Virgin Sport To Host First US Fitness Festival Next Weekend In SF

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Mary Wittenberg and Richard Branson
Mary Wittenberg and Richard Branson

A couple of years ago when Sir Richard Branson was on a bike ride with his son-in-law, Freddie Andrewes, he came up with an idea. The duo was racing through South Africa, when “they had this epiphany that they could actually do this [the bike race] and probably do it better and make it a little bit more fun and with a little bit more Virgin swagger,” Victoria Brumfield recently told Haute Living in a phone conversation. Broomfield is the vice president of global operations at Virgin Sport—the brand that Branson and Andrews founded that fateful afternoon in Africa. With Virgin Sport, Branson plans to take over the world, one sports festival at a time. He tapped Mary Wittenberg, the women who ran New York City’s Marathon for ten years, to be the CEO of the new sports-focused company. Virgin Sport hosted its first three events earlier this year at different locations in England and it’s bringing the inaugural US fitness extravaganza to San Francisco, next weekend Saturday and Sunday, October 14-15.

Runners race up to Twin Peaks
Runners race up to Twin Peaks

“We’re on a mission to move the world thorough sports,” Brumfield explains. “We create festivals of fitness that bring people together. It’s all about making challenge fun.” There is something for everyone at the fitness experience—from yoga beginners to advanced marathoners. Brumfield elaborates: “In San Francisco, for example, we have a one mile run, which is something that’s a little more achievable for those who are new to the sport. Then we’re also all about coming up with experiences for people who maybe aren’t into that crazy distance challenge, but who want to be fit and do things with their friends and family and be part of the festival of fitness experience.” Virgin Sport has partnered with some of SF’s top studios and trainers to make the two-day event cohesive with exercise options for all. Flywheel, ClassPass, MNT Studios, and Burn Pilates are some of participating studios. Barry’s Bootcamp’s Erica Stenz, one of Haute Living’s top ten trainers, is teaching a high intensity interval training (HIIT) class.

Beloved SF trainer Erica Stenz
Beloved SF trainer Erica Stenz

The festivities begin on Saturday with the Twin Peaks Mile, a race up to San Francisco’s iconic peak with four themed waves. Branson himself is running the Style Mile, the first race on Saturday in which runners are invited to dress up in quirky costumes. There’s also a straight run up the hill, a better together challenge that invites groups to participate, and a HIIT and run that involves stops at functional fitness stations along the course. On Sunday, there is a half marathon and a series of classes, with the aforementioned studios, in Civic Center Plaza. Branson is kicking off the half marathon with a pre-race live meditation session with Headspace’s co-founder Andy Puddicombe.

A past Virgin Sport event
A past Virgin Sport event

Why did Virgin Sport decide to launch their first fitness experience in San Francisco? “San Francisco is pretty fabulous and it was a natural choice in that Virgin has really great history in San Francisco,” Brumfield says. “Virgin America started in San Francisco and was a hugely loved brand and so we were welcomed with open arms by the city of San Francisco and it just made sense. It’s also a really fit and healthy city that’s got a very vibrant fitness and sport community and so it just seemed like a natural fit.” We couldn’t agree with Broomfield more—fitness is truly having a moment and we’re thrilled to be able to experience the first Virgin Sport event. With Off the Grid, live entertainment, local artists, and host Franco Finn (the Warriors Hype Man), Virgin Sport SF promises to be a thrilling weekend of fitness.

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