Why a Marathon? – Part 3: Big Sur and NYC

When the marathon bug first grabbed me I knew I wanted to run the NYC marathon first. New York is our favorite city in the world and Central Park is where we got engaged. I could not imagine a more enjoyable locale and a triumphant run. The run ends in Central Park not far from where relatives live who surely would come out for some cheering. I started entering the lottery four years ago and was rejected every single time. “Buying” your way in by raising $3K for charity seemed an eventual possibility. I wasn’t ready to ask friends and family for contributions so I patiently waited to see about the regular lottery. After three steady rejections I began to look elsewhere. I did not know if I only had one marathon in me so I wanted something truly special. I wanted an epic run that seemed worth every bit of resource required.

Three years ago we camped throughout California for three weeks. We spent time in Santa Cruz, Monterey, Big Sur, and the area near Hearst Castle. We enjoyed this area and spent lots of time driving up and down the coast to explore state beaches, high vistas, old forests, and the like. Steinbeck, a favorite author, writes about this part of California in many stories. He has described Point Lobos State Park as the most glorious meeting of land and sea. I agree. The Pacific, breaking surf, light, fog, hills, cliffs, and wildlife make it some of the most spectacular coastline in all of America. The idea of the Big Sur Marathon captured my fantasy soon after that trip. I could not imagine a more scenic run. Some investigation confirmed the overall wonder of this particular event. Not only do you run 26.2 miles of this coastline while it is closed to cars, but they put a pianist on Bixby Bridge just for selfies. The route also happens to have 13 hills and around 2000′ of total climbing. Add that to variable conditions, like the good chance of a strong headwind for part of the run, and this run classifies as one of the more challenging marathons. While it is not a good course for a fast time, I imagine it to be the most epic run I’ll ever have embarked upon.

Marathons have become so popular that even the Big Sur Marathon has a lottery. The odds are much better than the NYC Marathon and I got in first time. The timing is a bit tricky, right at the end of the spring semester. But, it is a Sunday race and I had hopes of visiting this area to film the ocean for a multimedia piece under construction. I could get in my film work and run a marathon in a long weekend without missing any teaching. What could be better!

So here I go – my first marathon – The Big Sur Marathon! Because it is a one-way race that starts at the remote Big Sur Station, they have everyone load onto buses at 4AM in Monterey. Presumably we arrive by 5AM and then wait nearly two hours in the cold pre-dawn. I’ll buy some sweats at a second hand shop and shed them into clothing donation bins right before the race. I’m currently playing with what nutrition will best serve me on the run. I’m pretty nervous about that. Unexpected bathroom needs or hitting the “wall” can make for an unpleasant experience. But I’ve given up any goal for a strong time. Common wisdom suggests that the only goal for a first marathon is to finish and to finish without excessive displeasure.

My desire to run the NYC Marathon did not abate when the Big Sur Marathon sent me the confirmation. I figured I should keep entering the lottery and sooner or later my ticket would come in or I’d ask everyone I know to chip in $25 towards cancer research and buy my way in through charity.  Then life took a big turn and I applied for a job leading Young Concert Artists in NYC. That position became a reality when the board unanimously voted for my hire at the end of February. A few days later I received the good news that I was accepted into the NYC Marathon through the lottery. Now I get to run the marathon as a brand new New Yorker. How cool! And, I can treat Big Sur as a warm up and see what kind of time I can pull off in NY. This is presuming that my first marathon experience leaves me high and wanting more. After my successful 20-mile run a few days ago I think I’ll be able to survive 26.2 miles without crawling or “bonking”.

Not too long ago I came across a humorous short video poking fun of how people preparing for a marathon have to tell everyone all about it. Naturally, there is no worldly significance to an individual deciding to run 26.2 miles with a few thousand other people. It is a self-imposed goal with an ironic modern tie to an ancient morbid story. But I am quite happy to tell people about my marathon goals. It feels big, really big. And, running a marathon is much better than any number of other common mid-life crises at age 43. Only a few more days to go till I make a 26.2 mile journey at 6:45AM from Big Sur Station to Monterey along the extraordinary Route 1…


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