The Big Sur International Marathon is a bucket list race for many runners and makes frequent appearances on lists of the world’s best marathons. The setting is stunning, and even the epic tagline for the event—running on the ragged edge of the western world—can’t begin to convey the awesome beauty of this course. The marathon starts in Big Sur and winds its way along Highway 1 beside the Pacific Ocean past ranches, redwoods and across the iconic Bixby Bridge at the halfway point before ending at the picturesque town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. This is a Boston Marathon qualifier, so despite the demanding terrain, nearly 5,000 people registered for this year’s race.
One of the premier sponsors of the race, HOKA ONE ONE, offered a few journalists the opportunity to experience this epic event firsthand. I was given a pair of Clifton 4s for my training runs and race day. The shoe features a good balance of cushion and responsiveness, and the mesh construction makes them breathable and comfortable for longer runs in warm weather. The shoes are surprisingly light despite their substantial appearance, and were perfect for logging miles on the road. My preferred running surfaces are sandy trails and dirt paths, but the Cliftons offered enough cushioning to keep my knees and back happy while still being nimble enough to make me feel quick and sure-footed on pavement.
I spoke with Stephanie Van Pelt, a professional runner for the HOKA NJNY Track Club, about training strategies for new runners or runners coming back from an injury. Van Pelt advises, “When I come back from injury, I start off really slow and easy.” She suggests beginning with a 15-minute run three or four days a week, and then increasing the time spent running by five minutes every week. “I think it’s really helpful on days that you don’t run to cross-train. It helps with building endurance but has less impact on your body. The cross-train days can consist of anything that gets your heart rate up for 20 to 30 minutes. Whenever I cross-train I never go too hard, I usually keep it easy and get a good sweat out of it,” Van Pelt says. As with any new workout routine, check with your doctor before starting and make sure to take it slow. It’s better to make small, continual gains in your running program than to try to force your progress too fast and end up with an injury. “Sometimes it’s easy to push ourselves when we’re feeling good, so just be mindful,” Van Pelt says. “Also, if anything ever hurts, just stop. Every run should start with dynamic stretches and end with static stretches—it helps with injury prevention.”
The BSIM features a variety of distances to encourage runners and walkers of all levels to get outside and enjoy the beautiful scenery the area offers. There are 5K, 12K, 11-mile, 21-mile and relay races to choose from. So whether you want to take on your first marathon along the majestic stretch of Pacific Ocean shoreline from Big Sur to Carmel, or if you would like to tackle a different distance in these stunning environs, I highly recommend doing what it takes to make that happen. It’s an experience I will never forget.