This last week I was in San Francisco, California on business for my employer. Wednesday night after work and after having a quick dinner I left the hotel on my quest to run to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I have been to San Francisco before, but that was 25 years ago and I was eager to see the Golden Gate Bridge again. This run would be the only way for me to get there because I did not have a rental car for this stay and I did not want to waste money on a taxi. As a runner I find it is awesome to be able to simply lace up and run to where I want to be. The distance from the hotel to the Golden Gate Bridge was roughly 5 miles one-way and so this would be a great 10 mile training run as part of my marathon training. Well, what I did not know was that this run would turn into some kind of adventure where I almost got into trouble with the police, but somehow got spared by accident. Read on to hear what happened.
I left the hotel at around 6.00 PM. I headed over to Columbus Street and then turned left onto the famous Lombard Street. If you have not heard about Lombard Street, you might have seen it on TV or in the movies for sure. Lombard Street is famous and well-known for having a steep, one-block section that consists of eight tight hairpin turns, but that is not all it has to offer. The other parts of Lombard Street in this area are extremely steep and it is very difficult to simply walk up these sections – it is even more difficult if you try to run up or down these sections of Lombard Street. While I think I am well-trained and in good shape, I had to switch to power-hiking on the upper sections because the incline was so steep. I also switched to power-hiking because there is no point in burning up all that energy trying to run if you power-hiking would get me up there equally fast.
After I reached the peak of Lombard Street I carefully ran down the hill. Because of the steep descent it is pretty dangerous to run down too fast. The risk of falling and hurting myself was real and so I took it slowly. Then Lombard Street turns into the Highway 101 and becomes a really busy street for the remainder of the time. At the same time the area changed from being very nice to be less pleasant. Cheap Motels, gas stations, liquor stores, and some smaller restaurants became the scenery for the next 2 miles. I arrived the Palace of the Fine Arts and saw a sign that signaled the way to the Golden Gate Bridge for pedestrians and bikers. I followed the sign and then ended up somewhere in complete darkness. A road was leading towards the Golden Gate Bridge and there was a paved trail for pedestrians and bicycles. I followed the trail and saw some runners with headlights and some bicycles as well, but in between it was pitch dark. I found a spot to take some night shots of the bridge in the darkness and was hoping for the best with my camera. I took some pictures and then continued on to the bridge. I came up to some buildings and an intersection, but it was not clear to me which way to follow. I asked a pedestrian for directions and moments later I was back on track. I ended up near the South Gate of the Golden Gate Bridge. A few tourists (?) were hanging around taking pictures. I also saw a few runners and people on their bicycles. I took some pictures of the bridge and then got confused because the sidewalk onto the bridge seemed to be closed.
A fellow runner came up the hill and I asked him for directions to get onto the bridge. At that moment that gate opened to let 2 bikers onto the bridge. The runner pointed into the same direction and said: “That’s how you get onto the bridge. Let’s go!” He started running towards the gate and I followed him. We made it through the gate and ran together for a few minutes, but then I let him go because a) he was faster than I was and b) I wanted to stop and take some pictures. He wished me a great run and then he took off towards the North end of the bridge. I continued on to the middle of the bridge, stopping here and there to take pictures and to enjoy the view of the San Francisco skyline. The view was breath-taking for sure. The pictures I took did not even come close to how it really felt to me. At the middle of the bridge I took a small break and then turned around. On my way back I approached the closed gate and saw a red button and signage that said to push the button to have the gate opened. Well, I did push the button, but the gate did not open.
I was in Trouble
A female voice came onto the intercom and advised that the police had been dispatched to pick me up. I was advised to wait for them to arrive. I had literally no idea what was going on and so I waited. Suddenly the gate opened and a bicyclist was let through. I stepped through the gate and continued to wait. The female voice came onto the intercom again. The lady explained to me that I had violated the law and that I was trespassing the gate illegally. I explained I did not know that. She asked me if I had not heard here when I entered the bridge and I said that due to the street noise I did not hear anything. I did not even go there to explain that my hearing on my left ear is pretty bad since my ear infection from 15 months ago (my hearing on the left side is down to ~75%). She came back on and said that I was in luck and that she would let me go. She told me I could meet up with my friend (the other runner) at a close by parking lot where police would drop him off. I said that he was not my friend and that I had only asked him for directions, but it did not matter anymore. She reminded me not to do this again and that I was free to go.
Holy cow – that was a close one. I was prepared for a few things that evening, but I was not prepared for being fined or worse – being arrested for trespassing. I knew that some of the areas I would run through had higher crime rates and I was ready for that, but I never imagined this type of adventure. Well, for the next 2 miles I ran a little faster just in case the cops were still looking for the “other runner”, but it was all cool. I made my way back to the hotel without any further issues. Besides the trouble at the Golden Gate I really enjoyed this evening. The views from the bridge towards San Francisco at night are just stunning. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I am absolutely happy with what I had that evening.