Episode 107- Bay To Breakers

Bay to Breaker

All right. This is another edition of empty calories which is a fun story but I’m not sure there’s any lesson attached to it. I’m pretty sure I told the story about winning the William Randolph Hearst National Championship for Photojournalists back as a senior in college. And to win that award, I had to beat out five of the top college photojournalists in the country in a two day shoot off in San Francisco, where we had to take on different assignments, photograph them, tell a story with the pictures and then have it be judged by three top photo editors in the industry. 

And after the first full day of shooting after the second day, all six of us had to photograph an event called the Bay to Breakers race and it’s a running race in San Francisco with a race from the San Francisco Bay to the Breakers.

But it’s different than any other race because it’s not just runners or joggers. This event is a party. So, a half of the people are serious runners but the other half are crazy partiers that are dressed up in costumes and they make this just a major event. So, we need to make a picture story from this event. And I think each of us knew that covering a race like a regular race was not going to do anything. It was not going to be impactful at all. 

So, I was up until about three o’clock in the morning the night before because the last assignment of the previous day was to photograph a spot news assignment. And about 1:30 or two o’clock in the morning, I got a photograph of a guy that got beat up at a bar and I was at San Francisco General Hospital the night before and I got my image. 

And then I went back to the hotel for about two hours of sleep and I got to the race as the sun was coming up so I could find the subject or the subjects that I was going to spend the morning with. And I walked up and down the street looking for somebody that would be a good person to really document and tell a story about. And that’s been over by the pier, I saw about 10 people loading up the square contraption with all types of bottles of liquor and they were laughing and having a great time and I said “That’s got to be them.” 

So, I walked over and I asked them what they were doing and they told me that they built a bar on wheels. It was a square bar almost like a mini version of the Cheers bar from the TV show and they’re going to roll this bar along the entire length of the race and serve drinks to everybody running and everybody participating.

So, I asked one question I was hoping that they say yes. And I said “Would you mind if I follow you around and document you doing this?” And they just laughed and they said “hell yeah come with us.” And we started up as the craziness ensued and it was absolutely hysterical because to see the dichotomy of these serious runners taking this so seriously. And then you had this gaggle of people just dressed in the most outrageous costumes. You know people dressed like salmon that were going against the stream. The salmon literally started at the end of the race so they can go against the stream as everybody went in the right direction.

And the race started pretty quickly and they’re having a great time and they’re serving their drinks but not only were they serving their drinks but they were drinking their drinks as well. And somewhere along the way, maybe it’s when one of those serious runners stopped by at the bar to have a drink with us and then went on to run the race that I realized I think I might be onto something with this picture story. And I wonder how long can they possibly go because not only did they had the task of pushing this heavy bar along a very long stretch of the San Francisco roads but they’re getting drunker and drunker as the race goes on.

And around 11 o’clock in the morning, we pulled into Golden Gate Park which is on its way to the finish line of the race. And the guy that led the whole thing and I wish I could remember his name but he was the most fun he was the most helpful but who’s also the most drunk. As we got to the Golden Gate Park I could see his eyes fall into the back of his head and he wobbled a bit and then he dropped backwards into the grass and he passed out on the lawn the Golden Gate Park. And I laughed out loud and I moved into position, I turned around and as he would have wanted, I’ve got a great picture of him sprawled out on the grass with the bar in the background and the race going on behind it.

And after all the challenges to get selected for the preliminaries and then to finally get selected to be flown to San Francisco for this event. And then a full day of shooting on Saturday and having hardly any sleep. And then being up early in the morning for this race and then finding this group of people and then photographing the story. When he fell to the ground and passed out and I shot that picture I knew I was done. I thought to myself very quickly I won. I just had a feeling they won the whole thing. 

So the next day, the six of us gathered at the hotel and we edited our pictures and we made our selections and we submitted them to the judges and we didn’t know what happened. And then that evening, they sent us on a cable car to a yacht in the San Francisco Bay we’re taking out for an award ceremony where they would announce the winners. And it was there that not only did they announce that I won best picture story for what was submitted for the event but also first prize for the entire event.

And as a broke college student, to be told that you just won six thousand dollars in award money, while you’re on a yacht overlooking San Francisco was a pretty bizarre experience. And the coolest part was that six thousand dollars was eventually used for a down payment the first house that we ever bought as a family. 

So maybe there is a lesson in there somewhere. I don’t know. It was just kind of a fun story of what happens when you’re in those type of situations and the pressure that comes with it and what we need to pull out of ourselves and sometimes the luck that comes with it. So, we could succeed. 

So that’s my bay to breakers story. I’m going to talk to you and I’ll be back with you tomorrow!

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