Iconic San Francisco

Contributed by Erin Mara, a writer and runner living in San Francisco.

Illustrations by inoutlines

We polled San Francisco Marathon runners and asked them what they loved about the race, plus what lessons running has taught them along the way. A few common themes came up, so read on to learn about why racers love running in San Francisco, how running has helped them persevere and heal, and why SF locals love The San Francisco Marathon.

San Francisco Marathon runners celebrate the city by running past (and on!) its most famous icons and landmarks.

Yuko Hampton, 41, Fountain Hills, AZ

SF_Marathon_Yuko_Color2Saw the Golden Gate Bridge as a welcoming symbol of the U.S.

Hampton cried tears of happiness when running across the Golden Gate Bridge at Mile 7 of The San Francisco Half Marathon in 2016 — her first running race ever. She crossed the bridge while holding hands with her running buddy, her 12-year-old son, David.

“The Golden Gate Bridge is a symbol of the United States — it has a special place in my heart,” said Yuko, originally from Japan. “San Francisco was the first U.S. city I visited in 1995. My first time to the U.S. made me love this country — the United States is a land of opportunity.”  

Yuko said she had many positive turning points in her life take place in San Francisco. “I was so glad I chose San Francisco as my first half marathon course,” she said

Lessons learned through running: “I am happier and healthier since I started running, and I am making positive impacts to those around me,” Yuko said, who has inspired her 9-year-old daughter to train for a 10K, and her 12-year-old son to train for a half marathon. “It’s great bonding time as we train and run together.”  

Marianella Cordero, 39, Heredia, Costa Rica


Ran with “flowers in her hair.”

Everyone told Marianella that she would fall in love with San Francisco. The San Francisco Marathon in 2016 was her 9th marathon, and fall in love with the city she did.

“I was absolutely amazed by the bridge — I kissed it,” Marianella said. “it was my best moment of the race. The bridge, when you cross it, is surrounded by clouds, so, I ran on the clouds. It’s the most amazing bridge in the world.”

To show her appreciation for the city, she said she ran with flowers in her hair, like the 1967 Scott McKenzie song: “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers In Your Hair).”

“I picked this race in July because my birthday is July 7,” Marianella said. “It was my 39th, and 2016 was the 39th San Francisco Marathon. I fell in love with San Francisco — with flowers in my hair for this lovely city.”

Lessons learned through running: “My heartbeats are a gift,” Marianella said, who has run with a pacemaker since 2015. “Running has helped me see the world (Athens, Rome, Paris, Costa Rica, New York, Chicago, San Francisco); all those marathons became memories, and I have made many friends. Running for me is not speed: it’s reaching for new places and faces.”

Hui Xiang Chua, 28, Singapore 

The San Francisco Marathon was her first overseas race trip.SF_Marathon_Hui_Color1

Hui flew to San Francisco from her home city of Singapore in 2015 just to run The San Francisco Half Marathon. It was her second half marathon ever, and her first overseas race trip. She said her favorite part was running across the Golden Gate Bridge. “Being able to run the majestic and beautiful suspension bridge with so many others amidst the fog made the entire run magical (and less painful),” Hui said. She also loved “running in such cool temperatures” and “crossing the finish line alive.”

Lessons learned through running: “Running has shown me, time and again, that you are what you think you are,” Hui said.Limits are often self-imposed. Boundaries can be pushed by putting in hard work, while pain can be overcome through perseverance and by staying positive. Running also frees my mind and leads me to appreciate the beauty of nature around me, trivializing my problems. Running makes me a stronger, more resilient and happier person.”

Christian Robert, 56, Paris, France

Says nothing competes with the Golden Gate Bridge run – except maybe Mont Blanc.SF_Marathon_Christian_Color

“I loved every moment of the race, from the terrific organization, to the early starting time that fit my jet lag perfectly, to the cheering crowds along the road,” Christian said after his half marathon finish in 2016. “And of course, to be able to run over the Golden Gate Bridge and back — nothing can compete with that … except maybe a trail run around Mont Blanc. The party at the end was highly enjoyable as well as unusual for me.”

Lessons learned through running: “Each race sees a low moment of losing confidence and despair to reach the finish line in the intended time, which is usually followed by a second wind a few kilometres later. I’ve learned to trust my body more than my mind in this situation, and to trust that my weeks of training will get me to the finish line.”

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