The San Francisco Marathon wants to know – what’s your favorite mile? Of the 26.2 miles, my favorites are easy: miles 2-4 take me through the streets of my childhood summers in San Francisco – memories that will forever connect me to this city.
My grandmother still lives in the same 1920s Marina District house she and my grandfather purchased in the early ‘70s. The house has aged and feels smaller now. The neighbors I knew well are gone (no longer does the patriarch of the old Italian family across the street spy through his curtains). It’s been awhile since my Dad pushed me on the swings at Moscone Park (every child’s dream playground). But still, the neighborhood’s pastel colors, fresh bay breezes and blue sky lure me back to the city.
I ran the first half of The SF Marathon in 2011. Those 13.1 miles passed through the places I know and love. Closing my eyes I can recall in vivid detail the native city dwellers and tourists running, skating, and walking along the Embarcadero, the Jeremiah O’Brien WW2 liberty ship that my grandfather helped restore docked at Pier 45, the street performers at Fisherman’s Wharf (RIP Bushman), and the bocce ball matches at Aquatic Park. I can tell you how steep the first hill will be at mile 2 in Fort Mason, and about the fitness stations that used to be my jungle gyms along the downhill path on the other side.
I can tell you the layout of the iconic Marina Safeway, and how old I was when I learned that for many singles, shopping there was more successful than bar hopping. I can tell you about the thousands of kites that have flown along the Marina Green, and the variety of sailboats and yachts that pull into the harbor.
While views of Alcatraz, Angel Island, the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands beckon as you’re running down Marina Boulevard, don’t forget to look left at the beautiful multi-million dollar mansions with their expansive bay windows, a few with cracks of earthquake damage permanently scarred into their delicate ornamentation. Approaching Chrissy Field, while you’re still gaping at the beloved Bridge, look left again to spot the Presidio and the Palace of Fine Arts with its giant bronze dome.
San Francisco is rich in culture, architecture and natural beauty. Every street and turn of the corner on the marathon course allows even long time residents an opportunity of discovery. This is exactly why I am excited to run the full marathon this July. I will run 13.1 miles through the areas I know like the back of my hand, and 13.1 miles through areas I can’t wait to explore. Golden Gate Park! Haight Ashbury! The Mission! Who knows? Maybe there’s a piece of my childhood hidden there that I’ve forgotten about. But if not, I can’t wait to create new memories.