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 16 continues along quiet MLK Jr. Drive, taking runners along a peaceful push through dense forests with towering trees on both sides of the route. Roughly halfway through runners will make a sharp turn off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive onto Metson Road. This stretch continues down a paved street and remains quiet and peaceful through Golden Gate Park’s eucalyptus, cypress and pine forests. Metson Road takes runners up a slight incline until they turn right onto Middle Drive West. This street takes runners through a less frequented section of the park, and a portion of the road is even off-limits to cars. This mile also passes three lakes: Metson, Mallard and Elk Glen Lakes.

The course continues to climb through a canopy of trees, and passes the Polo Fields on runners’ left, which can be seen peeking through the greenery. Metson Lake will be on the right. Despite its small size, the lake is known as one of the prettiest in Golden Gate Park, with a walking path surrounding it, benches, and lush foliage, including wild blackberry bushes. In the past, Metson Lake played host to the All-Skate Jam, where skateboard enthusiasts gathered to watch freestyle teams attempt to break Guinness World Book records.


Just past Metson Lake, Middle Drive West becomes a pedestrian-only stretch, even more secluded and tucked away in Golden Gate Park. Down to the right, on the far side of MLK Jr. Drive, is Mallard Lake, a secluded enclave for some of the park’s rarest birds, including egrets and blue herons, as well as bird enthusiasts who come to spot them. The park is an ideal duck feeding pond, home to its namesake mallards, as well as a variety of other species.

Middle Drive West continues on, passing Elk Glen Lake on runners’ right. This lake, in an isolated section of the park, doesn’t receive many human visitors, but it is also a favorite of interesting birds, including Lincoln Sparrows, Buffleheads, and Belted Kingfishers. The lake features dramatic blossoming plum and cherry trees on its east side.

On the other side of Elk Glen Lake and MLK Jr. Drive is the George Washington Bicentennial Grove, a grove of trees and green swath of grass that pays homage to the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. A redwood tree dedicated to former United States President Herbert Hoover was also planted there in 1935.

Grab a quick drink of water at Water Stop 8 as you get ready to take on Mile 17 and see course-favorite, Stow Lake.