly got urgent. Now there were smaller groups of them but more numerous.
This is part of the walkers from Lupin. They ran into an unhappy Park Ranger who didn’t know the actual law and proceeded on what he thought it should be.
Some of the later nudies that walked into Golden Gate Park ran into an over-officious park ranger who told them nudity was not allowed there. My friend who had carpooled was one of them. The ranger instructed them to dress, or they would be ticketed. They dressed and continued on their way. As soon as he was out of sight, most undressed and remained undressed.
My friend is Timothy Chizmar. He’s an accomplished moviemaker, standup comedian, and Nude Comedy LA‘s originator. He has permitted me to post some of his shots here. Starting in H Corral with the families and extreme slowpokes, he saw a different part of the race than I did.
There were more nudists to be found in the rear, plus a whole different set of costumes. Even the shuttle bus driver got into it.
These are both centipedes. That’s any group that is physically connected in a line. They are required to start in the back because they tend to block traffic.
He told me about that on the way back to LA, and I advised him the ranger was wrong. I encouraged him to call the park office and climb the chain of command. As coincidence has it, he was transferred to the very ranger who had harassed him. The ranger explained that he had not got the memo, and 2 hours later, he’d been instructed that nudity is allowed in the park for the Pride Festival and the Bay to Breakers.
Apology accepted, but the damage was still done. Some will never be willing to go nude at the Bay to Breakers, even if they just heard about the incident secondhand. If a police officer is wrong, there is usually no way to fix it on the spot. Public nudists must be polite, have thick skin, and know their rights.
There is a saying that you will only see the ocean for the first time once. Follow-on visits may still be beautiful and fun, but the awe and wonder of something new and totally unfamiliar are gone. Now when you go, you have an expectation.
I think the first time I saw anime was like that. It was a 16 mm. print of Vampire Hunter D on a screen in a hotel with my wife, and it changed my life. I saw what animation had the potential to be. The first time I did the Bare to Breakers, it was a life-changing event. I found a place where nude and textiled people could get along without judgment, shame, fear, or anyone taking offense. Even if it were only an occasional special event, it showed how things could be.
Since then, there have been World Naked Bike Rides, more Bare to Breakers, nude theater, naked beer miles, and long nude hikes in the wilderness. I still love the experience, but that first time 20+ years ago remains as special as seeing the ocean the first time.
Near the end, I had a blister forming on my right foot. My shoes were well broken in, but I had mostly worn them on level surfaces The route climbs uphill initially but then has a long downhill to the beach. The long downhill got me, with the ball of my foot sliding forward in my shoe. I’ll look into different shoes, maybe a running style instead of basic sneakers.
In theory, I could have turned back and walked the race in reverse. I could have seen a lot I missed. It would have been warmer. The blister on my foot militated against this, and I didn’t want to keep my sister-in-law waiting an extra 4 hours.
As I crossed the finish line, the announcer stepped out to interview me. The mic was hot, and I heard it go over the loudspeakers. Not something she did for anyone else while I was in earshot. Most importantly, she asked me why I did the B2B. Not why I did it naked, but just why I did it. I said I did it because of all the interesting people I met along the way and for the freedom. She smiled and said, “Yeah, that’s what the Bay to Breakers is all about.”