Race Report: 2011 Big Sur Marathon

When I finished the Big Sur Marathon last year the words “never again” definitely came out of my mouth.  It was a tough, humbling marathon, but it’s beauty will definitely draw you back in. 

As I sat there in my post marathon haze, I looked around at all the runners in their Boston 2 Big Sur jackets and double medals, and definitely got a little swag envy.  My “never again” phrase turned into “I’ll think about it.”  A few months later I was registered.

Since Big Sur was my only spring marathon the year before, I ran it and put a good effort out, so didn’t have as much fun on the course as I wished.  Since I just completed the Boston Marathon 13 days ago, I had zero expectations for this race, even a PW (personal worst) was expected.  I have never ran marathons this close together, and although I felt pretty recovered from Boston, I had no idea what my body would do.

Marathon Eve & The Expo

This also turned into a very fun girls weekend with 8 of us going for various race distances.  I was very excited to get to spend some time with the girls and just have a fun relaxing weekend.  The fun began early Saturday morning as I picked up Susan who flew in from NYC for the race from the Bart station, grabbed Tara from her apartment, and headed south to pick up Page before being on our way to Monterey!

We made it to Monterey around 12 and headed to the expo for our first trip.  This expo is definitely not like Boston, but I still like small less crowded expos.  We were all kind of in denial that we were actually running a race the next day, but we had fun cruising around and chatting with Bart Yasso.

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The rest of our crew (Jessica, Roadbunner, Alyssa, and Kristen) eventually arrived to the hotel and we all headed out for pizza.  We were back in our room at a decent time with all our stuff set out and the alarms set for a very early wake up call – 3:15am.

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Marathon Morning

The alarm went off at 3:15 and I jumped out of bed and got into marathon mode.  I actually slept really good the night before which was exciting.  I showered, got dressed, had my coffee and started eating my breakfast, and we were all ready with time to spare.  At 4:20am we started walking over to the bus pickup next door and everything was going very smoothly.

This year the course was also going to be different from the normal course that starts in Big Sur and runs north to Carmel on Highway 1 since a big portion of Highway 1 collapsed into the ocean a few weeks ago.  The course started at the finish line and ran 12+ miles out, before we turned around and ran back with a little add on around mile 24.  So instead of the standard long bus ride out to Big Sur, we had a much shorter bus ride to Carmel, but it still left very early.

We made it to the start line and it was pretty chilly out so we just found a spot to huddle together for a while.


Pretty soon we heard rumors how runners were taking over the Safeway since it was open 24 hours and we decided to go check it out for ourselves.  Sure enough, there were hundreds, if not thousands of runners hanging out in Safeway keeping warm before the race.  We located ourselves in the wine aisle and sat there keeping warm until the race got closer.  It was pretty hilarious.

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Pretty soon it was time to hit the porta potties and check our bags and before we knew it we were off the start line!  Page and I got separated from the rest of them, but I was happy to have a buddy with me at the start line.  It was fun to be taking the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge with her and we definitely matched for the occasion.  We wore our Boston bibs on our backs as well.

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Race Time!

The gun went off and we were off!  It still hadn’t quite sunk in that I was running another marathon and my 10th not at that, but I felt good, the temperature was perfect and I was excited to just run for fun.

Page and I stuck together for a mile or 2, but I knew I needed to back off and just cruise and let my body warm up.  I knew this was going to be a tough course and I just wanted to have fun and try not to die on all the hills.  The new course was going to be tougher than last year, since I think the 2nd half of the course is harder than the first and we were doing the 2nd half twice.  The hills started right away and I just cruised along, taking in everything around me.

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I decided to change up my fueling strategy a little bit and taking some shot blocks in addition to Gu.  I love eating the chewy fuel, but typically don’t when I am “racing” so this was a great way to break it up.  I ate a my first pack of shot blocks starting around mile 3 and continuing through mile 8 which was 200 calories since I typically take 2 Gus by mile 8.  I carried my handheld and drank water frequently.

Mile 1 – 8:51, Mile 2 – 8:48, Mile 3 – 9:05, Mile 4 – 9:32, Mile 5 – 9:04

I was continuing to cruise along enjoying everything around me and loving the cool air.  I knew it was going to get a lot warmer the second half of the race so I was happy to have the cool air for the time being.  Since I was running the race backwards to what I had run before, it was fun to see the course from a different angle.

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The beautiful coast line came into view and I just was soaking in everything around me and taking pictures and just happy to be out there running the course again.  The miles were flying by and I was having a blast!

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Mile 6 – 9:19, Mile 7 – 9:22, Mile 8 – 9:04, Mile 9 – 9:12, Mile 10 – 9:00

It continued to be absolutely beautiful and there were runners from the different length races coming back the other way the last few miles as well.  I knew to start looking for the leaders of the marathon and my speedy friends!  Alyssa came running by at this point and I said hi to her… I knew she was going to have a good day.

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Pretty soon I saw Susan coming the other way and she looked awesome!  We cheered for each other and tried to get a pic but it didn’t work out too well.  They positioned the turn around just before the famous Bixby Bridge and although we didn’t get to run on it at least we got to see it!  I was still feeling pretty good, but my legs were tired and I knew I had a lot of hills on the way back. 

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There wasn’t a half marathon marker but I was pretty close to 2:00 for the half which I was really happy with.  I had no intentions of breaking 4 hours in this race, and honestly didn’t expect much of my time at all so I was pleasantly surprised to see my time.  The 4:00 pace group passed me around Mile 14/15 and I was actually a little relieved so I didn’t have to think about keeping it under 4.

Mile 11 – 9:08, Mile 12 – 9:16, Mile 13 – 9:16, Mile 14 – 9:14, Mile 15 – 8:55

The hills kept on coming and the sun was coming out definitely making it warm.  I was getting tired but just trying to have a good time and enjoy the course.  Somewhere in these miles Jessica caught up to me and we ran together for a while.  We talked a little bit, but it was just nice to have someone to run with when I started wanting to walk.  I kept up with my fueling plan and kept on taking pictures!

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Mile 16 – 9:32, Mile 17 – 9:07, Mile 18 – 9:19, Mile 19 – 9:19, Mile 20 – 9:13

I had been doing a pretty good job of keeping my pace consistent but mile 21 I just lost it.  I needed to refill my water bottle and my legs were just tired, I was hot and didn’t want to run any more hills!  So I walked through the stop and told Jess to go ahead.  Right after the water stop was a giant hill and I just did not have it in me at that moment and let myself walk up part of the hill.  I was tired but knew the end was getting close!

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Mile 21 – 10:40, Mile 22 – 9:24

I composed myself after that mile and kept on running.  The road gets really cambered along these miles and it was not feeling good, but I just tried to find the flattest part of the road I could.  Pretty soon we had the ~2 mile add on into Point Lobos which I was not the biggest fan of.  I wished we would have had the little add on at the beginning because it was a little rough mentally going out for that loop.  I did get to see Page and Alyssa again though and I caught up to Jess again so that made it worth it.

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There was a short steep hill in this section that I had to walk up again, but after that I got a little boost of energy and told myself no more walking!  Every time we passed a mile marker they would say what marathon time you were on pace for and I kept fluctuating between 4:02 and 4:05.  I tend to develop random time goals towards the end of races and this one suddenly became to beat my first marathon time (my personal worst of marathons I have raced). 

Mile 23 – 9:11, Mile 24 – 9:36

My legs were so tired at this point and I was very warm, but I kept telling myself I would kick myself later if I slowed down too much and came in after 4:04.  I checked in at each mile knowing I would have it if I stayed in the 9-9:30 range.  There is a stupid big hill at mile 25 that I clearly remembered from last year and it definitely wasn’t any easier this year.  I just shortened my stride and chugged up that thing.  I was getting a little woozy, so I slowed down as much as I could but was still running!  FINALLY I was at the top of the hills with less than a mile to go.

Mile 25 – 8:59

I was baking in the sun at this point but knew the finish line was close.  Finally I could see it in the distance and I gave it what I had to get over that finish line.


Mile 26 – 9:12, Last .31 (per Garmin) – 2:40 (8:24 avg)

Garmin: 26.31 miles/4:03:29/9:15 avg pace

BSIM Elevation

Official Results:
26.2 miles/4:03:29/9:18 avg pace
Overall: 980 out of 3218
Women: 328 out of 1548
F 25-29: 58 out of 224


I was so happy to be done!  I found Jess and then I made my way to the Boston 2 Big Sur tent where I found Page.  After getting our second medal, awesome jacket and some food and beer we made our way out to find the rest of the crew.  Everyone did so amazing and it was so fun to recap all the races including a couple awesome PRs on a very tough course! 


We celebrated after with a lot of food and beer and walked around Monterey a bit, including making sure Susan touched the Pacific Ocean.  We had grand plans of staying out late, but were all wiped out from the race.


After a great night of sleep we had a yummy breakfast and then headed back home.  It was such a fun weekend with the girls and I feel so blessed to have such amazing friends, both new and old, in my life.


Marathon #10 is done!  I am so happy with how I did, only 5 minutes slower than last year, not a personal worst, a pretty evening paced race on a very tough course AND only 13 days after a marathon.  This race is so amazing, so beautiful and well organized and just hard to explain.  I can’t wait to go back and run the normal course again!  

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55 Responses to Race Report: 2011 Big Sur Marathon

  1. tricia May 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    congrats, you ROCK!

  2. Anne May 2, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    Congrats Aron…what an enjoyable race and recap :)

  3. Kristen May 2, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    I’m loving your thumbs down face. I have no idea how you did this- well done Aron! Beautiful pictures. It almost makes want to run Big Sur- but maybe I’ll do something like Napa instead one day.

  4. Kerry May 2, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    Ah! This makes me want to do it…Congrats on another marathon. You can run with me tomorrow (if you run) :)

  5. RunningLaur May 2, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Definitely going on my short list for next year. you did so well and took great photos along the way!

  6. Cate May 2, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    I am so excited to run this race… hopefully next year!

  7. Sarah May 2, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    Congrats, Aron!!

  8. Tim Woodbury May 2, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

    Nicely done, Aron! PW is a new one for me, but way to go avoiding that! What a beautiful race.

  9. Sarah @ The Pajama Chef May 2, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

    congrats! great job :)

  10. Lauren @ Lauren Runs May 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

    Congrats! It sounds like it was a really fun race!

  11. Racingtales May 2, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    Awesome! I’ve always wanted to run Big Sur but was put off by hearing how tough it is! But now I’ve heard of Boston 2 Big Sur, I really want to accept that challenge! Of course, after running Boston in ’09 I said, “never again!” Guess I’ll just have to eat my words.

    Congrats on the back-to-back marathons. That’s an amazing achievement!

    Alison (racingtales)

  12. Zaneta May 2, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    GREAT race!!! You seriously are amazing!!! 2 marathons that close together?! Especially Big Sur at that?! YOU ROCK HARDCORE!! :)

  13. Nicole May 2, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

    Did T tell you that i wanna come out for this next year????? :-)

    Great job on both races!!!! :-)

    Whats next???? ;-)

  14. Aysha May 2, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    Awesome race report Aron! Looks like it was an amazing course and a fun weekend away with friends. Congrats on the back to back marathons :)

  15. Kim May 2, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    ahhh, this is SOOOO MUCH fun! Great work Aron! I am even more excited for SFM this summer than I already was! :)

  16. Alma May 2, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    GORGEOUS photos! THanks!

  17. Jen May 3, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    Wow. Two marathons 2 weeks apart is tough, but with Big Sur as your second?!? I still can’t believe it. Way to go pushing through the pain. You’re an inspiration!

  18. Laura May 3, 2011 at 6:10 am #

    Congrats and another great recap…thanks!

  19. Morgan May 3, 2011 at 6:59 am #

    Way to go on #10 Aron! I love that you had such a group of friends out there on the course to cheer you on and give you something to look forward too. You CA girls know how to run a race together that is for sure!!! Hope you are resting up and relaxing after rockstaring two marathons in two weeks!!!

  20. Courtney May 3, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    I only have a few words for you, missy.

    YOU ARE SUCH AN INSPIRATION. Really, seriously.

    That is all.

  21. Courtney May 3, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    Oh and HAH, I tried to go pick up a big poster frame and place all of my bibs in there, like you did with your office – I’m seriously lacking bibs, there’s so much white space, YUCK. I bought way too big of a frame. Just looks like I’m going to have to run some more damn races!

  22. Alyssa May 3, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    Reading your report & seeing all your pictures really lets me relive this course! It was so hard & awesome, and I cannot believe you did it so close to Boston!! This is definitely a huge accomplishment & I am so proud of you. Congrats! :) Thanks for organizing a perfect weekend getaway!!!

  23. Marlene May 3, 2011 at 7:19 am #

    What a fun weekend!!! Seriously, running a 4:03 on a HARD course less than 2 weeks after Boston… that’s incredible! Congrats on tackling the Boston to Big Sur Challenge!! :)

  24. Michelle May 3, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    Woah! Look at those hills. My hips hurt looking at that elevation chart.

    Awesome job — and beautiful pictures.

    So…what’s next? :)

  25. katie May 3, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    congratulations, you are such a badass! and this looks like a gorgeous course!

  26. Beth @ Boston2Berkeley May 3, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Congratulations! I was down in Big Sur the weekend before the race, and I couldn’t fathom running a marathon up and down those hills! The scenery is positively gorgeous, but you definitely earn it. Congratulations on #10, you are awesome!

  27. Teri [a foodie stays fit] May 3, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    congrats on running your 10th marathon! that’s awesome! great time too! i have GOT to run Big Sur someday! it’s so gorgeous!

  28. Lesley May 3, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Congrats on a good, fun race and another finishers medal! :) Enjoyed the race report!

  29. Allison May 3, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    Congratulations on finishing the Boston 2 Big Sur challenge! 2 marathons that close together would be impressive anyway, but when you add the fact that the course is really tough…wow! I’m glad you were able to have such a good time too!

  30. Emily May 3, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    i LOVE this aron!! my longest run since boston has been 5.5 miles. basically, you and Page are running rockstars and i aspire to one day be as bad ass as both of you. congrats on hitting double digits!!!

  31. Debbie May 3, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Congrats to you for completing your 10th marathon with the B2B included, Wow! I honestly cannot fathom that. I just ran my first marathon this past Sunday and the idea of another one right now is quite daunting, let alone what you accomplished. SO incredible!! Great Job!

  32. Denise May 3, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    congrats, such a fun accomplishment! pictures are great! i wonder which jacket you’ll wear more often…

  33. Jesse May 3, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    i love that you chose “california girls” by katy perry for your slideshow! love that song. congrats on your 10th marathon :) its my dream, now that i’ve caught the marathon bug, to run the big sur one day … until then i’ll live vicariously through you :)

  34. So happy to have found your site. Congrats on the marathon…. what a beautiful course! I’m enjoying reading through your other posts and am glad to now be a regular reader & Twitter follower.

  35. J May 3, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    Congrats Aron on your 10th marathon! That is awesome you ran Boston and Big Sur! Looks like such a tough course! I remember your report from last year!

  36. Corey @ the runners cookie May 3, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    What a great recap!! You did amazing…I still can hardly believe you ran 2 marathons so close together! So awesome, and I’m sure that was a 2 weeks you will never forget :) Congratulations, Aron!

  37. Ari May 3, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    Congratulations, that was amazing to read about!

  38. Karyn May 3, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    STUNNING pictures. you are such a strong runner. i am in awe!

  39. Shelley B May 3, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    i walked the 10.6 miler at Big Sur on Sunday (originally was going to run it but I’ve been nursing an ankle injury since January) – we watched the marathon runners go by us twice (out and back) and holy moly – I did not envy you guys – those hills were tough! Congratulations on finishing, and a with a great time! What a fun event – I got to meet Bart Yasso too. At 3:30 am I said I’d never do this again, but you know what? I may be back next year!

  40. Becky May 4, 2011 at 5:48 am #

    Congrats! Boston 2 Big Sur is quite the challenge. You didn’t just finish, you finished STRONG! Enjoy this post-race recovery.

  41. Melanie May 4, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    AWESOME!! Way to go on Boston to Big Sur. What a fun race report!

  42. RoadBunner May 4, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Yay! I had so much fun and I am glad everyone came out and had good days, too. Same thing for next year!

  43. Sparky May 5, 2011 at 7:24 am #

    I saw you at the start line with your Boston bib on your back, but didn’t realize it was you until now! LOL! Congrats on completeing the Challenge!

  44. Susan - Nurse on the Run May 5, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

    I think that this was a great way to cap off your Boston adventure! Reading your recap brought back my own memories of the course…I love reading other people’s impressions (especially about that MONSTER hill at mile 20!!) and seeing how it relates to my own. Congrats on an amazing accomplishment, and it was SO fun spending the weekend with you and the California girls. :)

  45. Kristen May 7, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    Hi! I have been reading your blog for a while, and love hearing about your running adventures. Great jobs on Boston and Big Sur!! :)

    I have a question- in all of your race reports, you have mile splits listed- do you get them from your garmin? I recently bought a Garmin 305, but I can’t figure out how to get the mile splits from the data… Do you just press ‘lap’ every time you hit a mile?

    Thanks, and keep up the good work and great blogging!


  46. Beth May 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    That course looks BEAUTIFUL!! Congrats on your 10th marathon finish and crazy back to back marathons!

  47. Tina@GottaRunNow May 10, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    That’s a great finishing time! Congrats! I ran Big Sur last year – beautiful place!

  48. Lauren May 18, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    Sooo…I know I’m super late in saying this (sorry!) but – CONGRATULATIONS!! I am so impressed not only by your strong marathon, but by the fact that you ran two so close together!! I have crazy respect for you right now :) And of course, in the back of my mind I’m starting to wonder if maybe (just maybe!!) I could do it too. The course sounds incredibly tough but these recaps are making me really want to run it. I mean, you don’t get those sorts of views where I come from.

    Just wondering how you would rate this revised course in terms of the original course? I know you said it was tougher, but did you feel like it was significantly harder? The elevation profile is definitely intimidating!

    Congrats on running a great race and for completing the Boston to Big Sur challenge!


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