Standing on the start line I realised I’d forgotten to put deodorant on..not ideal when you’re about to run 26.2 miles.
The lack of antiperspirant was just one of a few mistakes I made on race day…
- Also forgot to put my anti-chafe under my arms
- I didn’t eat enough breakfast to account for the 3 hour wait after getting on the bus to the start line
- Not enough throwaway clothes to stay warm during the aforementioned wait
- Didn’t check that my Spotify playlists were downloaded properly
Lots to think about for Chicago Marathon in October (but more on that in a separate post). Luckily, despite all the things I got ‘wrong’, there were plenty of positives from the Big Sur International Marathon.
My alarm went at 2.55am and I threw on my clothes, suncream and grabbed my pre-packed bag. I wasn’t the only one walking through the dark streets to the buses that would be taking us down Highway 1 at 3.30am and after following the crowd and joining a large queue, I found a seat on one of the school buses, plugged into a podcast and closed my eyes.
The drive is about 50 minutes to the marathon starting point, and with the need to clear the roads before the race starts, runners are dropped off 90-120 mins before the start time. There was coffee, hot and cold water and plenty of loos in the start area but it was still a cold wait on the concrete (in shorts!).
I met Joanna on the way to the start line which was a nice distraction from the cold and pre-race nerves.
The gun went off a couple of minutes late, and our wave crossed shortly after. The first few miles are downhill and my goal was to keep the pace steady without going out too fast. My feet and hands were numb and I immediately regretted ditching my Christmas jumper at the start.
I had a few goals for the race; enjoy the views and minimise recovery needed post race. The plan was to run/walk with a rough 9:1 ratio (find out why I love using a run/walk method for marathons & marathon training here) with the flexibility to walk more on the hills and run on the downhills and flat portions.
I took my first Huma gel around mile 4 and took them every 4 miles throughout the race along with the water in my Nathan Sports hydration vest. As I mentioned earlier, I did not get my pre-race nutrition right and felt like I hungry around mile 8!
Aid stations were every 2- 3 miles and included water and Gatorade, as well as Gu gels and fruit at later stops. The volunteers were super friendly and enthusiastic! I had thought the race was encouraging runners bringing their own bottles/cups to reduce waste but this didn’t seem evident at the aid stations, with paper cups given out everywhere.
There is no denying it, the route is stunning. Around every corner were views that despite having both driven and cycled the course, still took my breath away. I stopped multiple times to take in the scenery and take hundreds of photos and videos.
The roads started to undulate about mile 5 with the BIG hill coming at mile 10 to 12. Honestly it wasn’t as bad as I had built it up to be and the views more than made up for it – as did knowing that the iconic Bixby Bridge and the piano player were coming up. That moment, hearing Billy Joel “Piano Man’ as we crossed the bridge, really hit home how long I’ve wanted to run this race.
The bridge marks the half way point and I definitely struggled mentally for a few miles from 14-16, which felt WAY too early to be struggling in a marathon. I ran through all the things I wanted to change during Chicago training, including focusing more on nutrition and strength training.
Once I hit mile 17, I felt a second wind. Speaking of wind, there was no shortage on course. It was stronger than I was anticipating and certainly made some of the unprotected stretches of road harder (and gives me a bouffant hairstyle in race pics!)
I put my Shokz headphones on at mile 18 and attempted to put my playlist on but apparently it hadn’t downloaded. Thank goodness for the back catalogue of the Ali on the Run Show downloads, I listened to an episode with Paralympian Jenna Fesemyer and then runner Dominique Scott which provided plenty of motivation through the final miles.
The first and final miles of this race are the least scenic in my opinion and the miles from 21 onwards feel far hillier underfoot than they look on the map! I was also struggling with the steep camber of the roads and the pressure going through the edge and toe of my left foot. The wind, hills and lack of spectators I was fully expecting and prepared for but the roads, I was not. It was painful.
At Mile 23.2 there’s a strawberry aid station where I ate two of the best strawberries of my life – it was a real boost before the steep hill at mile 25 which I’m not ashamed to admit, I walked much of.
Coming down the finish chute I saw my friend Loz, shouted Happy Birthday to her and picked up the pace to the finish line.
Time was never important to me for this race. It was all about getting to the finish without putting myself in a hole. I thought I might finish around 4.30, I was not disappointed by the 4.49 time on the clock. Such a beautiful race and one I won’t forget. A great reminder that races are not all about PBs but about the experience.
How to get into the Big Sur International Marathon?
Entry for non-local runners is by ballot and only open to 4500 runners total. Registration opens in the August before race day. Marathon Tours also offer packages for race day.
For those that don’t get in to the Big Sur Marathon, or are worried about hitting the 6 hour cut off, there are other distance options including a 21-miler, 11 miler, 12K and 5K.
How much does entry cost?
Entry to the 2022 race was $299 for International runners, $265 for US runners and $215 for local residents.
What is the course elevation?
Course elevation gain is 2182 ft, with a 2582 ft loss.
Where to stay for the Big Sur Marathon?
If I were to run this race again, I’d stay in Big Sur to maximise race morning sleep! If you’ve got a large budget, I’ve heard Post Ranch Inn is wonderful! Another great option would be staying at Carmel Mission Inn at the finish line (and great if you have runners doing the 12K or 5K distance too). Alternatively, the Marriott Monterey is right next to the expo and have buses from the site on race morning for the marathon and 21 miler. We stayed at Hotel Abrego which was pretty good value (compared to other options nearby), had a hot tub and was easy walking distance to the buses for race morning!
Any other questions – let me know!