“When you come….to San Francisco…be sure to wear…some running shoes on your feet!”
So you’re coming to SF. Maybe it’s a work conference or a holiday. Well you’re in for a treat because this city is wonderful! But if you want to know about running in San Francisco, here’s all the info you’ll need.
First of all..
In the interests of full disclosure…I don’t live IN the city but about 20 miles outside. So I know it fairly well but don’t want to trick you into thinking I am some cool city girl. Nope…suburban stay-at-home-mum here!
Secondly…don’t call it San Fran, don’t call it Frisco. Just call it San Francisco until you get here and then ‘the city’ or ‘SF’ once you’re more familiar. I know it sounds petty but it’s a big deal!!
Where to run - and where to eat afterwards.
The routes in this city are more or less endless. These are the most visitor friendly!
The Embarcadero is a beautiful wide pavement which runs all along the Bay. Athough you can start and finish at any point on this out-and-back route, the route mapped on the link (title above) starts at AT&T Park (home of the Giants) and ends at the Visitor Centre at Golden Gate Bridge. An full out-and-back run would be 13.4 miles. It’s nearly entirely flat except for a steep little hiccup by Fort Mason and a climb up to the bridge. For refuelling, depending on where you start, my favourite cafe, the Warming Hut, is just under the bridge at the end of Crissy Field and the Ferry Building is full of great cafes and restaurants!
Don’t forget you can run over Golden Gate Bridge, and you really should do so! It’s 1.7 miles each way but if you’re feeling super keen, you can run down into Sausalito and get the ferry back to the Ferry Building. A ‘Ferry-Building-to-Sausalito Dock’ route would be about 9.5 miles. You can get stonking ice-cream in Sausalito. Just saying.
PS…the bridge gets VERY chilly and foggy throughout the year. It can be hot in SF and Sausalito but properly cold on the bridge. Be prepared.
Golden Gate Park is a jewel of a running location. The 8 mile route on the link above takes in most of the sights. The eastern end of the park is rammed with attractions – the de Young Museum, the Japanese Tea Garden, the children’s playground. The western end is empty and wilder! Be aware that the eastern end is uphill from the western end, which usually results in a hilly second half! The Park is dreadfully low on eating opportunities – there’s a little cafe at Stow Lake but otherwise pop out on the southern side of the park onto Irving where there are loads of cafes, bars and restaurants. Slightly further away, Crepes on Cole in nearby Cole Valley is my favourite brunch option! Or on the ocean front, try the Beach Chalet for wonderful views.
If you love the trails and want to get away from the city, you really can’t beat the Headlands on the northern side of Golden Gate Bridge. It’s hard to believe you’re so close to a major city and the views are spectacular. The route on the link is 5.5 miles but the trail possibilities are pretty much endless round there, and if you click here you can link to the State Park map to plot out your own route. There are very few places, if any, to fuel up in the Headlands…but pop into Sausalito and there’s everything you need there. Beware the weather – see ‘What to bring’ below.
If you have a car and want more trails, try heading down to Woodside, about 20 miles down the 280, and run in Huddart Park or Wunderlich Park. My favourites.
4) Angel Island
You’ll need a ferry for this one but slap bang in the middle of the bay is Angel Island. Car-free and blessed with amazing views of the city, it makes for great running. You can run the 5 mile loop around the island (on the link above) and then, if you fancy, run up the hill to the top. The 8 mile on the link does just that. Check out the ferry timetable here. There’s a great little cafe bar place on the island for refreshment.
Oh the hills!
Yep, it’s hilly here. But that makes it wonderful for hill repeats or hill training in general. And a couple of the routes above are pretty flat so you can avoid the hills if you want! Check out this cracking map of the city which shows which roads are uphill and downhill and how steep they are – perfect for route-planning.
What to bring.
Layers. So many of them. You can always tell a tourist because they’re wearing a fleece or hoodie emblazoned with ‘San Francisco’, which they bought in a frozen, August emergency in Fisherman’s Wharf. So bring long-sleeved tops all round and get excited if you don’t need them!
Where to stock up.
Apart from the Lululemons and the Lady Footlockers and the new Nike store…try these places.
A MASSIVE warehouse store on Crissy Field which sells everything for pretty much every sport. It’s loads of fun to mooch round and they sell really nice fleeces if you’re freezing but too embarrassed to buy something at the Wharf
A great outpost of this well-respected chain.
Newly opened this week, this SF branch of my local running store is GORGEOUS and they stock many brands guaranteed to give your debit card a work-out
I’ve not been but the reviews are great!
Not actually in the city but in cool Mill Valley, north of Golden Gate Bridge. Wonderful shop which, despite a relatively small range, makes you want to spend all your money! Check out Cafe del Soul for a healthy lunch in the same retail park.
If you want to run on a track, try Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park. It’s open every day from 6am – 9.30pm. There is good parking around it.
The Bay Area is a running Mecca, we are so lucky. These are the biggest road races in the calendar…don’t forget the whole new world of trail races round here.
San Francisco Marathon – July.
Includes 2 half marathons (1st half, 2nd half).
Oakland Marathon – March.
The city that SF loves to hate throws a mean marathon!
Bay to Breakers – May.
Part race, part fancy-dress parade, part freak show. A good opportunity to run naked in public.
The Giant Race – August.
5k,10k or Half , ending on the field at AT&T Park
Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon
February. Flat and fast! It’s PR territory.
Best of all, local running club the DSE Runners host very cheap races every Sunday. No medals, no shirts…you get a ribbon and for $5 they are the best deal around!
This is a very selective list of the Bay Area running blogs I love.
Runners Rambles (Although no longer updated, this blog is a treasury of local trail running!)
When you’re not running…
The world is full of travel guides to San Francisco but this one is one of the loveliest I’ve ever seen!
Enjoy your trip!!!