Overview: The Big Sur International Marathon (BSIM) is a bucket list event for many marathoners and the event is very much worth that reputation. It is the most scenic, beautiful and nostalgic marathon I have ever run. The course runs south to north from Big Sur Station to Carmel along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). There is no commercialization or building structures on the PCH and the views are spectacular. The ocean is on your left and the mountains are on your right with ranches and redwoods everywhere. The air was crisp and clear and the temperature was perfect for us. The temps average between 50 and 60 degrees and the humidity between 30 and 50%. As publicized, you’re “Running on the Ragged Edge of the Western World”. Four club members traveled out to California to run this event in April of 2018 and we all had a great time. Yes, the course is challenging, but I didn’t think it was as bad as its reputation. Others may disagree. My objective was to finish it within the 6 hour time limit and I was seriously worried about that. However, my time was much better than I anticipated. Hilly? Yes. Insurmountable? No. There are about 6 hills like Van Bueren along the course and the toughest climb runs 2 miles from mile 10 to mile 12 with a 500-plus foot increase in elevation. It did have an impact on my vocabulary, but it wasn’t all that bad. There are water and Gatorade stops every 2 miles and 2 of those stops provide Gu. Fresh fruit is provided at all water stops after mile 10.4.
Distractions & Photo Ops: Besides the incredible views, there are Taiko drummers at the foot of Hurricane Point at mile 12 and the Yamaha baby grand piano at Bixby Bridge at the half marathon split. There are also belly dancers at mile 25 and an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, and rock and roll provided by local musical groups throughout the course and at the finish.
Alternative: If you think you may struggle to maintain a 13:45 pace to beat the cutoff, there’s also a 21-Miler. You still get to enjoy(?) the climb up Hurricane Point from mile 10 to mile 12, take your picture at Bixby Bridge, and munch a strawberry about three miles from the finish, and you have a lot more time to finish: 6:30 hours or an 18:45 minute pace for 21 miles. You still get an awesome medallion at the finish line and your name in the results book. The 21-Miler is great for conservative runners and power walkers.
Lodging: There are many hotels to choose from. We stayed at the Portola Hotel & Spa which is next to the Expo, walking distance to the buses to the start and there’s a Starbucks across the street. It also has a great restaurant.
Travel: We chose to fly into San Francisco (SFO). It’s 110 miles north of the event but it’s much more convenient than connecting into Monterey Airport. We rented a car and had a leisurely, stress-free drive both ways.
Opinion: Would I run this again? Absolutely.
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"Marathoning is just another form of insanity." John J. Kelly, winner of the 1952 Boston Marathon