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 3 is one of the most beautiful and scenic stretches of the course, starting from Aquatic Park, heading past Fort Mason, and down to the start of the Marina Green.

This leg starts at Hyde Street, which juts out to the Hyde Street Pier, home of the world’s largest collection of historic ships. 19th and 20th century schooners, steam ferry boats, steam tugs and more are anchored to the pier, and some are available for self-guided or docent-led tours. A public sing-along of sea chanteys and sailor songs aboard a historic ship takes place here on the first Saturday of every month. Before the Golden Gate and Bay bridges were open, Hyde Street Pier was a ferry pier, the principal automobile ferry terminal connecting San Francisco with Marin County by way of Sausalito to the north, and the East Bay by way of Berkeley; it was a designated part of U.S. Route 101.

Sheltered by the Hyde Street Pier and the semi-circular Aquatic Park Pier is Aquatic Park, a man-made lagoon fronted by a sandy beach and a stepped concrete seawall. This one-half mile stretch of beach is protected from wind-generated waves and currents. Members of local swim clubs like the Dolphin Club, established in 1877, swim in these waters every day of the year.

The Aquatic Park Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, includes the beach and municipal pier, a bathhouse, a concessions stand and more. To the south is a grassy area known as Victorian Park, which houses the Hyde Street cable car turnaround. In the park near the corner of Beach and Larkin streets is California Historical Landmark No. 236, honoring the Spanish “San Carlos,” which, in 1775, became the first ship to enter the San Francisco Bay.

Above Aquatic Park is Ghirardelli Square, once a chocolate factory (the third-oldest in the United States) and headquarters of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in the late 1890s. After the company was sold in the 1960s, the square and its historic brick structures were converted into a restaurant and retail complex, the first major adaptive re-use project in the United States.

Leaving Aquatic Park and passing by Fort Mason, take in the beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge every step of the way. Then, head past the green and grassy Great Meadow of Fort Mason. In the center stands a statue of Congressman Phillip Burton, who sponsored legislation that created the Golden Gate National Parks in 1972. Once an army post for more than 100 years, Fort Mason is now a mecca for picnickers, sunbathers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The Great Meadow slopes down from upper Fort Mason to Fort Mason Center in the Marina District, home to repurposed piers and warehouses that house environmental, cultural and arts organizations, event space (think wine tastings, garden expositions and antique shows), and a few great restaurants, like the SF institution, Greens.

The course then flattens out until just beyond Fort Mason and the East Harbor, heading toward the expansive Marina Green.