04 June 2020

Event Review: The San Francisco Second Half Marathon

August 9, 2011

Sportsister joined 25,000 runners to take part in a half marathon race at The San Francisco Marathon event. The San Francisco Marathon event is a crown jewel for the city. It is renowned for being one of the most beautiful and challenging urban road race marathons in the United States.

San-Fran-Half-MarathonThe Marathon is referred to as ‘Worth the Hurt’ in running circles, which has now become the event’s tag line. In July 2010 The Wall Street Journal coined it as ‘The Race Even Marathoners Fear’. This can be primarily attributed to its many hills and killer climbs.

The event is huge with five challenge options; The Marathon, The First Half Marathon, The Second Half Marathon, The Progressive Marathon and The Munchkin Kids Run. This year, the whole event involved around 25,000 runners and 100,000 spectators, with Sportsister taking part in The Second Half Marathon event.

I was taking part in the event as challenge two out of twelve that I plan to complete within the next year. You can read all about it here on my blog.

The Course

The Second Half Marathon covered the second half of The San Francisco Marathon course, with a slight deviation at Mile 2. The race started at Spreckel’s Lake in Golden Gate Park and finished on the Embarcadero.

For the first six miles of the race, I found myself striding my way through the beautifully stunning Golden Gate Park, and not feeling as if I was in the centre of a bustling city at all. Not only did I pass picturesque lakes, waterfalls and gardens, but also stunning buildings such as the De Young Museum, Academy of Sciences and the Conservatory of Flowers.


After exiting the park, I met the streets of Downtown San Francisco and the masses of much needed spectators and supporters!  The route steered through the Haight/Ashbury and the Mission districts into Mission Bay. At mile 25, there was an ‘Entertainment Mile’ strategically placed, where the entertainment and spectator numbers increased helping push me through the last gruelling stretch. The route took us alongside the water, past the infamous AT&T Park (home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team), and finished just before the Ferry Building.

The course also offered numerous toilets along the way, as well as water stations which provided water, electrolyte, energy gels and bars, oranges and bananas.


The organisation of the event from the pre-race communication to the post race celebration was absolutely spot on. In the run up to the event, communication was frequent and informative, especially to make an international participant feel well prepared.

Part of this involved a ‘virtual goodie bag’. This fell in line with San Francisco’s reputation for being ‘green’; after all this is where the hippie movement originated back in the sixties. Instead of handing out goodie bags at the event full of paper that undoubtedly ends up in waste paper bins, a virtual goodie bag was sent via e-mail providing participants with specials offers, codes and vouchers, which could be printed off and used in stores or online.

The race packs and other free goodies on offer were collected from the Runner Expo which was held on both the Friday and Saturday before the race. The Expo also showcased a new addition to the race this year, which was a hosted by MapMyRun. All android and iPhone users could download The SF Marathon app and track a runner’s progress along the route. This proved very popular among spectators and allowed them to find supporter spots along the route.

Supporting events could also be purchased as part of your event package, which included training runs, seminars, a pasta feed and post event party.


Would I do it again?

This is a great event and one which a runner of any ability could come back to year on year. It is especially great for a runner to push themselves by doing the first half one year, the second half the next and finally work up to completing the marathon. However it must be remembered that it is probably not the ideal half marathon or marathon to begin your running career due to the number of hills. It is also a great way of seeing a new city if you were a tourist runner like me!

Good Points

  • Excellent organisation both before, during and after the race
  • Fun entertainment and support along the route focused on providing much needed motivation!
  • Great runner tracking device for supporters via their mobile phone (android/iPhone users)
  • Plentiful supply of water stations and toilets en route, which were clearly signposted
  • Shuttle buses transported runners to the start and finish line
  • Along the route there were sign posts with interesting facts about San Francisco and marathons, including a quiz which provided a great distraction.

Bad Points

  • As a spectator supporting the event it is quite hard to get to different locations along the route due to the roads and traffic caused by the marathon. My supporters only managed to see me at the start and finish and they had access to their own car.
  • Not enough toilets at the start of the race. I was in line for 40 minutes which caused loss of valuable warm up time.
  • Wave times for the first half marathon and the marathon began at 5.30am which meant some of the running was done in the dark. (However the second half marathon start times began at 8.15am).

Want to give it a go?

Entry is now open for all races involved in next year’s events. The first 500 registrants to sign up will receive the lowest rates. To register for next year’s event – visit www.thesfmarathon.com

Clarissa Goodwin, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Image credits: Dinno Kovic and The SF Marathon

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