Let’s talk about the Harley motorcycle riders doing traffic control at the San Francisco Marathon

Your mind wanders when you run any level of marathon — half, full, or double.

The miles blur together, the music in your ears fades into the background, and you think.

About anything. About everything. About the sign held up by a neatly bundled 12-year-old that reads “Worst Parade Ever.” About the sound of your sole scraping against asphalt.

About the guy with wild, snow white facial hair leaned up against a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. About his leather biker club jacket with flames flying up both arms and patches as far as your sunglassed eyes can see. About his bright orange hat with the words “EVENT MONITOR” printed across it, and about the smile on his face.

At least, you do if you’ve participated in the San Francisco marathon — which will run its 42nd annual Sunday.

For the last 20-plus years, a collection of HOGs — Harley Owners Groups — up and down California have provided event support for the Bay Area’s signature road race. More than 200 bikers will be at Sunday’s event starting at 3:30 a.m. They’ll be at the start line, at the finish, and throughout the course, leaned up against bikes blocking side streets you aren’t supposed to run down.

“They’re a lively bunch in a good way,” says Lauri Abrahamsen, the race’s Director of Operations for the past 10 years. “They do it all in exchange for a bright orange hat and a pin.”

They also receive a stipend that’s used to help fund club events for participating HOG chapters throughout California, including San Francisco, Mt. Diablo, Oakland, Vacaville, and San Jose.

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According to Golden Gate HOG treasurer Linda Settlemyer, who runs operations for the HOGs during the race, most groups ride into San Francisco the morning of the race, which means alarms set as early as 1:30 a.m. to make the 3:30 a.m. arrival for some.

“We call it zero dark thirty in the morning,” she says.

Settlemyer has spent the last few years in the San Francisco Police Department’s command center van, serving as the main point of contact for the HOG collective, working to get them missing supplies, to find lost barricades, and find solutions for pedestrians trying to get to a home on the blocked off raceway.

All of which is fairly routine for Settlemyer and the HOGs. In the years since taking on some of the security and traffic control duties for the San Francisco Marathon, the clubs have added more races to their docket.

They helped out at this year’s Bay to Breakers, plus will work the 10th annual San Francisco Giants Race — a half marathon scheduled for September where runners literally get to cross home plate — and the Berkeley Half Marathon in November.

“We have a ball, cheer on all the runners, then some of the runners want to get pictures with some of the more gruff looking bikers,” Settlemyer says with a laugh.

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“Runners love the HOGs, they come with their leather vests on, the whole regalia, and they’re super supportive,” says Abrahamsen, who remembers the HOGs cheering her on when she ran the San Francisco marathon, the first marathon run of her life. “And I’m almost 100 percent sure they’ve all helped us out before. They’re just great.”

And they’ll almost assuredly be in the thoughts of 27,500 runners on Sunday.

Grant Marek is SFGATE’s Editorial Director and ran the 2016 San Francisco Half-Marathon. Email: grant.marek@sfgate.com | Twitter: @grant_marek

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/San-Francisco-Marathon-HOGs-Harley-Davidson-14190355.php.

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