The San Francisco Marathon Course: Mile 21

Ever wondered what running the The San Francisco Marathon course is like? We asked local writer and runner, Erin Mara, to take us through the experience of running the 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 21 starts on Haight Street at Divisadero Street, wrapping up a long and steady descent and heading southeast toward the Mission District.

TSFM14 Michigan Bluff Photography

A few blocks down to the north at the start of this mile is one of San Francisco’s most famous and photographed landmarks: the Painted Ladies. An architectural term used for Victorian and Edwardian structures painted in three or more colors that enhance their architectural details, these six, perfectly pastel homes are often called “postcard row” and line Steiner Street at Hayes Street, bordering Alamo Square. Nearly 50,000 houses in the Victorian and Edwardian styles were built in San Francisco and painted bright colors between 1849 and 1915. The homes in Alamo Square were built between 1892 and 1896 and were featured in the opening credits of the popular television series “Full House.” The tight, escalating formation of Victorian homes is back-dropped by downtown’s skyscrapers, providing a stunning contrast.

A few blocks south of Haight Street on Duboce between Scott and Steiner streets is Duboce Park, a small plot of land a few blocks long between the Lower Haight and Duboce Triangle neighborhoods. The park is a popular spot to let dogs run off leash, and it’s unusual for having homes directly alongside it. San Francisco’s official weather observation site is located in Duboce Park, which is near the geographical and population center of the city. There’s even a labyrinth along Scott Street designed for meditation or relaxation.

After passing the Painted Ladies and Duboce Park along Haight Street, runners are now in the Lower Haight district, a neighborhood that has more of a grungy, punk feel than the Upper Haight that is closer to Golden Gate Park with its counter-culture vibe. The Lower Haight is known for its restaurants, bars, nightlife, galleries and retail shops.

The Wiggle also runs through here, a popular, one-mile, zig-zagging bicycle route from Golden Gate Park to Market Street in San Francisco, that minimizes hilly inclines.

A block north on Page Street at Buchanan Street is the San Francisco Zen Center, one of the largest Buddhist communities outside of Asia, housed in an elegant brick building designed by famed architect Julia Morgan in 1922.

Runners turn right on Buchanan heading toward Market street. Just before Market at Hermann Street, runners pass the The U.S. Mint, once the exclusive manufacturer of regular proof and silver proof coin sets. The Mint does not currently produce circulating coins, but has an interesting history dating back to the Gold Rush. In 1852, a  branch of the United States Mint was established in San Francisco to assist the mint in Philadelphia in turning all of California’s new-found gold into coins. In 1854, the San Francisco mint opened its doors and produced more than $4 million in gold pieces by December alone. The Mint’s production of coins was uninterrupted for 32 years until the earthquake and fire of 1906 when the building’s gas lines were partially destroyed. Though damaged, it remained the only financial institution capable of operating immediately after the disaster and became the treasury for disaster relief funds, performing other emergency banking services as well.

Market and Guerrero

After passing the mint, runners then cross Market Street, one of the city’s main thoroughfares and the boundary of two street grids. Market cuts across the city for three miles from the waterfront at the Ferry Building,  running southwest through downtown, passing the Civic Center and the Castro District to Twin Peaks. The street is a major transit artery and once carried horse-drawn carriages. Today, historic streetcars on the F Market line run down the street, while below, the two-level Market Street Subway carries Muni Metro and BART.

Heading down Guerrero Street toward the Mission district, Mile 21 ends at 14th Street, just past a water stop.


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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