Boston may have Patriots’ Day, New York may have the New York City Marathon, but here in glorious San Francisco, we have Bay to Breakers. Spanning 7.5 miles, this footrace is not so much about duration or finesse as it is about exploring the city, having a good time, and seeing some oddball costumes. Every year, on the third weekend in May, thousands of San Franciscans and participants from the surrounding area gather to partake in a morning of music, movement, and, most likely, mimosas.
To help you get in the mood, we’ve come up with a list of songs to add to your Bay to Breakers playlist. Listen as you wind your way from the Bay, up Hayes Street Hill, through the Panhandle, past Golden Gate Park, and to the breakers at Ocean Beach.
Mile 1: Eye of the Tiger (Survivor)
Eye of the Tiger is a classic for all the right reasons. With its driving drumbeat, 80s vibe, and iconic guitar riff, it’s a perfect tune for the start of your run. At only 109 BPM, it’s on the slower side, but its consistent, underlying drum beat will guide you successfully through the first four minutes of your race and get you into the swing of things. Stare down your tiger. Nothing can touch you. Nothing can go wrong. You’re as strong as Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV. You’ve got this run.
Mile 2: Shots (LMFAO)
Some people see Bay to Breakers as a form of exercise, but a majority of people see Bay to Breakers as a long adventure through the city, filled with madcap characters, colorful costumes, and, occasionally, a beverage. For most participants, the race is about letting go, relaxing, and making memories with friends. This song will really get you in the spirit of things.
Mile 3: Alaska (Maggie Rogers)
Looking for a sweet bop to guide you through the city? Enter Maggie Rogers’ Alaska. Rogers broke onto the music scene a couple years ago when she performed this song for Pharrell WIlliams in a Master Class at NYU. His expressions, as they shift from casual to shocked to awed, provide an unfiltered look at the way music can affect and inspire a listener. Pharrell has since guided Ms. Rogers through the music industry and helped her break into the pop world. She released her first album earlier this year and is now on tour showcasing her unique blend of natural sounds, ethereal vocals, and homespun folk pop. As you wind your way through the streets, let her soulful beat guide your step.
Mile 4: San Francisco (The Mowgli’s) / I Left My Heart in San Francisco (Tony Bennett)
I don’t know where you’ll be at this point in the race. Maybe you’ll be tired. Maybe you’ll actually be on mile six. Maybe you’ve stopped off for a quick breakfast somewhere. Ideally, the sun will be shining, the breeze will be blowing, and you’ll be laughing with your friends as you climb up some of San Francisco’s biggest hills. For all of these reasons, it’s a good time to show the city some love.
If you’re feeling jazzy, go ahead and blast the 1950s classic I Left My Heart in San Francisco, where Tony Bennett croons: “The loveliness of Paris seems somehow sadly gray…I’m going home to my city by the Bay/I left my heart in San Francisco.” For a more up-to-date pop song, try The Mowgli’s San Francisco, where they express their love for the fair and foggy city, noting that they’ve lost their head in the fog but found it in a raincloud. Both songs note the city’s weather, mystery, and magnetic pull. Hopefully Bay to Breakers will help you see why.
Mile 5: Stronger (Kanye West)
Another classic. Kanye at his prime was a Kanye we will never forget. In Stronger, he does everything that a great Kanye song does: brag, samples from a cool song we all forgot about (or never knew existed), brags some more, and hooks us with an excellent beat. Kanye will guide you through mile five and keep you motivated to keep walking. Imma let you finish, but first let me just say that Stronger, even 10 years down the line, is still one of the greatest pump-up songs of all time. Of all time!
Mile 6: No Tears Left to Cry (Ariana Grande)
Step aside Beyonce; if anyone is currently ruling the world, it is Ariana Grande. With the release of “Sweetner” and “Thank U, Next,” Ariana seems to understand something about the current music market that everyone else is just starting to grasp. By continuously releasing new music, she’s been able to sustain public attention, and for the right reasons. No Tears Left to Cry is a bubbly and triumphant shield against misery—an assertion of Ariana’s desire to feel free and happy, to respond to darkness with twice as much light. Her soaring vocals and signature “yuhs” are on full display, backed by bouncy, upbeat synths.
Before you get to Mile 7, here are some honorable mentions:
- The Middle (Jimmy Eat World)
- Fighter (Christina Aguilera)
- Good As Hell (Lizzo)
- The Fire (The Roots & John Legend)
- Anything by Beyonce
- Spotify’s Pop Rising Playlist!
- Songs with a BPM of 180 or higher
Mile 7.5: Chariots of Fire (various artists)
The finish line is in sight! You’ve made it to Ocean Beach no worse for the wear. You laughed, you cried, you saw some weirder pieces of clothing than you would have liked, and you’ve now been indoctrinated into San Francisco. Before you finish your foot race completely, take a second to pat yourself on the back, take a sip of water, and look out at the glorious city you live in. With its windy beaches, steep hills, foggy climate, and poor public transport system, San Francisco may not be the perfect city, but it’s still where our hearts are.