How to Survive the Big Sur Marathon

In early fall of 2016 my friends convinced me to sign up for the Big Sur Marathon.  I had only run one other marathon previously but I felt up for the challenge.  I enjoy seeing how far I can push myself mentally and physically…plus it gave me a goal to set my sights on.  My friends who encouraged me are both amazing women.  They are incredible runners, have completed numerous marathons, and project a very positive mental attitude.  I tackled this objective like everything else in my life…brute stubbornness and grit.

I prepared myself to be the only Clydesdale among a sea of string beans for this race.

I reached out to a friend of mine to work out a running plan.  He is a born runner.  He is tall and lean…picture a marathon runner’s body and that is him.  What do I look like?  Well I enjoy Crossfit, lifting, yoga, and contact sports.  So I’m the opposite of a graceful runner.  I prepared myself to be the only Clydesdale among a sea of string beans for this race.  Over the next six months I stuck to the plan that combined my love of lifting to keep some baseline strength every other day with increasing runs.  Mondays and Wednesdays I continued to lift (although not to gain more bulk but to maintain a baseline strength).  On Tuesdays I ran repeats with high intensity (like 400s hills, 800s, and 1 mile repeats).  On Thursdays I stuck to marathon pace runs that increased every week.  To simulate my race day, Sundays were my long runs.  I worked up to a long run of 20 miles.

So as I alluded to, this was my second marathon.  Please know that I didn’t train at all for my first marathon.  So if you want to run a marathon, especially the Big Sur International Marathon, or you’re new to running longer distances here are some tips from my training this time around:

  1. Learn to enjoy running!  Heck you’re going to be out there a lot so might as well make it fun!  On my long runs I listened to a church sermon and then a podcast (usually The Wild Soul Podcast – –  I thought of my long run as “my time” where I could enjoy the sun and take a few hours just for myself.
  2. Gu, waffles, Gatorade, and other fuel will be your best friend.  Hydrate and fuel up on every run, not just on your long runs, the way you would during your race.  This will take some time to figure out but heck you should be training for at least three months so you’ve got some time to figure it out.  I learned that every 45 minutes I would have a Gu packet and about every mile I would drink water.  Hydration and fuel is just as critical to train as your endurance capacity.
  3. Review the elevation profile and environment of your race and adapt your training plan to it.  For the Big Sur International Marathon it’s hilly (like over 750 ft elevation gain between miles 10 and 12) and it’s windy.  So I made sure to train with continuous rolling hills, plug in some endurance hill work, and run along the beach to get some wind resistance.  If you have no clue ask a friend or use Google!  Someone else out there has probably done this race.  (Another tip – when you’re running on these hills and banking curves try to run on the flattest part of the road to limit the impact on your hips/knees…this means usually the center.)
  4. Your feet, hips, knees, and shins will thank you for this one!  Invest in some good running shoes.  Go to a local retail store and get fitted for you!
  5. Be okay with off days.  Every week will not go as planned…life happens!  But as long as you do your best to hit every run objective and have a positive mental attitude that will help.  If you’re sick or if you’re injured, make sure to take proper rest so you do not hurt yourself more.

Big Sur Marathon

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