Reasons to Run The San Francisco Marathon

Contributed by Erin Garvey, a 2017 Ambassador for The San Francisco Marathon.

In case you haven’t heard the big news, with more than two months before race weekend, the 1st Half Marathon of The San Francisco Marathon is officially at capacity, and the Full Marathon will follow within the next week. (There are still spots open in the 5K, 2nd Half Marathon, and 52.4 mile Ultramarathon, but don’t delay – register before you get shut out!). Clearly, runners everywhere, from all corners of the world, are eager to flock to run the streets of San Francisco in late July.

But why? What is it about The San Francisco Marathon? Why do people come from all over to run this race, and why do some people do it year after year?

Perhaps you saw recently that Runner’s World, the revered publication for most runners, recently named San Francisco the best place to run in the US. No doubt runners everywhere favor SF’s year-round temperate weather, as well as the multiple run route options scattered throughout the city. Tourists flock year-round to the iconic city best known for the beautiful Painted Ladies, the colorful Golden Gate Bridge and equally awesome (though arguably under appreciated) Bay Bridge, and the expansive Golden Gate Park, but there is something magic about visiting and running in the the City by the Bay over the summer.

Out of curiosity, I asked some of The San Francisco Marathon’s social media ambassadors why they choose to run TSFM events year after year. If you’re at all on the fence about registering for a TSFM event this year, I’ll let my friends (gently) help push you over the edge.

The Golden Gate Bridge. Running over the Golden Gate Bridge is on a lot of runners’ bucket lists, and sure, you could argue that you can run over it any day of the year. However, The San Francisco Marathon is the *only* race that actually closes part of the bridge and lets runners actually traverse the roadway (instead of packing runners onto the pedestrian-only sides of the bridge). TSFM ambassador Jess says that the city views she gets, “especially crossing the Golden Gate bridge, in the fog or sunshine” are indescribable. I agree. Momentarily leaving SF to venture into Marin County in the beginning stages of TSFM rewards you with views of both the city to the east and the ocean to the west. It’s pretty awesome.

Iconic SF tourism. Particularly if you run the Full Marathon, TSFM will give you a 26.2 mile curated experience of some of the most iconic tourism locales in the city. Ambassador Stephanie L. says she always looks forward to the smell of Boudin bread baking along the Embarcadero, in the first few miles of the race; the sounds of the sea lions along the Embarcadero; the feel of the salty ocean air; and the vision of the bright orange Golden Gate Bridge. (See, everyone loves the bridge!) Why pay for a bus tour when you can feel and experience the city by foot? I have a feeling you’ll remember your foot tour much more than anything you’d ever hear a tour operator explain.

The variety. You may have the impression that TSFM is a grueling footrace with hills that rival those you remember from the Rice-A-Roni commercials and that if you have any desire to run a fast race, TSFM is not for you. Well, you’d be wrong! Ambassador Jeanne explains that 2017 will mark her third consecutive TSFM, traveling all the way from Connecticut, and that she keeps coming back because the race is so different from anything else that she’s run. She says, “there is nothing like running over the Golden Gate Bridge. The race has so many different sections that it’s never boring like some races where it’s out and back with the same scenery or long endless straightaways. The course is challenging but fast!” While the 1st Half Marathon boasts the arguably more “scenic” parts of the race, the 2nd Half Marathon, through Golden Gate Park (the country’s largest park, even bigger than Central Park), Haight-Ashbury, and part of the Embarcadero, is rife with PR potential. If you’re running the Full Marathon, proper pacing from the gun could help you take in the first half of the race before dropping the hammer on the second. Marathons (and half marathons) are inherently difficult, but if you put in the proper training (replete with at least some hill work), there’s no reason to think that you can’t race well here. Jeanne’s right.

The weather. San Francisco in late July is typically very comfortable and mild, which all but promises fantastic running and racing weather. You may have some fog that could obscure your beautiful bridge views, but you don’t have to worry about battling 90-degree weather with 100% humidity like you do virtually everywhere else in the country in late July. (In fact, some locals even think it’s cold in July.)

The complete experience. The first time I ran The San Francisco Marathon, as soon as I finished, I vowed to return because I had so thoroughly enjoyed my footrace of this beautiful city. Having run the Full Marathon again since then, I can say without hesitation that I look forward to running TSFM each year because of the complete “package” of the experience: the Expo at Fort Mason, the shake-out run on Saturday, the early early early morning wake-up on race day (since the race begins before 6 a.m.), the spectacular race, and of course, the super fun after-party. I even like the shirts and medals that we earn by running The San Francisco Marathon, and I usually don’t even care much about those details. Suffice it to say that you’ll get a great experience, from start to finish, for your TSFM price tag.

With Race Day right around 75 days away now (but who’s counting?), it’s not too late to start training. At this year’s race weekend, we will be welcoming 27,000 runners to the streets of San Francisco. There will also be 80,000+ spectators, and to top it all off, this year marks the 40th Anniversary of the first running of The San Francisco Marathon in 1977. Come make history this year – the other Ambassadors and I look forward to sharing hugs and high fives with you at the Expo and after the race.

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