“Born and raised in San Francisco, the Pride of the Bear Flag state
My heart knows it’s coming home, when I cross the Golden Gate”
Well, not quite ‘born and raised in San Francisco’, but the rest of this quote holds true.
When we met, one of the things Mr. Duff and I found we had in common was a love of the place Tony Bennett and so may others have left their hearts. He had been twice, and I had been for a short visit with a bunch of people who dominated the itinerary and basically allowed me to see no culture whatsoever, which I could tell was a shame from what little I did see of the place that wasn’t NFL or college football games, beer pong or Costco (seriously, don’t go on holiday somewhere like San Francisco with boys in their twenties).
So, we decided to go on our first really big holiday together to San Francisco in 2012. We had a fantastic time, seeing everything the city has to offer. We also got engaged here, right opposite the place where this quote is displayed on the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Two years after that, we came back for our honeymoon. And now we’re back again – it’s become something we do every even year, like the Giants winning the World Series.
People ask us quite often why we keep on coming back when there are other places to see. We do go to other places. You know, in the off season of the odd years. We just really love it here.
For me, I love the fact that the city is just small enough to be walkable and easy to navigate, but big enough to discover something new every time we come back. San Francisco is famously where all the dot com start ups and silicon valley type businesses are so it’s very modern, but at the same time it has a really rich history full of tales of both depravity and daring do, from the Barbary Coast to the earthquakes to Alcatraz. As the home of flower power and the beat movement, it retains something of the hipster atmosphere, but not in a dickish way. It’s also the most laid back big city I’ve ever visited. Maybe that’s the legacy of the hippy culture, but you feel like any display of heightened stress levels here is pretty rare and people seem to find the fun in what they’re doing more easily than in London. Not that people don’t take work seriously, they just seem to have it all balanced out – the attitude is equal parts taking pride in a job well done and ‘dude, chill out’.
Of course, when we’re here we’re on holiday, so I might be reading it totally wrong, but having been here so often now that’s what makes San Francisco the only place in America that I would happily live. Well – depending on what happens in November, of course.
Since we’ve been here so often, we don’t need to do all the touristy things anymore. Our holiday this time will be an opportunity to just hang out and live in this city that feels so much like a second home. As we’re both training for New York in 5 weeks time, this will also involve a fair bit of running. And we’re in luck, since this is a great city to run in.
We arrived in our rented flat in San Francisco on Friday afternoon. Trying valiantly to stay awake and beat the jet lag, we unpacked and headed out for an early dinner. If our landlady had popped in to see what we’d brought with us she might have wondered what was going on – around the room there is a foam roller, a marathon stick, a resistance band and a spiky ball. There are four pairs of running shoes between us, tubes of Voltarol and super strength ibuprofen gel, various isotonic gels, electrolyte drinks, recovery shakes, KT tape….basically we’d packed for a two week holiday in a way that marathon runners might understand, but to anyone else our room looks like we’re setting up a pharmacy and physio office on the sly.
We’re staying in the shadow of Coit Tower in North Beach, which if you know San Francisco at all you will know means one thing – Italian food and lots of it! So our first meal of the holiday was spent trying politely to stay awake and listen to the lovely waiter attempting to detail the specials to us without saying ‘mate, it’s three in the morning for us – two pizzas and the cheque would be great, ta’.
Then early to bed on Friday night because the following day was Saturday, and we know what Saturday means…
…parkrun day! Because what else would be the first thing you do when you’re a runner on holiday (I can neither confirm nor deny that we flew out on a Friday in order to be able to fit in 3 Crissy Field parkruns…)?!
San Francisco is one of only a handful of American cities which has a parkrun. We knew from fellow Eagles who had run it that it was about 80% Brits, but when we arrived the run director was a local. ‘Welcome’ he said, taking everyone’s photo as they turned up. It seems they get a lot of runner turnover since so many of the parkrunners at Crissy Field are tourists. It’s a shame really because the area is absolutely full of runners, but either they enjoy going it alone or else 5k is not a popular distance with American runners.
Anyway, we met parkrunners from Norfolk, a Scottish exile from New Zealand, and hilariously two runners from our home parkrun at Gunnersbury who walked up to us exclaiming ‘Ealing Eagles, I don’t believe it!’.
The Crissy Field parkrun is dead flat and certainly boasts an impressive view, as you head out for the first mile with the Glorious Golden Gate filling your field of vision. Two years ago when we were last here, I remember we walked through Crissy Field and the Marina from the bridge. I was injured with runners knee, and I was jealous of all the runners clipping along through this beautiful park in the sunshine. I’ve been daydreaming about getting back ever since, and I was delighted to finally be enjoying a run here. I was supposed to be taking it easy but ended up with a decent time, having found the lack of anything like the humidity we’ve had at home and the completely flat course to be a big help!
Full marks to the Crissy Field parkrun team for the brilliant welcome and great enthusiasm they showed to all the runners. I’m really looking forward to the next two!