THE SAN FRANCISCO MARATHON 1ST HALF COURSE: MILE 4

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!

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Mile 4 is a very flat portion of the course which begins at the Marina Green, a scenic 74-acre stretch of grass between Fort Mason and the Presidio, surrounded by the historic mansions of the Marina neighborhood.

This section of the race runs along the San Francisco Bay and is wide and open, providing impressive views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz Island, and Marin County’s green hills.

The Marina Green was formerly an airfield, and a stop on the U.S. Post Office’s coast to coast air mail route. It served as the location for the first flights of the Hiller XH-44 helicopter, the first coaxial helicopter to fly in America, and currently on display at the Smithsonian Institution.

Today, it’s lush open space, popular for pick-up soccer games, kite-flying, frisbee, and fetch with four-legged, furry friends. The adjacent marina is home to two private yacht clubs, the St. Francis Yacht Club and the Golden Gate Yacht Club.

Homes built in the 1920s and 1930s line Marina Boulevard, the southern boundary of the Marina Green. Herb Caen, the late San Francisco newspaper columnist, often referenced them and their immaculate furnishings inside. The Marina neighborhood is one of the most posh in the city, filled with trendy shops, restaurants and beautiful people.

On a jetty at the western end of the Marina Green is one of the city’s quirky points of interest,  a wave-activated acoustic sculpture called the Wave Organ. The jetty itself was constructed with carved granite and marble repurposed from a demolished cemetery, materials also used in the construction of the piece. The installation includes 25 organ pipes made of PVC and concrete at various elevations, allowing for the rise and fall of the tides. Sound is created by the impact of waves against the pipe ends and the subsequent movement of water in and out of the pipes. The sound is subtle, and best heard at high tide. The Wave Organ was designed by an artist from the Exploratorium science museum in the 1980s.

Prior to the 1906 earthquake, the Marina District was a tidal marsh. After the quake, much of the resulting rubble was dumped here. Later, to provide land for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, or world’s fair, honoring the completion of the Panama Canal, this site and surrounding neighborhood was filled in.

A nearby remnant of the Exposition is the restored Palace of Fine Arts, a domed rotunda that’s all that is left from ten identical structures built to show the world that San Francisco had risen from the ashes after the devastating earthquake. Last year, the Palace of Fine Arts turned 100 and underwent a major renovation. While it was closed for decades, the public can enter the Palace of Fine Arts by walking past the lagoon and rotunda through the tall wooden doors, designed by architect Bernard Maybeck.

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