We are very lucky to live and run in the Bay Area. It has a thriving running community and is home to many great races (albeit very hilly). Here are some of our favorites in San Francisco and other areas.Let us know if we have missed one of your favorites and need to check it out!
Rock n Roll races are well organized and have great course support. There is the added benefit of being able to get extra bling for running 2 or more Rock n Roll events in a year and additional special medals for running a series (i.e. Cali combo).
Rock n Roll San Francisco 1/2 Marathon, San Francisco, CA
When is it? Early April
Why we love it? Views! This race has an uphill climb in The Presidio, and the payoff for that work is stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is also one of the few San Francisco races that actually includes running across the Golden Gate Bridge in the course.
Rock n Roll San Jose 1/2 Marathon, 5k and 10k, San Jose, CA
When is it? First weekend in October
Why we love it? This race is flat, fast and fun. There are bands and cheer squads at every mile or even more, friendly volunteers and well-stocked aid stations. The San Jose locals come out to cheer and some even break out their own ‘garage bands’ to join in the festivities. The not-too-early 8am start time and generous race course time limit makes it low key and accessible to runners and walkers. The post race finisher’s area is easy to navigate and generally no wait for the beer or swag line.
Rock n Roll San Diego Marathon, 1/2 Marathon and 5k, San Diego, CA
When is it? First weekend in June
Why we love it? First off, San Diego is an amazing city — nightlife, restaurants, sights (did I mention the Zoo), history and beaches. The weather in June is not hot (they call it June gloom) which is ideal for running. As with other Rock n Roll races, this one is also highly organized and has sufficiently staffed/stocked aid stations. As with San Jose, San Diego has a vibrant community that comes out in full force to support this race. One neighborhood has the a makeshift Rock n Roll tiki bar tent they put on the street that serves mimosas and shots to passing runners. The military mile is especially touching and make makes me both proud and cry every time I run through. However, I’m not going to lie, the course is NOT flat. Both the 1/2 and full marathons have some up-hills (the marathon more so, but also comes with fabulous views) and some downright scary long down hills. But by the time you get to the disco tunnel, you have forgotten all about those. The finish line is a bit congested, but the waterfront park finisher zone is spacious. The swag on this race is some of the best — great medals, great tech tees and especially the marathon jacket.
Guardsman Presidio 10 miler and 10k, San Francisco, CA
When is it? late April
Why we love it? Two words – Bloody Marys! Yes, this race serves beer and Bloody Marys at the finish as well as a full pancake breakfast w/sausage. If that wasn’t enough, there are usually other sponsor tents that have beer, chips and energy bar giveaways. Besides the finisher food, the race is small and VERY low key. The first time we ran this, runners didn’t get into the ‘corrals’ or to the start line until 5 minutes before the race. We thought we may have been in the wrong spot. This course runs through the Presidio of San Francisco and is very hilly! However, these hills also present the most amazing views of the Marin Headlands, the Bay, the Pacific ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. Speaking of the Bridge, this course also runs on the sidewalk of the Golden Gate Bridge and then crosses to the other side via a stairs and a pathway under the bridge. This is a unique crossing as it is not every day you get to go in the underbelly of the Golden Gate Bridge. And fyi, it is loud down there when trucks cross. The volunteers on this race are also very friendly and the Sports Basement cheer team is on the course to give you a boost. The best thing about this race is by running it, you are supporting a great charity.
Big Sur 1/2 Marathon on Monterey Bay, Monterey, CA
When is it? Early November
Why we love it? This race has a beautiful course that starts in Monterey and heads south with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. The course is mostly rolling hills and travels through historic Fisherman’s wharf and other quaint towns on the outskirts of Monterey. The early morning bagpipe player near the race start gives a haunting echo in the tunnel and the Taiko drummers at the turnaround are impressive! The swag includes a nice long sleeve t-shirt and an interesting clay finisher medal.
Santa Rosa 1/2 Marathon, Santa Rosa, CA
When is it? Late August
Why we love it? The Running Lushes have run this race for the past two years and one of the sponsors is the DeLoach Winery. Not only have we scored a bottle of wine at the point of registration (usually at a race expo), but finisher swag includes a running jacket, a custom labeled bottle of Runner’s Red wine, and a huge spinning finisher medal. The course is completely flat, so it is great for PRs. The only drawback is that it can be hot on race day.
Giants 1/2 Marathon, San Francisco, CA
When is it? Late August to early October (varies)
Why we love it? The course is beautiful, and includes views of the bay and the finish line is in Giants Stadium. This is about as flat a course as you can get in San Francisco.
California International Marathon, Sacramento, CA
When is it? Early December
Why we love it? This is a flat marathon course great for first timers, or BQ attempts. The race is a point to point course starting near Folsom and finishing at the State Capitol.
The San Francisco Marathon, San Francisco, CA
When is it? Late July
Why we love it? There aren’t too many marathons in the summer due to the heat. In San Francisco; however, the summer can be cool and foggy. This is a challenging course, no doubt about it. If you don’t like hills, you will not like this race. But this is one of the most beautiful races, which highlights the best and most iconic parts of The City, including The Embarcadero, Crissy Field, The Golden Gate Bridge, The Presidio, Haight/Ashbury and more. There are several distances, including the full marathon, ultra marathon, and 2 different half marathon courses (the first half or the second half of the marathon distance). Great swag including a top of the line long sleeve finisher t-shirt. The expo and finish line are great, and there is solid support throughout the course.
Sasquatch Racing Trail Runs (various), Bay Area
Marathon Matt organizes the Sasquatch Racing series and the running club @runclubsf. These races are well attended but not huge so have a cool, low key vibe. The other runners we have encountered on these races have been super nice and encouraging…what we want the running community to be. The courses are sufficiently challenging and usually have a fun scavenger hunt along the way. Plus, there is always beer at the end
Rattlesnake Ramble 1/2 Marathon, 10k and 5k, China Camp State Park, San Rafael CA
When is it? February
Why we love it? Challenging trail course with views of the bay. The course is challenging, but is well marked and well supported.
Honey Badger 1/2 Marathon, 10k and 5k, China Camp State Park, San Rafael, CA
When is it? October
Why we love it? Very challenging technical trail course with awesome views of the bay. Same state park as Rattlesnake, but race organizers make sure to include different trails. There is a very cool medal for the half and a wooden medallion for 10k.
Krampus Cross Country 10k
When is it? Early December
Why we love it? Beautiful trails in The Presidio with views. The Krampus (the Christmas devil) is at the finish! The course is well marked and has great sponsors.
Kaiser Permanente 1/2 Marathon and 5k, San Francisco, CA
When is it? Super bowl Sunday
Why we love it? This is the race the Running Lushes do to kick off race season. It is flat and the course goes through Golden Gate Park and along The Great Highway with views of the Pacific Ocean. The t-shirts are always a long sleeve cotton shirt and we are hoping that one day they will upgrade to a high quality technical t-shirt. But the medals are usually good.
Virgin Sport Twin Peaks Mile and 1/2 Marathon, San Francisco, CA
When is it? Possibly mid October
Why we love it? Technically, we have not run this race so we cannot comment on the course or the finisher zone or any of that. What we can tell you, is Virgin Sport is a class-act organization and the Running Lushes will sign up for any future races that we can. The inaugural stateside Virgin Sport festival was scheduled in San Francisco in mid October 2017. During this time, much of Napa, Sonoma, Santa Rosa and other parts of Northern California were on fire. The fires were so big and so bad that besides the devastation occurring in those areas, the air quality in San Francisco and surrounding areas was dangerous. Virgin Sport made the difficult (and likely very costly for them) decision to cancel the races/festival to protect their runners and also help ensure that emergency personnel could be where they were most needed (Napa/Sonoma). They made donations to the impacted areas, gave full refunds to those that signed up and STILL let participants pick up the swag (which by the way, was fabulous — a cute hoody for the 1/2, tech tee for the twin peaks mile, individual medals for both and magnet if you had signed up for both races and a water bottle). While we were sad we didn’t get to EARN that swag on that day, we are looking forward to 2018 as we’ve heard they have already pulled the permits!