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!


Mile 10 brings runners into Golden Gate Park for the first time, where 1st Half Marathon Runners enjoy the tranquil beauty for their final three miles on the course. Bigger than New York’s Central Park, Golden Gate Park is an urban oasis, home to countless attractions, including the de Young Museum; California Academy of Sciences; Japanese Tea Garden; Botanical Gardens; Stow Lake; Conservatory of Flowers; two historic windmills; a bison paddock; and a rose garden. It features baseball and soccer fields; a nine-hole golf course; an 18-hole disc golf course; tennis, handball and basketball courts; an archery field; horseshoe pits; lawn bowling; fly-fishing; a running track … and the list goes on. Runners will pass by many of these attractions throughout the race.

Water stop 5 is also here, just upon entry into the park.

Before it was developed in the late 1800s, Golden Gate Park was miles and miles of vast sand dunes in an unincorporated area west of San Francisco. Eucalyptus, pine and cypress trees were planted to stabilize the dunes, and today, the park boasts more than 75,000 trees.

The park is a rectangle, more than 3 miles long east to west, and about half a mile long north to south. With 13 million visitors annually, Golden Gate is the fifth most-visited city park in the United States after Central Park in New York City, Lincoln Park in Chicago, and Balboa Park and Mission Bay Park in San Diego.

For the second half of Mile 10, runners turn onto JFK Drive, passing one of the most storied scenes in the park, Lloyd Lake. Adorning this small lake, favored by ducks and geese, is a white marble archway with majestic columns affectionately called “Portals of the Past.” The structure is the remains of a Nob Hill mansion owned by Alban Nelson Towne, General Superintendent of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The home was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, and Towne’s wife donated the glamorous portico to the park in 1909. There is said to be a supernatural aura surrounding the lake; both the lake and the portals are believed to produce small floating luminous globes and sightings of ghostly figures. The lake is named in memory of former park commissioner Reuben Headley Lloyd, and it serves as the reservoir to pump water up the adjacent hill to Rainbow Falls.