San Francisco is a place of dual personalities: It is a city in the sun-kissed state of California that is perpetually shrouded in fog while also being home to both the classic California hippie pushing environmental conservation and Silicon Valley tech giants that are empowering self-driving cars.
Contrary to San Francisco’s giant hills (or perhaps because of them) the City by the Bay is also one of the best for running – whether you’re looking to run a marathon and experience one of the country’s most beautiful cities from a new vantage or you want to run a race where you can get dressed up and take a tequila shot halfway through, San Francisco should be your next stop.
The San Francisco Marathon
Held annually every July, the San Francisco Marathon starts on the Embarcadero and takes runners through a tour of the city’s most famous spots: Fly by Fisherman’s Wharf and run through the lush beauty of the Presidio, all while looking out at breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Next up, runners cross the Golden Gate Bridge over into Alameda, and, once back in the city, will pass through Golden Gate Park and some of the city’s most treasured neighborhoods, including Haight Ashbury, Pacific Heights, and the Mission. End the race back on the Embarcadero, right where you started – but with an entirely new outlook of this absolute gem of a city.
Not ready for a marathon (yet)? Don’t worry. There are an array of 5k, 10k, and half marathon races that runners can choose from instead. Want more than a marathon? Brace yourself for the ultramarathon – an astounding 52.4 miles that will take you across every inch of the city.
Bay to Breakers
Perhaps the most famous – and definitely the most fun – of all the races in San Francisco is Bay to Breakers, a 12k race where you can run, jog, or dance to the finish. Held annually every May, this run often feels like more of a party than a race.
Complete with extravagant costumes (including quite a few birthday suits) you can either race this run or take it easy, grabbing homemade food along the route, and perhaps a Jell-O shot (or two). The race runs west through the city, finishing at Ocean Beach, complete with stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Throughout the race, runners will make their way up the iconic Hayes Street Hill, run along the Panhandle, and witness the beauty of Golden Gate Park.
While running through the city is a treat in itself, the best part of this race is the people – San Franciscans show up for Bay to Breakers, cheering runners on, feeding them, and supplying the whiskey shots to get you to the finish line.