The San Francisco Marathon Course: Mile 16

Ever wondered what running The San Francisco Marathon course is like? We asked local writer and runner, Erin Mara, to take us through the experience of running The San Francisco Marathon from a mile-by-mile perspective. What better way to join in the experience of the course than being able to get a sneak peek?

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Mile 16 starts with a sharp turn off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive onto Metson Road. This stretch continues down a paved street and remains quiet and peaceful through Golden Gate Park’s eucalyptus, cypress and pine forests. Metson Road takes runners up a slight incline until they turn right onto Middle Drive West. This street takes runners through a less frequented section of the park, and a portion of the road is even off-limits to cars. This mile also passes three lakes: Metson, Mallard and Elk Glen Lakes.

The course continues to climb through a canopy of trees, and passes the Polo Fields on runners’ left, which can be seen peeking through the greenery. Metson Lake will be on the right. Despite its small size, the lake is known as one of the prettiest in Golden Gate Park, with a walking path surrounding it, benches, and lush foliage, including wild blackberry bushes. In the past, Metson Lake played host to the All-Skate Jam, where skateboard enthusiasts gathered to watch freestyle teams attempt to break Guinness World Book records.

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Just past Metson Lake, Middle Drive West becomes a pedestrian-only stretch, even more secluded and tucked away in Golden Gate Park. Down to the right, on the far side of MLK Jr. Drive, is Mallard Lake, a secluded enclave for some of the park’s rarest birds, including egrets and blue herons, as well as bird enthusiasts who come to spot them. The park is an ideal duck feeding pond, home to its namesake mallards, as well as a variety of other species.

Middle Drive West continues on, passing Elk Glen Lake on runners’ right. This lake, in an isolated section of the park, doesn’t receive many human visitors, but it is also a favorite of interesting birds, including Lincoln Sparrows, Buffleheads, and Belted Kingfishers. The lake features dramatic blossoming plum and cherry trees on its east side.

On the other side of Elk Glen Lake and MLK Jr. Drive is the George Washington Bicentennial Grove, a grove of trees and green swath of grass that pays homage to the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. A redwood tree dedicated to former United States President Herbert Hoover was also planted there in 1935.
Just after the grove, runners take a left on Transverse Drive, hitting Water Stop 8 and heading back up to John F. Kennedy Drive. Mile 16 ends just before racers turn right onto JFK Drive and run around course-favorite, Stow Lake.


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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