Last weekend I flew to visit my sister and her boyfriend in San Francisco.
Flights down south are pretty cheap if you buy early, but I accidentally found myself at SFO about fifteen hours earlier than expected. Happily, I found a great deal on a little hotel in North Beach which set the stage for some good beer and a fun morning run. The latter was such a damn good time I thought I’d share.
A little backstory seems appropriate at this point. After leaving Seattle for Texas in the late summer of 2007, I attempted to hike into Marin County over the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve never been much for bucket lists, but it was the singular thing I wanted to do on my first trip to San Francisco. It was cold and foggy and I got lost in the Presidio. I always get lost in the Presidio. Always. Failure.
But that was a long time ago. Since then I’ve taken up a running. One beautiful thing about this sport is the distances involved. This time, there was room for error.
I took off from Noth Beach with a fist full of gels and 1.5L of water. I kept out of that damn Presidio by staying near Crissy Field and found my way by keeping the thing in sight.
This made the approach only slightly melodramatic.
My adrenal system was very aware that I had finally made it to the bridge. I picked up speed, my hands were shaking and I was smiling ear to ear. Down below I could see surfers, kayakers and even swimmers (Alcatraz Tri Clinic?)!
The bridge is well over a mile long. Aside from the sobering persistence of suicide prevention courtesy phones, it ran pretty quick.
There’s a scenic overlook / beauty spot with a large parking lot and (thankfully) public restrooms. Much to my amusement, it was chock full of runners.
I had planned to goof off in the headlands and catch the bus back to the city. Before trying to find my way to the trails, I poked around to look for the bus stop. The stop in question was marked by black lettering “BUS STOP 76” over yellow paint on the square metal post of a street sign. Given that I was looking for bus 70, I ran back towards the overlook to weigh my options.
It was a balm 55F and the air was supersaturated with water. The warm wind and fog gave a false impression of cold; the moisture under my jacket was almost certainly pure sweat. Together with the screaming traffic all around me, it was difficult to assess how comfortable I was with moving forward.
What else is new?
Ducking under the 101 via a pedestrian bridge replete with wooden steps, I headed towards a small turnout. Low and behold! A trail appeared. There’s always a trail. So I ran up, jacket in hand, figuring the climb would keep me warm. It did.
I followed the switchbacks up and up the steep meadow-like terrain. I couldn’t see more than 100 meters in any direction; I had no clue where the trail went. I was getting nervous. My run clock hit two hours and suddenly a long-haired silhouette bounded out of the mist towards me.
Seeing the first runner on a new trail always induces a huge sigh of relief. I kept moving until I rounded big corner and was running out of sight from the road. All was peaceful until the next runner bounded into view. Then thought struck me like a rock to the head.
I had to run the whole way back.
Looking down the trail, I could start to see the fog lifting slightly, under which was a long train of hikers. I crammed down a gel and tightened my shoelaces. Looks like I have a new project to come back for.