Overall Rating
Overall Rating (15 Reviews)
4.9
(15 Ratings)(15 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
3.9
SCENERY
5
PRODUCTION
4.9
SWAG
4
Runner’s World’s Bart Yasso has called it the “Must do in your lifetime” marathon. The Big Sur Int’l Marathon offers a course that features incredible beauty as well as a real challenge for most runners and faster walkers. Staged entirely on Hwy 1, runners are treated to panoramic views of … MORE
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    Profile photo of Mike Sohaskey
    Mike Sohaskey REPEAT RUNNER '16

    BOTTOM LINE: If you’re a hardcore runner and/or California native planning to run the Boston Marathon, then the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge should be a no-brainer. Not only is … MORE

    BOTTOM LINE: If you’re a hardcore runner and/or California native planning to run the Boston Marathon, then the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge should be a no-brainer. Not only is it a unique bicoastal challenge, but you’ll have the opportunity to run one of California’s most highly recommended (and this year, one of its most blustery) marathons as part of an exclusive group. The only drawback is the steep price of admission—at $300 this is likely the most expensive marathon you’ll run. But if Big Sur is on your bucket list anyway, why not kill two birds with one stone and ride that post-Boston endorphin high for as long as possible?

    PRODUCTION: Flawless, just as it was in 2014. School buses transport all runners from Carmel or Monterey (we stayed at the uber-convenient Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay) out to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for the start of the race, leaving plenty of time to eat, stretch, meditate, take selfies, visit the porta-potties and generally do whatever you need to do to prepare yourself for the 26.2 miles of hilly Pacific Coast Highway that await. The pre-race pasta dinner is always a relaxed opportunity to convene with friends beforehand, and the post-race spread for B2B finishers is among the best I’ve seen at any race. The BSIM organizers could easily skate by on the course’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean and jaw-dropping vistas—instead, their tireless attention to detail is the cherry on top of a very satisfying sundae (Sunday) long run.

    SWAG: The swag for Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge finishers is among the best you’ll find anywhere. In addition to the standard clay finisher medallion (which itself is one of the best in racing) and tech tee, B2B’ers receive a second finisher medallion, long-sleeve tech tee inscribed with the B2B logo and nicely crafted, embroidered ASICS finisher jacket.

    For more details & purty pitchers of the Big Sur experience, check out my race report at https://blisterscrampsheaves.com/2016/12/31/big-sur-international-marathon-2016-race-report/

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    My Report
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
    My Media

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    b2theburns FIRST-TIMER '16

    From lottery sign up to getting a new paper with results mailed to me the race was top notch. This was a great experience and there are many reasons this … MORE

    From lottery sign up to getting a new paper with results mailed to me the race was top notch.

    This was a great experience and there are many reasons this race is on just about every must do marathon list.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    adrinkwater FIRST-TIMER '16

    The shuttles start early (3:45 a.m.) but there is coffee and hot chocolate at the race start. The course was rather hilly (not neccessarily a race if you're aiming for … MORE

    The shuttles start early (3:45 a.m.) but there is coffee and hot chocolate at the race start. The course was rather hilly (not neccessarily a race if you’re aiming for a PR). Beautiful scenery and windy!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    3

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    Lani Teshima FIRST-TIMER '16

    I had heard how great this race was, but never ran it until I had a chance to participate in their "Boston 2 Big Sur" challenge, designed for Boston Marathon … MORE

    I had heard how great this race was, but never ran it until I had a chance to participate in their “Boston 2 Big Sur” challenge, designed for Boston Marathon finishers to turn around and run this race just days later.

    The people who put on the Big Sur series of races really know their stuff. This is a popular destination race that brings people from everywhere (for 2016, every U.S. state except South Dakota, apparently), and it’s easy to understand why. But because of its popularity, race organizers switched to a lottery system for 2016. Fortunately, they have many lottery categories, and you are allowed to apply for every category you qualify for (such as first-timer, local runner, and so on). If you’ve never run this race before, the first-timer lottery is probably a good way to get in; once you’ve run this, you can’t ever apply with that category anymore.

    Some notable things about this race:

    The expo is in Monterey but the race is not (but this gives you a chance to enjoy sightseeing around Monterey, visit the world famous aquarium, and have some chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf).

    The expo isn’t huge, but they do offer quite a bit of race-specific gear. Since ASICS is a major sponsor, most everything is from them, so you know the quality is good. Shirts, jackets, hats, visors, and even socks… they had something for everyone.

    The course is northward, along Highway 1, which hugs the twists and turns of the beautiful Big Sur coastline, until it hits Carmel. If you aren’t staying in Carmel, you get to take a shuttle back to the Monterey area.

    The marathon is the flagship race but they conduct a marathon relay, 21-mile hike, and 10.9-mile run along the same course on the same day. If you want to travel with friends and family, they might be able to sign up for various distances and also participate in a race that day.

    They have to shuttle everybody on buses around 4:00 am. This is early, but the buses have to drive an hour down Highway 1 in the dark and get you there safely. Just try to nap on the bus and you’ll get there in no time.

    The starting area is very congested, but wave start (for 2016, they had three waves and you were on an honor system to stand near your general pace) is organized and runners spread out very quickly. They also had official pacers for the race (from Team Clif Bar) and they do a great job of getting you to the finish line in the time that’s on their signs.

    The mileage markers on the course are entertaining. Each one is painted with something amusing, and gives you something to look forward to as you run through the course.

    The course is somewhat hilly and there is a two-mile uphill segment but those used to trail races will not have any issues with the course. For me, the toughest part was the really strong winds. The course is known for being windy, but this year it was apparently much stronger than usual. I’d look on the side of the course and periodically see people’s hats stuck in the weeds.

    The medal is made of ceramic, and in my opinion, is the best in the entire running industry. Where most other races just have metal medals, these ceramic medals are simple, humble, yet beautiful. They’ve been using the same artist for years, and the lady does a beautiful job. If for no other reason, do this race just for the medal. Even better, each of the different distance offerings for this race gets their own specially designed finisher’s medal. Oh, and the Boston 2 Big Sur finishers get a special medal, too. Trust me, I covet that one.

    If you do this race as part of the Boston 2 Big Sur challenge, you get access to a hospitality tent after the race. They served some hot food and provided tables and folding chairs… talk about being treated like royalty!

    This is an excellent race. The organizers really know what they’re doing.

    If you’re looking for a vacation race that offers the challenge of a full marathon distance, where the destination has some great sightseeing opportunities, where the course is unique and memorable, Big Sur is for you!

    Note: The same folks also put on a half-marathon in November, called the Big Sur Half Marathon, but the course does not at all overlap the full marathon. The half starts near Fisherman’s Wharf, runs through downtown Monterey and hugs the coastline of Monterey. The half is a fast and flat out-and-back course, and is wonderful in its own right, but don’t mistake this full marathon with the half. (But the half also rewards you with one of their wonderful ceramic medals, so win!)

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    Using dictation to type this. What a beautiful race! Very well put on and scenery beyond any other I've ever done. The race starts in Big Sur, California, and goes … MORE

    Using dictation to type this.

    What a beautiful race! Very well put on and scenery beyond any other I’ve ever done.
    The race starts in Big Sur, California, and goes 26.2 miles up Highway 1, to Carmel. There’s only one way to the race start, and that’s via a bus. Since the roads are all closed down (and the busses need to get back before the start) you have to leave Monterey/Carmel area between 3:45 and 4:15am. The bus I was on was a really nice school bus with comfortable seats. Not an old beat up bus like we rode as kids. 🙂 All the runners are dropped off at Big Sur station where they will stay until the start. It’s a bit chilly in the morning, but they offer drop bags at packet pickup, so I just brought some cheap sweats and sweatshirt. They had coffee and water at the start, and 4,283 portapotties (ok, not that many, but a lot. One of the funny things is that on every door of the porta potty’s they had something funny like las Vegas first class lounge stuff like that. I wish I would’ve taken more pictures of those they were hilarious.
    When they started lining runners up, they backed them up according to pace. Slowest runners in the back followed by median pace runners followed by the fast ones. Then at 6:45 they start and it takes about 10 – 12 minutes for everybody to get through. The first 5 miles is basically downhill, losing about 300 feet of elevation. Once you get to the 5 mile mark you start seen the ocean. The next 4 miles is a gradual increase all very runnable up a couple hundred feet. Mile 9 is straight downhill and at the bottom you make that 2 mile ascent up to hurricane point. This is the highest point of the race I just over 500 feet. It’s also the windiest part of the course. It was so windy at the top of her came point I thought it was going blow me into the ocean. Someone said it was a 45 mile an hour gusts I think it was closer to 200. From that point it’s basically downhill and rolling Hills. At mile 13 you cross the Bixby Bridge which is what you see on the shirt in the metal just after the bridge is the popular piano player. I could hear him playing from mile 12 that was really cool.
    This will go down as one of my favorite races the views are second to none. Having just completed a very tough 50 K the weekend before I didn’t have I expectations for finishing strong, but ended up very happy with my performance.
    After the race I had some snacks a cold beer and watch the awards ceremony. Then grabbed a shuttle back to my hotel and took a nap:-).
    This is also the very first time I’ve done a complete race rave using voice to text dictation.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    Mike_Hess REPEAT RUNNER '14

    Sometimes it’s just a line in the dirt, a chalked line across a bike path, a marker on the side of the road, a blow up arch. Few things in … MORE

    Sometimes it’s just a line in the dirt, a chalked line across a bike path, a marker on the side of the road, a blow up arch. Few things in life grabs a runner like the gravitational pull of the starting line. This ‘undeniable force’ pulls runners across State boundaries, over oceans, through airports, down freeways, up highways in the middle of the night. It pulls our bodies through ridiculous programs lasting four months and 500 miles of training. It gives us reason to go to bed early, and be done with our workout before the sun blinks. It drains our bank accounts. It makes us tired, hungry, and exhausted. This same pull also releases us to eat our weight in food, see places we would have never seen, gives us more energy than we know what to do with, and enjoy a genuine camaraderie with complete strangers.

    I found myself standing just 30 feet from the starting line in Big Sur. The only thing between me and the finish line and completing marathon 26 was some 40,000 steps. In about the same time it takes to watch a football game I would be done. 3 hours! That was my goal. This race, this marathon journey would be different for me. I was running with a purpose. I was going to run this race in honor of my sister Mindy, who is fighting cancer.

    Every marathon, every 26.2 mile race, tells a story. A story about perseverance, of pushing past excuses, working through new challenges, finding new inspiration, breaking the limits of your mind and brushing shoulders with others who have overcome. The story begins as soon as you hit the ‘Enter’ key on your computer and the charges hit your credit card for the cost of a race registration.

    My story began as the impulses travelled from my brain down to my index finger there was only a slight hesitation as $150 was added to the balance on my credit card. It was at 702am on a Monday morning that was still 10 months before the race. The Big Sur Marathon was expected to sell out quickly. Sure enough, the ‘Enter’ keys stopped working 50 minutes later. Thoughts quickly gathered as to when I would to start my training. A goal time was quickly settled on.

    So much can happen in ten months before a marathon. A sprained ankle, an illness, life events can prevent a person from running 26.2 miles. For this race there is no refund and no transfers. It’s hard to sign up so early for a race. To give myself an added peace of mind I tacked on the insurance. Workouts for Big Sur would start in December and hopefully hit full stride in January and especially February.

    Big Sur is one marathon I could run every year. Hands down the most beautiful one I’ve ever done. A dozen runners from my Antarctica trip would be coming out to run this race.

    You can run the same course twice, three, and four times and still have a completely unique experience. The weather will be different. You meet people with different backgrounds. Different reasons for running. Life alters our perfect training schedules, but yet we adjust, roll with the punches. You hope it doesn’t rain and that the wind will be at your back. The only thing that can be constant with marathons is the course. The unforgiving hills, the canter to the road, another hill! What you think about, your thoughts, your feelings during the race. Each marathon gives you more experience, another idea on what you can do different, adjust your training.

    Behind me was a mass of 4000 runners. I hung out closer to the start because I would be going for a faster time on this day. Much less chatter in this group. Much more focused, more determined. Most marathons I’ve been running lately involves leading a pace group, which is a lot of fun for me. It’s my chance to give back to the sport that has helped me so much.

    Just 15 minutes before we were milling around the small parking lot, sipping on coffee, relaxing on the curb, socializing with complete strangers, and of course waiting in line for the blue plastic bathrooms. Most will be going the full distance of the marathon, the others have split up the 26.2 miles with 4 other people. I’m amazed how the announcer skillfully guides and goads us away from prep area. The runners going at a slower pace head further up the road. Most are slightly anxious and simply want to run. Some have been here since 430am.

    Some of us lingered in the prep area for the last possible moment before we had to join the thousands of others lined up behind the big blow up starting line. The blow up starting lines always make me think of bounce houses.

    I chose to take the early bus leaving out of Monterey. By early, it was the oh-dark 30 early bus! By the time I left the hotel at 320am and walked the three blocks, there were some buses that had already filled and headed towards the starting line some 28 miles away. In line I struck up a conversation with Atif, who had come all the way from Florida to run Big Sur. His attitude that morning epitomizes why people run. There was an underlying sincere enthusiasm for being there that day. He knew the course was going to be tough but you could tell he was going to enjoy every minute of it. It didn’t help his training preparation that the only hills he has back home are the overpasses. His first long distance race was a half marathon a few years ago. He had made the decision to run it just the night before, without any training. I think this was Atif’s only second marathon.

    On the bus we sat next to Kim. Kim had grown up in Florida so her and Atif talked about familiar places and events.

    Kim had flown all the way from Anchorage, Alaska to tackle this slightly challenging course. With a few marathons under her belt, I sense that Kim is still in the early stages of her ‘marathon career’. You could tell she was also very happy to be there running this race. In her hands was a partially eating bagel and a banana. I had eaten those items just a half hour earlier. Include an energy bar and a sports drink and there you have my staple pre-marathon meal that I’ve eaten since I ran my first marathon in 2004. I consume the ‘ritual’ meal a good three hours before a race to ‘top off’ my energy stores.

    In describing her training leading up to the race she said it wasn’t that long ago that she was still running in studs and had only recently just been training in regular running shoes. For clarification, I asked her what ‘studs’ were. At that moment I think she realized I wasn’t from an extreme cold weather climate. She explained that studs go on the bottom of your shoes to give you traction on the ice. The coldest temperature she ran in – ‘negative ten’’! Minus ten is a cool 32 degrees colder than when I ran in Antarctica.

    Although both Kim and Atif didn’t have the most ideal training conditions to get them ready for Big Sur, I knew they were in for a treat. Hands down the most beautiful one I’ve done. This would be Big Sur Marathon #3 for me. .

    I was thankful for the conversation. It kept my mind from hearing the groans of the engine as the school bus snaked its way up and down the hills to the starting line along Highway 1. The shortest path to the starting line was the actual marathon course.

    All of us at the starting line on this chilly late April morning had our our own and individual reasons for being there that day and running this race. For some they were would going after a goal of running marathons in all 50 states.

    The idea to run the Big Sur Marathon in honor of my sister Mindy, who is fighting cancer, came just two weeks prior as I was pacing the Santa Cruz Half Marathon. When those thoughts skipped through my consciousness, it pressed on an emotional pressure point. It was a slight watering of the eyes and a pause in my breathing. I knew right then it was something I needed to do.

    Running in honor of other people is not a new idea to the running world. Team in Training is known for running and training for running races for people who are fighting cancer. 15 year old Winter Vineki has run marathons around the world in memory of her day who passed away from cancer. The Comrades Ultra Marathon in South Africa is dedicated to the memory of those who fought in World War I.

    Grant at Merlin Graphics was kind enough to customize a shirt for me for this race. He had the shirt to me just a few short days after I sent him the words I wanted. This was going to be a complete surprise for Mindy.

    Since I got the phone call from her several years ago on a warm day in November telling me that she had this unfortunate disease, she has remained strong and positive. In addition to being very disciplined with her diet, she has weathered all the differing opinions and well meaning advice on how how to treat the cancer. She has four kids and works full time. Her husband has been amazing throughout this entire process. The entire immediate and extended family has provided amazing support. At the end of the day, she always finds something positive or encouraging to focus on.

    The day and evening before the race was spent hanging out with marathon runners from the 2013 Antarctica trip. If there’s one trip than can make lifelong friends out of complete strangers that 2 week trip would be it. There was just over a dozen of us that had planned 10 months ago to get together and run this race. Most came from here in the States. One guy flew all the way from France. Also had a chance to reconnect with a college buddy I hadn’t seen in 15 years.

    Like the ocean there is an ebb and flow to our emotions during the race. They can sway from high to low and back again. We have the ‘being on the top of the world’ feeling all they way down to ‘I want to quit’ and ‘running this marathon was a terrible idea!’ When you get that 2nd and 3rd wind, your confidence starts to soar again. It starts to flutter and waiver a bit on those last few hills. You get picked back up by an encouraging word. Finally that last push when you start to hear the announcers and finally see the finish line. You want to finish strong no matter how bad your legs and body are hurting.

    Holding us back from starting the race in a full sprint is personal experience and knowledge we’ve gleaned from others. With proper training, most of can ‘cruise’ through the first 18 to 20 miles. For the last 6 to 8 miles we’re relying more on our blood glucose instead of the energy rich glycogen stored in our liver and muscles. Our leg muscles have also tired out the slow twitch muscles and are now relying on the fast twitch ones.

    The first five miles are mostly downhill. Legs are feeling good and my breathing is deep. I can’t quite push out of my mind of what’s up ahead from miles 10 to 12. It’s two miles of quad busting uphill.

    Under the umbrella of an overcast sky we hear a few motivational words by legendary Deena Castor. We start the race flanked by tall trees on both sides of the road. The clean, crisp air makes breathing much easier. Dave and I exchange a few words during the first two miles. He lets me know the pace at the first two mile markers. A little bit ahead of schedule, but within reason. Soon after he tells me to go on ahead. Dave was just three weeks removed from running a 50 mile race. I knew it was going to be a ‘push’ to get a sub 3 hour marathon. I knew I wasn’t trained up well enough. This race would be more more about guts and desire.

    I braced for a head wind as we excited the tree cover. To my relief there was hardly even a slight breeze.

    I knew there was a few hills after mile 5 interrupting my path to mile 10. Wishing I had looked more closely at the elevation profile, I noticed my legs start to labor on the uphill.

    Thinking about my sister and knowing I was running it for her, really helped me push through the ups and downs of this race. It truly is a mind battle when you run a marathon. So many questions float through your mind. ‘Can I maintain this pace?’ ‘This downhill feels really good!’ ‘When will the uphill ever end?’ It will be over in just a few hours. You trained too hard for this to stop now.

    I waited until the last few minutes before dropping off my sweat bag that contained cloths I would need at the end of the race at the truck and head towards the starting line. Because I was gunning for a faster time I hung out in the first corral. The plan was to run with Dave, whom I known almost since I first started running marathons just 10 years ago.

    I would not be taking pictures today. I would not stop and listen to the drums at the bottom of the hill. No hanging out and taking in the scenery at the top of Hurricane Point. I would take it all in and use it has a much needed distraction.

    I felt I was pretty close to being on pace for the first five miles. As I started climbing more the of the hills, my legs were feeling much tighter than I wanted. I was hoping they would loosen up.

    As I felt myself get behind pace on the uphill, I still kept up hope. I made up some ground on the downhill, hoping my legs would hold up.

    The clock read 1 hour 35 minutes as I crossed the Bixby Bridge. My second half would have to be a 125.

    As I felt my goal time slipping away I knew I couldn’t give up. Thoughts of stopping to walk increased. Dave would pass me at mile 15 and finish the marathon 11 minutes ahead of me.

    Thoughts of my sister would sweep through my mind and I pushed harder. My pace continued to get slower on the uphill. I ran as hard as I could on the downhill. I popped in a few salt capsules as leg cramps started to set in.

    The words, ‘This is your last hill,’ by a race official was music to my ears. I was ready to be done.

    I crossed the finish line 22 minutes short of my goal, but very happy with the effort and the person I was running this for.

    There is nothing else like the gravitational feeling of a starting line. Nothing will get in your way. Injuries won’t, weather and delays are just hiccups and speed bumps. Running in honor of someone makes it that much more special. I was blessed in the process.

    The next starting line is waiting.

    That ‘Enter’ button is waiting.

    This Big Sur Marathon was for you Mindy! Fight on sister!!

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    3

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    rafaelsands FIRST-TIMER '14

    Definitely not an easy course, do not expect to use this as a BQ or PR if you aren't accustomed to hills. But the views are truly incredible. Do it … MORE

    Definitely not an easy course, do not expect to use this as a BQ or PR if you aren’t accustomed to hills. But the views are truly incredible. Do it with your friends and take it all in slowly. With their new entry system, who knows if you’ll ever be able to do it again…

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    oldguard88 FIRST-TIMER '15

    An awesome experience overall. The most beautiful course I have ever run. Great race organization save for the minor registration confusion in the beginning with my girlfriend who did B2B. … MORE

    An awesome experience overall. The most beautiful course I have ever run. Great race organization save for the minor registration confusion in the beginning with my girlfriend who did B2B. We ran into one rude guy too who actually had the nerve to question whether or not she actually did Boston. But all the other people, volunteers, race expo, transportation etc… was great.

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    4
    My Report
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    wonderjess FIRST-TIMER '15

    Wow! Just, wow! I had trained for this race, but not enough. Big Sur International Marathon is the most beautiful and most challenging marathon I've ever run. Race Production: Absolutely … MORE

    Wow! Just, wow! I had trained for this race, but not enough. Big Sur International Marathon is the most beautiful and most challenging marathon I’ve ever run.

    Race Production: Absolutely perfect! Communications were timely and informative. Pre-race coordination went smoothly. All the details around busing runners, coordinating travel, all the other things, worked perfectly. Even the mile markers were amusing =)

    The course itself: Spectacular!! The views were amazing. We started down in Big Sur, ran up the 1, past cow pastures that at one point had cows running with us!! As beautiful as the course is, it’s just as challenging. I was ready for the hills – although they are non-stop. I knew they were there, but the camber in the road is what really did me in. The uneven road services wreaked havoc on my legs.

    SWAG and Expo: Also great! the race shirt is an Asics gender specific shirt, and one of the better race shirts I’ve gotten.

    Location: I think this is a great destination race. We stayed in downtown Monterey, which is cute. The day after the race, we went on a whale watching tour and saw humpbacks along with dolphins. All around, the Central Coast of California is great!

    I got in this year through the registration windows, I know they are moving to a raffle system. I’m interested in seeing how that goes.

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    rfrimmel FIRST-TIMER '15

    This a very scenic course like no other and it is one tough challenging race. Weather was cool with a good headwind (I hate running into the wind but just … MORE

    This a very scenic course like no other and it is one tough challenging race. Weather was cool with a good headwind (I hate running into the wind but just put my head down and moved forward). The start is downhill with some rolling hills until mile nine when you have the longest ascent up to Hurricane Point. Then it’s a steep down hill to the Bixby bridge and mile 13 and the piano music. From there it’s rolling hills the last half of the race. Along the entire race are some of the most scenic views you will ever see. If you like races with cheering crowds, this is not the race for you. The highway is closed for the race so there are very sparse cheering along the road. There is plenty of support along the course with water Gatorade and fruit at each aid station. Further in the race GU was available. A real treat are the fresh sweet strawberries at mile 23. Plenty of cheering at the finish line with a very nice post race area. Some of my highlights from the race: scenery, ran with Dean Karnazes and beat him, ran a BQ (challenging course can get you to Boston), , took 3rd in age group. Also I ran “naked”, no watch or music. Because signal is poor in this area, I didn’t want to bother with weak or lost signals. There are no timing clocks at mile markers so I ran with the 3:35 pace group and we ended up finishing faster! This is must race. Cheers!

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    3

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    Profile photo of Mike Sohaskey
    M_Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '14

    BOTTOM LINE: Despite tainted race-day memories courtesy of plantar fasciitis, I'd recommend Big Sur in a heartbeat. And I'd love to run this race again (healthy) as part of the … MORE

    BOTTOM LINE: Despite tainted race-day memories courtesy of plantar fasciitis, I’d recommend Big Sur in a heartbeat. And I’d love to run this race again (healthy) as part of the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge. Nearly as impressive as the course itself is that the BSIM boasts an impressive field of national and international runners (from 50 states and 30 countries) while maintaining a decidedly low-key vibe. Yes, the BSIM will be among the toughest road marathons you’ll ever run, and if you’re looking for a Boston Qualifier then keep looking. But if you’re the type of runner who prefers to run with your head up regardless of pacing, you’ll be richly rewarded with stunning views on even the cloudiest day. And if I were to recommend just one road marathon in California, I have to agree with Bart Yasso (Runner’s World Chief Running Officer) that this would be it.

    Unfortunately the race’s popularity (the 2014 race sold out in 59 minutes) compelled its organizers to institute a lottery system for 2015 and beyond. And though at the end of the day it’s still a lottery system, BSIM organizers have clearly given this much thought, as the upcoming 2016 “staggered” lottery offers five distinct opportunities for runners to earn a spot – as first-timers, locals, loyal BSIM runners, groups of 2-6, and finally a “last chance” lottery for all individuals.

    If you’ll be running the BSIM as a destination race (smart choice!), your most convenient option will likely be to fly into the San José International Airport, then either drive or catch the Monterey Airbus down to the Monterey Peninsula. Alternatively, the Monterey Airport – with direct flights from Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco and San Diego – is located only minutes away from downtown, site of both host hotels as well as the race expo. Leave yourself time for a leisurely self-guided tour of this quaint seaside town including its premier destination, the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

    Check out my included GoPro footage to get a better sense of the course along the Pacific Coast Highway along with some glimpses of Dean Karnazes, who I ran alongside/behind for much of the first half.

    PRODUCTION: Not to be outdone by the course itself, race production was almost picture-perfect. The Goldilocks-style expo (not too big, not too small, but just right), conveniently located adjacent to both host hotels, was easy to navigate. The pre-race pasta dinner, though a bit pricey at $25, hit the spot without poisoning any runners. The 4:00am shuttles assigned to carry marathoners the 30+ miles to the start were dispatched efficiently and ran on time – and if I’m not mistaken, I thought I heard Race Director Doug Thurston say they mobilized 185 buses (!) on race day. Where they found 185 buses in Monterey and Carmel, I have no idea.

    The most consistent element of every race I run seems to be the fantastic volunteers, and the BSIM was no exception. The selfless folks in maroon shirts worked tirelessly to ensure that every runner’s race experience was as positive and as worry-free as possible. Special thanks to Cheryl for my first-ever post-race massage, which refreshed my tired legs despite its inability to appease my overworked plantar fascia.

    Aside from the prominent Michelob Ultra tent in the post-race Marathon Village (all the appealing local microbrews to pick from, and we end up with Michelob?), my only legitimate gripe from the weekend would be the disappointing performance of the runner tracking app, which after the 13.1-mile mark became increasingly unreliable. I’m not exactly sure why runner tracking is such a difficult technology to implement correctly, but its erratic behavior in this case wreaked havoc on my ability to catch friends at the finish.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    My Report
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4
    My Media

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    daverunsarec REPEAT RUNNER '13

    this is always rated one of the top 10 marathons and for good reason. you can't beat the scenery from Big Sur to Carmel along the coast. well organized race … MORE

    this is always rated one of the top 10 marathons and for good reason. you can’t beat the scenery from Big Sur to Carmel along the coast. well organized race but the early morning bus ride to the start is the one down-side as they have to get everyone down to the start before closing the course to traffic. Highly recommended

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    3

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    Otter FIRST-TIMER '14

    Aside from the Chicago Marathon, this may be my favorite road race that I've ever run. Beautiful views of the rugged Pacific coastline and a just-challenging-enough elevation profile are among … MORE

    Aside from the Chicago Marathon, this may be my favorite road race that I’ve ever run. Beautiful views of the rugged Pacific coastline and a just-challenging-enough elevation profile are among the highlights of this race.

    Anyone running Big Sur should brace themselves for an early wake-up: runners are bused to the starting line of this point-to-point marathon ahead of the 6:45am start, which means that you’ll be boarding a bus shortly after 4am local time. It’s vital to bring along a throw-away layer to stay warm at the start, as it’s not unusual for the pre-dawn temperatures to hover in the 30s & 40s.

    Once the sun comes up, though, this race is heaven. A rather droll-but-pleasant first few miles soon give way to some of the most breathtaking scenery that I’ve had the pleasure of feasting my eyes upon during my 20+ career marathons. Soaring bluffs and cliffs mesh with lush, green hillsides reminiscent of the Irish coast, occasionally broken up my man-made wonders such as the iconic Bixby Bridge. What other marathon can boast of a tuxedo-and-glove-clad piano player at the halfway point of the race?

    The handcrafted ceramic medals are beautiful, the long-sleeve participant tech shirts are classy, and they don’t care how many free beers you drink at the finisher’s party. This race should be on every marathoner’s bucket list

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    Donnald69 FIRST-TIMER '14

    The Big Sur International marathon was one of my favorites of 2014. The scenery was beautiful, from almost the beginning to the very end. The race was well organized with … MORE

    The Big Sur International marathon was one of my favorites of 2014. The scenery was beautiful, from almost the beginning to the very end. The race was well organized with plenty of water and porta-potty stops. Spectators were plentiful, especially as you got to the 2nd half of the marathon. The strawberries at about mile 21 were exactly what my body needed at that point in the race. I opted for the “Runners World” VIP, so we were to treated to a nice breakfast after the race, as well as extra porta-potty before and after the race. The medal was a ceramic medal rather than the usual metal. A more difficult marathon because of the number of hills throughout the run, but you quickly realize that every hill comes with some of the most beautiful scenery the coastal area could share.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    3

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    Jen_L FIRST-TIMER '14

    Great marathon! Ideal for people who love scenic courses and don't mind a few hills. If you want a flat, fast course that has tons of spectators, look elsewhere. Morning … MORE

    Great marathon! Ideal for people who love scenic courses and don’t mind a few hills. If you want a flat, fast course that has tons of spectators, look elsewhere. Morning shuttle service was very early, but flawless. The start village was a bit chaotic, and I had no cell phone service, so just be aware of that if you’re planning on meeting up with other people. My advice is to take it easy and enjoy the views, the Taiko drummers, and the baby grand piano at Bixby Bridge! Save some gas for the final 6 miles through Carmel.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    My Report
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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