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 is perhaps the most challenging mile on course. After leaving the Vista Point aid station, runners begin a descent on a wide gravel fire road, looping under the Golden Gate Bridge, something not many people get to experience during a race!  Runners can take in the unique view of the city from this vista as during the descent. At the bottom of the trail a paved pathway begins the steepest climb of the race.  

The Marin Headlands loom large ahead. The rugged peninsula is wild, wide open space with hiking trails, campsites, beaches, incredible views of the coastline and San Francisco, and a rich history. It’s hard to believe such a vast, beautiful, and diverse wilderness is so close to a major metropolitan area. The headlands are home to historic Fort Barry, built in 1908 as one of the first modern seacoast forts outside the Golden Gate Strait, and Fort Cronkhite, a former World War II military mobilization post that is one of the few preserved examples remaining in the country. The NIKE Missile Site here was built during the Cold War as the last line of defense against Soviet bombers, and today stands as an educational Cold War museum. The picturesque Point Bonita Lighthouse is 150 years old and still active today.

The headlands are perhaps best known for Mount Tamalpais, called Mt. Tam, the highest peak at 2,571 feet. It boasts redwood groves and oak woodlands with spectacular views. On a clear day, visitors can see the Farallon Islands 25 miles out to sea, and sometimes even the Sierra Nevada snow-covered mountains 150 miles away.  It’s argued that Mt. Tam is the birthplace of mountain biking. The first mountain bike race, Repack, was held on the gravel service roads of the peak. Marin gave rise to many riders who are now legends in the mountain bike world, including Tom Ritchey, Gary Fisher, and many others. Currently, there are only two main singletrack trails in all of Marin County that are legal to ride a mountain bike on: Camp Tamarancho and China Camp.

Wide sweeping gentle curves carry runners up the west side entrance of the bridge, as views of the beautiful Marin Headlands hills are all around.  The view of the Pacific ocean and the entrance to the Golden Gate provides an incredible reward as runners step foot on the west side footpath and head back to San Francisco.

Hawk Hill is the lookout point for the largest known flight of raptors in the Pacific states. Each autumn, from August into December, tens of thousands of hawks, kites, falcons, eagles, vultures, osprey, and harriers are funneled by the peninsular shape of Marin County into the headlands. Hawk Hill is also habitat for the rare Mission Blue Butterfly.