New Bay to Breakers owner Casey Wasserman would like people to know: Just because many of the runners in this particular cross-city race may be naked, doesn’t mean they can’t be wearing FitBits.
“You can’t have a race with this much history and stature and not want it to be a tech laboratory,” he said over green tea at the private Battery club in San Francisco’s Embarcadero last night.
Wasserman, an entertainment executive and grandson of Hollywood mogul Lew Wasserman, sat down to outline his plan to make Bay to Breakers the techiest race of them all — while keeping the spirit of the event, which has evolved into a 12-kilometer party, with racers in stilts or dressed as salmon. For example, it’s the official site of the World Centipede Running Championships, in which eight runners bind themselves together till the finish line — “why not have virtual centipedes?” he asked.
Had he ever been?
“I haven’t yet,” he said, laughing. “At the press conference, Supervisor Lond Breed was like, ‘everyone should come nude,’ and then Katy Tang was like, ‘Yeah, but you must wear sunscreen if you do.’ Everyone has an opinion on it. There’s a tradition. It’s really San Francisco’s race.”
With 40,000 expected, this year already has twice as many paying participants as last year (he hopes to bring the race back to its glory days of 100,000 or more).
The only time he worried about his decision to buy it was when people started submitted questions to the new website: “I was like, ‘wow, wait, what did I just buy?’” he said.
He wanted to start the tech initiatives slowly, dropping in just a few this year.
Hayes Hill will have Map My Run tracking mats — the fastest man and woman up the hill get $2,500. It’s the biggest day of the year for Lyft and Uber, he said. They chose Lyft as a partner because “it fits a little more with the Bay to Breakers brand.”
“Next year, think about being able to register through Twitter. Think about having cameras on the course continuously photographing and tracking you based on your bib. What if Jawbone gave every participant an Up band and that was your chip tracking your progress and sharing it?” he said. “Everyone in the race already runs with a phone, a camera, a heart rate monitor, a GPS — how do we use all that?”
“While it may look like a social opportunity, it’s really a technological opportunity,” he added.
“Pretty much. It didn’t have an Instagram before. Non-existent Twitter. We obviously redid the website. Their advertising was buying TV commercials — it was old-school.”
But does Bay to Breakers need it to be tech-ed up? Why not just let the people have their party?
“Oh, they will,” Wasserman said. “But why not allow Bay to Breakers to be that platform to disrupt races?”
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.