Overall Rating
Overall Rating (128 Reviews)
4.9
(128 Ratings)(128 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
4.2
SCENERY
5
PRODUCTION
4.6
SWAG
4.1
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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Recent reviews

    andellis FIRST-TIMER '18

    Yes, it is beautiful but you are so packed in with other runners, you can't enjoy the scenery for the first 5 miles and it stays crowded until heartbreak hill. … MORE

    Yes, it is beautiful but you are so packed in with other runners, you can’t enjoy the scenery for the first 5 miles and it stays crowded until heartbreak hill. I was under the impression that Highway 1 is closed, but that isn’t true. They pack everyone into both lanes for the start then as it starts to thin out, (finally!) they pack you back into 1 lane. Just getting to the aid station can be a challenge. During the race, the support from volunteers makes up for the lack of crowd support. It is really phenomenal. The swag is great too. The pacers were right on and I did well staying with them, even with the hills. The difficulty is no joke. Hill training above and beyond what you think you will need is key to getting to the finish line in decent shape.
    The logistics at the finish line aren’t great, with so many people, your family can’t watch you finish and then it is hard to find your family.
    I know it is popular, but I really didn’t enjoy it and wouldn’t run it again.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    Angela FIRST-TIMER '18

    ***LOCATION*** Big Sur Station, CA to Monterey, CA ***DATE*** Late April (April 29, 2018 this year) ***PRICE*** I want to say that the 2018 race cost $175-180 this year. So, … MORE

    ***LOCATION***
    Big Sur Station, CA to Monterey, CA

    ***DATE***
    Late April (April 29, 2018 this year)

    ***PRICE***
    I want to say that the 2018 race cost $175-180 this year. So, not cheap, but not out of line with other high-profile marathons. Boston 2 Big Sur was $300, so $120 more for your medal, jacket, post-race food & beer, & presumably the extra administrative costs.

    ***FIELD SIZE/DEADLINES/SELLOUT FACTOR***
    The marathon is capped at 4,500 & it’s popular enough that registration for the stand-alone race is by lottery each year in July. In fact, I learned by reading the race program that it’s actually a series of five lotteries:

    – Groups & couples
    – Loyalty runners (ie, those who’ve run before)
    – Monterey County resdents
    – First-timers
    – Last chance drawing

    This makes a lot of sense given what Road Bunner had told me before, that once you get in once, it seems like your odds of getting in again go way up. (Hence her getting in eight times.)

    Boston 2 Big Sur registration happens after Boston Marathon registration closes (it opened on October 1 this year) & is first-come, first-served. If you’ve already gotten into Big Sur via the lottery and then register for Boston 2 Big Sur, your registration is converted & you’re refunded your original registration fee.

    ***STAGING/PARKING/ETC.***
    So, I can’t really talk about the Monterey end of the race at all because we stayed down at Big Sur station. If you want to go that route instead of catching a bus from Monterey at 3:30am, here’s how I did it.

    First, I would book your lodging as soon you know you’re in the race. Many things in Big Sur book up super fast and there aren’t that many cheap options to begin with, unless you want to camp in a tent. (I was not super into sleeping on the ground the night before a marathon.) The start area shuttles make a continuous loop from Deetjen’s at the south end to River Inn at the north end, stopping wherever they see runners if they currently have room.

    There are lots of lodging options within that area, & there are any number of listicles on the internet depending on what you’re looking for (budget, luxury, vanilla, quirky, etc.). We stayed at Big Sur Campgrounds & Cabins, about two miles north of the start; it was easy to walk up the driveway to Highway 1 & catch the shuttle around 5:15am. (The race starts at 6:45am.)

    The start is staged at Big Sur Station, where you’ll find gear check and a village of port-a-potties. It’s a small space for so many runners, but like I said in my race report, Road Bunner’s advice to not line up when instructed makes things a bit smoother as long as you don’t care about being at the absolute front of wave 1 & aren’t having a port-a-potty emergency. (And actually, I bet you could still wait until pretty much 6:44am & then walk right up to the front.) Of course if everyone did this it would be a problem so don’t tell anyone.

    So, the thing about how did we get back down to Big Sur after the race is, we didn’t. Before I headed to the race Sunday morning, I packed up all my stuff as well as I could, & then Don drove himself & all our stuff up later in the day. (They will tell you that Highway 1 is completely closed all day, from like 3am to 1pm, but that isn’t exactly true. This year there were three different caravan times that cars could get in at specific times so that you could get to Monterey while the race was going on, which apparently took about an hour & a half. I finished a little after 11 & I think Don got to Monterey around 11:45, which is WAY better than what I had planned for, which was that he wouldn’t even be able to *leave* Big Sur until like 1 (and then it’s a 45 minute trip to Monterey).

    I stand by my recommendation to stay down in Big Sur if you don’t want to get up at 2:30am, but yeah, if you don’t want to have to go back down after, you really need another person who’s willing to drive in the caravan & schlep all your stuff.

    ***THE COURSE***
    Like I said in my race report, this is not a course to take lightly! In addition to 2000′ of elevation gain, constantly rolling hills, and the notorious Hurricane Point climb, it is extremely cambered due to only half the road being closed, & all of that takes a toll on the body. It’s not uncommon to have a stiff headwind for a lot of the way. Also, remember that the downhills can be just as challenging as the uphills, particularly towards the end of the race.

    BUT. But but but. It’s not exaggeration to say that it might be the most gorgeous marathon course you ever get to run. (Er…as long as it’s not socked in, which happens some years.)

    So, yes. Completely runnable, but you have to prepare for it, which does not only mean running uphills, but also training downhills regularly & doing the strength work to prepare your body for the twisting & turning & odd angles.

    Aid stations were great (water & sports drink & sometimes gels, not to mention the strawberry aid station at mile 23), and also I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I got more pictures from this race (53 or something??) than I think any other race I’ve ever run in my life.

    ***SWAG***
    An attractive tech long sleeve shirt & a distinctive ceramic medal. (The only downside of the cool medal is that it’s fragile so you can’t just throw it in a box with a bunch of other metal ones.)

    ***IF YOU DECIDE TO RUN***
    We had just about perfect weather (cool & overcast, but still clear enough for excellent views, & headwinds only some of the time) but know that it can vary, with some years being hotter & others being foggy and/or wet and/or SUPER windy. You have to go into it knowing that you might not get great weather and could potentially be running into a stiff headwind the whole way.

    Consider hitting the expo first thing Friday & then driving down to Big Sur for a couple nights, especially if you’ve never been. It’s 100% worth it.

    Only the softest of PRs stand a chance of being broken here, so if you want to run for time, maybe think more in terms of how high up can you finish in your age group/gender/overall. (Like, I could see running it again to see if I could beat this year’s time on fresher/better trained legs.)

    ***OVERALL ASSESSMENT***
    Yes, Big Sur was definitely the toughest marathon course I’ve ever run, but I had a lot of fun doing it & am really glad I was able to run and finish. It truly is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous course and an incredibly unique experience. I wouldn’t rule out running it again, but the camber was pretty hard on my legs so it’s definitely not going to be a race I feel like I could run regularly. (But mad kudos to those who do it regularly! I salute you.)

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

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    nfirtat REPEAT RUNNER '18

    Amazing views, good logistics, gorgeous place to make the trip a mini-vacation, lots of places to visit in the near state parks/reserves (nice way to recover) If you shoot for … MORE

    Amazing views, good logistics, gorgeous place to make the trip a mini-vacation, lots of places to visit in the near state parks/reserves (nice way to recover)
    If you shoot for a specific time, drive the course the day before to learn this “beast” course and make a plan of attack; but my recommendation is to forget about the time; let this course be a surprise and take in the beauty, the amazing views along with the hills and all the quietness (just waives and wind). Oh, if you are looking for encouragement from spectators, this is not the race for that.
    The bus trip to the start line takes quiet a while. At the start can be cold and it’s a bit of a wait (til all the buses make it back).
    Majority of the people stay at the finish, in Monterrey or Carmel.
    Because i usually make this race a minivacation to spend time hiking after the race, I prefer to stay in Big Sur (near the start line) but it can take a while after the race to get back (they are buses taking you back to the start).

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4
    My Media

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    rickyo FIRST-TIMER '18

    The race is incredible. Incredible hard. Incredible scenery. Incredible people. Incredible time. I was able to navigate the hills ok which everybody warned me about but what killed me was … MORE

    The race is incredible. Incredible hard. Incredible scenery. Incredible people. Incredible time.
    I was able to navigate the hills ok which everybody warned me about but what killed me was what the curves did to my ankles. I will do this again as finishing it is on my bucket list.

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
    My Media

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    alpacquing FIRST-TIMER '18

    It's an awesome, challenging course since this is my Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge. I'm glad I got it done. One and done! ******************************************** MORE

    It’s an awesome, challenging course since this is my Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge. I’m glad I got it done. One and done! ********************************************

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    2

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    kalinarun FIRST-TIMER '18

    Beautiful and hilly course. Challenging but worth running it. Organization and information of the race was perfect. I had no issues getting around and finding everything. MORE

    Beautiful and hilly course. Challenging but worth running it. Organization and information of the race was perfect. I had no issues getting around and finding everything.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    Profile photo of Ivan Zimnukhov
    zimnukhov FIRST-TIMER '18

    Race scenery is as beautiful as it gets. The course is, indeed, hilly - however it seems that all the reviews and official information are tuned to intimidate the runners. … MORE

    Race scenery is as beautiful as it gets. The course is, indeed, hilly – however it seems that all the reviews and official information are tuned to intimidate the runners. Overall elevation gain is not that much more than some less flat city races. There is, however, Hurricane point climb, but it is manageable with proper planning. What is really hard and should not be underestimated is headwind. Also, the road is tilted in quite a few parts and this can be hard on your feet, so be prepared.

    This race is hard(lottery!) and expensive to get into, so you may want to look into some of the other spectacular courses(this isn’t the only one), but if you have a chance to run it – don’t miss under any circuimstances.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    My Report
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    tehphil FIRST-TIMER '18

    Pay attention to day-of logistics. Getting up at 2:30 AM and getting to the shuttle and then waiting at the start line for 2 hours was almost as hard as … MORE

    Pay attention to day-of logistics. Getting up at 2:30 AM and getting to the shuttle and then waiting at the start line for 2 hours was almost as hard as the run. The course is incredibly beautiful, there is nothing like it out there. This isn’t a PR-friendly course, so just enjoy the run.

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    ryancollier23 FIRST-TIMER '18

    I missed having the support from spectators but that’s the only thing I didn’t like about it. Honestly, I didn’t even notice that there weren’t any spectators on the course … MORE

    I missed having the support from spectators but that’s the only thing I didn’t like about it. Honestly, I didn’t even notice that there weren’t any spectators on the course I was so distracted by the beautiful views.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    costoich REPEAT RUNNER '18

    Don’t use all your energy getting to hurricane point because there are plenty of hills in the last few miles running through the highlands. MORE

    Don’t use all your energy getting to hurricane point because there are plenty of hills in the last few miles running through the highlands.

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    swcheng15 FIRST-TIMER '18

    I did the relay and did legs 2 and 3. Beautiful course, though it was overcast that day. Lots of rolling hills in leg 2 and of course leg 3 … MORE

    I did the relay and did legs 2 and 3. Beautiful course, though it was overcast that day. Lots of rolling hills in leg 2 and of course leg 3 had the biggest hill of them all. Aid stations were plentiful and there were medical staff throughout the course. It was very well ran. The only issue was waiting for the relay bus to leave at the end of leg 3. I didn’t make it on the earlier 3 buses, and had to wait until the buses from previous legs passed us. Also, the traffic back into the finish line was busy, as we were behind the truck that picked up the cones. Otherwise it was great.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    emb1543 FIRST-TIMER '18

    If you're going to do this race definitely train for hills because t=otherwise the last few miles will be really rough like I discovered. The weather was great and the … MORE

    If you’re going to do this race definitely train for hills because t=otherwise the last few miles will be really rough like I discovered. The weather was great and the route along highway one was fantastic. Also the shirts that they give out are really nice because they are actually shaped to fit runners.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    glat1000 FIRST-TIMER '18

    This was a fabulous race. The course is phenomenal. Very well organized and every thing went smoothly. I have run numerous marathons and this is by far my favorite MORE

    This was a fabulous race. The course is phenomenal. Very well organized and every thing went smoothly. I have run numerous marathons and this is by far my favorite

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    Profile photo of Brad Ring
    bradr998 FIRST-TIMER '18

    Good logistics and great local support from EMS, Fire, and all the volunteers. Great water aid stations along the course. However the app used to track runners seems to have … MORE

    Good logistics and great local support from EMS, Fire, and all the volunteers. Great water aid stations along the course. However the app used to track runners seems to have many glitches. When tracking a fellow runner, two different check points, and finish time didn’t display until hours after the race. This created medical concerns and contact friends and relatives and creating unnecessary anguish. Please fix the tech, fix the app, and test it prior to having any more races.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    3
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    3

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    M_Sohaskey May 16, 2018 at 4:30pm

    Brad, thanks for your review! Though I'm sorry to hear you had issues with the app. We shared your feedback with the organizers, and here's their response: "Thank you for your comment. Runner tracking and other apps that rely on cellular service or wifi are difficult to maintain during our race due to the lack of reception along Highway 1. Stretches of the course are completely dark, and while there are pockets of reception here and there for some providers, it is often not strong enough to maintain real-time updating apps. We appreciate your comment and realize that the lack of data can cause undue alarm for those following runners on the course. We will be increasing our communication to participants to alert them to the lack of cell reception along the course and high probability for delayed data."

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    wenerson FIRST-TIMER '18

    This was by far the most physically challenging marathon I have ever done. The scenery made it all worth it! The course is beautiful. The race organizers did an amazing … MORE

    This was by far the most physically challenging marathon I have ever done. The scenery made it all worth it! The course is beautiful.
    The race organizers did an amazing job coordinating the entire event. We are arrived in Big Sur in enough time to prepare for the race. There was ample food, water, coffee and other supplies for runners pre-race. The course was well supported with water, gatorade, gu and medical personnel. Overall, they did an fantastic job.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    mkjeung REPEAT RUNNER '18

    The Big Sur Marathon is about the journey. Epic cliffs, ocean waves, coastal breezes and rolling hills make you feel alive. The race and community are small and close-knit and … MORE

    The Big Sur Marathon is about the journey. Epic cliffs, ocean waves, coastal breezes and rolling hills make you feel alive. The race and community are small and close-knit and supportive, which add to the best marathon weekends I’ve had so far.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    Great race! Highly reccomend to snyone but the hills are no joke. I signed up to do the relay but ended up running 21 miles. They let you keep going … MORE

    Great race! Highly reccomend to snyone but the hills are no joke. I signed up to do the relay but ended up running 21 miles. They let you keep going as far as you can before unless you get swept.

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    benjmahon FIRST-TIMER '18

    The course is definitely hilly, but it's the hills in the back half that are hardest. Hurricane Point is a long climb, but the views are so spectacular, that as … MORE

    The course is definitely hilly, but it’s the hills in the back half that are hardest. Hurricane Point is a long climb, but the views are so spectacular, that as long as you pace yourself you’ll actually enjoy going up (and you get a nice 2 mile decline after). Expect some wind, and because its a rural marathon you won’t get the crowd support you get at big city runs. There is the occasional band which was nice. The race starts out straight downhill, so make sure to pace yourself!

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    runner28 FIRST-TIMER '18

    I have had the opportunity to run the Boston, Chicago, and New York City marathons but there was something incredibly special and rewarding about running the Big Sur marathon. The … MORE

    I have had the opportunity to run the Boston, Chicago, and New York City marathons but there was something incredibly special and rewarding about running the Big Sur marathon. The race was very well organized with friendly and helpful volunteers! The scenery was truly breathtaking and although the course was challenging with hills I was so proud of finishing under four hours!

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    jnederveld FIRST-TIMER '18

    The course is beautiful though note that almost the entire course is comprised of rolling hills, the longest of which is a hill that last for 2 miles. Course was … MORE

    The course is beautiful though note that almost the entire course is comprised of rolling hills, the longest of which is a hill that last for 2 miles. Course was fairly windy.

    Aid station support is good, and you even get some strawberries near the end. Overall, very well run race.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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