After I finished the Bay to Breakers 12-kilometer run last year, I felt qualified to be a Navy SEAL. Granted, I was soundly beaten by a number of children under 10 years old, and passed by a man walking backwards on stilts, but it was the longest distance I had ever run at once.
The event made me fall even more in love with San Francisco, where (with some entirely necessary booze restrictions) we have our own day each year to take a tour of The City with our friends, with music blaring and the option of dressing like our favorite “Golden Girls” character or Fudgesicles. (For the record, I didn’t dress up last year, unless “woman who hasn’t run a mile since sixth grade” qualifies as a costume.) The whole event feels like an “only in San Francisco” celebration, and I’m eager to do it again this year.
At least I was.
As I watched the horrible explosions at the Boston Marathon I couldn’t help but wonder if it was safe to participate. After all, a run of any real length presents a nearly impossible security problem. How do you secure an event that traverses an entire city? Especially one where unregistered participants are part of the tradition?
I asked Police Chief Greg Suhr what the plans are for B2B, and he told me that his department is watching closely as details emerge from the Boston incident and will tailor its plan accordingly.
“If you look at the video of the race, you can see the packages just sitting there,” Suhr said of the Boston race. “The call to report an unattended package, that’s the phone call that needs to happen.” He assured me that while “we’re not asking to be Big Brother,” he expects the participants to be on alert, and there will be an increased police presence.
In other words, people dressed as police officers at this year’s race might actually be police officers.
I was living and working in New York City on 9/11 and I remember that Mayor Rudy Giuliani went ahead with New Year’s Eve in Times Square that year — albeit with double the number of police officers, no backpacks allowed and no bathroom breaks.
Of course, I didn’t go to Times Square to ring in the new year, instead opting to show my support for normalcy by participating in a related NYC tradition whereby locals stay as far away from the ball drop as possible. But, even from across town, I was glad, relieved, proud and nervous that it was taking place as scheduled.
Even after horrifying attacks, cities must keep running, both figuratively and literally. With Bay to Breakers and our own marathon coming up, I plan to run in solidarity with Boston, New York and every other urban center where, like San Francisco, people trade absolute security for absolute community.
On May 19, I’ll be dressed in a dark-blue marine mammal costume, as close to being a “navy seal” as I’ll ever be. I hope to see you there.
Melissa Griffin’s column runs each Thursday and Sunday. She also appears Mondays in “Mornings with Melissa” at 6:45 a.m. on KPIX (Ch. 5). Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.