Ever wonder what running the The San Francisco Marathon course is like? Let writer and runner Erin Mara, along with the SFM staff, take you through the experience of running the The San Francisco Marathon mile-by-mile. Get a sneak peak, then get registered and get training!


The course starts with a spectacular stretch along San Francisco’s bay at the edge of the Financial District. In the quiet, pre-dawn hours, Mile 1 sets off on the Embarcadero at Mission Street, right in front of one of the city’s most famous and beloved landmarks: the Ferry Building.

The beautifully towered building was the transportation hub of the city into the 1930s, but a 2003 renovation shifted the building’s focus from ferries to fine food. Inside are some of the city’s most prized artisanal treats, like Cowgirl Creamery artisan cheese, Acme Bread, Boccalone Salumeria, Blue Bottle coffee and Humphry Slocombe ice cream; restaurants like Slanted Door and Hog Island Oyster Company; and culinary shops Heath Ceramics, Sur La Table and The Gardner. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, there’s a colorful farmers market that’s known as one of the best in the country. 2015 was a special year for the Ferry Building because the original lights in numerals “1915” were recently reinstalled on the tower to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a world fair which transformed more than 600 acres in what is now the Marina District into a landscape of palaces (runner will pass one at Mile 4) and amusement rides.

Mile 1 continues along the water on the Embarcadero, passing the next point of interest, Pier 7, one of the most beautiful piers in the state of California because of its ornamental iron handrails and lamp posts, and the views of the Transamerica Pyramid, Coit Tower and the Bay Bridge. It’s also the second longest fishing pier in San Francisco (the first is Aquatic Park Pier just past Fisherman’s Wharf at Mile 3), and equally entices fishermen, tourists and locals.

Just 1,000 feet further sits the Exploratorium an internationally renowned museum of science, art, and human perception with a 45-year history in San Francisco, recently relocated from the Palace of Fine Arts to a new scenic waterfront home at Piers 15 and 17. In 2014, the museum received LEED® Platinum certification, a step toward the goal of being the first net-zero energy museum in the U.S., if not the world, meaning it is working to produce more energy on-site than it consumes annually.

A few steps beyond on the left will be Levi Strauss Plaza, a red brick office complex that is as much a part of San Francisco’s history as the Golden Gate Bridge or sourdough bread. In 1873, German immigrant Levi Strauss patented the riveting (placing rivets at stress points so workers didn’t burst through their seams) of what we now call jeans, and built his company into one of the most well-known brands in the world. Levi Strauss & Co. is still owned by the Strauss family, and it is still a stalwart of the San Francisco business community. Levi’s Plaza, its world headquarters, features historical exhibits and a store carrying the exclusive lines Made & Crafted and Levi’s Vintage Clothing.

To the left is another beloved San Francisco landmark, Coit Tower. Up on the hill is the famed art deco tower, built of unpainted concrete and standing high on Telegraph Hill. The tower was a gift to San Francisco for the “beautification of the city,” from socialite and art patron Lillie Hitchcock Coit. Completed in 1933, the fluted column provides bird’s-eye views from an observation deck near the top. It’s rumored that the tower was designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle due to Coit’s affinity to the San Francisco firemen of the day, but it’s said that the resemblance is just coincidental.

At the end of Mile 1 is the sparkling new cruise ship terminal at Pier 27, the two-story James R. Herman Cruise Terminal which opened last year. On non-cruise days, the terminal converts to an impressive event center. In 2013, it served as home base for the America’s Cup international sailing race.