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Archive for the ‘Run of the Week’ Category

By last weekend, my training run was up to ten miles.  After an annoying experience dodging tourists on my 9-miler the previous weekend, I decided to pound pavement that I knew would be a little less traveled (and perhaps, slightly cooler).  I set out to conquer both nearly the entirety of Golden Gate Park AND a good 4 mile stretch of The Great Highway.  A thick layer of fog greeted me as I parked my car at the South Western entrance to the Park at Lincoln Blvd and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.  This fog could not have been more needed for the next 10+ miles.

10 Mile GGP and Great Highway Run


Start anywhere along the route – I chose to start at the western edge of GGP to get the uphill portion of the run out-of-the-way first.  The directions below are from my starting point.  There are several water fountains along the route – just keep your eyes open.  Many water fountains can be found next to public bathrooms.

1. Start at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive (MLK) off of Lincoln Blvd in San Francisco’s Sunset District.  Head into the park and follow MLK Dr. for the next approximately 2.5 miles. The first leg of this run is a slight uphill slant.

2. Once you’ve past the Music Concourse, take your next left onto Middle Dr. East.  This will take you along the back side of the Academy of Sciences and past Big Rec.  At the Y in the road, stay left on Middle Dr. East to John F. Kennedy Drive (JFK).

3. Make a left on JFK Dr.  I recommend cross the street first – the path is slightly wider and flatter.  Follow JFK for the next 3 miles back towards the Ocean.  Watch your feet on the path once you’ve crossed Crossover Dr.  The path itself is slightly uneven in areas and an ankle roll waiting to happen.  On Saturdays, the park is closed to cars on JFK Dr. between 8th Avenue and Crossover Drive.   On Sundays, JFK Dr. is closed from Stanyan to Crossover Dr.

4. At the intersection where JFK Dr. forks off to the right, make a left onto SS Fork Drive.  Follow this to MLK Dr. and make a right.  This will take you back to Lincoln Blvd.   If you’ve parked down here, this is a great opportunity to stop at the car for some water – you’ve got another 4 miles to go.

5. Cross Lincoln and make a right.  There will be a bike/walking/running path on your left that parallels the Great Highway.  Take this path and follow it for 2 miles to Sloat Blvd.  There is a bathroom and water fountain across the Great Highway where Sloat dead ends.

6.  Turn around and follow the path back to Lincoln.  The path itself moves in a rolling motion, but the “uphill” portions are very short in length (and not very steep).  The path has both a paved portion and dirt trail.

And…you’re done!  Enjoy a nice cool down – and head to Java Beach at Judah and La Playa for a post-run treat.


One of the more difficult aspects of longer race training in San Francisco is plotting long distance training courses given the limitations of the city’s geography, traffic, and terrain.  Whenever I have to set out on a long run, like this past weekend’s 9 miler, I use the website to figure out the proper distance over an area of the city where I know I won’t be interacting with too many hills, cars, or people.  Finding an area that foots the bill for all three isn’t easy, but I’ll do what I can with what I’ve got.

This past weekend I scouted out a long run that meandered around Ft. Mason, the Marina, and the Embarcadero to the ball park and back. – and yet still 4 miles short of The Giant Race in 5 weeks.  The course was relatively flat with a steep hill around 1.25 miles and another a few blocks shy of the finish line.  My big regret is that I didn’t set out earlier for this exercise – I hit the Embarcadero around noon and found myself in a four mile battle with San Francisco’s summer tourist scene.  The Embaracadero is a wonderful place to run – it’s flat, scenic, and did I say flat?  But any time you’re trying to run and a group of 20 tourists scratching their heads appears every 10 feet, you want to scream.  I survived, though, and next week may cover some of the same asphalt for my -gasp – 10 mile run.

For anyone interested in the route I took, see my directions and map below.  I designed the route hopeful that I would be avoiding the weekend crowds around San Francisco’s waterfront.  I was overly optimistic, but I know that if I’d set out a couple of hours earlier (read: 8am-9am) my path would have been void of a lot more foot traffic.  If you try this out, don’t forget the sunscreen.  Most of the route is void of shade until the late afternoon.

9 Mile Run



1. Start in the parking lot adjacent to the Ft. Mason homes (along Bay at Octavia).

2. Head west on Bay and North on Laguna.  Follow this as it turns into Marina Blvd.  Stay on Marina until you hit Casa Way – and then turn around and head back towards Ft. Mason.

3. As Marina Blvd turns into Laguna again, take the foot/bike bath to your left (uphill) through the grassy area of Ft. Mason.  Stay to the path on the left and follow this until you hit the water at Van Ness.

4. Look for the foot path on your left that follows the water around past Ghiradelli Square.  Stay on this as it becomes Jefferson St.  Make a left on North Point.

5. Follow North Point to the Embarcadero. Cross the big boulevard and stay right on the foot path, also known as Herb Caen Way.  Stay on the Embarcadero past the Ferry Building, under the Bay Bridge, and all the way to the ball park.  Once you’re at Willie Mays Plaza, make a left and follow the path around the back side of the park.  This will connect you back up with the Embaracdero.  *Note that there is a public water fountain along the Embarcadero in between the Ferry Building and Epic Roasthouse/Waterbar.  There is another one on the backside of the ballpark just outside of the public bathrooms.

6.  Follow the Embarcadero back to Bay Street.  Make a left onto Bay and stay on this until you hit Van Ness.  Van Ness and Bay will be the 9 mile marker.  It’s another .3 miles back to the starting point.

I log most of my outside running mileage within the City limits.  However, every so often I am reminded that vast areas of pure nature exist when you pass the City’s limits.  Marin County is an excellent destination for outdoor running – especially on trails.  If you’re new to the area and aren’t very familiar with our neighbors to the North (or you grew up in the City and really only know how to get to Stinson Beach) head on over the GGB this weekend and check out a new running trail.

Phoenix Lake, located on the outskirts of the town of Kentfield, is managed by the Marin Municipal Water District.  A series of trails follow around the lake and cover about 2.7 miles.  The route has a good amount of shade.  However, there are a good number of trails that veer off from the actual lake and provide a more challenging and longer distance for running.  Bay Area has a great description of a 4.7 mile hike that can easily turned up a notch as a run.

Directions: From 101, take the San Anselmo/Sir Francis Drake Blvd Exit.  Follow Sir Francis Drake for about 3.5 miles and make a left onto Lagunitas Rd (right by the Marin Art & Garden Center).  The parking lot is about a mile up this road.  The parking lot is small, however, and fills up quickly on the weekends.  For more parking options, try parking in the town of Kentfield near Ross Common Park.  Run along Lagunitas Rd. to get to the Phoenix Lake trail head.

For a 2.7 mile run around the lake, hike uphill to the lake and then combine Bill Williams Trail, Gertrude Orr Trail, and Phoenix Lake Trail.  Study a map before hand (there are no paper maps available at the trail head) or print out the directions from Bay Area  Yes, it’s annoying to run with a map.  However, it’s probably less annoying than running 5 miles longer than you expected to because you got lost…

Once you’re done with your hike, check out Kentfield on your way home.  Woodland’s Market is a great place to refuel or try M&G’s in Larkspur for a quick and easy burger.

The Giant Race is approaching quickly so this week’s Run of the Week is a little bit longer to help get that mileage up.

Golden Gate Park was founded in the latter half of the 19th century as San Francisco began to feel the need for a large urban public park like that of Central Park in New York City.  Today, the park covers over one thousand acres and is host to some of the City’s most visited attractions: The De Young Museum, The Academy of Sciences, and The Japanese Tea Garden, to name a few.  The park also boasts mile after mile of relatively flat running (or walking) paths, generally cool temperatures, and a scenic atmosphere.  And, what better way to see the park than to run through it?

7.75 Mile Loop Around Golden Gate Park

7.75 Mile Golden Gate Park Run

Starting Point: Choose your own.  The map above starts at the intersection of 6th Avenue and the Park.  Parking is available throughout the park but can be difficult to find on weekends and on really nice summer days.  The route below is outlined as if one is starting at 6th Avenue and the Park.

1. From 6th Avenue enter the Park and run through the roller skating area to John F. Kennedy Jr., Drive (JFK Dr.).  Make a left onto JFK and follow the path past the Conservatory of Flowers to Stanyan Street (this comes in perpendicular to the park).

2. Turn around at Stanyan and follow JFK Dr. back towards the Conservatory.  Make a left at Middle Drive and follow this past the Tennis Courts.

3. Just past the tennis courts you will come to a Y in the road – veer left towards Bowling Green Drive.  If you find yourself passing the back of the Academy of Sciences you’ve made the wrong turn.

4. Stay on Bowling Green Dr., which will turn into Martin Luther King, Jr., Drive.  Follow this road around Big Rec Playground.  When you come to  a T intersection, stay right on MLK Dr.

5. Continue on MLK Dr. for another couple of miles.  This road will end at the Great Highway.  Make a right at the Great Highway and follow the running path past the Beach Chalet.

6.  Make a right onto JFK Dr.  When you come to a Y intersection, stay right and continue on JFK Dr.

7.  Stay on JFK Dr. all the way back to the starting point at 6th Avenue.

The countdown to The Giant Race continues…just over 60 days left to kick that training regime into gear.  One important aspect of half marathon (or any distance) training is running part of the actual race route at some point during your weeks leading up to race day.  Once your feet get a chance to test part – if not all – of the route, you can better anticipate the twists, turns, and vertical changes come race day.  Knowing what to expect too can also help you adjust your training regime.  Hill running is always a good addition to your training schedule – even if your race is completely flat.  However, in San Francisco, hills can jump up on you, even on race day.  The first time I ran a half marathon I knew that I would have a pretty long, albeit gradual climb, about one-third of the way into the race.  However, I did not realize that around 12.5 miles I would have another hill to battle.  I made it, but I was not prepared.

This week’s run introduces you to part of The Giant Race’s half-marathon route.  It also includes a hill around mile 7.  During the actual race, this hill pops up at mile 4…and then there’s another, much less steep climb at mile 9.  I have adapted this week’s run to just 8 miles – and I have purposefully avoided running along Pier 39 and Fisherman’s wharf (unlike the actual race).  Why?  Well, it’s hard enough to walk along Jefferson St. let alone run it unless you’re out at 6am or into the night hours.

This week’s 8 mile run will take you from Fort Mason (chosen because it has free parking) to the ballpark and back.  Much of the run is along the Embarcadero, which is an excellent path for uninterrupted (read: no intersections – just a few driveways to be careful of) running.  If you do head out in the direction of the ballpark, check the Giant’s schedule first.  Running around the stadium on a game day might not be as fun as it sounds.

1. Start in the parking lot next to Bay and Laguna Streets.  Head east through Ft. Mason to Van Ness and Bay.  Follow Bay until it dead ends at the Embarcadero.

2. Head across the street and make a right on the Embarcadero.  Follow this until you get just past the ballpark.  Make a left before the intersection and follow the ballpark around back to the water.

3. Head back towards the Embarcadero.  Continue on the same route from which you just came until you hit Van Ness.

4. On the Fort Mason side of Van Ness turn right and head towards the water.  Just before the entrance to the pier, look to your left and you’ll see a road heading up-hill.  Take this street.  At the top of the hill you will come to a grassy area – almost a clearing.  Follow the foot path to bathrooms up ahead.  Just beyond this building is the parking lot (and your starting point).


8 Mile Fort Mason to Ballpark Run

81 degrees in downtown San Francisco right now…we all know that the fog could return at any moment so might as well soak in what we can while it’s still here.  With that said, it’s always good to know your limits when the heat is on – high temperatures mean more strain on your body when you’re running.  Don’t just take my word for it – look at what happened at the Chicago Marathon a few years back.  88 degree weather + incredible humidity shut down the race midway through.  Although I don’t expect anyone to venture out and do 26.2 miles today, just keep that in mind if you do want to enjoy the weather (and the first day of summer) for an afternoon run.  Carry water with you and if you begin to feel overly exhausted, slow down – or walk.

With that said, this week’s “Run of the Week” is back over along The Great Highway.  Why, might you ask?  Well, the sand dunes from Ocean beach have taken over the south-bound lanes of the highway and as of right now it is completely shut down to cars.  What more could you want from an afternoon/evening jog than an ocean view, and ocean breeze, and no cars in your way (just watch out for bicyclists!).  The Great Highway section that is shut down stretches about 2 miles from Sloat Blvd. to Lincoln Blvd.  Parking can be found in the neighborhood streets around this area or in the lots adjacent to Sloat and parallel to the Great Highway across from the Beach Chalet.  Enjoy the sun, sand, and the opportunity to run in the street!

The Great Highway

Run of the Week: 4.5 Mile Loop Around Lake Merced

When training for a longer race in San Francisco, it can be difficult to find a route that covers a good distance and doesn’t make you challenge a ton of car traffic.  On the south-western edge of The City lies Lake Merced, a fresh water lake that is home to practice space for high school rowers, is right next to the SFPD’s shooting range, and is bordered by three separate golf courses (Harding Park, The Olympic Club, and The San Francisco Golf Club).  The proximity of the lake to Ocean Beach provides cooler weather patterns, which can be perfect for running.  A foot path borders the lake completely, covering approximately 4.5 miles.  Parking is available both within parking lots at the lake and in the neighborhoods bordering it (Lakeshore and Parkside).  The distance around the lake is perfect for a low mileage day – or double it to up your miles as race day becomes closer.


Lake Merced Run


Lake Merced is located on Lake Merced Blvd (Sunset Blvd turns into this).  One parking lot is located at the point at which Sunset becomes Lake Merced Blvd.  Another is located at the southern tip along Lake Merced Blvd.  You can also generally find parking on Sloat Blvd as well.

The goal is to start and end at one point along the lake.  Pick your direction and start running.  You should be able to see the lake for your entire run EXCEPT for about .75 miles on the eastern edge of the lake.  At this point you will be running past Harding Park.

Happy Running!



March 2019
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