News07

So let's blame the participants.

Organizers of the unusual 12-kilometer footrace - which includes nude runners, costumed frolickers on makeshift parade floats and, yes, some stumbling drunkards - have decreed a ban on public urination, nudity and alcohol.

Good luck with that. Because we've been trying to enforce it in the Tenderloin for 40 years.

"Last year we had a drunken group that ran down one of the volunteers and left her in the street," said race general manager Angela Fang. "She had a broken hip."

Register the floats, check them at the start, and don't let them on the course unless they have a permit. That way you'd have a name and contact information for someone who is responsible. Fang said that many of the participants are waiting until after the Hayes Street hill to push their floats onto the course. So shut them down, too. The idea of the race is to cover the distance from the bay to the ocean. They don't belong.

Once you do that, the rest of the problems fall into place. A deposit for the floats would encourage proper disposal, as well as help pay for Dumpsters. (And by the way, encouraging people to register for the race would be a nice touch. The money pays for cleanup and goes to charity.)

Public urination? Years ago I ran in the New York Marathon. They had nifty contrivance for the men - a long (maybe 150-foot) trough over in the corner of the start area. Men stepped up, accomplished their purpose, and left the Porta Potties for the women. One guy even sent a little paper boat down the spillway.

As for the nudity, who cares? As Schuffman said, "This is San Francisco! If you can't run naked in the street here, then where can you?"

This is a classic overreaction by organizers, who are primarily sponsored by Dutch insurance conglomerate ING. Put the words "drunk," "nude," and "peeing in the street" together and your average corporate suit is going want to shut everything down, when a better answer would be to look at the problems and find solutions.

"It's like abstinence education," said Stuart Schuffman, who e-mailed to complain. "Instead of trying to find ways to make the event cleaner and safer … they've just decided to try to close their eyes and wish the whole problem away. We all know how that ends up: pregnant race enthusiasts."

This isn't just clueless. It is pathologically dumb. This race has been held since 1912, when it was run to boost the spirits of San Franciscans attempting to rebuild after the 1906 earthquake. It has been wacky, tipsy and (sometimes) naked ever since. This isn't new.

What has changed is the way it is run. Remember, in 1986, when the San Francisco Examiner was in charge, there were 110,000 participants, certifying it as "the world's largest footrace" by the Guinness Book of World Records. Now it is actually smaller, an estimated 60,000 last year.

"There were never any problems back then," said Glenn Kramon, who wrote and did TV race commentary from 1979 to 2002. "When I hear this, I wonder what happened."

It all begins with really, really drunken people. Those are the people who stagger over to pee on porches along the route and the ones who abandon their beer keg float out on the Great Highway. (An estimated 35 tons of trash was left at last year's race.)

C'mon, no one is condoning that. Nicholas Podrasky, a long-time B2B participant, is outraged by the crackdown. But not because he's pro-drunk.

"I don't want to sound like I'm endorsing a drunken free-for-all," he wrote. "If someone is out of hand and being a fool, destroying property, etc. - then by all means, get them off the street."

So here's a suggestion: Get control of the floats but don't ban them. It could be that simple.

"Maybe they could issue float permits, kind of like they register the centipedes," or multi-runner costumes, wrote Steven Bauman. "It could include a deposit to cover the cost of disposing of the float if it is abandoned at the end of the race."

Genius. Because you can trace so many of the problems back to the floats. No one can carry enough alcohol to get face-down drunk while walking or jogging seven miles. You've got to have a wheeled vehicle to carry a beer keg. Which is not to say that all the floats are a problem.

"Our float was on Page One of The Chronicle last year," said Ed Sharpless, who started the "Citizens for the Preservation of the Bay2Breakers" site on Facebook and had signed up 3,000 supporters by midday Friday. "We're all Stanford business grads, responsible people. We make up commemorative mugs every year and make sure to get our float out of the area at the end."

Others are just irresponsible bozos.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License