Get inspired by these Gold Stories

  • Michael: Racing The World, Breaking Records | March 11, 2020

    What started off as something he wanted to do because he saw his friend’s mom running the Boston Marathon over 20 years ago, has turned into a lifelong obsession for Michael Wardian to see how far he can go.

    “I’m always trying to see what I’m capable of,” 46-year-old Virginia native and professional runner Michael Wardian said. “I try to find things that are exciting or a little scary, outside of what I’ve done in the past, something I’m not quite sure I’m going to have success at. Those are some of the most valuable things you can do because if you just keep doing the same thing, that’s not as exciting as if you continue to find your boundaries.”

    Michael Wardian is the only person who has ever won both the full marathon (in 2011) and the ultramarathon (in 2019) distances at the San Francisco Marathon, but his track record of amazing accomplishments is much longer than that!

    Read Michael’s full Gold Story blog on our blog!

  • Jonathan: Running With a Sense of Purpose | March 3, 2020

    On March 20, 2016, Jonathan’s mom, Shelley, passed away after a five-year battle with ovarian cancer. Jonathan not only lost his mom, but he also lost his sense of purpose.

    His career, his PhD, his entire profession has been in cancer research — even before his mom was diagnosed with cancer. So, even though he understood her diagnosis and had helped in researching medications to help battle cancer, Jonathan couldn’t help his mom in her own battle.

    “You think in your head that you’re preparing yourself for the death of this loved one,” Jonathan said. “But in the end, there are just so many things that you can’t prepare yourself for. I had lost my sense of purpose.”

    Even during this difficult time in his life, Jonathan kept running.

    “I knew I didn’t have the strength to do anything or organize anything, but what I did know is that through all of it, I kept on running. Running is my form of therapy,” he said.

    Read Jonathan’s full Gold Story blog on our blog!

  • Anna: Mom of 4, Nurse, Runner. SF Marathon Course Record Holder Anna Bretan Does It All | February 25, 2020

    Running has been a part of Anna Bretan’s life for as long as she can remember.

    Her parents have always been runners, and still are even in their 60s. Her three brothers all run, and Anna started running in high school.

    “Running totally suits who I am,” Anna said. “I joined the cross country team in high school and they were all so welcoming and intimate, but also hard working. I just fell in love with it and now I’m addicted.”

    She kept running through college and she calls it her “forever hobby.”

    And although she had run competitively through high school and college, and won races, she had never run a marathon.

    After college, Anna got married and had two kids and she started working as a nurse in Berkeley.

    In 2011 she had two young boys and she wanted to have another baby, but her husband said, “You should run a marathon first. I have a feeling you’ll be really good at marathons.”

    That was an accurate prediction!

  • Jose: Just The Beginning Of The Journey | February 20, 2020

    Two things inspired me to start running. I wanted to be a faster runner, and weight loss. This thing I called “The Journey” began on March 2019. When I started this my intention was to run faster. Never to run a half or a full marathon. To make this short, in the spam of 7 months I went from an overweight guy, who the most I ever ran was a 5k to being able to complete my first 10k, half , and a full marathon. Running the half and full marathon again and setting personal records for both. At the same time losing 45pounds. I learned and lived that ‘Anything Is Possible”. This is true.
    My Gold Goal’s are to become an ultra marathoner, run a sub 20 minute 5k, sub 1:35 on the half marathon, and run a sub 3:30 in a marathon. My ultimate Gold Goal is to qualify for Boston.
  • Marlena: How A Health Scare Motivated This Runner To Run A 50k | February 14, 2020
    “I don’t know how to swim, I don’t know how to ride a bike, but I can run!” San Francisco Marathon runner Marlena said when she decided to start running. At the age of 43, Marlena thought she may be having a stroke. So with a lifestyle change, she was able to take control of her health and do what seemed impossible: running the SF Half Marathon. Marlena’s Gold Goal: run a 50k for her 50th birthday.
  • Ali: Passion For A Healthy Change | February 13, 2020
    Running was started as a health challenge. I was inspired by many healthy people. I completed the 2019 San Francisco Marathon’s Ultra which was excellent! The run made me a more experienced and confident runner.
    My Gold Gold is to continue to grow as a runner and to run faster.
  • Greg Billington: The Dream To Compete In The Olympics | February 10, 2020
    “I knew I wanted to be an Olympian when I grew up,” Greg Billington, the 2019 male winner of the San Francisco Marathon said.
    In 2000 Greg eagerly watched the Olympic Games as an 11-year-old. He says he remembers watching Lenny Krayzelburg, a swimmer, earn a bunch of gold medals and he wanted to do that too.

    Greg started out as a swimmer, even competing at the national level from the ages of 8 to 14. He also earned a black belt in martial arts as a kid, but then in high school, his mom encouraged him to start running on the cross country team.

    He continued to run throughout high school and college. His dad taught on military bases in the U.K. when he was in high school, so he competed with other track teams from bases all over Europe while he was in high school, even setting the Department of Defense 3k record.

    Later in high school, Greg decided to combine his swimming and running skills together and he started competing in triathlons.

    Greg’s Gold Goal: run the Olympic Trials, break the San Francisco Marathon course record, and stay healthy!
  • Terry: Recovering From Cancer One Half Marathon At A Time | February 6, 2020
    In 2018 I was diagnosed and successfully treated for cancer. What they don’t tell you is that recovering from radiation and chemotherapy can take a long long time, This past January in Houston I was finally able to run a half marathon the entire way again. It was a tremendous personal victory. As I neared the finish line people were cheering my personalized bib, “Cancer Beater.” Thank goodness my sunglasses hid my tears.
    My Gold Goal this year was to run a complete half. I am still recovering from my cancer treatments in ways that only I can tell and my Oncologist reinforces. My 2020 goal is to run 2 to 3 more half marathons this year, keep getting stronger, and fully recover from the treatments. The Second Half of the SF Marathon is one of those races. My 2021 goal is to due conquer the full SF Marathon by running the entire distance.
  • Ester: Learning To Face Challenges Head on | February 4, 2020

    I ran the San Francisco Half Marathon in 2012. I was never planning to run it. My sister wanted a training partner and asked if I would like to join her. I told her I’d think about it, never intending to say yes. I’m Type 1 Diabetic and trying to manage my blood sugars while running long-distance seemed like a challenge I was not quite ready to tackle. In the end, the lure of running over the Golden Gate Bridge in my favorite city and being able to say I ran a half-marathon was enough to motivate me to say yes.
    This is my Gold story because it’s not about who can run the fastest or the best. It’s about going through obstacles and challenges and through the dirt and the mud and the pain and still coming out shiny and Gold on the other side. It’s easy to say “I ran a half marathon.” but the pain & challenge behind that sentence, people may never know if they never ask. After the diagnosis of Epilepsy in 2018, I eventually had brain surgery and was not able to run for awhile. I am starting to run short distances again and hope to start running long distances again soon.
  • Nathan: How Having PTSD Helped Me Qualify For Boston | February 4, 2020

    In 2013, my life and family suffered a serious road bump, when I was assaulted and spent several days in the hospital with 7 broken bones in my face and surrounding my orbital bone. For the years to follow, I struggled daily with balancing my healing both emotionally and physically.

    With the help of my family, and years of struggling, I finally chose to find the path that would ultimately lead me to heal and a fresh start. I decided to no longer dwell on the event, and not allow one horrible day to define me as a person. It is a privilege to live on this earth, and I was going to make sure that every day counted from start to finish.
    In Early April 0f 2018, I started with a plan and began training for my first marathon. Along with daily runs, I added meditation to my routine to give myself time to focus and reflect. I have now completed four marathons in the last year, as well as seven half marathons and I’m looking toward the Houston Marathon in January.
    My goal is to take the hand that I was dealt that day, and turn it into something positive, by sharing my story with other victims of assault and showing them that there is another way to live. Life without fear, resentment, and anger is possible, you simply have to want it.
    My gold goal is for 2020 is to qualify for the Boston Marathon and Run a Sub 3:00 Marathon!
    I completed 4 marathons in 364 days and PR’d every-time.
  • Sue: Learning To Run Again | January 29, 2020

    After a skydive accident in 2004 I fractured my spine. A trip in an Air ambulance to QMC hospital, 8 hrs of surgery and not knowing if I would walk again, there is a part of me that says, “You can do it, go girl.” I spent many hours learning to regain the use of my legs with my wonderful OT. My twin sister has inspired me, she has run many marathons. My mantra, “If Shirley Moran can run then so can I.” We are TEAM MORAN 2020.

    My Gold Goal for 2020 is run the San Francisco Marathon’s 1st Half.

  • Joel: Fighting Cancer One Mile At A Time | January 28, 2020


    This statement from Joel’s high school band director has stuck with him over the years. He was a drummer, although he says he wasn’t very good at keeping tempo for the band.

    But, now he thinks of this statement on a more philosophical level because in 2015 he was diagnosed with an extremely rare cancer.

    He says, “If people who have a great story don’t share it, someone else might lose their way.”

    This is why Joel says that now he’s an open book with his story of cancer and running before and after his diagnosis. He wants to help other people who are also struggling to have hope and to keep going, even in the face of adversity.

    For 2020, the goal is to get back into PR range and set myself up to return to my age-in-miles birthday challenge!
  • Nina Zarina: Not Afraid To Dream and Work Hard | January 21, 2020
    Nina Zarina_Gold Story

    Nina was born and grew up in Moscow, the capital of the Russian Federation. She says she liked math and computer science and was a “normal nerd until age 25, without any serious sports background.”

    She has a Masters of Science in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science from Moscow State Technical University and graduated in the top five percent of her class.

    But, in Russia, there are no sports or track and field in college, unlike in the United States, so she didn’t really think about sports or running at all while she was going to school. She says, “I was just studying my math. I almost forgot about sports.”
    Nina says that running was and still is her “transformation route to a better life.

    After years of consistent training, she’s raced in marathons and ultramarathons all over the world, she’s the winner of international marathons, she’s a member of an elite racing team, and she believes that the Olympic Games could be a possibility someday.

    One of those international marathons that Nina won was the 2019 San Francisco Marathon. It was her second international marathon win ever, with the first one at the New Year’s Marathon in Zurich, Switzerland on Jan. 1, 2019.

    Nina’s Gold Goal: To run the the Chicago Marathon in the fall, and to set a good example of how it is never too late to start changing and transform your life. Even if nobody believes in you at the beginning.

    Read Nina’s Full Gold Story on our blog

  • Samantha: Training To Run Her First Marathon | January 19, 2020
    I have always loved running since I was 8 years old and joined my first track team. I have run on and off over the past decade and I usually quit because I get an injury like shin splints and then give up. This time I am committed to improving my health and fitness so I signed up for the San Francisco Marathon to inspire myself to keep going.
    My goal is to complete the San Francisco Marathon in July. The most I’ve ever raced is a 5k and I don’t think I’ve ever run more than 4 miles at a time so I have my work cut out for me. This will be my first marathon!
  • Wyatt: Embracing The Gift Of Running | January 17, 2020
    One day when I was a child, we had a test to pace ourselves in school to see how long we could run without stopping. I ran a whopping 6.4 miles that day with zero training. That’s when I figured out I had a gift so I’ve run about 1 mile every day except on special occasions. Since then I’ve achieved at least 50 5k’s, 13 10k’s, and walked 1 marathon.
  • Rafael: Training For My First Marathon | January 15, 2020
    My gold story is to complete my first marathon ever at the San Francisco Marathon this year. Having starting running only about a year ago, I was able to accomplish 5 half-marathons last year and lose about 50 lbs so far during the journey. Running has been a great self-care and mental health reliever for me and look forward to coming to San Francisco and achieve this goal.
  • Kimberly: SF Marathon Runner Says, Train Hard. Run Hard. Love Hard. Be Stronger Than Your Excuses | January 14, 2020

    Kimberly served in the Air Force for five years. After being stationed in Hawaii, the birthplace of the Ironman events, she decided to start training and competing in Ironman events.

    Eventually, Kimberly decided she wanted to focus just on running and see how well she could do in a marathon if she only had to run (and hadn’t first swam 2.4 miles and biked 112 miles!).

    In 2012, she competed in her first marathon in Hawaii. She continued to improve, with the help of her husband, who Kimberly says is a natural runner, and she gained a respect for the sport.

    Kimberly’s Gold Goal: Run a marathon under 3 hours (after having a baby and while also starting a new business)

    Read Kimberly’s Full Gold Story on our blog

  • Sean: Training Smart to Break 3:30 | January 9, 2020

    Just over five years ago my younger brother Ruairi passed away, living in Australia. Ruairi was an endurance athlete, with a social media name “Endorphin Addict”. He ran the San Francisco Marathon one or two times, and one of the half’s. Several years ago he some how convinced my mother to run a half-marathon with him, which ultimately inspired me to start running, and I was the furthest thing from a runner at the time.

    Fast forward to the present day, I am now an ultra-runner, having completed over 30 ultra-marathons and three 100 mile races. I carry a picture of Ruairi during every single race to remind me of the life he lived, and the life he gave me with his. This will be my second running of the SF Marathon, both of which have been and will be on Ruairi’s birthday. The last time in 2015, I inspired a childhood friend of Ruairi’s to run his first marathon on his best friends birthday. That same friend will be joining me on July 26th again!

    My current running goal is to train smart and race happy. I tend to focus too much on splits and the finish line, when the journey in between and leading up to each race is what I really enjoy. With that said, I am still hoping to run a 3:30 in SF.

  • Michelle: SF Marathon Runner Says, Train Hard. Run Hard. Love Hard. Be Stronger Than Your Excuses | January 6, 2020

    With my entire heart, and all the energy I had to give from the moment I stepped up to the starting line to when I crossed the finish line, I accomplished my only marathon goal of a sub 4 hour finish,” Michelle posted on Instagram after running the 2019 San Francisco Marathon.

    It was only her third full marathon and the first time she had ever run the San Francisco Marathon. She ran it in 3:49:21, achieving her Gold Goal of running a marathon in under 4 hours.

    But, coming into the race, she wasn’t sure she would actually be able to achieve that goal, or even run the race at all.

    She had been training for the race for months before. In 2018, she had run the LA Marathon with a time of 4:29 and the year before that, she ran in San Diego at just under 5 hours. So, she had been building toward this goal that she set for herself over the last few years.

    But then, six weeks before the San Francisco Marathon, Michelle injured her knee. She wasn’t sure she would be able to run the marathon at all.

    “Going into this race I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, considering I had been resting my injured knee for 6 weeks. Although I was hopeful, I was expecting the worst,” Michelle wrote on Instagram.

    Read Michelle’s Full Gold Story on our blog

  • Jocelyn: Out To Prove The Impossible | December 21, 2019
    I’m running to break the Guinness World Record of becoming the Youngest Human (male/female or other), Youngest Woman, and Youngest Latina to Run 100 Marathons. I will be breaking 3 records. What inspired me to do this was my body, I was born with a broken back, neck and feet and I want to be an inspiration for others. To show them that it’s possible, the impossible is possible. I’m a living proof of that.
    I have ran 24 marathons in 2019, making SF Marathon one of them. Out of all the marathons I have done, SF Marathon has always scared me because of all the hills. I didn’t know if I could survive, but I did. Currently I have ran 47 marathons and next year in 2020, I will be running 50-52 marathons. Almost a marathon every weekend for 2020.
  • Jennifer: Running For Fallen Soldiers | December 18, 2019

    A friend challenged me to run more than just a 10k or half marathon — the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon. I loved the whole experience of training for what seemed impossible to achieving the possible. Rather than the “one and done” I had proclaimed to the world, it would be the first of more than 190 to date. In 2014, I realized running marathons could be more than about my goals, so I started running honor fallen soldiers, and giving the sacrifices of their families the recognition they merit. I send medals to families after. Running has allowed me to make friends and get through life’s ups and downs. It is now who I am.

    In 2020, I will reach my previous goal of 56 for fallen soldiers/first responders. Never give up and never, ever forget. Currently have 196 marathons/ultras since 2012.

  • Lindsay: Finding Strength with Alopecia | December 17, 2019

    After my collegiate basketball career was over I wanted to run a marathon, at first to cross it off my bucket list. I had no idea at the time, but that dream would open so many doors for me. I fell in love with the sport and distance during that 26.2 mile run. I felt empowered, strong and the most beautiful. I am continually inspired by all of the kids I’ve gotten to meet who have Alopecia and continually to believe in cheer for me always, they inspire me to keep running and never quit.

    My favorite route is the greenway in Charlotte about 4 miles from my house. I was on a 20 mile run when I first took off my wig mid-run. It was a moment I had always dreamed of, to finally be ok and embrace my Alopecia and bald head. I run this route often, it reminds me I’m strong and also symbolizes a big race is coming up.

    My goal is to PR in the marathon this year!

  • Waldo: Inmate to Marathoner. How Running A Marathon Can Change Your Life | December 16, 2019

    On December 24, 2017, Waldo got out of prison. When he got out, he was doing well for a while, but then about a year later, he started falling into his old ways again.

    “That motivation I had within, that fire that I had within, was dying. I was going back to my old ways — going out over the weekend, partying with friends, and not coming home. Going on 3 or 4 days of binge drinking. Blowing my money. I was losing that passion, that flame, that motivation that I came out with,” Waldo remembered.

    Waldo knew that he needed a change in his life. He needed something to motivate him again to do better.

    It was around this time that he decided to give up alcohol for Lent. He became a pescetarian, and then, about halfway through Lent that year Waldo said, “You know what? I’m going to start running.”

    In March of 2019, Waldo set a Gold Goal: Run the San Francisco Marathon in July.

    Not only did he run the marathon, but he also proposed to his girlfriend at the end of his race, and he now he has an amazing new Gold Goal for 2020.

    Read Waldo’s full Gold Story on our blog

  • Antonio: 66 Years Old and Signed Up for 6 Half Marathons in 2020 | December 10, 2019

    In 1991, I told my daughters that I was going to do something crazy. They didn’t know what I had in mind — I was in my upper 30s. That year in July I signed up for a 1/2 marathon. They were shocked and said that I was crazy since I had never run before.

    The same year I did a 150 mile bike-a-thon. I loved what I was seeing in my body. The following year I signed up for the Chicago Marathon and I’ve been doing it ever since, a few in Disney World, Little Rock, Indianapolis, Wisconsin and of course my first in San Francisco in 2019. Next year I’ll be 66 and I have already signed up for about 6 halves.

    Running clears my mind and relaxes my body. If I feel down, tired and need energy, I put on my running shorts and go run around the airport, 4 miles.

  • Alys: 2 Goals, 10 Years Apart, Achieved In San Francisco | December 9, 2019

    The San Francisco Marathon has a special place in runner Alys’s heart because it’s where she achieved two major running goals — the first, in 2007, when she completed her first half marathon, and the second, 10 years later, when she completed her first full marathon.

    In her late teens Alys struggled with depression and anxiety and she decided to start running to “snap myself out of that.” She also wanted to lose weight and improve her health, so she decided to run her first half marathon in San Francisco in 2007. It wasn’t pretty, but she did it!

    Later, in her 20s, Alys struggled with addiction and mental health issues and was in a bad place for a few years.

    She got sober in 2015 and then started getting into running again, and started picking it up with more intensity than she had in the past. She did a 10k, she ran another half, and kept running more half marathons.

    “I wanted to see where I could take it,” Alys said. “And then I started seeing a drastic increase in my running ability. I was seeing real improvements.”

    In 2017 a friend convinced her to run the full marathon in San Francisco. She ran it with a time of 3:58, beating her goal of running in under 4 hours.

    Read Alys’s full Gold Story on our blog

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