Submitted by Rocky Morales
June 19, 2013
This was my fourth time running the San Francisco Marathon and it remains my favorite big city marathon in California. Some of my favorite things about this race are the convenient expo–I found parking right across the street and fed the meter a dollar worth of quarters–the (this year almost) summer date, the cool weather, the incredible scenery and the excellent organization.
For the first time at this race, I was an official pace leader, pacing the 3:40 marathon group. But, because this was the most aggressive (fastest) pacing assignment I’ve ever accepted and on the toughest course that I’ve ever paced, it still had the elements of a race to me. Before this year, the best I had done on this course was a 4:29 two years ago.
I found the expo to my liking and volunteered for an hour at the pacer expo booth, meeting many other runners who were interested in running with one of the many different pace groups. Although they seemed to run just a little small, I really liked the long sleeve race tech shirts.
Runners were advised to arrive to the corrals early due to increased security but there was hardly any extra wait at all to get through to the start. The race started right on time and the wave starts were well organized and Wave 3 started at 5:42AM on schedule.
I always enjoy the first few miles starting on Embarcadaro, going through Fisherman’s Wharf and making our way to the bridge. My favorite part of the race, however, although a little congested, is running out and back on the Golden Gate Bridge. Besides being incredibly beautiful–and this year there wasn’t any fog to hide the gorgeous views–it also allows the opportunity to see each the race leaders and friends coming in the opposite direction.
In past years, my least favorite part of the race has always been Golden Gate Park, Miles 13 – 18, as this part of the course has always been such a grind and where I’ve sputtered out in past years. This year, however, being in the best shape of my life, Golden Gate Park, while more challenging than the rest of the course, was much more pleasant. Plus, mentally being prepared for this section to be tougher than the other hillier but shorter lived parts of the race, made a huge difference.
By the time we got out of Golden Gate Park, though, it was just my co-pacer and I and two remaining women who were still running strong. Our group was small to begin with, about a half dozen, but now it was down to the last two women standing/running.
The Haight – Asbury District (Mile 19/20) is always a favorite of mine…just a funky artsy urban area and a reprieve from the winding hills of Golden Gate Park.
By Mile 21, one of the women running with us said she was feeling really good and asked when she should run ahead. We immediately sent her on her way.
Miles 22, 23 and 24 are probably the most dull of the course but I still enjoy them as I know we are getting close to the finish. By Mile 24, we urged our last remaining runner in our group onward so she could finish as strong as possible as it is our goal to finish as close to 3:40:00 without going over but to also get our runners to the finish as fast as possible even if it means we finish alone.
I love Mile 25 as we approach AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. I am a lifelong L.A. resident and grew up on Dodger Blue but it is still a great experience to run beside AT&T Park and see all the plaques on the ground and on the wall of the stadium and be back beside the ocean before making it back on the Embarcadero for that last push to the finish.
The experience of the last few miles of a marathon as a marathon pacer is a very interesting experience because, really, we are still pretty fresh and out on a Sunday morning stroll while everybody else has given it their all and is running (or walking) on fumes. But, we do our best to try to inspire other runners we come across, especially those who appear to really be struggling.
It is a beautiful sight as we approach the finish line and we are right on target, crossing the finish line in 3:39:51, to finish within 9 seconds of our 8400 second (3:40:00) goal, as good as a pacer hopes for in a race so although we are not racing, we are each very satisfied with the job we did out there and with the ultimate finish time.
My DW and 11 week old DD are right there waiting for me at the finish line and after chatting with some friends post-race for a few minutes and grabbing some post race refreshments and my LA/SF Marathon challenge medal, we skip the beer garden and instead walk all the way to Union Square for some photo opps followed by a great Fathers Day breakfast at Colibri’s Mexican Bistro two blocks from Union Square before walking back to our hotel in the SoMa district.
All in all, a beautiful morning and an amazing marathon. For me, there is no better big city race in California, hometown L.A. Marathon included (although it ranks a close second). I’ve done this race 4 times now and if I’m lucky, I’ll do it another 20 times…if I’m really really lucky, many of those times will be as official pace leader to help other runners meet or surpass their own respective goals. 🙂
Submitted by Jenny Wood
June 18, 2013
I really enjoyed this race. It’s best summed up as beautiful and hilly.
The expo was fine, typical. Some of the more common exhibitors, like garmin and such, weren’t there, but it was nice to be able to check out new brands I wasn’t familiar with.
The start was fantastic. None of the crazy of LA or other big city races. I also really liked how they organized their wave starts. Parking was incredibly easy. Maybe the layout of the portapotties and finishline booths could have been a little better, but over all no complaints.
I crossed the 13.1 mark at the exact time they started the non-elite waves of the second half marathon, that was kind of annoying, to be right on pace and have people who just started sprinting around you like a-holes, but in the same vein, once the second half waves spread out, it was nice to have some fresher people to try to keep pace with in the second half.
I think it’s true that the alternating course affects distance a little more than is desired. I have gps on my phone and run with a garmin, both showed about quarter mile more distance than i usually average on a marathon course. There’s always a little extra, but this was a lot extra, and on a day where I had been pretty careful about running the tangents.
The finish line stuff was pretty great, lots of options for food and liquids. I got king’s hawaiin bread, nesquick, and coconut water, there was also chilled greek yogurt, bottled water, scones, bananas and a beer garden. The line for the beer garden was a little ridiculous, unlike i’ve ever really seen at a finish. Maybe SF has crazy alcohol service regulations I don’t know about that may have limited the size or capacity. Also, the beer garden entrance was right next to the exit of the finisher area, causing a terrible amount of congestion there. I think all of my negative issues with the finish area could be resolved by moving the beer garden to the far end of the finish festival area, just to ease traffic flow.
The medals were nice, I also did LA/SF challenge and that medal was nice. The shirts though, were great. I normally either don’t pick up the shirt or pick it up to donate to goodwill because I’m just not a t shirt person, I prefer a tank or a 3/4 sleeve. But this one, a yellow long sleeve, I actually wore home after the race.
I would do it again, I really enjoyed the LA/SF challenge as well because I think these two races complement each other both for course variety and where they fall in relation to each other on the annual calendar.
Submitted by Gregg Condon
June 18, 2013
Expo was great, easy. Took the Shuttle from the Sports Basement, Free Parking, Free Shuttle. Couldn’t have been better. Race Morning was great. Found parking quickly in Embarcadero parking garage, $10 parking as promised. Quick walk to the Start, enough porta-potties. Great race staff, the Harley groups were fantastic. The gaps between the waves were also great. I wish the LA Marathon would adopt something similar so there wouldn’t be so much crowding during the first few miles.
The highlight of this course is obviously running across the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately other than that, the course leaves a LOT to be desired. I love SF, the people, the culture are second to none. The area’s running through populated area’s of the city were great. Unfortunately, while beautiful, the area running through Golden Gate Park just kept going and going and going. Due to it being the park there were no spectators, not much entertainment. I admittedly had the worst race I’ve ever had but even after leaving Golden Gate Park it seemed like the crowds were gone. Going through The Haight was great but there just weren’t any people out cheering. They also started dividing up the runners to create gaps in traffic. As a result my very accurate GPS said I ran 27.5 miles vs 26.2. Having it off by a couple 10th’s of a mile is one thing. A mile and a half, quite another.
Finally the finish, nobody at the finish, no music playing. Yes I was over 6 hours but it just seemed like they were more interested in getting the Embarcadero back open vs. making sure ALL runners had a great finish line experience.
To top it off, the Beer Garden was out of beer, there were no more scones and the NesQuick was hot which made me ill.
The worst part, for those of us doing the LA/SF Challenge they ran out of those medals for apparently the 2nd year in a row. Even if they had medals, the booth to get them was so far away from the Finish and all of the photographers it would have been next to impossible to get pictures with both medals. To say I walked away from the finish with a bad taste in my mouth would be a HUGE understatement. I was already disappointed in my time but it was all made worse by the inadequacies of the race staff to simply count how many people were doing the LA/SF Challenge and make sure there were enough medals. Getting it in the mail is unacceptable when part of the point is to have both medals to take pictures in and around San Francisco. I was so disgusted I just went back to my hotel and didn’t bother getting any pictures with my SF Medal.
Overall I think this race could be great. I think the RD’s bit off more than they can chew by essentially having 4 races going on at once. It seems to be organized great in some area’s, not so much in others. I for one won’t be running this race again, at least not the Full Marathon.
Due to so many different races the course support just isn’t there for the Full Marathon like it is for the Half Marathon’s. The course limit is 6 hours but apparently those who run the race don’t think those of us having a bad day deserve to have the same experience as those running in the 5 hour range (where I was hoping to finish).
Submitted by metalraider
April 3, 2013
the only slight issue was the parking, but overall i love this race, ive done both the first and second halfs on consecutive years. the fact thats even an option is really neat to get a special medal. its also an amazing course, the first half, obviously because of the bay and bridge views and going over the bridge, but i was pleasantly amazing with the scenic trails and views for the second half too. i went in to areas that i didnt even know existed. great race, great experience (and curretly hold my personal best on the first half despite the challenge of the hills)
Submitted by RunMomma
January 7, 2013
My favorite race! I have done all 3 combos – full, first half, and second half. What a wonderful way to see the city of San Francisco, especially the Golden Gate Bridge. There’s nothing like running over the bridge shortly after sunrise (though it can get damp and cold so be warned not to throw away your top layer until you’ve done the bridge). If you do the first half, there’s Irish Coffee at the finish line (they used to have hot cocoa too, and I hope they bring that back in 2013). The hardest part mentally is the few miles winding through Golden Gate Park as you pass the Half Marathon finish line several times and you just can’t seem to get out of the park. Luckily it’s very pretty. There are lots of rolling hills throughout this course so it’s good to train with shorter hill repeats to get used to constantly adjusting from incline to decline.
Plus SFM has given me some of my FAVORITE shirts. I’m not a medal-maven but i like a good tech shirt. SFM never fails.
Can’t stop now, it’s a tradition.
Submitted by The Bear
August 2, 2012
Once again, an I had an awesome time. What a great place for a marathon, and I love a challenge. The course is kind of hilly (and least that is what my friend complained about), but it could be worse. I was ready for the hills.
The expo was a little better than last year.
The course has plenty of support.
The medal is awesome.
Running over the Golden Gate bridge and through GG park is like nothing else.
The only issue I had was there were not very many pace groups. I was in corral 3 and there was only a 3:40 pace group. I usually hang with the 3:30 group, which was in the next corral. Of course as luck has it my Garmin stopped working that day, so I had no idea what pace I was going.
Will do again, but hopefully with a good Garmin.
Submitted by uscgMK1
January 8, 2012
San Francisco Marathon is made up of two separate half marathons. First half starts at the Embarcadero and finishes at Golden Gate Park. Second half starts and Golden Gate Park and finishes at the Embarcadero with the full marathon runners.
Amazing course highlighted by running over the Golden Gate
Well organized start/finsh area
Plenty of hotels within walking distance of the start/finish area
Best race shirt ever!
Post had plenty of goodies, scones from panera and jamba juice
Beer garden actually had good beer (Sierra Nevada)
EXPO was not great, not much SWAG to speak of
Race tracker sucked, horrible smartphone app that really didn’t work well. I expected much more coniderring it is San Francisco
The fresh 2nd halfers blowing by me for the last 13 miles was a real mind bender
Overall its a great event, one I plan on running every year. B+