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!


The last single-digit mile of the course is a memorable one, as runners head back toward the city on the south stretch of the Golden Gate Bridge. The reward for the climb up to the west side of the bridge is spectacular unobstructed open ocean views right. On a clear day runners can see the Farallon Islands, 27 miles away.  

Twenty seven miles out to sea and visible on a clear day, the Farallon Islands are a group of islands and sea stacks. They are officially part of the city and county of San Francisco and considered part of the Richmond District. The islands are a national wildlife refuge and closed to the public. They contain the largest seabird colony in the United States outside of Alaska and Hawaii. More than 250,000 nesting seabirds can be found here, including tufted puffins, black-footed albatross, cormorants, brown pelicans, several species of gulls, and many others. The island also attracts blue, humpback, and minke whales; whale watching season in the area typically extends from late May through November. The islands are also known for having the densest rodent population in the world.

The Red Triangle is a roughly triangular-shaped region off the coast of San Francisco, extending just past the Farallon Islands, up north to Bodega Bay and down south to Monterey. Because of its large population of marine mammals like seals, sea lions and otters, it is a feeding ground for great white sharks. The Red Triangle encompasses the beaches of the heavily populated San Francisco Bay Area, and many people enjoy surfing, windsurfing, swimming and diving in these waters. Nearly 40 percent of recorded great white shark attacks on humans in the United States have occurred within the Red Triangle — more than 10 percent of the worldwide total — but sightings of and encounters with the elusive sharks are still extremely rare.

Looking down at the Pacific, runners can often spot container ships, oil tankers, pilot boats, tugs, and others heading into the San Francisco Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge. Container ships and tankers are heading to the Port of Oakland, one of the first ports globally to specialize in intermodal container operations, revolutionizing international trade. Oakland’s cargo volume makes it the eighth busiest container port in the United States. More than 75 percent of trade is with Asia, about 11 percent with Europe, 2 percent with Australia and New Zealand and the rest with other foreign economies. Cruise ships coming in to dock at sunrise might also be seen, as

San Francisco hosts up 60-80 ships annually, many on trips to Alaska and Mexico.