Last week I was in San Francisco for a few days for work. I used to live in the Bay Area (still miss CA like crazy), so I was happy to be given an opportunity to go back to my old stomping grounds and to see a few friends. Thanks to jet lag and a relatively light morning schedule, I was able to get some lovely runs in. After a half marathon, I like to take a few days to a week off depending upon how spent my legs feel. While my legs are desperately grateful for the rest days, I do find that getting back into running is hard after a long break. I discovered that for me either a short fast speed work or a long slow run are the ideal work out to get me and my legs back into running.
This time I opted for a long slow run in Golden Gate Park. Golden Gate Park is over a 1,000 acres of urban oasis, much like New York’s Central Park. San Franciscans, like many New Yorkers, lack their own personal outdoor space in the form of a yard, so Golden Gate Park serves as the city’s backyard.
While I know it’ll seem like heresy to say this, but in my opinion, Golden Gate Park beats Central Park hands down. Not only is it 20% larger, but the Golden Gate Park has some incredible features (see guide here), such as museums, musical concourse (free swing dancing on Sundays), botanical gardens, lakes, and several miles of trails. I have many fond memories of hanging out in the park with my friends. I couldn’t wait to go back.
I ran from where I was staying in the Mission District in San Francisco to the park. Once I was in the park, I spontaneously decided to run on the smaller trails that were off the main path. I had been to the park several times, but I had never gone “off the beaten path.”
I’m so glad I did. First of all, I love trail running. While the run wasn’t a 100% on trails, I did as much as I could on trails. What always amazes me about the Bay Area is how quickly you feel that you can disappear into Nature. Although I was always less than a quarter mile to the closest street no matter where you are in the park, it’s very easy to feel as if the city is miles away. Trees and brushes hide much of the city streets from you and at times, it absolutely impossible to see any streets at all. Aside from some noise pollution, I would have thought that I was miles away from civilization.
I took the run quite easy and slow. I had a big grin on my face as I ran along and stopped whenever I saw something that caught my fancy. Then I took photos. I slowly ran up hills. The purpose of this run was to just enjoy myself and not worry about hitting any particular pace. I had my Garmin because I wanted to know what my exact route was since I was meandering through.
I ran 11.1 miles in 2:17:35. The run was slightly longer than I had originally anticipated (got lost in the park), but I greatly enjoyed myself. I rewarded myself with a tea steamer called Honey Monkey from Cafe Sophie (tea latte with honey).
Obviously Golden Gate Park is a must see for anyone visiting San Francisco. SF is a wonderful running city; there are so many great routes with GGP being just one of them.