Heading into my second marathon ever last Sunday (April 29) there were a few questions ringing in my head. Would I be prepared for the challenging hills on this course? With only 8 days since returning from my Everest Trek, would I still have any acclimatization? Would the weather stay sunny as forecasted? Would I be able to walk afterwards? Am I crazy? I’ll answer most of these in good time.
The Perfect Course
Luckily my two friends (Gary and Kevin) and I were able to get a camp site just 1 mile from the starting line. This meant a 6am departure from our camp rather than a 4am departure on the shuttles to the starting line. Driving to the camp site the day before we were able to scope out the entire 26.2 mile course. It follows Highway 1 as it hugs the coast between Carmel and Big Sur (about 3 hours south of San Francisco).
Despite my initial fears based on talk of the hills along the way, this was an incredible course for 3 main reasons.
- It starts on a 1 mile downhill. Races that start with an uphill are a cruel joke.
- It is incredibly picturesque. I have never seen so many runners stop to take pictures in my life.
- It ends on a 3 mile mostly downhill. Races that end with an uphill are the cruelest joke.
The Bipolar Weather
One of the reasons there were so many people stopping to take pictures was the dramatic swings in weather. It would oscillate back and forth between calm sunny skies and blustery foggy mist every few miles. I saw just as many people stopping for beautiful photos as people stopping to document the massive fog. At times the fog was thick enough that you couldn’t see more than a few hundred feet in front of you. Gary and I ran together for the first 16 miles and decided that the fog was great for hills because it disguised the daunting hill in front of you. We could pretend that we were near the top and would soon be blessed with a downhill section.
You can see some of the fog in the photo below.
The Aching Recovery
The acclimatization from the Everest Trek must have stayed with me because throughout the race my lungs felt great! And despite the soreness setting into my legs already at mile 5 I was able to finish in 4 hours 51 mins; 9 mins under my target time and nearly 1 hour faster than my last marathon!
This set the stage for 3 days of hobbling around like an old man, taking each step up or down the stairs as if my muscles would stop working at any moment. The hardest part of any recovery is trying to walk normally despite the pain to remind my legs how they are supposed to work. Eventually they got the idea and let me slowly build up from walking to jogging again.
Am I Crazy?
In short, probably yes. Both the physical and mental challenges make marathons exciting and a bit frightening for me. I can now greatly appreciate why olympic athletes train above sea level and will have to find a way to train at altitude before my next races and adventures. If anyone is thinking of running a marathon in their future, I highly recommend the Big Sur course. I hope to be running it again soon. And make sure to bring your camera
ps. I live tweet all my races (at least those that have cell reception). Check out the tweets from this race and follow along for future events at twitter.com/AlexanderCarney