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The Notorious RBG Had a Big Presence at a San Francisco Race

The Impala Racing Team picked U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to honor at the 2019 Bay to Breakers event.

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The Impala Racing Team, an all-women’s running group based in San Francisco, tries to find a strong female character on which to base its group costume each year for the annual Bay to Breakers race, which was on May 19. When it came time to vote on dressing as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there was, well, little dissent.

“We try to choose somebody fictional or real who embodies what we as a team believe in, which is strength, independence, intelligence, and a feminist perspective,” said Elizabeth Goya, president of the Impalas and a lawyer herself.

Bay to Breakers is a whacky 12K event where almost all of the runners are in costume. In the “centipede” division, teams of 13 runners each are tethered together for the duration of the race, unless a runner has to drop out and then a substitute running alongside the team can jump in.

The Impalas had 45 runners competing, decked out in real judge’s robes, white collars, dark-rimmed glasses, plastic gavels, and hair swept up in the judge’s iconic bun (many also sprayed their hair gray). The team’s top centipede average about six-minute-mile pace and placed second in the division.

The group gets together annually for a costume-making party at local running store a Runner’s Mind. This time they hemmed the judge’s robes, pinned down the collars, and bedazzled their plastic gavels.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Beth Goya
The Impala Racing Team runs the 2019 Bay to Breakers race dressed as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

On race day, the Impalas heard a lot of encouragement, Goya said, including chants of “RBG!” and “I dissent!”

“We also heard a lot of ‘Girl power!’ from younger girls on the course, which is why we do this—a lot us have daughters who cheer for us and it’s important to dress as somebody they can look up to,” said Goya, who has a seven-year-old daughter. “We had some amazing comments, though—one of the funnier ones was, ‘Please don’t die!’”

PHOTO: Courtesy of the Impalas Racing Team
One of the “centipede” teams races Bay to Breakers for the Impalas.

Justice Ginsburg, 86, is doing her best to remain healthy—she’s become just as well known for her dedication to her workout routine with a personal trainer as her dissenting opinions and dedication to gender equality. She probably would have approved of the way Goya’s centipede handled the intrusion of two intoxicated men from the sidelines, who got caught up in their tethers.

“We physically captured two drunk men in our cords because they wouldn’t get out of the way,” Goya said. “One of them intentionally wanted to be caught—we had to get him out, but we never stopped running, which was the hilarious part.”

And the Impala’s tribute just might make it all the way to the Supreme Court. When the group turned around at the finish line to run the course backward, they found one member’s dad, who took a photo of the 45 RBGs.

“The dad is a federal judge and knows her. His law clerk wanted photos to send to RBG herself so she could see them,” Goya said. “We were all like, ‘This is amazing.’ It made me proud, for sure.”