Foothill Flyers Race Reviews
Last updateFeb. 28, 2018

Big Sur Marathon

4th Sunday in April, Big Sur Marathon/ Half Marathon in Carmel, CA
7 AM Start

App and info click on Big Sur above.

Catherine Gallagher 's 2012 experience:
Big Sur was on my bucket list. It looked so beautiful on the website, and as a non-native, was part of California I had never seen. Running along the rocky northern CA coastline, across the majestic Bixby bridge....what could be more inspiring?

Big Sur Marathon course map I set out fully planning for a "destination" run. No PR for this one. Mind you, my fastest marathon (of the 3 I had run) was ~ 4:35. I figured a respectable sub-5 would be just fine. I put in my progressively long training runs: 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, with 10-mile shorter runs on alternate weeks. Good to go...

The biggest downsides of the race were at the beginning. At 3:30, a 1-hour bus ride to the start (next to a guy who just had to have a Subway sandwich with onions...yuk!), followed by a two hour chilly wait in a park that grew ever more chaotically crowded. Finally, we were guided up the hill to the start. Ah! Moving! My blue fingers tingled as they came back to life. An easy, moderately fast 5-mile downhill descent. Forested area; pretty but not enough to stop for photos. Onward, gathering up a little time in the bank to stop for photos later.

As we started to hit the coastline we also hit the fog. Mist-up-your-glasses thick. Views were obscured, but brief moments in the sun made it abundantly clear that the cool fog was a blessing. Further in, the fog broke and we were treated to breathtaking views. Snap, click. Snap, click. Turn another corner, and the fog returned, this time accompanied by strong winds coming straight at us. One area of the race is aptly named "hurricane point!" There were race marshalls on bikes riding back and forth on the course. At one point, as we descended what was probably about a 4% grade, the bikes passed going up. I noted they were not pedaling! Coasting uphill. Yes... wind. There were many musicians along the way. Ranging from the signature grand piano player in a tux as we went over the Bixby bridge, his music wired to speakers so we could hear the haunting notes long before we saw the bridge, or the very cool Taiko drummers inspiring us up the long difficult climb, to the lone man with an accordion, or the charming middle school brass band bravely pushing through the "Rocky" theme song.

...oh yes, I mentioned hills. So many hills! I walked up and ran down most of them, until I began to struggle even to run down by mile 20 or so.
And then... I had a motivation moment. When starting, we were between the 4:30 and 4:45 pacers. I never saw the 4:45 pacer pass me, maybe it was during a photo distraction. At mile 21ish, the 5-hour pacer caught up with me. "Hop on!" he happily said. Instead, like a tired but frightened rabbit, I took it as a cue to RUN. From then on, my goal was to stay at least a minute in front of the pacer. Why? Who knows. The irrationality of competition, and a number I had set in my head. Exhausted, I could not run up the hills despite my motivator, but every time a wave of people got near, I feared it was the pacer group and found the moxie to speed up.

Past the famous 5k strawberry stop, I did a grab-and-run. Com'on people, let me pass! I've got a pacer to beat!! (Actually said that out loud and found another couple with the exact same goal.) Awesome strawberry; should have grabbed two. This was such a hard run that by mile 25 I was almost in tears as people cheered us on. Whew! One last climb and there was the finish! I knew my start time was about 6 minutes after the gun, so when I hit the finish and it was 5:04 and change, I knew I made my sub-5. I just checked now. 4:59:01, a handful of great pics, and some very sore quads after running what was most definitely the most difficult marathon I had ever run. The experience was well worth it!

Julie Miller's report on the Big Sur marathon -- Sunday April 24, 2005

Big Sur was a blast!
Jennifer Harrelson, Brenda Kobernusz, Julie Miller and Karen Johnson drove the scenic road trip to up Pacific Coast Highway to run the Big Sur marathon. Perfect weather conditions and none of the famous Hurricane Point headwinds helped Jennifer to run a 4:45, Julie chip a 5:17 and change and the intrepid Brenda K., who decided to run Big Sur on the spur of the moment, and after doing Catalina came in at 5:20 -- an over one hour PR from her Catalina time. Karen Johnson supported us and wisely did the 5K. So how does an all-girl's weekend out at the marathon go?

Friday, April 22: The intrepid four meet at Peet's in Pasadena for lattes and scones. Jennifer roars in with her brand new-arrest-me red-convertible mini-cooper to join us in stocking up on snacks and caffeine. Buttonwillow: time for more snacks. Cambria: great spot for brunch on Main street. Piedras Blancas: another stop to see juvenille elephants seals. We speed up the California coast to Napenthe, a restaurant near Big Sur for drinks. Then, on to Monterey, where we hit the convention center. First Big Sur tip: Pick up your bus pass right away, so you can get the "late" 4:30 a.m. bus to the race start. Big Sur has very cool ASICs long-sleeved coolmax tees. We shopped til closing. Karen and I stayed a the Portola Plaza and walked to the Monterey wharf for seafood. Brenda and Jennifer stated in Pacific Grove and ate Italian.

Saturday April 23: Breakfast at the Italian cafe next to the Portola for good coffee and eggs. After, the intrepid four squeezed in massages between lectures on Chi Running and Galloway intervals and did more shopping. BTW Saturday is MUCH more crowded. Lunch Greek restaurant in Pacific Grove that gave us free turkish coffee (the waiter liked Brenda.) Second tip: Rosine's, one block from the race hotel is THE place to go for a nice pre-race dinner. Great pasta, deserts. Get there early because they don't take reservations.

Sunday April 24: Third tip -- the Crossroads shopping center, where the race finishes, has a number of restaurants where runners can go to fuel up after the marathon. We ate Italian (again). We decided to speed post-race recover by walking and shopping, so after we cleaned up, we drove the 17 mile drive back to Carmel to do just that, and eat Thai food (with our medals on). We load up on saltwater taffy in Carmel Village -- it's the best and Karen and I ate an entire bag after the race. Hit the beach at sunset where we brag on our cell phones about the marathon to all of our Flyer friends back home.

At right, Julie stops running long enough to beat the drums.

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