Origins of the Big Sur International Marathon

Origins of the Big Sur International Marathon

  • Canning Properties Group
  • 04/25/23

Origins of the Big Sur International Marathon

The Big Sur Marathon was first held in 1986 and was inspired by the New York City Marathon. The founders of the Big Sur Marathon wanted to create a marathon that would showcase the natural beauty of the California coastline. The first marathon attracted around 1,800 runners, and since then, the event has grown in popularity and now attracts around 4,500 runners from all over the world.

(Team members Paige Colijn and Brian Keck ran the marathon in 2022!)

What Makes the Big Sur Marathon Unique?

Here are a few reasons why the Big Sur Marathon is such a unique and special event:

Scenery: The scenery along the course of the Big Sur Marathon is breathtaking. Runners are treated to stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, the rugged coastline, and towering redwood forests. The course is challenging, but the scenery is so beautiful that runners often find themselves forgetting about the difficulty of the course and simply enjoying the views. Additionally, an aspect of the race that often goes overlooked is the incredible real estate that runners get to see along the way.  Along the marathon route, runners will see a variety of homes with ocean views – from modern architectural masterpieces to charming cottages nestled in the hills.

The Big Sur and Carmel coastline is home to some of the most picturesque and sought-after properties in the country. Thus, running the marathon is not only a test of endurance and stamina, but it's also an opportunity to witness the beauty and diversity of the local real estate market. Additionally, runners will also pass through iconic landmarks such as the Bixby Bridge and Point Sur Lighthouse, both of which offer incredible views of the coastline and the surrounding hills.

Environmental Sustainability: The Big Sur Marathon is committed to environmental sustainability and has implemented several initiatives to reduce waste and promote sustainability. For example, the event encourages runners to bring their own refillable water bottles, rather than using disposable cups. The event also partners with local organizations to promote environmental stewardship and protect the natural beauty of the area.

Community: The Big Sur Marathon has a strong sense of community and camaraderie among its runners. The event attracts runners from all over the world, but the atmosphere is welcoming and supportive. The marathon also has a strong volunteer base, with hundreds of volunteers helping to make the event run smoothly.

Challenge: The Big Sur Marathon is a challenging race, with steep hills and unpredictable weather. But for many runners, it's the challenge that makes the event so special. The course requires runners to dig deep and push themselves to their limits, but the sense of accomplishment upon crossing the finish line is truly rewarding.

During Marathon Week

Marathon week is a big event on the Monterey Peninsula, with several activities and events taking place leading up to race day. On Friday and Saturday, the Health & Fitness Expo takes place, where runners can pick up their race packets and explore the latest in running gear and equipment. The Expo is free and open to the public.

Other events during marathon week include the Just Run! 3K on Saturday, which is a fun run for kids and families, and the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge, where runners who have completed the Boston Marathon in April can participate in the Big Sur Marathon as well.

Plan Ahead

As with any marathon, it's important to be prepared and take precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable race. The Big Sur Marathon is known for its challenging course, with steep hills and unpredictable weather. It's important to train properly and be prepared for any weather conditions.

Additionally, due to the popularity of the event, accommodations can fill up quickly, so it's recommended to book early. It's also important to be aware of road closures and traffic disruptions on race day, which can affect transportation to and from the event.

Whether you're a runner participating in the Big Sur Marathon or simply someone who loves the natural beauty and charm of the area, the Canning Team welcomes you to the Monterey Peninsula and hopes you enjoy your stay!

Fun Facts

  • The fastest finishing time for the men's marathon was set in 1987 by Brad Hawthorne with a time of 2:16:39. In 1996, Svetlana Vasilyeva set the female course record of 2:41:34.
  • There are 11 runners who’ve completed every single Big Sur International Marathonsince the race’s inception in 1986. 
  • The marathon has a strict time limit of 6 hours, and runners who fall behind the pace may be picked up by sweep vehicles and taken to the finish line.
  • The event is so popular that registration typically sells out within hours of opening. In 2021, the marathon sold out in just 28 minutes.
  • Since its inception, the race has raised over $2 million for local charities and non-profits, including the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center and the Big Sur Health Center.
  • In 2019, the race diverted over 90% of its waste from landfills and worked to reduce its carbon footprint.
  • The course starts in Big Sur and finishes in Carmel, with a total elevation gain of over 2,500 feet.
  • The Big Sur International Marathon has been called “one of the jewels of American running” and “one of the best running experiences on the planet.” It has also received honors such as being named one of the country’s top three marathons (along with New York City and Boston), the “Best Destination Marathon in North America” and one of the world’s “Top Ten Races to Do Before You Die.”






Cover Photo by Miguel A Amutio on Unsplash 

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With over 30 years of experience in the Pebble Beach and Carmel markets, they know the market – both the openly listed and discreetly available inventory. Together with their associates, they are uniquely qualified to offer the highest level of professionalism and service on the Monterey Peninsula.