Gold Story: Mom of 4, Nurse, Runner. SF Marathon Course Record Holder Anna Bretan Does It All!

Running has been a part of Anna Bretan’s life for as long as she can remember.

Her parents have always been runners, and still are even in their 60s. Her three brothers all run, and Anna started running in high school.

“Running totally suits who I am,” Anna said. “I joined the cross country team in high school and they were all so welcoming and intimate, but also hard working. I just fell in love with it and now I’m addicted.”

She kept running through college and she calls it her “forever hobby.”

And although she had run competitively through high school and college, and won races, she had never run a marathon.

After college, Anna got married and had two kids and she started working as a nurse in Berkeley.

In 2011 she had two young boys and she wanted to have another baby, but her husband said, “You should run a marathon first. I have a feeling you’ll be really good at marathons.”

That was an accurate prediction!

Anna’s First Marathon And Third Baby

That year Anna ran — and won — the Oakland Marathon, the first marathon she had ever run, with a time of 2:53:19.

After the race she was quoted as saying, “This is a good way to start. I turned 26 in December and I decided it was time to run 26 miles.”

Before the Oakland Marathon came around again the following year, Anna did get pregnant with her third child, but she kept training throughout her entire pregnancy.

She says she even had a great workout on the day she went into labor.

“That was a great day,” Anna said. “I took a weight training class, did a treadmill run, and hiked all over the Berkeley hills. I was about done being pregnant and I just wanted to run this kid out.” Later that day, she went into labor and had her daughter.

That was six weeks before the 2012 Oakland Marathon, which Anna ran again, and won again.

Yes, six weeks postpartum Anna was already running (and winning!) her second marathon. She said she really tried to cram a lot of training into those three weeks prior to the race.

San Francisco: “My Home Course”

Later that same year, Anna ran the San Francisco Marathon for the first time.

San Francisco felt like home for Anna, so running the San Francisco Marathon was a natural next step for her. She went to school at the University of San Francisco and then San Francisco State. 

“It felt like my home course,” Anna said. “It helps when you know the course.”

She’s also mostly stuck to races that are close to home, in the Bay Area, because she has a family and young kids and she says she enjoys being able to sleep in her own bed after a race.

Anna said, “The San Francisco Marathon is a beautiful race. You cross the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s always perfect weather. It’s not just a flat, fast course. It’s challenging and it has hills, but it’s a fun race.”

In 2012, Anna was the second female finisher in the San Francisco Marathon, with a time of 2:49:34. This was now about six months after she had given birth to her third baby.

Winning Races, Breaking Records

A year later, at the 2013 San Francisco Marathon, Anna not only won the race, but also broke the female course record, with a time of 2:42:26, and she is still the current course record holder.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I broke the record,” Anna said. 

Anna says she was well prepared for that race.

“I had some long-time running partners who I was chasing the whole race. I had run a bunch of marathons by that time, I had adequately tapered and I used other races to prepare for that race,” Anna said when asked how she thought she was able to do so well in the 2013 San Francisco Marathon.

Anna is now a three-time winner of the San Francisco Marathon. She went on to win the next two years as well, in 2014 and 2015.

She’s also a three-time winner and the current course record holder of the Modesto Marathon. In 2014, she was even the overall winner of the Modesto Marathon, beating the top male finisher by nearly 3 minutes.

Anna has also won three Berkeley Half Marathon races and is the current female course record holder for that race as well, with a time of 1:16:13, which she set in 2014.

Running More Than Ever

After all these races and wins from 2012 to 2015, Anna said she took a break from racing for a while to raise her kids, as well as have a fourth child.

But, she hasn’t stopped running, in fact she says she’s been running more than ever!

“I’ve been liking the ultra world recently,” Anna said. “Those races are quiet. There’s not as many people.”

Last fall Anna ran a 72-mile ultra race around Lake Tahoe.

“I ran 40 plus miles by myself in the dark in 20 degree weather. It was an amazing experience, a magical experience,” she said.

She’s also been getting into mountain biking recently and she loves biking and running on those Berkeley trails near home. Her two older kids are even running and biking with her now, which she says has been really fun.

Anna is looking into more ultramarathon races and even triathlons because she says she wants to try something new.

“Trying new things can be scary,” Anna said. “But, it’s good to push yourself out of your comfort zone.”

Making Me A Better Mom

Being a mom and having babies hasn’t stopped Anna from running.

She now has four kids, ranging in age from one to 13, and she says, “I don’t have any guilt about my running. Running makes me such a better parent.”

Even when life is busy, Anna prioritizes her running and feels like she’s better because of it, saying “If I can get my run in, I can accomplish anything that I need to do.”

She regularly runs with one of her kids in a stroller, and she even came back and ran the Berkeley Half Marathon again last fall, this time with her youngest daughter in the stroller, which she said was a new challenge she wasn’t expecting.

Anna is also trying to lead her kids by example, and hopefully setting them up for a lifelong love of the outdoors, like she has.

Her two older kids are now both running cross country and track in middle school, and Anna is the coach. Her 7-year-old daughter even comes along to cross country practice and runs with the middle schoolers too.

Olympics Before She’s 40?

Anna doesn’t plan to stop running anytime soon. She’s 35 now, and said she should probably set a new goal of qualifying for the Olympic Games again before she’s 40.

She actually did qualify for the Olympics in 2016, but then had a stress fracture in her hip and wasn’t able to finish the race.

In the meantime, she plans to keep running, mountain biking, and running ultras, while still taking care of her kids and being a great mom too.



In honor and celebration of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games that will be happening at the same time as the 2020 San Francisco Marathon, we are telling runners’ Gold Stories.

For many, running in the Olympics may be a far off dream, but we know you have your own goals and achievements that we want to hear about and celebrate, because everyone can have their own version of a Gold Goal!

So, what’s your Gold Story? Share your story with us here and we may feature your story next!

1 Reply to "Gold Story: Mom of 4, Nurse, Runner. SF Marathon Course Record Holder Anna Bretan Does It All!"

  • comment-avatar
    Eric Johnson
    February 25, 2020 (9:35 am)

    Don’t forget being a nurse too! A lot of people who qualify for the olympics are sponsored & can run full time. Anna doesn’t have that “luxury”