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 8 continues downhill along Lincoln Boulevard, past Baker Beach to the edge of the Presidio. It’s a favorite mile of the course because it boasts a continuous decline and hugs the shore.

This mile passes above Marshall Beach, the lesser known sandy neighbor to Baker Beach just a little further down the road. Marshall Beach is a hidden gem and local favorite for being rugged and tucked away. Surrounded by jagged rocks and crashing waves, it’s a quiet and contemplative respite.

On the right, runners will spot a sign for the Sand Ladder. This steep, 200-step, timber stairway connects the trail with the north end of Baker Beach below. It’s a straight shot down to the beach, and makes for a great workout climbing back up, though runners can continue past the Sand Ladder today.

Baker Beach is a nearly mile-long beach known for its spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge–and also its nude sunbathers. This spot makes for one of the most classic and famously photographed scenes in San Francisco: waves lapping on a rugged, rocky beach, with the Golden Gate Bridge glowing in the background. Off-shore, harbor porpoises can be seen playing in the surf, and California’s state rock, serpentine, can be found here. Despite the fickle sunshine and chilly breezes, this beach is a favorite for clothing-optional beach-goers. It’s even known for hosting the Nude Olympic Games. The south end is much-loved by children and families for strolling and picnicking on the beach, but there are large waves, undertow and rip currents here, making the waters unsafe for swimming.

From 1986 to 1990, the north end of Baker Beach was the original site of the Burning Man art festival, which now takes place in Nevada’s Black Rock desert, northeast of Reno.

Baker Beach is home to a series of massive concrete bunkers built during World War II, and a 50-ton, six-inch “disappearing gun,” similar to the kind that defended San Francisco’s coastline in the early 1900s. The Battery Chamberlin was constructed in 1904 to accommodate lighter, stronger, more powerful coastal defense artillery developed in the late nineteenth century. The gun was called “disappearing” because it could be lowered behind a concrete shield while being reloaded. Today, it holds the last 6-inch “disappearing gun” of its type on the west coast. The National Park Service offers demonstrations of the rifle on the first full weekend of each month.

The sustained downhill levels off as Mile 8 concludes and runners exit Lincoln Boulevard. The course then swings around becoming El Camino Del Mar, and hugs the exclusive Sea Cliff neighborhood.