My husband ran the Big Sur International Marathon on Sunday, his fourth. I've now done four of the weekend's distances: the 21-mile run (called the Power Walk when I walked the distance in 2001); the 9-mile loop around Point Lobos, and the 10.6 miler (twice), which starts (usually) at a restaurant 10.6 miles south of the marathon’s finish line in Carmel. This weekend the 10.6 miler start was slightly south, at an historic farm, making the actual course 11 miles.
The Big Sur races are classic, the only day all year that part of Highway 1 is closed except to runners and walkers. It's a destination race, certainly, with runners from 49 states and many countries. You will not break records on this course but you might see whales and cows, hear early morning song birds, and break into a smile (or even dance) at the musicians and performers along the route. The community of Monterey County is engaged and involved, with the proceeds of the runs supporting many non-profit organizations. You'll see the Boston 2 Big Sur runners (yes, two marathons in 12 days, on opposite coasts), some elite runners (Michael Wardian was the men's winner), and hundreds of locals walking the course instead of their daily jaunts around the neighborhoods of Carmel and Monterey.
I loaded one of the school buses at 5:45 a.m. for the drive to the start. The logistics of the various races are complex, as all runners (except for the 5k and 12k) are bussed to the start before the 6:45 a.m. or 7:00 a.m. starting times. Within minutes of unloading from the bus (I was on one of the last ones, so only time for a quick bathroom break before the singing of the national anthem), the race began. Within the first five feet, we started up our first hill, with 12 more to come after it! The weather was cool with a slight breeze, a perfect day for a run on the "ragged edge of the world.” The sun peeked over the hills to the south of us, finally hitting the road about mile 5. Along with 13 hills, the camber of the road wreaked havoc on my left hip, as all the running was north toward Carmel on the ocean side of the road. There was never any purely flat road to give my legs and lungs/heart a rest, only up (756' gain) and down (839'). The numbers seem small in hindsight, but as I clicked mile after mile they were constant reminders of powering my way through this morning run.
I'd hoped to best my half marathon time (yes, crazy, but sea level course, training at some altitude, a slightly shorter distance made this seem a possibility) until I came to my senses when walking around Carmel on Saturday...the Big Sur International Marathon and its ancillary races are billed as destination events; I couldn't treat the 10.6 miler as a typical race. I needed to enjoy the course, run by feel, listen to the sounds of the early morning, smell the trees and flowers, and figure out the hills. Hard for me to do, I vowed to savor the morning, not beat myself up, emotionally or physically.
I finished with almost a smile on my face. I successfully absorbed the blue of the ocean, the music, the stillness, the birds, and the soft sound of my feet hitting the pavement. I didn’t push myself harder than what I could do with the terrain, remembering my vow of the day before. Again, lessons learned about approaching and, sometimes changing goals mid-stream during, these events continue to challenge me.
Doug’s marathon run was successful, perhaps not as well as he’d liked, but wonderful stories to tell of other participants, the various countries and states from which they come, their running history, their stories. We are so fortunate in the ability to do these things together, but separately, and reminiscing about almost 31 years of visiting this slice of California in all its glorious beauty.