Photos and Video by Martin Bustamante
On a cool, clear, early Sunday morning, rare for the normally foggy city, runners began to line the Embarcadero in front of AT&T Park to participate in the 5th annual Giant Race. The runners gathered together to run the half marathon, 10k or 5k, all for a great cause, Project Open Hand. The nonprofit donates groceries and healthy meals to elderly and people in San Francisco and Alameda counties who are battling chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDs, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
“Almost every race supports a great cause and the Giant Race is no different,” Ted Torres, a half marathon runner from Atwater, says. “I originally signed up last year because I thought it would be cool to finish a race on the field at AT&T.”
The Giant Race was founded when Project Open Hand and the San Francisco Giants paired together. Originally, Project Open Hand would rent out AT&T Park for their Plate to Plate event and allow runners to run inside, but not finish in, the park. The San Francisco Giants saw the cause and work that went into Plate to Plate and decided to align with Project Open Hand to create the Giant Race. The Giants knew that in being a partner in this amazing event, fans would like the idea of running inside of AT&T Park, finishing on the field, and being able to relax on the field post-race.
The Giant Race takes participants on an amazing scenic view of San Francisco while running. Runners start on the corner of 3rd and King Streets and run along the Embarcadero, passing many sights along the way.
Torres, having just ran his second Giant Race, describes the race as “amazing,” with the thirteen-mile course leading runners past amazing vistas and landmarks. Fisherman’s Wharf and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge are just a couple of these landmarks.
Throughout the race, you are continually cheered on by fellow runners, volunteers, and people watching from their roof tops. For Torres, a Dodgers fan, this amazing cause helped him show a bigger message that he thinks people need to know about.
“I had another reason for running this year—I had a message,” said Torres. “Over the past few years, we have seen far too much violence between fans at games, especially between Giants and Dodgers. I had printed on the back of my shirt, ‘Stop Fan Violence.’ I wanted to show that fans from rival teams can come together to support a good cause.”
As you come to a finish, you are allowed to run onto the field, just like Hunter Pence running the outfield. Once the runners pass through the gates, the crowd erupts into cheers as you run to the end of the race. At the finish line, Lou Seal, the Giants’ mascot, waits to give you a high five, congratulate you your accomplishment, and hands you a snazzy medal with his face on it.
“My experience was great and fun,” said Jennifer Mose, a 10k runner from Rodeo, California. “I got to run this year with my dad; it’s his first time running a 10k. Finishing the race, getting a medal, and being around Giants fans at the best place on Earth.”
Project Open Hand set a fundraising goal this year of $400,000. As of the race, they have raised well over $250,000.
“We are ahead of where we were last year and we are on track to have the best year yet,” Maria Stokes, the Director of Communications at Project Open Hand, said. “People continue to donate even after the race is over and we won’t know the total until a month after the race. We really rely on people to fundraise and donate.”
Stokes added that the Giants were great when it came to helping donate and fundraise for the event. This year, the Giants raffled off a signed Buster Posey bobblehead and all the proceeds from the raffle went to Project Open Hand.
“I think Project Open Hand’s cause is amazing,” said Mose. “There are seniors and critically ill who do not have the opportunity to eat a nutritious meal, and sometimes I feel their needs can be ignored. Just knowing there’s one less individual who is not hungry or feels like no one cares about them make Project Open Hand a worthy cause.”
Next year’s Giant Race is already proceeding full-force: planning of the event and what they are going to do to make it better than the last, there does not seem to be an end date attached to this spectacular event. JT Service, the event coordinator for the Giant Race, said the Giants are happy to host fifteen thousand people for a great event on a day they aren’t playing baseball.
“It’s amazing one person started this all,” said Stokes, referring to Ruth Brinker, founder of Project Open Hand. “We went from feeding seven people to making twenty-five hundred meals a day. This race is one-of-a-kind and we are grateful for everyone’s participation.”