It's one of the premier summer events in the City and July 29th, 2007 marked the 30th Anniversary for the San Francisco Marathon™. The City's race is a unique combination of competition and celebration that offers a unique appeal to runners and spectators alike with classic San Francisco landmarks in the background. The standard full 26.2 mile marathon course attracts world-class men and women runners from around the U.S. and the world competing for the first place honor. Left in these runners's dust are the thousands of other running enthusiasts, many who are just happy to finish. There were over 15,000 runners for the 2007 race and more are expected for the 2008 on August 8th as the popularity of this marathon grows.
The San Francisco Marathon does not carry the same prestigious stature as a Boston Marathon or a New York Marathon, these are older races with Boston's next 2008 race being its 112th and larger ones with the Big Apple's accepting 38,000 runners.
Nonetheless, San Francisco's race is well attended by runner's seeking to qualify for the Boston Marathon where runners have to finish a certified marathon within a time limit based upon their gender and age group. As an example, a male runner between 18-34 with a finishing time of 3 hours and 10 minutes or less in the July 29th, 2007 marathon qualifies for the 2008 Boston Marathon held on April 28th. The San Fran Marathon is USA Track and Field Association certified and is a qualifying race. One edge that the City's marathon has over others is weather. It's one of the few summer races and as everyone knows, a July in San Francisco has more in common with an Arctic Alaska than a hot sticky one in Chicago. There's nothing worse than running and melting into the roadway asphalt at about mile 15. The closing date for the Boston Marathon is in early September for the next year's April race and many of the other marathons take place too late to qualify.
San Francisco Marathon Route
The start and finish for the race is on the Embarcadero at Mission Street near the historic Ferry Building. Starting time is 5:30 AM for the elite runners. At the starting gun the race heads north up the Embarcadero and from there the run becomes a cross between a race and San Francisco Sightseeing. Within a couple of miles, runners can see the iconic Transamerica Building and Coit Tower on the hill to the left. The race leads runners past Fisherman's Wharf where a few less than committed souls may be tempted to stop for some crab and sourdough bread.
The marathon continues on however and follows along the edge of the Bay through the Marina and Crissy Field in the Presidio. One difficult spot is the climb up from Crissy Field to get to the Golden Gate Bridge and it's a good spot to overtake the less than earnest runner. The race crosses the bridge and runners make a U-turn on the Marin side and return to San Francisco. Back at the Presidio, runners will turn west towards Sea Cliff and make their way through residential neighborhoods with views of the Pacific Ocean.
The race enters Golden Gate Park taking an oddball course first towards Ocean Beach and then east towards downtown with a detour around Sharon Meadows. Upon exiting the park, the course makes a zigzag beeline through the Haight Ashbury, down into the Mission District, the Potrero and finally back to where it all began on the Embarcadero. The finish is at the Cupid's Arrow lodged in the waterfront near Folsom Street. Winning time in the 2007 race was by Andrew Cook of Texas with a winning time of 2:25:57 and see if you can top that for the 2008 run.
Marathon runners need encouragement. They might run for themselves but sometimes they need a few cheers to push them on, especially after hitting the wall. There are some great spots along the course for spectators to stand and root on the runners.
Watch the crowd of runners grunt and sweat up the hill towards the bridge.
- Golden Gate Park
Check out the runners in the park and then grab a MUNI down to the finish on the Embarcadero.
- Haight Ashbury
Wear flowers in your hair, grab a coffee, and chant for the runners to pick up the pace for the last 10K.
- AT&T Park
Help them push to the finish by the Giants ballpark along and watch as the runners head towards the Bay Bridge.
Highlights for Runners
- Golden Gate Bridge
Runners cross the bridge using the farthest lane on each side. It's a pick-me-up running back into the City with its mesmerizing view and hopefully you'll have a tailwind to give you an extra push.
- Marina Boulevard
Run through one of San Francisco's most charming neighborhoods and within just a few feet of the Bay with Alcatraz Island and sailboats in the background.
- Golden Gate Park
Get a boost of energy and pick up your pace on JFK Drive among the cheering spectators. If you're hot, tired, bedraggled, and lucky, it's one of those foggy days and the cool Pacific mist will invigorate.
- Haight Ashbury
From here there is only 10K left to go. The true hippies from the 60's don't live here anymore although there are still quite a few broad imitations hanging around.
Not everyone can make the full 26.2 mile marathon. In their wisdom, the race organizers have also set up a half marathon with the option to run the first half or second half. Finishers of the half marathons receive the same booty of T-shirts, medal, an official map. There is also something called a Progressive Marathon where the participants can run or walk the 26.2 mile course over weeks and months prior to race day. On race day they can run the last 3.1 miles to complete their marathon. A 5K run also takes place on the same day with an alternative route.
"Runners take your mark…"