Going out for late night drinks on a business trip never sounded appealing but even I questioned my understanding of fun when the alarm broke the dark silence of the hotel room last Friday morning. Not without healthy debate, I crawled out of bed anyway.
That it was thirtysomething degrees outside did not help. Someone’s coldest winter may have been a summer in San Francisco, but I wonder if they tried it in January. That was my brilliant plan. I dressed in layers but had brilliantly chosen not to bring the running clothes designed for cold weather. My capacity for wise choices continued to be an open question.
The first sign of good fortune arrived with a prompt Uber driver in a Nissan Altima whose name I could not pronounce who took a lesser-traveled route to deliver me to the Welcome Center on the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge at daybreak. Things were definitely starting to look up.
The Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937 and is considered one of the Wonders of the Modern World. Not that anyone asked, but I wholeheartedly agree. It is breathtakingly beautiful in design, and its distinctive international orange was particularly striking as the sun burst over the San Francisco skyline to my right. This was going to be cool.
It is just under two miles across the bridge, and on this cold, early morning, I was the only jogger. A few zillion cyclists whizzed by, and there were three walkers (well, standers with cameras), but like a dream I had this legendary run all to myself. The morning sun and the chilly Bay wind continually slapped the right side of my face as if to say, “Hey, dummy, look at how awesome this is!” I did. Look from time to time, that is, amazed at my great privilege.
At one point it occurred to me that killer earthquakes happen in San Francisco from time to time. And that I couldn’t swim. This did wonders for my pace. And just about then the signs for emergency phones and crisis counseling showed up to remind me that this is the second most popular suicide bridge in the world. I decided to pick up the pace just a bit more.
Eventually, I emerged on the Marin County side of the bridge and looked back on the amazing sight. It really is spectacular. My dad left rural Missouri in 1942 to join the Navy in World War 2 and was sent to San Francisco on his way to the Pacific Theater. He mentioned how much he loved San Francisco, and I paused to imagine what he must have thought about this wondrous structure that opened just five years earlier. He must have felt what I was feeling, and that thought was worth the getting out of bed all by itself.
I then ran back, glorious experience times two, but at the Welcome Center I just kept running, angling for a long, flat run along Crissy Field and clicking off more miles until arriving at Marina Drive. I would have stopped there but the sudden appearance of scores of joggers inspired me to keep going. These were my people, and we ran together along the waterfront and past Fort Mason. Just past seven miles the classic Ghirardelli sign appeared, and I called it quits. Good enough. Who am I kidding, GREAT enough.
An Uber escorted me back to Hilton Union Square where I showered, put on a business suit, and learned more important things about legal education.
But I ran the Golden Gate Bridge. Unforgettable.