I usually do not do back to back half marathons. However the course the Monterey Bay half marathon or the Big Sur half as it’s called, received such phenomenal reviews that I could not pass a chance to miss this one especially since I was in the Bay Area for only a year. It was scheduled on November 12th, right after the Golden Gate half marathon on November 5th.
Seeing the video of the course which was along the Pacific grove was too tempting to miss out. I signed up for it and drove to Monterey Bay which was about 1 hour and 49 mins from Stanford, with my husband and 3 year old daughter. Staying at Monterey Bay Marriott which was the host hotel of the event was convenient considering the start line was just 5 minutes away. The bib collection was right across the hotel and after collecting the bib, we headed off to explore the Monterey Bay aquarium which was both child and adult friendly.
There were several aquatic species and it was interesting to observe them in their domain. A large lake was present where kids were allowed to touch some of these salt water wonders. After grabbing lunch of some grilled salmon at the local cafe, we headed to pebble beach and Carmel by the sea where we got a glimpse of the mighty waves in their splendor. We returned by 5 pm, grabbed an early dinner and hit the bed early as I always believed in a good sleep of 8-9 hours prior to the race morning.
The event was scheduled to begin the next morning at 6:50 am and the holding area was divided into several corals. Each coral was designated with a separate start time. The area was bustling with runners and warm ups. Slowly one by one, the corals started to move and I soon found myself crossing the start line.
I decided to adhere to the race manual where instructions to avoid headphones was stated clearly. Despite this, I noticed a few people carrying music with them. I also decided to avoid looking at my Garmin watch, bracing myself for one of the most scenic runs.
I ran through the streets of Monterey which were rather hilly. There were people playing music at different points as we cheered and clapped for them. I saw a couple of folks holding cut out posters of Jelly Fish and some interesting placards with motivational lines. After passing through a tunnel, I soon climbed up a steep incline leading to a street with an array of restaurants and pubs. After a few more climbs, I finally came face to face with the pristine Pacific Ocean.
Sparkling in the sunlight, this mass shade of blue made quite a pretty sight. It was delightful to see the ocean merged with the sky and specks of white puffs floating above. On closer look, one could see these white puffs took the shape of seagulls as they flew above calling to one another in high shrills.
What a mesmerizing sight! I gazed in delight at nature’s wonders staring at the rock formations in the sea and the alluring waves crashing against them. The sea of runners were no match for this sea of blue that was cascading in greater volumes.
The course was certainly hilly but with such a marvelous sight, any hint of fatigue was bound to evaporate. The presence of volunteers added to the charm and it was a sheer delight to see drummers on the way, their arms moving in rhythmic action as they motivated the runners to go ahead with great fervour.
It was time to take a u-turn and move closer to the sea to bask in the glorious view once again. Hearing the sound of the waves was so soothing that I was glad to have left my music behind. The sun had now come out in full flow, as I continued running along the marine area, the fisherman’s wharf to the finish line where large number of volunteers stood cheering for us.
I was surprised to finish in a decent timing of 2:10, especially since I certainly wasn’t planning on racing this one. Some runs need to be pure without adulterating it with technicalities of pace and time. It’s important to run for yourself and in a place so invigorating that your joy knows no bounds.
After receiving the medal, I checked out the breakfast which was a fine spread of chocolate milk, peanut butter cookies, bananas, strawberries and bagels! I just grabbed a chocolate milk and headed back to the hotel to gear up for a drive to a Big Sur.
It took about 39 minutes from the hotel as we took in the scenic course of the Big Sur marathon which was scheduled on the last Sunday of April every year. The route looked daunting with its winding slopes and heady winds. However its magnificent view of the ocean on one side made up for the grueling terrain which was probably the reason why it enticed several runners to run this one.
Beautiful courses are tough ones yet the challenge seems worth it as one gets to bask in the bewitching and enchanting sights offered!
The Monterey Bay/Big Sur half is certainly one of the most scenic runs and one course which makes every participant proud of the fact that he/she is a runner!