Sea Haven - Monterey Bay

Big Sur International Marathon: A thrill for thousands of runners and an army of volunteers


Carmel >> Everyone who entered the 32nd annual Big Sur International Marathon events Sunday was a winner — all 8,302 of them.

They all walked away with medals, running experience and the pride of accomplishment.

From the woman who fell to the asphalt after crossing the finish line to the toddler whose mom carried him across after his dad handed him over, they all helped make the event world class.

With perfect weather added to the mix, it was a marathon to remember.

While local favorite Adam Roach of Pebble Beach came in second in the men’s marathon division — missing three consecutive wins and four total — there was plenty of excitement.

Roach was bested by Michael Wardian, 43, of Arlington, Virginia, with a time of 2 hours, 30 minutes, 29 seconds. Roach, 33, finished in 2:31:51, better than his time in the Boston Marathon 13 days earlier.

It was a local runner who won the women’s marathon. Tegan Searle, 33, of Monterey, mom of two boys and wife of a Naval Postgraduate School student, finished in 3:01:39.

It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes an army to put on a marathon. Thousands of volunteers make the marathon work like an expensive Swiss watch. This year there were 2,500.

 Among them were those in the 12 medical stations situated along the marathon course and at the finish line. More than 60 in all. Marathon medical director Dr. John Ellison, an emergency physician at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, oversees them.

“We’re ready for anything,” Ellison said as runners flowed across the finish line.

Cooler than expected, weather was a boon to both the runners and the medical volunteers.

“The amount of effort it takes to finish increases with every degree it (the temperature) goes up,” he said.

 With medical stations along the course, Ellison said, volunteers could keep an eye on runners throughout the races and identify problems before they happened.

“Sometimes people trip and fall and they want to keep going,” he said. “They’re really dedicated.”

Medical tent volunteers handed out ice to runners afterward. And there was a long line of finishers waiting outside the massage tent, where some 20 people worked on tight, sore muscles.

This year 400 people registered to run the Boston to Big Sur, back-to-back, marathons. There were also a lot of people on the waiting list, said Shirley Smith, a marathon official who did the Boston to Big Sur marathons twice.

 A special tent is dedicated to those brave souls, offering food and Boston to Big Sur shirts. At the merchandise tent you could buy Boston to Big Sur license plate frames and baseball caps.

Among the double-marathon runners was Ken Pascale of the Hoboken, New Jersey, Running Club. His girlfriend, Lynne Gervehy, did the double last year and ran the Big Sur Marathon Sunday.

“The course was so scenic,” said Pascale. It was his first Big Sur Marathon and first back-to-back effort. “It just flew by,” he said. “This was awesome.”

 Runners from 35 countries and 49 states ran in Sunday’s events. The only state missing was South Dakota. Race announcer Fitz Koehler of Gainesville, Florida, urged everyone to call friends and relatives in South Dakota and urge them to run Big Sur next year.

The youngest marathoner Sunday was 17-year-old Eleanor Duggan of Duxbury, Massachusetts. The oldest was Charles Sayles of Glendale, age 80. But in the shorter races there were people in their 90s. Phyillis Karesten of San Jose is 92 and ran the 10.6-mile event. Raymond Rice of Arcata, also 92, ran the 12K.

 If you ever wondered how the announcers can identify the runners as they near the finish line, here’s their secret:

There’s a timing mat situated 20 yards from the finish. As the runners step on it, their names, hometowns and ages are revealed in a monitor in the announcers’ booth.

Besides a free lunch, there were a number of perks for runners, but they’re not all free. At the Runners World VIP Tent, for $500, you could stow your running gear in a VIP bag and enjoy a lunch in the tent. There was hot minestrone soup for sale as well as beer for those 21 and older.

 A sign featuring the names of all runners registered by April 4 was hung so people could take selfies in front of it. It read: “Running on the Edge of the Western World, Big Sur International Marathon.”

The runners finished proudly Sunday. Tradition holds that you cross the finish line smiling, holding up both arms, holding up one index finger or jumping of the line. But two women wearing pink tutus made their own tradition. They danced across the line in ballet fashion.

Read the full article from Monterey Herald here.