Boston 2 Big Sur
Imagine the elation of finishing last month’s Boston Marathon after battling the brutal weather—and then realizing your epic experience doesn’t actually end on Boylston Street.
For some 400 runners registered in the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge, enduring the cold, rain and wind in Boston was only half the battle. To complete the challenge, they would also have to finish the Big Sur International Marathon on April 29. The hilly coastline course starts in Big Sur, Calif. and ends in Carmel.
Mimi Hahn, a two-time challenge finisher, was already thinking about skipping Big Sur as she stood cold, wet and miserable at the start of Boston. “What crossed my mind was, “If you don’t want to run another marathon in two weeks, you don’t have to,’” she recalls. “I was kind of giving myself that out.”
Boston is held every year on the third Monday of April; Big Sur traditionally takes place on the last Sunday every April. In previous years, Boston and Big Sur fell just six days apart, but this year challenge runners had 13 days between the events. If there was ever a time they would need those extra days to recover, this was the year.
After finishing Boston and finally getting dry and warm, Hahn, 53, felt confident she could attempt Big Sur. But Boston had taken a toll on her body, and one hamstring became so painful Hahn wasn’t sure she would make it to the start. “If [the marathons] had been six days apart, I don’t know [if] I would have been able to run because of how my hamstring felt,” says Hahn, who lives in Salinas, Calif. With rest, ice and stretching, she not only made it to the starting line, she finished—and was surprised at how much she enjoyed the race. “I actually felt really great,” she says. “This was the first time I didn’t think I would be able to start a race, so I took all the pressure off of any time goal.”
The challenge ended with disappointment for others. Kate Gates, 59, made it the Big Sur starting line, but extreme fatigue forced her to stop at mile 21. It was the first time Gates—who has finished Boston 2 Big Sur nine times and done 71 marathons—has dropped out of a race. “Boston beat me up, and I had a tough week at work and didn’t have the opportunity to fully recover,” says Gates, who grew up in Boston and now lives in San Jose, Calif. “It’s crushing for me to not be able to make it to the finish line, but I can use this to make me stronger. I will be back next year.”
Big Sur registrar Sally Smith says she was pleasantly surprised to see that the number of challenge runners who didn’t finish was about the same as last year. “This is a TOUGH bunch of runners,” she wrote in an email.
Take Shirley Shaw, a 67-year-old from Corvallis, Ore. who has completed Boston 2 Big Sur every year since 2010, when the challenge was officially created. “I’m just really fortunate and lucky that I can do that,” she says. Like many runners, Shaw was hit with enormous exhaustion after returning home from Boston. One night she slept for 11 hours straight—something she never does—but woke up feeling energized and ready for Big Sur.
The race was especially meaningful for Shaw this year because she crossed the finish line with her sister, Denise Boehle, a cancer survivor. “It was very special to run with her,” Shaw says. Although she has just conquered Boston 2 Big Sur, Shaw isn’t slowing down. Next month, she is set to do back-to-back marathons again. The Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons in San Diego and Seattle are just one week apart, and she hopes to run a Boston qualifying time at one of them.
She already has her sights set on Boston 2 Big Sur in 2019. “I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t running,” she says. “It’s fun to keep challenging myself.”