The Running Trails of Golden Gate Park

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

There are a lot of wonderful things about the location of UCSF.  We are right by multiple Muni lines, we are close to Arizmendi bakery, and we have some of the greatest views in The City.  However, I think one of the best things about our school’s location is its proximity to Golden Gate Park.

My first memories of Golden Gate Park were from a very long time ago, when my mom would take us to the California Academy of Sciences, and we would touch starfish and watch the penguins (this was long before the fancy new building).  

In high school, I drove through the park every day on my way to Lake Merced, and my memories of the park transformed from a magical aquarium into an extension of the city streets.  In college, I ran a few races in San Francisco that used Golden Gate Park to squeeze as many extra miles as possible into the course, weaving runners around in circles.  I then began to associate the park with 16-mile blisters.  

While I had used the park for many different things, it remained somewhat of a mystery to me.  I couldn’t figure out how the roads worked, and I was always lost.  However, last April, I moved to the Inner Sunset to be closer to UCSF, and that is when the park became to me what it is now: the best playground a runner could dream of.

I would consider myself an old-fashioned runner.  I don’t wear a watch, or any device that counts miles, footsteps or calories burned.  I don’t even listen to music.  I like running because it is a simple sport.  You essentially only need a pair of shoes, and that’s why I like it; however, I will admit that sometimes it is nice to know how far you’ve gone — especially if you are training for something. 

I went to college in Maine, where there was a big running community.  Running in Maine was simple, mostly because there were several well-established running loops around our campus.  There was a 3-mile, 5-mile and 10-mile loop, and later, someone invented a 4-mile loop.  These loops simplified runs: you chose a loop and ran until you ended up in the same place.  You never got lost, you saw your friends along the way, and most importantly, you never had to check your watch to see how many miles you had done. 

I had been missing this simple system ever since I graduated, so when I settled into the Inner Sunset, I started exploring Golden Gate Park.  As I learned more about the park, I started to develop my own loop system.   I made the loops from my apartment, but I have adapted them here to start from UCSF. 

Four-Mile Loop

Run west on Parnassus towards Ninth Avenue.  Turn right on Ninth Avenue and run into the park.  Follow Martin Luther King Drive (MLK) and turn right onto Music Concourse Drive (this will take you past the Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum).  Turn left on John F. Kennedy Drive (JFK). 

Run straight until you go under a bridge, then turn left onto Transverse Drive (there is a sidewalk on the right or a dirt trail on the left).  You will run into MLK, and you should turn left there.

If you took the dirt path, there is an option to follow that path briefly into the woods, and it will pop you out onto the intersection of Crossover and MLK.  This is a fun option if you want a little taste of trail running without going too far off the beaten path.  If you stay straight on MLK, you will end up back on Ninth Avenue, and you can run until you hit Judah. 

Next Week

In next week's Synapse, I will describe my 6-mile and 10-mile loops through the park.