The San Francisco Marathon Course: Mile 2

Mile 2 of the course is usually one of the busiest stretches in the city, so for runners to have it all to themselves on race day is a truly special experience.

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The second mile sets off on the final span of the Embarcadero and continues through Fisherman’s Wharf, which sees more than 10 million visitors every year. The area is always buzzing with tourists, street performers, sidewalk vendors, bustling seafood restaurants, outdoor seafood sellers, souvenir shops, galleries—and lots of foot and automobile traffic. Running through the neighborhood when it’s quiet is almost unheard of.

Filled with a rich Barbary Coast history, the Wharf is the hub of San Francisco’s fishing community, dating back to the 1800s when Italian immigrant fishermen came to San Francisco during California’s Gold Rush. Today, fishing fleets still haul in fresh, local catches of Dungeness crab, salmon, tuna, black cod and halibut, and supply their bounty to local restaurants. Some of the oldest on the wharf include Alioto’s, Fisherman’s Grotto, Sabella & La Torre and Castagnolas.

 The Fisherman’s Wharf district is expansive, stretching from about Pier 39 to Pier 45. The historic F Market Streetcar, which uses exclusively vintage cars from both San Francisco’s retired fleet as well as from cities around the world, runs through the cobblestone corridor. At the start of the Wharf is the Aquarium of the Bay, a waterfront aquatic museum which showcases local marine life. Fun fact: The San Francisco bay averages only 14 feet deep.

TSFM14 Michigan Bluff Photography

PIER 39—a two-story retail complex with restaurants, shops, and family friendly entertainment and attractions, is the busiest spot in the Wharf.

One of the best parts of running through the Wharf, besides runners having the streets all to themselves, is passing Boudin Bakery. The flagship location of the historic San Francisco bakery makes bread with a recipe from 1849. The smell of the famous sourdough bread wafts down the street in the early morning, calling runners back after the race.

On the northwest side of Pier 39 are some San Francisco’s most famous inhabitants—the sea lions (see them live on a webcam here), who started appearing on the K-Dock just after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. The noisy, smelly, but impossibly cute creatures laze on the docks soaking in the sun. At times, more than 1,000 pinnipeds can be seen here.

Pier 45 houses the commanding USS Pampanito, a restored World War II Balao-class fleet submarine. It’s a national historic landmark, and inside displays authentic artifacts and a gift shop.

Fisherman's Wharf

Mile 2 also boasts the most direct views on the course of Alcatraz, the notorious military and federal penitentiary turned national park. Some of its most famous prisoners included Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and James “Whitey” Bulger. Formerly a place of detainment and protest, Alcatraz recently featured a large-scale exhibit by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. The exhibit explored themes of human rights and freedom of expression.


About the author

Erin Mara is a writer and runner living in San Francisco. Her favorite city runs, along with her trusted training buddy, Izzy, include the Bay Trail from Fort Mason to the Golden Gate Bridge; Golden Gate Park out to Ocean Beach; and the Bay Area Ridge Trail, through the Presidio and out to the California Coastal Trail and Baker Beach – where she recently got engaged mid-run at the Pacific Overlook.

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