Hills, hills and more hills! Well what did you expect? It is THE Big Sur marathon-cited to be amongst the toughest ones in the world.
Being a runner and most importantly being in the bay area, I couldn’t not be a part of the Big Sur Marathon which was taking place on April 29th,2018. Fortunately, there were shorter distance categories at the event besides the daunting 26.2 miler. Since I had just completed my second Olympic distance triathlon last Sunday, I thought signing up for the 12-km distance on these rolling hills was a sensible decision, even though my heart screeched stating I was capable of doing the 17 k or even the 32 km. Probably, I chided my heart had I not pounded my poor legs at the triathlon last week. Besides it was my 12thwedding anniversary and I decided to celebrate it with a 12k run on beautiful course.
The expo: Everything was up to the mark right from the bib collection which was held at Portola plaza at Monterey Bay. I was familiar with this one as it was the same place where the bib collection for the Big Sur half marathon took place in November 2017. I expected the crew to be a snooty and uptight lot, considering the status and reputation of the Big Sur race. To my surprise, they were as chill as probably a Pina cola drink that you order at a cocktail party. Wearing friendly smiles, they went about with normalcy as any common man on the road. “Hello there. Come all the way from India?” they asked smilingly as I displayed my photo id. “From India but currently residing at Stanford.” I smiled back.
The bib was a beautiful one as opposed to the other bibs which had your name and number written on a plain white sheet. This one had a beautiful backdrop of the big sur route and one that was really worth preserving. The organizers had also carved the Big Sur Logo with the names of the participants in the 2018 edition. I was thrilled to find my name.
Since the hotels were sold out, I had booked myself on a ranch which was 45 minutes from the start point. A weekend amidst nature and farm animals was what I needed to relax my nerves, not that I was stressed about running 12k.
The race: Slated to begin at 7:35, I reached the start point at Highway one, which was incidentally the finish point for the full marathoners. There was a loud cheer and gusto at the start line which made up for a rather dreary and cold weather that greeted us this morning. The sky portrayed a dull shade of grey with such gloominess that it appeared as though it would cry any moment. I met a couple wearing Napa Valley marathon t-shirts at the start. Engaging in a conversation with them, I asked about the Napa race which was held on March 4th2018. They were also doing the 12 k. “We just did the full last month”, they said and I silently applauded them for their sensibilities.
When the race began, I decided to treat this as a fun run, hoping to click pictures of the scenery. After the first km, I was greeted with a huge hill, prompting even the strong looking runners to quit their strides and walk instead. I decided to continue running as long as my legs were willing to support me. At the 2.5 km mark, the 5 k runners turned while we went straight ahead. I couldn’t help noticing how the 5 k runners were cheered despite doing a small distance. One of the aspects that I admire in America is that even runners running a 3 km distance are treated with respect. As I went ahead, I saw a volunteer dressed as a dinosaur greet us from the grass on the left. A few feet away, there were more volunteers who were dressed in feathers and wigs along with drummers who were drumming away furiously, probably resonating with the runners’ heart beats up those inclines.
I soon entered the scenic Point Lobos state natural reserve. The cascade of greenery on either side was spread out like a green carpet. The roads soon paved way to a beautiful view of the ocean where the waves lashed on the rocks. The inclines continued all the way up to the 6.5 km mark where we turned. I stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the feel of the breeze on my face and the sound of the waves. I was told that we were likely to see some sea lions sunbathing on the rocks if we were lucky. However, the cold weather seemed to have kept them indoors today. Running through the natural reserve again, I reached the 9thkm mark where I was greeted by rains. Oh no! I exclaimed, hoping they weren’t going to play spoilsport.
The hills continued like a chain reaction. Just as one ended, another began. It appeared as though they were holding hands trying to mock the runners. My heart went out to the marathoners. My! They didn’t call this a tough one for nothing. Just as we were nearing the finish line, a volunteer shouted, “one more hill, one more hill.” I huffed and puffed but no! Thankfully I didn’t blow down any house. Instead I just kept going and going till I reached the finish line and the course was longer by 500 metres.
I was thrilled to have been a part of the Big sur race. What an incredible experience and most importantly a scintillating atmosphere which makes you forget your tired legs. Since the marathon is scheduled every year at the end of April which also happens to fall close to our anniversary date, my hubby and I decided to train and come back to run the full here someday. After all it the THE big sur. J