Thus, it would be difficult for the San Francisco Marathon to avoid said hills. And it doesn't. Whether you are running the First Half, Second Half or the full marathon, the San Francisco Marathon offers a difficult and challenging course made so by the city's notorious natural feature.
Are the hills enough to scare you away? Are the hills monstrous enough to make the race one to avoid?
The hills add to the race's allure and mystique. Finishing whichever course you decide to run will really make you feel like you've earned your medal. It's not just any runner, after all, that can take on a challenging course and live to tell about it.
But what exactly are the hills like?
The folks who put on the marathon did us all a favor and took the route away from the city's truly frightening hills. But hills are a prevalent component of the course.
That's the elevation chart for the full marathon. While the First and Second half each stray a bit off the full's course, the elevation for each race is essentially the same as splitting the races in half. With that being said, then, you can see that the course is hilly but not one gigantic hill. The first five miles and the last five miles are, for the most part, flat. So, that's 10 of the 26.2 miles right there. And no, the other 16 is not just one giant hill.
There is in fact no one gigantic straightaway. It's more of a wave of hills, a manageable wave.
The toughest hill is early in the full and more than halfway through the First Half. Once you get off the Golden Gate Bridge, you run a bit further and then start climbing. According to the elevation chart, it's more than 100 feet of elevation gain in less than one mile. That stands out though as the longest single hill on the course.
If you're running the half marathon, the hills might make a difference in which one you choose. If you want to run a faster time, I'd suggest the second half. There are a lot of downhills on the latter part of the course and the finish is flat. If you're unconcerned about time and want to experience the sights, the First Half is a better option. Aside from that monster hill, you have hills at the finish which could impede your time.
There is perhaps one caveat for the full marathon. It would be wise to train downhill. Once you get out of Golden Gate Park - around Mile 19-20 - then you will immediately hit Haight Street, which is a long straightaway of hills. Uphill for a stretch, downhill for another, and so fort and so on. Towards the bottom of some of the downhills in 2012, I was grunting audibly. After a steady diet of hills, the downhills can really do a number on your weakened muscles. At least, they did to mine. So training for downhills would be wise. (As a quick aside, I plan on writing another blog post on how best to tackle your training for this challenging course)
Anyway, the hills are certainly part of the San Francisco Marathon's races but certainly not enough to scare any potential runner away. The hills are tough, yest, but they are also manageable and getting past them is a major part of what makes the race so fulfilling.
Trust me, you won't regret having conquered those hills.