Big Sur Marathon in Photos: The 21-Mile Race

While I work on the complete recap of the spectacular 21-mile race at this Sunday’s Big Sur Marathon from Big Sur to Carmel, Calif., I wanted to go ahead and post some of the scenes from the race, so you can get a feel for what’s in store if you decide to run it next year.

You’ll notice that the weather was much clearer on Saturday, when I drove the course with my buddy Rob, who traveled out to California with me to run the race, than it was on Sunday, the actual race day. The fog and clouds were definitely more of a factor on race day — and the wind — so I’m really glad I got as many shots as we did on Saturday. Still, there’s lots of race day snapshots here that are gorgeous as well.

So without further ado, here’s how the Big Sur Marathon went down, starting with a view of Hurricane Point, as you’re coming down the hill and approaching the famous Bixby Bridge:

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Rock & Roll comes to Savannah

Twenty-three thousand runners and walkers, fast and almost completely flat streets for the most part, and gorgeous sunny weather. That’s what the race was like at the Rock & Roll Savannah Marathon & Half Marathon, which welcomed 16,000 half-marathoners in addition to 7,000 full marathoners to its inaugural running on the first Saturday of November 2011.

Runners near the starting line at the Rock & Roll Savannah Half Marathon on Nov. 5, 2011

The race began at the corner of Bull and Bay Streets in the city’s downtown historic district, known for its plentiful hotels, shops, restaurants and bars that are filled to the rafters every St. Patrick’s Day. This time of year, however, the downtown is populated largely by tourists as well as students at the Savannah College of Art and Design, whose campus lies just blocks from where the race started.
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Running the Great Wall of China

Most of us run marathons and half marathons in our own city, our own state, or places not too far from where we live. Some of our particularly intrepid readers here at HalfMarathons.Net, however, make a true adventure out of running their races.

That’s certainly the case with Mark Wegren, a reader who traveled all the way to China in May 2011 to run the Great Wall Half Marathon, which is one of those races that probably would be on many of our bucket lists. Mark was kind enough to take the time to share his story and photos of the trip with us here at the blog, and here’s his story:

My running career has always been defined by taking that next challenge. The first challenge was to run my first half marathon. Next was simply to beat my time. Then I started my 50 state challenge. Then, while surfing one my running sites, I came upon the Great Wall Marathon. That sounded really cool but only a pipe dream. This past week, it became a reality.
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A Magical Race: Running 13.1 With Donna

What do you get when you combine more than 6,000 runners and walkers with seemingly hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of volunteers, fans, cancer survivors and neighborhood residents out to cheer you on, most of whom were dressed in pink? A marathon & half marathon for a wonderful cause, and a spirit and energy that really brought out the best in people and set the tone for a really wonderful race experience.

That’s what this year’s 26.2 with Donna National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer was like for this runner, anyway. There really was a sea of pink everywhere, from the Runners Village at the start of the race to the runners dressed in pink shirts, tutus, feather boas, skirts, wigs, and bras — and that was just the men. ;)

Begun just a few years ago — this year’s 2011 race was just its fourth annual running — the 26.2 with Donna event is the brainchild of Donna Deegan, a Jacksonville television news anchor who had her own battle with breast cancer several years ago. Her public fight against the disease helped shine a spotlight on the need for more research dollars and for more support for women fighting it every day, and led to her involvement in creating The Donna Foundation and the race that today serves as its major fundraiser.

Heading up the bridge at the first hill of the race, over Jacksonville's Intracoastal Waterway

In a big way, the cause defines the race in a way that to me, was really unprecedented for a running event. Many races donate significant portions of their proceeds to charitable organizations, but few personalize their event in quite the same way as the 26.2 With Donna race — and that’s probably what helps set the tone for the event, which I’d have to say is one of the friendliest races I’ve ever been to.
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From Big to Small: Mesa Falls Half Marathon

One of the most interesting parts of traveling across the country over these past few months to run races is to get to see the variety of really everything we have in the U.S. — the people, the landscapes, the attitudes, even just the little things like the food and the restaurants.

The Upper Mesa Falls along the Snake River, just north of Ashton here in eastern Idaho.

After running the San Francisco Half Marathon at the end of July, I’d be hard pressed to find a race that was more different from it in every way than Idaho’s Mesa Falls Half Marathon, and I don’t mean that as a knock on either race. Where San Francisco is urban, cosmopolitan and run along the towering Golden Gate Bridge, the Mesa Falls race is much smaller, more down-home, and takes you literally out into the wilderness of the east Idaho forests and mountains.

I got into town a couple of days before the race, which gave me the chance both to tour the course and to get my bearings on this small town of just over 1,100 people, which lies about an hour’s drive from the airport in Idaho Falls.

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The San Francisco Half Marathon – July 25, 2010

It’s time to get this blog kicked off right, and with that I thought I’d start with reviews and recaps of the half marathon races I’ve run so far this year, starting with the San Francisco Half Marathon I ran back at the end of July.

Mid-race, heading across the Golden Gate Bridge to Vista Point at the 2010 San Francisco Half Marathon.

Of all the half marathon races I’ve done in the past couple years, the first half marathon at the San Francisco Marathon, Half Marathons & 5K — there are actually two half-marathons at this race, as you can run either the first or the second half of the full marathon route — I would definitely say this race is my favorite.

Not because I was able to get anywhere close to setting a personal record time — in fact, this was my slowest half by more than 10 minutes — but because the race course for the first half marathon uses the city as a backdrop so well, it’s hard not to fall in love with San Francisco all over again when you’re running the 13.1 mile route. (And it’s hard not to wonder why you don’t just pack up and move there when you get back home, if it didn’t cost an arm and a leg to live there!)

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Welcome to the Blog!

To everyone who’s been a reader of HalfMarathons.Net over the past few years, first of all thank you SO much for visiting the site and making what was once a hobby site that basically 20 people a day came to see into something that’s much, much more. I couldn’t have developed it without all of your help, suggestions and ideas, and for that I’m so grateful.

Now, I’m finally getting around to doing something that I’ve been wanting to do since I started this site, which is publish a blog about the races I’ve run, and those that you’ve run, to offer a more personal glimpse into what makes all of these races unique, challenging and fun. I have to admit I’ve probably been meaning to get this blog together for like 2-3 years and have just never gotten off my behind to do it, but with a little help and inspiration from a friend of mine who’s just started her own blog and has gotten great response to it so far, I decided to go ahead and give this a go.

My good friend Rob and I, pausing for a photo at the Vista Point turnaround at this year's San Francisco Half Marathon

So what can you expect to see here? What I hope to feature are more personal stories from the races I’ve run and those I run in the future, to give you more of a close-up look at what they’re like. (And yes, I bring my iPhone with me when I run a race so I can snap photos along the way!)

What I also hope to do is to find some more people (besides myself) who’ve got some great, interesting stories to tell about how they got into running, what it does for them, and what their experiences have helped them become. I already have a few people in mind that I’ve talked to in recent months over email about interviews and articles, so expect to see some stories soon in that vein.

Also with that in mind, I’d love to hear your suggestions on what you’d like to see here — what are you curious about when it comes to running these races, training & preparing for them, or other features that I haven’t thought of? Who do you want to know more about out there in the running world? I can’t make any promises, but I can do my best to try to bring their stories to you as well.

Thanks again for reading, and I look forward to hearing from you all.