Branding Running Uphill
July 15, 2010 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Next weekend, thousands of runners will take to the streets of San Francisco to run the SF Marathon, on a course with hills that skate a 300 ft. elevation about six times over 26.2 miles. However, the non-corporately sponsored marathon attracts few than a third of the runners who tackle New York City and Chicago. While the organizers are trying to re-brand the race, offering two different half marathon courses, they have shied away from making the course any easier.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (26 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
No chance to set a PR because of the hills? Shit, sounds like a good excuse to *enjoy* a marathon!
posted by notsnot at 9:11 AM on July 15, 2010


And speaking as a (slow) runner myself, and a S.F. resident for a brief summer awhile back, I don't understand this refusal to cut back on the hills. I'd be very, very interested in this course if it were less daunting, and am sure I am not the only one.

Maybe the organizers are looking to support that sense of pride about saying you made it on a difficult course. God knows that at least some of the people who like to run long prefer hard and challenging My sister, a serious marathoner and ultramarathoner, says that for her it is all about the power of mind over body, seeing determination go places that muscles alone cannot.

Me, I'm the wimpy sister . . . I like views and as flat a course as possible.
posted by bearwife at 9:13 AM on July 15, 2010


I've run the SF Marathon... the residents of the city seem to hate it. Someone literally yelled, "Get off the fucking road!" at me as I ran by.

Definitely the hardest of the road marathons that I've run, but that's just because races have gone out of their way to cater to the post-oprah running boom strollers. (PF Chang's, for instance, took out the only hill after an outcry the first year.) SF, on the other hand, seems to hang onto its "real runners"-type vibe. It ain't the Nike Women's Marathon....
posted by ph00dz at 9:26 AM on July 15, 2010


It's actually not a super-hard course (of course, I'm a pretty crappy runner) and not as hilly as it might be, considering the location (Big Sur, a little further to the south, is tougher IMHO). Plus, you get to run over the Golden Gate Bridge. How cool is that? BTW - if you want to do one of the two half marathons, pick the first half. It takes you over the bridge. The second half is faster, but has no bridge and if you really want a fast half marathon there are better choices than SF.

I've run it three times before, but won't be doing it this year (more's the pity). I kind of like the small size. Not every marathon needs to have 40,000 participants.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:29 AM on July 15, 2010


Not mentioned but a marathon along the Potomac--the Marine Corps marathon--gets a nice size crowd and seems to not have the massive turnout and hence confusion and mess of NY and other marathons.
posted by Postroad at 9:38 AM on July 15, 2010


Population:
San Francisco: 815,358
Chicago: 2,853,114
New York City: 8,391,881

According to the article, SF draws 7,000 runners for the marathon, while NYC and Chicago each draw upwards of 40,000.

On a per-capita basis, that's:
San Francisco: 0.008585 (116 ppr)
Chicago: 0.01401 (71 ppr)
NYC: 0.004766 (209 ppr)
(ppr = non-runners per runner. It's more human-readable)

In other words, on a per-capita basis, Chicago is the clear winner, while NYC severely lags behind.

If we consider the entire metro area:
SF Metro: 1061ppr
NYC Metro: 476ppr
Chicagoland: 245ppr

SF is a lot less impressive by this metric. Again, Chicago's the clear winner. If we assume that the races are dominated by suburbanites, SF's marathon sucks. If we assume that only city-dwellers attend these races, SF's doing pretty well.
posted by schmod at 9:44 AM on July 15, 2010


I guess paying $140 for a bunch of people to stop traffic for you also gives you a wicked sense of entitlement.
posted by meowzilla at 9:50 AM on July 15, 2010


The Tresco Marathon in the Scilly Isles is pretty small too.

I love the story of how it started: "The Tresco Marathon began when chef Peter Hingston decided to run solo around the island, because he was unable to leave his daughter - who had cystic fibrosis - to run in London."
posted by MuffinMan at 9:57 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


A course with hills should be a selling point. Any runner who runs it would ultimately have a bigger badge of honor than running on a flatter coarse. This is a marathon people, not a stroll through the park. And in this day and age of ultramarathons I really don't see why anyone would complain about a few hills. I say they need to boast about the hills and throw in a few more. [But I'm a mountain trail runner so I'm biased that way].
posted by Rashomon at 10:35 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


A course with hills should be a selling point. Any runner who runs it would ultimately have a bigger badge of honor than running on a flatter coarse. This is a marathon people, not a stroll through the park.

True, but for runners who are trying to qualify for Boston (which is pretty much every runner), a hilly marathon is not the place to do it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:36 AM on July 15, 2010


True, but for runners who are trying to qualify for Boston (which is pretty much every runner), a hilly marathon is not the place to do it.

Not every marathon has to be a Boston qualifier. Besides, it's not like we don't have other candidates. The Napa Marathon is fast. River City and the California International Marathon are pretty nearby and fast. The Silicon Valley marathon is flat, although it has no prize money so you never get really fast people.

Given the wind and the hills I think it would be really tough to stage a fast, interesting marathon in SF (and impossible if you actually wanted to show off all of the city landmarks - which all city marathons want to do).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:53 AM on July 15, 2010


In other words, on a per-capita basis, Chicago is the clear winner, while NYC severely lags behind.

Except that NYC gets over 100,000 applicants a year, and only 40K are allowed in. They'd get a lot more if they allowed everyone in.

As I start to train for my second full marathon, I'll just say I much prefer the half distance. Short, fun and easy to train for. After NYC, I won't do any more fulls.
posted by yeti at 10:59 AM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for all the information about other nearby California marathons, Its Never Lurgi. The Silicon Valley race looks gorgeous.
posted by bearwife at 11:10 AM on July 15, 2010


Past Results of the SF Marathon

It's actually been MUCH smaller in the past. In 2004, there were only 2665 finishers.

(Although all the big marathons seem to have grown 25% or more over the past 10 years.)
posted by smackfu at 11:19 AM on July 15, 2010


Ran the hilly-bridge half last year and it's pretty awesome. Very glad I did it. The hills aren't so bad til you get to the last few miles, then you kind of want to die. But very well run as far as races go and you don't have to worry about extreme weather.
posted by dig_duggler at 12:47 PM on July 15, 2010


I'm running it this year as my first marathon--I run on hills all the time living just south of SF. I will let you know if I die.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:23 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I will let you know if I die.

I want some more information about how you have arranged to do this.
posted by bearwife at 1:27 PM on July 15, 2010


SF is a lot less impressive by this metric. Again, Chicago's the clear winner. If we assume that the races are dominated by suburbanites, SF's marathon sucks. If we assume that only city-dwellers attend these races, SF's doing pretty well.

Yeah, but SF has Dean Karnazes who will run over to Berkeley to get a cup of coffee before he starts the SF marathon. That's got to count for something.
posted by GuyZero at 1:27 PM on July 15, 2010


I've run the SF Marathon... the residents of the city seem to hate it. Someone literally yelled, "Get off the fucking road!" at me as I ran by.

That sucks. I ran my first 1/2 marathon this year and the cheering of the bystanders and all the live bands playing as I went past really helped keep me going. It poured rain all day too and thousands of people still came out to cheer.
posted by octothorpe at 1:28 PM on July 15, 2010


I want some more information about how you have arranged to do this.

Ectoplasm. Sweaty, sweaty ectoplasm.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:33 PM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


ph00dz: "I've run the SF Marathon... the residents of the city seem to hate it"

I'll vouch for this. I used to live about 5 yards from the race course, where a major north-south city street crossed it. Unlike the other big SF running event, which puts up banners marking the route and other publicity for the month before it, the marathon organizers never seemed to do much to let people know when or where it was going to be. As a result, motorists trying to cross the city were caught by surprise when they couldn't cross, say, Haight Street. They would sit, stuck in traffic in front of my house for reasons they couldn't see, honking in frustration. Starting reeealy early in the morning. Fun.

Then there was the year that the organizers decided that it would be fun to station bands at different intersections to entertain the runners as they went past. Nice for the runners, I'm sure, but again really annoying to be woken up at 7 am on a Sunday by a crappy band which proceeds to play the same songs over and over for the next three hours. Loudly. Under our window.

To be fair, marathoners didn't generally yak on our steps or leave beer cans all over, unlike the other event, but the B2B organizers do a much better job of warning people that it's coming. The SF marathon was usually a very unpleasant and disruptive surprise.
posted by gingerbeer at 1:40 PM on July 15, 2010


Apparently (according to my sister in law, who ran the Snowdonia marathon a few years ago) they're not really hills... this is a marathon with hills (and correspondingly fewer people)
posted by itsjustanalias at 2:03 PM on July 15, 2010


Totally gingerbeer... I remember running down Haight, and the only observers of the marathon were a bunch of bums. Unlike every other major city marathon, there was virtually no one cheering on the runners mid-course... which was a little disorienting, given that they do weird stuff with rerouting the course periodically as you run through that part of the city, to help with the flow of traffic. At one point, I found myself running down the middle of the street, completely alone, with no one else on the same block as me, runner or otherwise. Weird.

Kafkaesque - it's a great race and you'll have fun. Personally, I really dug the quirkiness of it... and if your experience is anything like mine, you'll marvel at how different the first and second halves of the race are. Lots and lots of people do the first half -- the part with the bridge -- but the pack becomes much thinner for the second 13.1....
posted by ph00dz at 4:17 PM on July 15, 2010


I run the SF Marathon every year. My only issue with the course is that as fun as it sounds to run across the Golden Gate Bridge, the reality is that it is usually so cold and windy that all you want to do is get off it as soon as possible.
posted by Hicksu at 9:05 PM on July 15, 2010


According to the article, SF draws 7,000 runners for the marathon, while NYC and Chicago each draw upwards of 40,000.

60,000 for the Bay to Breakers, which is a much bigger deal around here than the marathon.
posted by ryanrs at 1:57 AM on July 16, 2010


The shorter the race, the more people you get.
posted by smackfu at 5:46 AM on July 16, 2010


« Older For the first time, research shows that American c...  |  Want to fire a teacher in the ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments