SIGN UP FOR OUR EMAIL TO RECEIVE YOUR FREE SAN FRANCISCO PLANNING GUIDE.
by Jill Loeffler •
Updated: January 18, 2023
You will find a variety of races in San Francisco. They range from the colorful "Bay to Breakers" to the more serious "Escape from Alcatraz."
Every month, you will find one to two races on the streets of SF. The list below includes the largest and most popular 5k, 10k, half-marathons, marathons, and triathlons held each year in SF.
Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.
"Will run for chocolate," is the motto of the Hot Chocolate Run, which offers both a 5k and 15k course. It starts and finishes in Golden Gate Park.
At the end of your race, you get the chance to sample the amazing gourmet hot chocolate, which comes in marshmallow, kosher, cookie, and fondue varieties. This event benefits the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Learn More: Visit the January Calendar to Learn More
This one is a fun run, not a race, and it's only about a mile long. Though it's a Valentine's charity event that takes place in cities across the nation, gathering a bunch of scantily clad fun-seekers in the name of a good cause seems very San Franciscan.
It may be winter, but you can add to those undies with red mittens or earmuffs to get into the spirit. The race funds research for a cure for NF (neurofibromatosis).
If you're feeling brave enough to take a dip in the frigid waters of the SF Bay, head over to the Aquatic Park for a scenic 5k or 10k fun run with great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, followed by the Polar Plunge.
Race participants pay $45 for the 5k and $55 for the 10k to register and earn a commemorative medal. For the plunge, participants must fundraise and additional $125 for the Northern California Special Olympics, and will receive a special t-shirt and complementary breakfast or lunch.
Bay to Breakers is a 12k that starts on the eastern end of SF (the bay) and takes you to the Pacific Ocean on the western side (the breakers). For more than 100 years, this race has taken runners through the streets of SF. Each year, it's even more colorful with all the unique costumes and makeup.
You can run as an individual or with a team. If you don't plan to run this race, make sure to watch from the sidelines as it's one of the most interesting races you will ever see.
Learn More: Visit the Bay to Breakers Page for More Info
The Escape from Alcatraz event started in 1981. Today, this triathlon attracts the top professional and amateur athletes from all around the world.
It starts with a 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island to the SF shoreline. It continues with an 18-mile bike ride and ends with an 8-mile run. You can also participate in the aquathlon version, which excludes the cycling.
Learn More: Visit the June Calendar for Details
The San Francisco Marathon includes all the standard race distances: full marathon, half marathon (you can choose whether to run the first or second half of the full course), 10k, 5k, and ultra (two 26.2-mile loops).
The courses take you through the streets of SF and up and over its famous hills. You will see the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and many other top SF attractions during your run.
Learn More: Visit the July Calendar for More Details
The Giant Race includes a 5k, 10k, half, and kids run. It takes you through the streets of San Francisco. All races finish on the field in Oracle Park, home to MLB's San Francisco Giants!
The event supports Project Open Hand, which makes and delivers meals to ill neighbors and the elderly.
Learn More: Visit the August Calendar for Details
The Mermaid Run is a women-only race that features a 5k, 10k, and a 10-mile run. In addition, there is also a Mermaid dash that is 1.5 miles designed for younger girls ages 6-12.
The 5k and 10k are run mostly in the Presidio. The 10-mile race is a bit more challenging and runs over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Learn More: Visit their Website to Register
The Turkey Trot is the perfect way to run off a few calories before that big Thanksgiving Day meal. It starts and ends in Golden Gate Park. You can choose from the 5-mile run or the 3-mile walk.
This is one of the races in San Francisco that only accepts a small number of racers. Register early to reserve your spot for this holiday tradition. Dressing up in your best turkey attire is optional.
Date: Thanksgiving Day
Learn More: Visit the Thanksgiving Day Page for More
The annual Santa Skivvies Run is a fun run through the streets of the Castro District. All proceeds benefit the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Make sure to wear your cutest, sexiest, or most outrageous Santa costume for this 1.5-mile race.
Once you finish, head over to the Santa Skivvies Block Party for live music, awards, and contests. It will be open from 9 am to noon.
Learn More: Visit the December Calendar for More
Beer Festivals: San Francisco is home to more than a dozen fun beer festivals. Every year, you can enjoy Oktoberfest along the SF Bay, raise money for a great cause at the International Beer Festival, and try new brews at the Craft Beer Festival.
Wine Festivals: We also enjoy our wine, so we are the perfect place to host wine festivals and events. You will find one big wine event almost every month. They include Pinot Days, the ZAP Wine Festival, and the Chronicle Wine Tasting Competition.
Crafts Festivals: Many of SF's craft festivals are open around the holidays. They include the Great Dickens Fair, the Renegade Craft Fair, and the San Francisco Bazaar. You will also find a few others throughout the year. They are the perfect place to find a unique gift or something fun for yourself.
Comments? Questions? Suggestions?
I would love for you join me in my private Facebook group!
It’s a great place to interact with me and others that know the area well.
You can ask questions, get advice for your upcoming stay, and then share your photos and advice with others when you return home. It’s a great community and the fastest way to get answers to those nagging questions about your visit!