After Carol dropped us off for the bus, we got in a long line that took about 15 minutes for us to finally get through and onto a bus. Because you drive the course in reverse to get to the start line, I tried not to pay attention to the hills and the curves(although it was hard not to). When we got to the start, there were already hundreds(if not more) people waiting around. There were over 300 porta-potties at the start and even with that many, there were still lines everywhere. Beth and I decided to go to the bathroom first and walked to the porta-potties the furthest away from everyone so we didn’t have to wait in line. I’m not quite sure why other people didn’t do this too.
They also provided water, coffee, fruit and bagels at the start although Beth and I brought some Clif Bars to eat instead. So we sat around for a while and then before you know it, it was time to start lining up. We threw all of our stuff that we weren’t running with, into our “sweats bag” and went to line up. The “sweats bag” got thrown into the back of a truck and we were supposed to pick it up after the race was finished. Our intention was never to even have a sweats bag but to just drop stuff on the ground(everything thrown on the ground goes to charity). Well we ended up throwing our stuff in a sweats bag and then after the marathon we forgot to pick it up. Oops. Oh well. None of the stuff we put in the bag was important to us at all. Plus we at least know that it’ll go to charity.
The race got started a few minutes late due to congestion getting everyone to the start area(thus why the busses leave so early). After the national anthem(which was really good) and the release of doves, it was time to start. I got super nervous, Beth got a little emotional, and combined, we were a wreck! And then the gun sounded and there was no more time to think about anything, we were off! 16 weeks of training was over and it was time to run.
Our goal time all along was anything under 4 hours. We had read different places to add anywhere from 10-20 minutes onto your normal marathon time for Big Sur due to the significant amount of hills. Since Beth and I had never run a marathon before, we didn’t really know what to expect, but we figured that surely we could run a marathon under four hours.
The hardest part for me in any race is to pace myself. In other races that Beth and I have run in, I normally make us take off right from the start. I hate going slow at the start and I especially hate when people pass me. This mentality doesn’t work for marathons. You’re going to get passed. The good news is, you have 26.2 miles to make up ground and catch up to some of those people who passed you at the beginning.
Our first few miles were nice and easy. We were getting warmed up and just getting into the groove of things. Not knowing exactly how we’d feel, I wanted to run the first miles around 8 minutes. I knew at some point we’d have to slow down especially as the hills got tougher and the miles wore on.
Beth and I did some talking at the beginning and around mile 3, we even met a girl from Maine who had run the marathon before. She told us to just relax now because it was only going to get tougher. The first time she ran the race, it took her 4 hours and 28 minutes and she was hoping for something under 4 hours this time. She ended up meeting her goal and finished in 3 hours and 57 minutes.
Because the beginning of the race is slightly downhill, the first few miles went by pretty easy. Around mile 5 or 6 is when we started getting out close to the ocean. We even passed a pasture with cows in it. I remember telling Beth that those cows have the best views of any cows in the world. Before we knew it, we were running right alongside the Pacific Ocean. The scenery was truly amazing!
Everything was going smoothly. Our pace was anywhere from 7:45 to 8:15 min/mile depending on the slope of the hill we were running on and we were moving right along. At mile 10 is when things kind of changed. It was first real hill of the race. Mile 10 is the start of the ascent up to Hurricane Point. It’s a 520 feet incline stretched out over two miles of winding roads. The first mile of our ascent was our slowest mile yet. It took us 8 minutes and 55 seconds. The second mile up to Hurricane Point was actually faster which is surprising considering it was right in the middle of the incline. We did that mile in 8 minutes and 33 seconds.
After reaching Hurricane Point, the next mile was a sizeable descent. And after running two straight miles uphill, it felt great to run downhill. And our time showed. We ran mile 13 in 7 minutes and 54 seconds. The halfway point of the race is on the Bixby Bridge and every year there is someone at the bridge playing the piano. As we were coming down the hill to the bridge, over a half mile away, we could hear the music coming from the piano.
Once we reached the halfway point, I remember thinking that things were going great, maybe even better than expected. Our time at the halfway point(13.1 miles) was 1 hour 46 minutes. This means that if we ran the second half at the same pace as the first half, we’d finish in a time around 3 hours 32 minutes. I knew this wasn’t going to happen, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking maybe we could run a sub 3:40 marathon. I didn’t realize what the course had left for us.