This past Sunday I did something I have never done; I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge using only human power. It is slightly interesting that I had never done this considering that I had lived in San Francisco for a full year in 1991-1992. At the time I wasn't much of a runner, having given up the sport some years before, but I did own a bike. And, for a short time that year, I worked less than a quarter mile from the bridge. So you think I would have crossed it, or at least approached it in some other fashion than sitting in the seat of a car. But no, that never happened.
I had a business trip to SF scheduled for this week. So, instead of flying out on Sunday night as originally planned, I headed to the Bay Area on Saturday. When Sunday arrived with wind and a temperature of 40F, I was undaunted. I pulled on a short sleeve tech shirt, a long sleeve tech shirt, a water-proof (ish) Patagonia jacket, some loose tights (true dat), my killer Mizunos (I still geek out over them), a hand-held water bottle, and then set out.
I had chosen to stay on Fisherman's Wharf for the first time in all my years of going to SF. I chose the location not because I love the single most touristy place in the City, but because of its proximity to the waterfront that leads to the bridge.
I first ran through the wharf. Soon after, I passed Aquatic Park. There were actually people swimming in the bay. With the serious chill in the air, it seemed crazy. But then again, polar bear swimmer types often have the same world view that crazy runner types also hold. Heading to Fort Mason I encountered my first serious hill. It wasn't crazy long, but just long enough to let me know that attacking it as I had done was not the smartest strategy on a run that would exceed ten miles.
Coming down the hill from the fort, I caught my first real glimpse of the bridge beyond the expansive Marina Green. Running Marina Green is not something I had ever done. I had walked it on numerous occasions, and it always seemed to take forever. Sunday it did seem to drag out a bit. But the straight, flat slog was broken up by the sheer beauty of the area, with its nature preserves and bay on one side, 1915 World's Fair architecture on the other, and the Golden Gate Bridge looming large ahead of me.
As I was nearing the end of the Green, and approaching Fort Point, I realized that I didn't exactly know how to access the bridge. It isn't highly intuitive. For the past mile, I had discerned the slapping of feet behind me. A fellow traveller, no doubt. So I slowed to let the trailing runner catch up. In about a hundred yards, I found myself running next to a guy who was slightly taller, and a few years older than me. I asked how to get to the walkway or bikeway for the bridge. He replied in a distinct Australian accent, "Mate, I was following you, hoping you'd know."
After a couple of quick stops to inquire about the route from people we encountered, we found our way. We ran up a second solid hill, some steps, and a couple of switchbacks, made our way through an absolute maze of Asian tourists, and found ourselves on the bridge.
Ross (the Aussie) and I had decided to run together. As we crossed the 1.5 mile (roughly) span, he asked me about the scenery - Alcatraz, Sausalito, Marin, etc - and he told me about the 7 week vacation he was on with his family; two weeks in Cuba, some time in Mexico, SF, LA, Yosemite, Sequoia, and more. I got to ask a lot of questions about Cuba, in particular.
We stopped once on the bridge, and once on the Marin side to take pictures - I posted a couple on FB and Twitter. On the way back I also got a picture of a container ship passing under us on the bridge. Pretty cool. We stopped one more time on the way back to the wharf. He hadn't seen the Palace of Fine Arts - the architecture left over from the World's Fair. We did a quick once over, and then proceeded back through the Green, over the Fort Mason hill, past the Aquatic Park, and that is where we separated.
I don't really have a pithy way to conclude this post. I got to do something that I've wanted to do for some years. I had one of those encounters/interactions you can only have while running. I got to see the Bay Area on one of the clearest days I had ever experienced from vantage points that were new to me. Perhaps Ross had summed up what we were doing best. About 5.5 mi into the 12 mile run, he mentioned that, as a runner, he always was looking for places to run when he travelled. For this trip to the US, the Golden Gate Bridge run was the run that he would classify as 'epic.' I couldn't agree more.