THE SAN FRANCISCO MARATHON 1ST HALF COURSE: MILE 5

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 5 runs along Crissy Field, a beloved destination for local runners looking to get in a few scenic miles on the weekends or after work. And it’s no wonder this is one of the most popular running routes in the city with its Golden Gate Bridge and bayfront views. The mostly gravel trail is dotted with rugged Cypress trees, and spectators often include pelicans, curlews, egrets, terns and herons from the nearby and recently restored tidal marsh. This mile of the race is sure to make runners forget they’re in the middle of a major city.

Located in San Francisco’s Presidio, Crissy Field is waterfront, wide open space, favored by picnickers, beach-goers and outdoor enthusiasts. In 2001, it was restored with cultivated trails, boardwalks, dunes, cafes and a renewed grassy meadow.

The area was once a salt marsh and estuary where the Ohlone Indians gathered shellfish. Later, it became a U.S. army airfield and during the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, daring flying demonstrations took off from here.

The U.S. Army established an air coast defense station in 1919 at Crissy Field. The field is named after aviation pioneer Major Dana Crissy, who died during the Army’s first Transcontinental Reliability and Endurance Test, which took off from the field. Sixty-one aircraft participated; 46 flying westbound from Long Island, New York and 15 flying eastbound from the new airfield — the goal was to see who could land on the opposite coast first. Of the 61 aircraft participating, only nine men completed the transcontinental flight.

Many of the original airfield hangars remain along Mason Street. Building 640 (640 Mason St.) is the birthplace of the Military Intelligence Service Language School. In this converted airmail hangar, the Army secretly housed and trained Japanese American soldiers to serve as military linguists and translators during World War II. Today Building 640 is open as a learning center that highlights the experience and contributions of Japanese Americans.

The Warming Hut (aptly named because Crissy Field is often windy, foggy and cool, and this is the perfect spot to “warm up”) is a historic 1909 building that is now a cafe, information center, and gift shop filled with maps, books, posters and eco-friendly offerings.

Just out from the Hut is Torpedo Wharf, where fishermen can fish or crab without a license, and sea lions gather and bark nearby in an attempt to share in the day’s catch.

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