THE SAN FRANCISCO MARATHON FULL COURSE: MILE 7

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 7 is perhaps the most invigorating and exciting mile of the race – a course favorite. Runners are up on the Golden Gate Bridge footpath, and Mile 7 covers the majority of the span heading north. The wind can be whipping, fog can be blowing, or just a cool, salty breeze sweeping by. But whatever the weather, everyone loves this stretch. The city of San Francisco sparkles to the right, Alcatraz sits silently in the middle of the bay, and runners can hear the blare of the fog horn, with the bay far below and the Marin Headlands looming ahead. Mile 7 is the quintessential San Francisco Marathon “selfie” spot. Soon, runners will leave San Francisco and cross the Marin County line.

The Golden Gate Bridge is named after the strait that is the entrance to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. The Golden Gate Strait, 3 miles long by 1 mile wide, was named “Chrysopylae”, or Golden Gate, by a U.S. Army captain in 1846 because it reminded him of a harbor in Istanbul named Chrysoceras or Golden Horn.

The bridge’s color is orange vermillion, or international orange. It was almost yellow and black (proposed by the U.S. Navy) or red and white (favored by the U.S. Army Corps), but the terra cotta color won out, meant to contrast against the Marin Headlands, the water and sky.

The bridge was built during the Great Depression in 1933, and the construction was completely privately funded with bonds. It cost $35 million to build – today, it’s estimated that it would cost more than $1.5 billion! – and took four years. Only 11 workers died during construction, a safety record for the time. In the 1930s, bridge builders expected one fatality per $1 million in construction costs, and builders expected 35 deaths. One of the bridge’s safety innovations was a net suspended under the bridge from end to end. The net ultimately saved the lives of 19 men who became known as members of the “Halfway-to-Hell Club.”

The Golden Gate Bridge is known as one of the “Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World” by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It was the longest span in the world from its completion in 1937 until the Verrazano Narrows Bridge was built in New York in 1964. Today, it still has the ninth-longest suspension span in the world. Its towers measure 746 feet above the water, making them the world’s tallest on a suspension bridge until 1998 when bridges in Denmark and Japan were completed.

Each of the two towers contains 21,500 tons of steel, weighs 44,000 tons and supports a 61,500 ton load from the main cables. The steel used in Golden Gate Bridge construction was made in New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania and shipped through the Panama Canal.

The total length of the bridge, including approaches, is 1.7 miles (8,981 feet or 2,737 meters). It’s 90 feet wide and the clearance above the water averages 220 feet.

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