Ever wonder what running the The San Francisco Marathon 5K 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 3 begins with Levi Strauss Plaza on the left, 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.

Runners continue on to pass the sparkling 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.

The course turns back along the Embarcadero at Bay street, providing a new perspective for runners on the gorgeous Bay views as they push back towards the finish line and the Ferry Building. After crossing the finish line, and taking a few deep breaths, runners can see the iconic Cupid’s Span sculpture, built by married artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The 60-foot sculpture, made of fiberglass and steel, was commissioned by GAP founders Donald and Doris F. Fisher.

With five kilometers behind them, runners are awarded their medals and welcomed to the Finish Line Festival to celebrate with friends, family and over 27,000 participants. Congratulations.