Big Sur Marathon: Speechless (Eh… Almost)

If there is ever – ever – a time when waking up at 1:45 a.m. is worth it, it’s to run the Big Sur Marathon. [Seriously. I've got 45 photos here to prove it. Read on.]

I balked at the crazy hour at first. Naturally. Why the heck do we have to be in Monterey by 4 a.m.? Why does this race start at 6:45? Have these people no mercy?

But putting together this race, with its full marathon, 21-miler, 10.6-miler and relay options, is nothing short of a logistical feat, involving the closure of Hwy 1 and coordination of more than 100 school busses shuttling runners from Monterey or Big Sur to the start line (in Big Sur), then to the finish in Carmel (for the relay runners), then back to our parked cars in Monterey.

So for me and my four team mates – I had registered a team for this race on something of a whim just a week prior – the day (night?) started in the dark. But our eyes were lit up with excitement. Literally:[Just kidding. That's no excitement on my jacket; I spilled my coffee.]

Busses started shuttling relay runners to their respective legs at 4:00 a.m. and kept going through 5:30. I was running Leg 3, and after a half-hour bus ride, we arrived at our destination: The road was empty and the sky cloudy for quite some time, and I took the opportunity to nap in the bus go to the port-a-potty at least five times and freeze my butt off.

But the company was fun (I met some amazing people on this bus, including a young man whose leg was amputated below the knee 10 years to the day today. He runs a 5K in 18 minutes.) And before we knew it, the first runners zoomed by. Look at that incredible form:[Do you know this fellow? Tell him I can send him a high-res version of this photo for a hefty fee [kidding, but some running form coaching would be awesome, please and thank you].

Then the sun came out, it got warm enough for me to take my jacket off, and all was perfect:Soon, the empty road was history and we cheered on the runners as we waited for our team members (Leg 2) to come hand off the baton, which in our case was a slap bracelet.All the while, the drummers at Mile 10 were keeping things upbeat:You can hear them in this video: My leg, right before the 10-mile marker, started with a two-mile climb up to Hurricane Point. But who cares about some climb? Look at those views!Just look:Many runners (myself included) were making stops, oblivious to the clock, just to take it all in:There was a lot to take in: I mean it:And just like that, mile 13 came.And the best damn view of the entire race: Seriously. Get this ugly face off this view!Half way there! Or, in my case, roughly 3.5 miles in:Hands down, the best part of the course: Piano Man. The acoustics were so incredible and the music: amazing. I wish I’d thought to make a short video rather than ask a bystander (yes, there were spectators in this part of the course) to take my picture there. With Piano Man behind me, the views continued on…And on… And on:All the way to the end of my official leg of the relay:And beyond:I took a short port-a-potty break and talked to the new friends I made on the bus. None of them wanted to carry on running with me, so I took off on my own:Notice the awesome mile signs yet? Since there were no race clocks anywhere along the course, the volunteers were constantly reading the latest time, expected finish time and pace for the runners. Constantly. For hours on end! They were amazing. Thank you, volunteers!High res photo of her available, too, upon request. But I’d still like those running form lessons from the guy above.

Meanwhile, this is what I saw when I looked to my left:And this, to my right:No wall for this gal! At Mile 22, a little over 12 miles in for me, I saw Christy, or final leg relay member, waiting for Chelly (leg #4). I had handed off the baton-bracelet to Chelly five miles earlier, then somehow run past her in a stupefied-by-amazing-vistas daze, without even noticing. She materialized shortly, and Christy and I took off. Wait, something’s missing in this picture. Oh. There:Just past Mile 23, there was a fresh strawberries stand, “only one strawberry per runner, please.” I love strawberries, but for some reason, not after running a half marathon distance? By the by, we were already in Carmel.What Bart Yasso said:Although, with just 14 miles in those legs, I was feeling fresh and ready to run at least 12 more… (but ask me again after six?) Don’t overthink that. Math isn’t fun. The below performance was fun:I still can’t get over these hilarious mile markers. Next year, I hope Ryan Gosling makes an appearance?But in the meantime, here’s one thing you don’t see often at Mile 26 of a marathon: a happy face! Hallelujah!Before we knew it, the Finish line came in sight:And we were done!The rest of our team had taken the busses back to the Finish, so reuniting with them took a while (more than an hour, to be exact), but once back together, we could hardly wait to head to the nearest Starbucks show off our medals. And get photobombed by this happy dude:Overall, it was a glorious experience — one that all of us can’t wait to repeat. Only next time, some of us will be running the full marathon — it’s a deal!

Our official results:
Split 1: 00:46:39
Split 2 (13.1 mile marker): 02:05:07
Split 3: 02:26:46
Split 4: 03:33:25
Final: 04:31:21

Not bad for an impromptu 26.2 miles between friends. And 45 photos to share.

14 thoughts on “Big Sur Marathon: Speechless (Eh… Almost)

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    • Thank you! If you ever do the race, book a hotel room in Big Sur (not Monterrey or Carmel), so you can sleep in and grab a 6 a.m. shuttle bus from there. :)

  4. I loved reading your blog! I was so so so so tired after running the entire full that I did not get to take in everything so your photos helped! I loved the mile marker for 11… I think with a man smiling near an elevator saying “going up”…the hills kicked my butt and my compression socks were so tight I too them off and ran sockless the last 9 miles! Blisters…1 toenail missing from training and 1 about to come off from yesterday and I am still one happy and proud runner! Congrats to your team!! Beautiful day…loved your photos!

    • Thanks! I kept thinking while I was running, how if I had done the full, miles 19-20 and on would’ve been a blur – or at the very least not as enjoyable as they were, so I’m glad I got to do this as a relay before trying the full course. I loved the sign at Mile 11 too, but forgot to snap a photo :) Congrats on your race! I can’t believe you ran the last miles without socks, that would’ve just about killed me! :)

  5. Fantastic write up and a great race, well done. I didn’t realise you’d be allowed to run on – so glad you got to do this. I def want to do it as a relay next year! What a fantastic idea. How was the fuel belt??

    • Thanks! It was annoying at first, riding up all the time and I had to push it down. But it turned out I was wearing it too high on my hips. When I pushed it much lower, it stood in place. It was super nice to have my own energy drink, though – they only had Gatorade on the course and that isn’t my favorite for sure…