Update: On March 22, Ben Brown and I became the first two people to ever walk across all three bridges of San Francisco Bay, starting at Treasure Island (pictured in the background) and ending at the Ferry Building in the Embarcadero.

Are you prepared for a 50-mile “Kennedy March”?

JFK thought every adult American should be able to walk 50 miles. Can you?

The San Francisco Bay is home to the infamous “Three Bridge Fiasco” — an annual yacht race in which skippers must round at least one span of three bridges: the Richmond, Bay Bridge, and Golden Gate. The “Fiasco” gets its name from the difficulty of navigating the currents and fickle winds of the Bay Area winter.

Aerial view of San Francisco Bay prior to construction of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (top right).
Aerial view of San Francisco Bay prior to construction of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (top right).
Prior to construction of the Richmond–San Rafael Bridge, one had to take a ferry from the East Bay to Marin County. Now, one can walk an almost complete circuit.

Dawn–6:30am

The San Francisco Bay is a natural harbor. That makes Clipper Cove a harbor within a harbor, where boats frequently anchor for a few days at a time. The same cove that was once used as a runway for the famous WWII PanAm seaplanes is now home to the Washed Up Yacht Clubs famous “raft ups”.

11:00am — 8 miles walked

Soon I was striding past the East Bay Municipal Utility District — a sprawling wastewater treatment plant wedged between the Port of Oakland’s distinctive “AT-AT” cranes and the MacArthur Maze. Sewage used to be discharged directly into the Bay, but now EBMUD chlorinates, dechlorinates, and discharges 70 million gallons a mile from shore daily.

Not nearly as iconic as the Golden Gate, the Richmond Bridge stands as a monument to exceptionally efficient engineering. When it was built, it was the longest continuous steel bridge.

Midday — 2:15pm

A 10-mile stretch of scenic Bay Trail gave way to an industrial zone leading up to the Richmond Bridge — a six-mile span built in the 1950s to accommodate the swelling population in Marin County to the west.

Note the shape of the volume bars of Ravel’s 14 minute track. Does any song tell a clearer story? In retrospect, I notice that the crescendo almost perfectly mirrored the gradual ascent to the first apex of the Bridge.

The Failure of Progress & the Return of the Strenuous Life

It’s worth noting that the two American Presidents who did the most to promote the “strenuous life” were themselves ill throughout their lives, and especially as children. Teddy Roosevelt suffered from asthma while Kennedy is now known to have had Addison’s disease, a hormonal deficiency that cripples the body’s normal response to stress.

Prometheus Bound, by Jacob Jordaens, 1640

Dusk: 5pm — 29 miles hiked

With just over 20 miles to go, I was plodding along through my old stomping ground of Marin County.

DeVany, getting ready to engage “Beast Mode.”

Re-Learning to Walk

The main test of a 50-mile march is grit. Sheer determination is really all that’s required (especially if you allow yourself time to rest) to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Walking is a simple skill. Most have sufficient skill to do more or less continuously. However, there are two advanced techniques that anyone attempting a speed-march should learn.

  1. The longer the stride, the faster you go. This conserves energy more than the alternative of increasing the cadence (students of barefoot running technique will notice that this is the opposite principle as that used for running, where a fast cadence and short stride is preferred).
  2. Weight is transferred from the ball of the rear foot to the heal of the leading foot, but the ball of the leading foot should land immediately after.
  3. Breathing synchronizes with the steps (roughly 5 or 6 steps per breath cycle) — “It can also be made deeper by long, frequent breaths as well as singing.”

Twilight–7:05pm

“Now that I’ve suffered shipwreck, I’m on a good journey.”

– Zeno the Stoic

By the time I reached my hometown of Corte Madera, the sun had set behind Mt. Tam and the first stars and planets were appearing in the sky.

The road to Croagh Patrick

Night — 9pm. The Gate.

A sun kissed miss said “Don’t be late!”
That’s why I can hardly wait
Open up, open up, open up that Golden Gate!
California, here I come!

– Al Jolson

Those who follow me on social media were able to track my location. Some who were following along started to text me as I got closer to the Golden Gate. They had watched the little blue dot traveling 41 miles between 10am and 9pm — from Treasure Island to the Golden Gate, on the brand-new walking paths of the Bay and Richmond bridges.

Seastead solutions.