Thursday, June 23, 2011

The best of cities and running: San Francisco

When I think of the ideal city, it has a vibrant downtown and energetic neighborhoods. There is public transit in addition to having a walkable community. Public art adorns the busy streets. Parks and greenspace are abundant. In my traveling experience few cities embody this ideal quite like San Francisco. It's got everything you'd want in a city, and the mild climate is icing on the cake.

The Ferry Building in San Francisco

I ran my first half marathon in San Francisco five years ago - the Nike Women's Half Marathon.  This race did everything right and incorporated the city beautifully into the entire course. The race hotel (the Hilton in Union Square) was right in the heart of the city. Packet pick-up was at Niketown just around the corner, and the race began literally right outside the hotel doors.

Convenient packet pick-up in Union Square

 The day before the race I had gotten to tour San Francisco a little, and I fell in love with the city. I was excited for the race to see more, and I wasn't disappointed. The course begins at Union Square in downtown and then heads down through the financial district before leading runners past Fishermen's Wharf, Aquatic Park and Ghirardelli Square

I was promised views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, but unfortunately when I ran the race in 2006 it was too foggy to see it. The course, however, was alive with spectators, music and cheering. It remains the liveliest course I've ever run. Oh and runners were given squares of Ghirardelli chocolate toward the end of the half marathon. Does it get better than that? 

During the race - thankfully down hill

The race shirt is fantastic - a Nike v-neck performance shirt. The medal also couldn't be beaten. Instead of a traditional medal runners receive Tiffany necklaces with runner charms. 

Public art in the financial district

I ran this race while raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Being part of that team was fantastic (even though I felt that fundraising was really too stressful for me.) The race was organized and executed perfectly. I honestly can't think of any criticism.

Proudly displaying Team in Training gear

In every race I've done since the Nike Women's Half I've searched for that same city/race synergy that exists in San Francisco. Unfortunately I haven't quite gotten there yet. But hey - there are plenty of towns out there left to run.

This pretty much sums it up

How would I rate San Francisco? A+ (public art, density, transit, diversity, walkability? Yes please!)

How would I rate the Nike Women's Half Marathon? A+ (Tiffany + Nike + chocolate = perfection)

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