Ninja looping

On Saturday, my lovely husband gave me a day-pass to go and run some trails with some girls! Layla organised it and planned a run on the so-called Ninja Loop in the Marin Headlands, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from SF. I have no idea why it’s called the Ninja Loop (anyone?). The planned route was 12 miles with just under 3,000 ft elevation. This worried me because my running has been far from strong lately but everyone who RSVP’d said that they were injured/unfit/running for fun and wanted to hike the hills. Also there’s a potential short cut which would take it down to 10 miles after the second hill, so I knew I could cut it short if necessary. I know the trails there well enough that I was confident I could find my way back to the car and there are enough hikers and runners at the weekend that I would be comfortable running back alone.

It was a small but perfectly formed group that met at Conzelman Road car park at 8am. It was COLD – about 7 deg C but with a biting wind that chilled us to the bone. That wind was so chilly that I wore my Kaiser Half jacket to run in and didn’t regret that decision. Layla was there, as was Kristen who I haven’t seen for ages and also Karin, who I’d never met.

Karin, Layla, me and Kristen. Photo- Layla

We started with a solid climb up SCA trail to where it met Coastal. I was relieved to see that the girls did intend to hike it so we hiked our way up, chatting. At the top, we turned left onto Coastal Trail and the trail leveled out before a long steady downhill. This was gorgeous…Kristen and I ran along together, catching up, talking Ironman (she did one, I married one), cycling with kids and other lovely stuff. We were somewhat sheltered from the wind, the sky was blue, the trails were lush and damp from the rain…it was pretty gorgeous.

At the bottom, we started up the beast that is Miwok, being passed by the large group of amazon runners from the San Francisco Running Company as we did. I felt very much like a hobby jogger as they ran effortlessly off into the distance and we hiked our way up. The wind was getting to us now and there were a couple of strong blasts that chilled us to the bone. The views were gorgeous though.

Bottoms up. Photo – Kristen

At the junction with Old Springs Trail, we stopped to decide on our route. The Ninja Loop heads down Old Springs to Tennessee Valley and then up Marincello but we could continue up Miwok and cut three miles off. I knew that that was what I wanted to do and it turns out everyone else did too, so we continued up Miwok until the blessed top where we were able to start running again.


The views over Sausalito Harbor were gorgeous.


The Eucaluptus grove on Alta was beautiful and smelt great.

Photo – Layla

And then we turned onto SCA for the final push back. SCA is a beautiful trail – single track that winds round the hills, with the Golden Gate Bridge always before you. There was much squealing with glee on this stretch – we all felt we could run forever. It feels like the prize that we earned from the big Miwok climb. It was a delicious section of the run.


One of my favourite photos – thanks Kristen

Just before the final stretch to the car, we diverted up the road to the look-out point for the bridge. I’ve lived here 6 1/2 years but somehow have never been to this particular lookout point. My jaw literally dropped…what a view. What a city!



We finished our run with 10.5 miles in the bank. No speed records but happy hearts, happy legs and hungry bellies, which we filled with brunch at the Dipsea Cafe. This was a lovely morning. I don’t know if I’ll run these particular trails again before we move away so I am very grateful to have run them today in such gorgeous weather.

Happy Birthday, Kristen!

Thanks Layla for getting us up out of bed and onto the trails this morning!

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Jen says:

    Looks like a great morning! I admit to having a tiny bit of FOMO, but I’m glad I chose to sleep in – I would’ve been miserable company!

    1. Cathryn says:

      You were much missed. You’re never miserable.

  2. Tim says:

    Oh great trail…haven’t explored nearly enough in that area too. Will have to drag the kids up and over.

    Off-topic…anyone want to use my Kaiser Half bib/entry this Sunday? I can’t use it but will happily donate it.

    1. Cathryn says:

      I’ll find out – sorry you won’t be there! You should def check out that loop, it’s a lot of fun.

    2. Cathryn says:

      Tim, I’ve got someone for your bib! Can you drop me an email at and we’ll sort it out!

      1. Tim says:

        Great! I sent you a PM.

  3. Layla says:

    That was such a fun adventure! As for the “ninja” name, I believe that was started by Devon Yanko (formerly Devon Crosby-Helms), of Olympic Trials/marathon winning/ultra winning fame. A group of runners would tackle the loop before work, so they started referring to themselves as ninjas because they were running in the dark.

    1. Cathryn says:

      I cannot fathom running the loop and then going to work, rather than the Dipsea cafe for all the food.

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