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April 28, 2012

Spirit of Big Sur; Random Shots of Beauty

Going back to the old days for this weekend's topic, in honor of Big Sur Marathon weekend on the Monterey Peninsula this Sunday.  Big Sur used to be the end-all, be-all race for me ... but then triathlons and ultramarathons came along, and nowadays it seems like just another race.

However, it doesn't take much for me to recall just how amazing the race experience can be, and just how incomparable the Big Sur coastline is as a backdrop for a race.  It was these kind of recollections that formed the topic of our Monterey Herald column this week, which follows below.

And we may as well stick with the theme for our Random Shot of Beauty:

Bixby Bridge at mile 13 of the Big Sur Marathon course, as photographed for my 2009 race report.

To anyone who is running this Sunday: be sure to savor the experience, because it's truly one of the best you'll ever have.  And to anyone who hasn't run Big Sur yet: be sure to put it on your list someday.  You can thank me later.

Running Life 04/28/12                                 “Spirit of Big Sur”

Can a race be a religious experience?  The question often comes up when we talk to Big Sur neophytes, because we're reminded of the awe and wonder of the marathon experience through unfamiliar eyes.

We often have opportunities to support friends who have taken on the challenge of running the Big Sur Marathon. This year a relatively talented newcomer named John has joined us for several training runs, and has been enthusiastically following our advice.

After John’s last long training run he invited us to his house for a beer, and started asking questions about his taper. (Which should have started with, "Why are we drinking beer?")  When Mike headed to the refrigerator for another Anchor Steam, he noticed large “John 3:16” signs displayed prominently on the door.

When Mike returned he commented, “I didn’t know you were religious.”

John replied, “I’m not particularly religious - why do you ask?”

Mike said, “Because you have John 3:16 signs on the fridge.”

John remarked, “Oh, that’s funny - I didn’t even think of that. You guys told me to motivate myself by putting my goal marathon time where I could see it, so I picked the fridge.  I think I can run 7 minutes and 30 seconds a mile, which works out to 3 hours and 16 minutes.”

The exchange triggered an interesting discussion of running and religion - or perhaps running AS religion.  Along the way we touched upon some great pieces advice for anyone running the Big Sur Marathon, regardless of their ability level.

The most important point is this: whether you are running Big Sur for the first time or the 27th; whether your goal is breaking 3 hours, setting a personal best time, or just reaching Carmel before they tear down the finish line; whether or not you are religious, you have to realize that on Sunday, you will be doing something absolutely magical. 

This race and this place are special.  The magnificence of the shoreline, the crashing of the surf, and the tranquility of pastoral hillsides - regardless of whether you believe God created them, can be used to enrich your journey up the coast.  Beautiful music will provide a soundtrack to the splendor at multiple locations along the way.  Be sure to savor all of it on race day, and don't let yourself just stare at the white line on the road

Channel the excited energy of the doves released at the start as they fly in serpentine patterns, framed by hills and redwoods on their journey home.  Feel the camaraderie of 6,000 feet echoing through the redwood groves of Big Sur. Greet the breeze that awaits you at Molera State Park with a smile; it's here that you'll see your first glimpse of the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

Be envigorated and challenged by the two-mile climb up to Hurricane Point, and capture a memory for a lifetime as you cross Bixby Bridge and hear Michael Martinez on the Grand Piano.  

In the "lonely miles” from 16 to 21, when the spectators disappear, ponder what a gift it is to be able to run a marathon.  Yes, you'll be uncomfortable - but that's part of the experience.  Keep taking step after step to prove how strong you are in both body and spirit.  

After you finish (and we KNOW you will), keep your finisher’s medal as a constant reminder of the magic of the Big Sur Marathon and its power, like a religious revival, to uplift your very soul. 

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Jen Small 4/29/12, 7:36 AM  

sooo beautiful.
*sigh* someday...

R. 4/29/12, 10:56 AM  

Title is "Spirit of Bug Sur"? I think that's a typo, unless the mosquito situation is out of control.

Donald 4/29/12, 3:10 PM  

@R.: Eek! Thanks.

Kevin 4/29/12, 4:08 PM  

Just ran it this morning as my first marathon. Great run but the wind was pretty brutal.

Blue Turtle 5/1/12, 5:10 PM  

I love this place. The scenery is so refreshing. What's the nearest airport going there?

J. Harp
writer @ pedometer reviews

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