This edition of the Runner’s Weekend takes us to the West Coast as we check out some of the big races that San Francisco has to offer. Don’t let the hills scare you away from enjoying some of the best races that the US has to offer. One race that takes place early April every year is the Rock N Roll San Francisco Half Marathon. Starting around $80 for registration the biggest perk of this race is that it is one of the few races in which they close down lanes of the Golden Gate Bridge in order for the thousands of runners to run across it. Take in the incredible views as you spend roughly 4 miles running back and forth across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Another popular race in San Francisco is the Bay to Breakers 12k in May. This race has been held annually for over 100 years and spans from the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. Although it does not cross the Golden Gate Bridge, this race takes runners through the Panhandle and Golden Gate Park. The Bay to Breakers is also famous for the Hayes Street Hill, a ⅔ mile stretch with an elevation grade up to 11% and an elevation gain of 165ft.
Just to the North of San Francisco is an area that is synonymous with wine known as the Napa Valley. No trip to the San Francisco area is complete without a tour of the Napa Valley and Sonoma and if you are a runner than the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon in July is perfect for you. This race begins in the Napa Valley at the Curvaison Carneros Winery and ends at the Sonoma Plaza. If running through the rows of rolling vineyards isn’t enough to get you excited for this race then maybe the post-race Wine & Music Festival will. Included in the registration of $175, runners receive entry to the Wine & Music Festival where runners can enjoy tastings from over 20 wineries and breweries.
Once you’ve selected the race you wish to participate in, the next question is… What do we do while we are in San Francisco?
If you are like me then you love the traveling just as much, if not more so, than the race itself. Destination races are a great way to run in different races while also traveling to new cities and enjoying the sites they have to offer. San Francisco has plenty to do for all. If you are not doing the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon, then a day trip the the area is a must. Whether you rent a car and drive yourself or find a tour, you will be in awe of the rows and rows of vineyards and make sure to do some tastings. Many of the wineries in Napa Valley and Sonoma offer wine tastings to their guests for a small fee. Listen to their history, take in the scenery and enjoy a glass of wine. This is a great way to unwind in the afternoon after your big race.
If you are looking for the more touristy sites then take a stroll through Fisherman’s Wharf. This area on the north side of the city spans from Ghirardelli Square to Pier 35. The most popular sites include Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco National Maritime Historic Park, Pier 39 and several museums. Pier 39 is a great place to grab a bite to eat or do some shopping. Nearby at Pier 33 is the location of the Alcatraz Cruises. Alcatraz is the infamous prison that housed Al Capone for 5 years and was considered the toughest prison in the United States at the time. Visitors take a quick boat ride across the bay to Alcatraz Island where you set off on a self guided audio tour of the island. Make sure to book your tickets in advance to avoid long lines and to ensure admission since Alcatraz Cruises do sell out.
Synonymous with San Francisco are Cable Cars. This form of transportation is hugely popular in the city and is a must-do for visitors. You can hop on the Powell-Hyde Line just one block away from Ghirardelli Square and ride it down to Chinatown. Along the way you will pass by Lombard Street, famous for being “the most crooked street in the world” with 8 hairpin turns in the one-block section. Chinatown in San Francisco is the largest chinatown outside of Asia. Take a stroll through the streets of Chinatown and look out for the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, located off of Jackson Street on Ross Alley. A few blocks away from Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory down Washington Street is the Cable Car Museum. This is a free museum with some history on the Cable Car system and an underground look at the cables in action.
For fans of famous sites, San Francisco has quite a few to peak your interest. The home from the movie Mrs. Doubtfire is located on Steiner Street just a few blocks away from the McElroy Octagon House. Also on Steiner Street is the Painted Ladies, a row of colorful homes that is shown on the opening scenes of Full House. Speaking of Full House, the home from the show is located on Broderick Street, although it has been changed and trees obstruct the view of the home. Up in the Presidio area of San Francisco is the Walt Disney Family Museum. This museum tells the history of Walt Disney and is loaded with memorabilia from Walt Disney’s childhood and early works. Just outside the museum is a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge, though the best views of the bridge can be seen from Crissy Field or the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
For sports fans, San Francisco is one of the best places to visit, especially if you plan to run the Rock N Roll Half Marathon. Early April in San Francisco sports is packed. The San Francisco Giants and closeby Oakland Athletics are both in the beginning of their season while the Golden State Warriors are coming to the end of theirs. Also within 30 minutes of the city is San Jose where the Sharks are wrapping up their season and the soccer team, San Jose Earthquakes, are getting theirs started. Football fans will have to visit later in the year to enjoy a 49ers game and for the next two seasons an Oakland Raiders game.