Good luck today to all of the runners participating today in the 29th Big Sur International Marathon!  Back in 2001, Bill and I met our friends Miles and his wife Jeani in California to run this bucket-list marathon.

Big Sur advises that this will not be a PR marathon for runners; in fact marathoners need to add 15-20 minutes to their average marathon time to predict their expected finish time.  With that in mind, Bill and I set a goal of finishing in under four hours.



Before we flew out, we dropped our two sons (then ages 11 and 13) off with friends for the weekend.  We packed more for them for their weekend than our own!  We needed running shoes; but they needed inline hockey, baseball, and soccer gear.

Our first stop once we got to Carmel was the expo.  We picked up our race bib and official shirt and then headed off to shop!  I wanted more than an ugly long-sleeved cotton shirt to remember this race by!


2001 Big Sur race shirt



Bill picked up a shirt that he could wear when running.  This shirt has been a conversation starter on the running trail for many years!



I picked up a sweatshirt and adorable sleeveless chambray button-up shirt which was in style at the time.  I just recently threw the shirt away, so unfortunately I don’t have a picture to share.



We also each got this t-shirt with a picture of Bixby Bridge on the front.



After the expo, we drove to The Cobblestone Inn to check in.  Jeani had found this quaint bed-and-breakfast and suggested we all stay there.  It was as delightful on the inside as the outside!



After check-in we all headed to a big pre-race pasta dinner with our group of friends.  John, the gentleman next to Bill had run about a million marathons and was planning to walk this one.  He entertained us with endless running stories on the scary bus ride from Carmel to Big Sur the following morning.   I’ll tell you more about the bus ride later.

Miles suggested we take a group picture and a tradition was born!  Little did I know how useful these pictures would be 13 years later!



And of course we took a picture of the group outside the Cortile San Remo Restaurant.  Notice my hair…  The damp air was already making it start to grow upward.  Oh, it gets better.  Just wait until you see race pictures!



Super early the next morning we met Miles and John to wait for the school buses so we could be bused to Big Sur.  Jeani and the rest of the gang were walking the half marathon and would be catching later buses. I’ve ridden in a vehicle along the Pacific Coastal Highway (Route 1) twice in my life.  Both times were in the dark, and both times I could hear the surf smacking against the rocks below, and I was sure the car/bus was going to careen into the ocean.  The highway seemed much more twisty in a vehicle in the dark, than when we ran it.

At the start we saw Jeff Galloway (member of the 1972 Olympic Team in the 10,000 meters, turned marathoner) and got to talk to him for a while.  He had mentored the other AIDS Marathon Training Program coaches and me two years earlier in Washington, D.C.  I’m not sure if he remembered me or not, but he was kind enough to pretend that he did!

My hair and moisture just don’t get along and my hair was already frizzing toward the sky in the foggy morning air.  Miles took one look at me and predicted that the wind would catch it like a sail and propel me forward at an unfair advantage, or slow me down so he could keep up with me.  It all depended on which way the wind was blowing!



Just before the race started, I snapped a picture of my two favorite marathoners, Miles (left) and Bill!



And Miles got a picture of Bill and me in our Hefty bags and throwaway shirts.



Shortly after the start of the race, the fog burned off and we had a clear and perfect day to race.  We stayed with Miles for most of the race, running at a relaxing pace and taking in the beautiful scenery.



We ran past drummers at the base of Hurricane Point, and with the wind we could hear them for miles before we reached them.  We were happy to get to the top of Hurricane Point (about a 600 foot climb over two miles), and understood the free hat you get when you return to Big Sur to run it a second time.  The hat says, ” I survived Hurricane Point.”



From Hurricane Point we could see for miles, and picked out Bixby Bridge in the far distance.  This was by far the most beautiful view either of us has seen in a marathon.



We could hear beautiful classical piano music as we got closer to the bridge.



Once on Bixby Bridge, Bill ran ahead and took this picture of me running across.  This might have been our first ever Fartlek Photo Sprint!



At the end of the bridge, we caught up to the source of the beautiful music, and stopped for a picture with the pianist playing his grand piano.



At some point we caught up with Jeani and her sister walking the half marathon and stopped to rest take a picture.



And of course this farm girl had to stop and take pictures of these Herefords grazing along the Pacific Ocean!



Bill and I finished the 2001 Big Sur International Marathon in 4:14:56 (9:43 minute/mile pace).  Our original goal was to run a sub four-hour marathon, but after stopping to take so many pictures, we adjusted our goal time to finishing under 4:15.  During the last mile we had to pick up the pace a little to make that sub-4:15 goal.



After finishing we hobbled over to the finisher’s stand and had our picture taken.  Notice that neither of us chose to step up on it.  Immediately after a marathon the stepping up isn’t difficult, it’s the stepping back down!



Before we left the race we walked back toward the finish line to get a picture of us with it in the background.  It had been a long day, but we were happy runners!



When walking back to our cars, we saw that someone had taped a .2 number to the end of 26 miles to Big Sur.  We thought that was funny so we had someone take our picture.



The Big Sur International Marathon medal is one of, if not, the coolest we have.  It’s ceramic which seems very symbolic of the artsy culture in Carmel.  It’s perfect.



If the Big Sur International Marathon is on your radar, I’d highly recommend running it.  If it’s not, you might want to add it to your bucket list.  The scenery alone makes the race bucket-list worthy!


  • Questions:
  • What’s the most beautiful scene you’ve ever come across during a race?
  • What races are on your bucket list?
  • Who’s racing this weekend?