Some of the world’s most famous outdoor competitions are located within the San Francisco Bay Area. Among the most significant races within the region are the Bay to Breakers, once officially the world’s largest footrace; the oldest cross country trail event in the country, the Dipsea Race; and the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, generally regarded as one of the world’s toughest middle-distance triathlons, even for Olympic gold medal contenders. Although these three top Bay Area athletic events have already been completed this year, there are still a number of outstanding competitions in store for the remainder of the year. The following events are five of the best outdoor competitions near San Francisco, with one 90 miles away in Sacramento, that might be even tougher than the Escape from Alcatraz.
South End Rowing Club
500 Jefferson St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
www.south-end.orgDate: Sept. 29
The 18th Annual Alcatraz Invitational is a very challenging 1.25-mile open-water swim from Alcatraz Island back to the South End Rowing Clubhouse, at the foot of the Hyde Street Pier. Like all other Alcatraz-to-shore swims, this event is not for novice swimmers and all participants must be in excellent physical condition in order to negotiate the chilly waters of the San Francisco Bay, as well as the current, which can force many swimmers several yards off course. Nevertheless, many longtime participants of Alcatraz swims insist upon swimming without a wetsuit, despite water temperatures averaging 60 to 62 degrees. Lifeguards in boats will be on hand in case a swimmer needs assistance. Founded in 1873, the South End Rowing Club is one of the oldest athletic clubs in the country.
Nike Women’s Marathon
San Francisco, CA 94108
Date: Oct. 20
Although it’s billed as the Nike Women’s Marathon San Francisco, which is part of the Run Women Series of races all over the world, men are allowed to participate in this very popular event, with 401 males among the 4,452 overall finishers last year. The outstanding USA Track and Field-certifed course begins at historic Union Square in downtown San Francisco, amid perfect running conditions, then heads out along The Embarcadero before passing many popular sites along the city’s northern edge like Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Mason, the Presidio, Lincoln Park, Golden Gate Park and Lake Merced. For runners preferring a shorter distance, the event also holds a half marathon, with both distances finishing on the Great Highway at Ocean Beach, although the 13.1-mile course does not extend to Lake Merced. The Nike Women’s Marathon San Francisco has been a sponsor of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training (TNT) for nearly 10 years and its participants in the Nike Women’s Series have raised more than $134 million.
San Francisco, CA 94111
One of the top races in San Francisco, the annual Oral-B Glide Floss Bridge to Bridge Run benefits the Special Olympics of Northern California. First held in 1977 and typically the first Sunday in October, the race was previously held on a 12K course but since last year, the race has been shortened to a 10K in addition to a 7K event. Race officials expect another 4,000 to 5,000 runners this year at the event described as “America’s Most Beautiful Run.” Part of the San Francisco Originals Run Series that also includes the Bay to Breakers and The San Francisco Giant Race, the Glide Floss Bridge to Bridge race begins in front of the landmark Ferry Building, near the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and finishes at Crissy Field, with one of the city’s most spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Giant Race
24 Willie Mays Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94107
Date: Aug. 4
For years, the reigning world champion San Francisco Giants held Run to Home Plate 5K races from its previous home at Candlestick Park. The tradition continues at its new home, AT&T Park, but is now known as The Giant Race, and has grown to four events – a 5K, 10K, half marathon and kids race/family relay. Like the Run to Home Plate races, all participants finish inside the ballpark, although unfortunately not at home plate. Nevertheless, race organizers expect up to 20,000 runners to this year’s event, and every participant will receive a Señor Sergio Romo bobblehead that is certain to be a treasured item in any sport fan’s collection of memorabilia. The Giant Race benefits Project Open Hand, a San Francisco-based volunteer agency maintained and operated non-profit agency offering hot meals, grocery service and nutrition counseling to people living with HIV/AIDS.
Related: Spend The Day At Fisherman’s Wharf
Van Vleck Ranch
7898 Van Vleck Road
Rancho Murieta, CA 95683
www.spartanrace.comDate: Oct. 26
Voted Best Obstacle Race the last two years by Outdoor Magazine, the Spartan Race is a series of grueling international obstacle races with three distances – three-mile sprint, eight-mile Olympic and 10- to 12-mile ultra, also known as beast. The Sacramento Spartan Beast event is a quasi-Survivor, mud run terrain obstacle course, incorporating running, jumping, climbing, sliding, crawling, dragging, throwing, diving and mental challenges. Like all other Spartan Race events, the Sacramento Beast does not furnish a course map to ensure that all participants have to expect the unexpected. Top finishers in the Beast division typically finish in about three hours.