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October 20, 2009

Barefoot Embarcadero

Last weekend our family took one of those “Let’s cram as much educational and enriching stuff as possible into 24 hours!” trips to San Francisco – so in between seeing King Tut and the science museum, doing some geocaching, enjoying the SF Symphony, and absolutely loving a trip (seriously - you have to do it someday) to Alcatraz, I snuck out of the hotel for an early-morning run through the city.

Without shoes, of course. Because if there’s anyplace on Earth where you're free to look like an absolute weirdo, it has to be San Francisco. And with that, I was on my way.

I always love seeing buildings in this town with early morning sunlight spilling through them. During the other 22 or so hours of the day, maybe not so much – but sunrise in the big city always carries the feeling of promise for the day ahead.

I made a beeline for Market Street, where it was a straight shot to the Ferry Building in the distance, where I’d pick up the Embarcadero.

This is part of Justin Herman Plaza across the street from the Ferry Building. The large sculpture is called Quebec Libre!, and sits in what’s known as Vaillancourt Fountain, because it’s 1) named after the scupltor, and 2) usually filled with water. On this morning, however, it was completely emptied …

… which made for a cool little picture spot.

(*Random musical trivia tangent of the day: the sculpture in Vaillancort Fountain holds a special place in history for hardcore U2 fans. I’ll tell the story in a weekend post, but feel free to chime in the comments box if you know its significance.)

As I reached my first dock, the morning fog was stubbornly clinging to the low-lying hills, like this one on Yerba Buena Island under the Bay Bridge …

… and to the tops of the buildings, like this thin veil atop the Coit Tower.

The Embarcadero is the main drag for recreational joggers in this part of the city, so I got plenty of astonished looks for not wearing shoes.

Most people were friendly about it – several even ran alongside me for a bit to ask the usual “Doesn’t it hurt? What about broken glass?” type of questions. One younger girl even took off her iPod earbuds to talk with me – that’s something of a compliment among twenty-something females, right?

It had rained earlier in the week, so there were lingering puddles scattered along the waterway – and of course, I ran through every one of them. No matter how many times I do it, I always get a charge out of looking back over my shoulder and seeing this image on the ground behind me.

Sunlight bouncing off the building, tree foliage just beginning to turn, and a wispy layer of fog … have I mentioned that San Francisco is beautiful in the morning?

My turnaround point was at Pier 39, where I moseyed up and down the docks a bit …

… and took a little picture break before heading back toward the hotel.

By my return trip, the sun had finally triumphed over the fog, providing some killer views of the nearby skyline.

Another cool thing I love about San Francisco: the older historic buildings that are dwarfed by skyscrapers on either side, but still stand proudly as a reminder of the early days. They give the city its character, and more than a little bit of class.

A farmer’s market was going on back at the Ferry Building. I got almost zero strange looks here: you have to do a lot better than jogging around barefoot to grab the attention of this hemp-growing, organic-farming, incense-burning, vegan hippie peacenik crowd. Not that I tried.

Given that I was in a farmer’s market in San Francisco, I was surprised that I didn’t see more signs like this. There were only about a dozen; I thought the number would be closer to fifty. Kind of disappointing, really.

From there, I just had a long trip up Market Street to get back to the hotel. The sidewalks on Market are made of red brick, which was almost the perfect texture for urban barefoot running: more traction than concrete, but smoother and less hazardous than the asphalt street. If I’m ever elected the barefoot mayor of a small town somewhere, I’ll lobby to have all the streets made out of brick.

After about six miles of barefoot running, I was back in the plushly-carpeted hotel lobby from which I started. It was a good spot to sit for a minute …

… and take one more foot photo. You’d think I would have got some strange looks for taking pictures of my feet in a hotel lobby, but, you know -

It’s San Francisco.


Dave 10/21/09, 5:33 AM  

brought back some memories of a trip my wife and I took Oct. 2001...after we cancelled the original plans of going to NY,NY.

Anxioius to hear about U2 significance of the modern sculpture.

Juls 10/21/09, 5:48 AM  

I just loved this post. We lived for two years in the city and, although I traveled on different streets, I enjoyed the side of SF that you portray here. It's just glorious.

Anne 10/21/09, 6:58 AM  

Love reliving some of my own SF runs through this post. Not at all surprised only the tourist-runners questioned your bare feet; afterall, this is the place famous for a very large foot race in which the big question isn't "Did you finish?" but "Did you run naked?"

Notleh,  10/21/09, 7:45 AM  

Looks like a blast. This is what running is all about.

jeff 10/21/09, 9:49 AM  

hey, did you run all along the watchtower?

really digging your transformation and dig the barefoot tour of sf, too!

i'm going to give the barefoot thing another legitimate try next spring. so much good stuff surrounding it right now.

did you read barefoot ted's latest entry about vff being a trojan horse? more good stuff.

Fe-lady 10/21/09, 11:28 AM  

Love san fran-you need to run the trail from Sutro Baths along the ridge (other side of bridge). Lots of sand and dirt which would be kinder on your feet.

The only way to see Alcatraz is by jumping off the ferry on the backside and swimming in...(at least I think anything else would be BORING!)

I would be interested in knowing if you are running in 40 years-that's how long I have been running. With shoes.

Backofpack 10/21/09, 3:55 PM  

Fun! I'd like to visit SF again soon. I'll have to talk to Eric, either that or sign up for another race there.

ro 10/21/09, 6:49 PM  

Beautiful pictures. And yeah, me too on the SF memories. I loved living on Green and the runs heading down Columbus/waterfront/bridge and return - best run in the world for me. Amazing views, amazing city.

Seconded on the 'running in 40 years' comment too. I'll skip the *cool barefoot* trend and stick with my lightweight racers - I hope to return and repeat my SF runs sometime in the next twenty years, not sit bitching about my leg or spinal issues :-)

Dori 10/26/09, 3:37 PM  

I love running in San Francisco and ran a similar route on Sunday the 18th. I was at the Farmer's Market, too, on Saturday. If I had been there earlier I might have seen you.

Love the barefoot picture. You have high arches. :-)

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