Scenes From a Marathon - 2006

Donald's insider perspective of the 2006 Big Sur Marathon

The 2006 Big Sur Marathon is in the books. You’ve read the articles telling you the primary results: who won the race, how many people finished, etc. But there’s always so much more to the story. Here, then are some details that didn’t make headlines, but were memorable nonetheless, from the 2006 Big Sur Marathon.

Cool new pre-race ritual: With his sisters at Grandma’s house and his Mom out to dinner, my son chose to relax at home and watch Star Wars with me the night before his 5K race. Which was very cool for two reasons:

1. When I was seven years old, my absolute favorite movie in the world was Star Wars. And every time I think this kid and I don’t have much in common, he never fails to do something exactly the way I would have at the same age. And…

2. No matter how many times you see it, watching Luke Skywalker blow up the Death Star is simply a fantastic motivational boost. I totally had the Star Wars theme in my head the next morning.

Best way to start a race: I can’t claim to be Scottish, but there’s no more inspirational song to hear at the beginning of a marathon than “Scotland the Brave” played on the bagpipes, which has become a BSIM standard over the years. It never fails to put a jump in your step and courage in your heart.

In fact, I’ve made a mental note to travel to Scotland some day, just to see what all this bravery fuss is about.

Karnazes spots the field 10 minutes: A lot of us were on the lookout for ultrarunner Dean Karnazes making his way south on Highway 1 for the first half of his out-and-back double marathon. Unfortunately, Karnazes was a bit behind schedule, leading to the unusual scene of thousands of marathoners yelling “Hi Dean!” to him during the first mile while he passed in the opposite direction, finishing his run to the start line before turning around and running an “official” time of 3:33.

This wasn’t in the race brochure: On an open stretch of road during mile 7 lay a skunk that had probably met its untimely demise under the wheels of the countless buses traversing the road in the early morning darkness. The result was the aroma of freshly-killed skunk drifting almost a full mile down the course, growing increasingly strong until runners finally passed the scene of the crime.

Biggest missed opportunity: When we crested Hurricane Point, thick fog was all around us – we couldn’t even see the ocean directly below. I felt bad for the runner from Indiana next to me and commented in true Yogi Berra fashion, “It’s a really nice view here, when you can see it.”

Then again, maybe missed opportunities are OK sometimes: Of course, when the sun did finally come out, temperatures warmed up very quickly. It went from “cool and foggy” to “hot and stifling” faster than any year that Mike and I can recall.

Most unexpected race garb: My 2-year-old daughter’s favorite shirt is solid blue with a giant Cookie Monster face depicted on it. Imagine my surprise to see a runner on race morning with the exact same shirt. I didn’t even know they made an adult version. I wonder if you can special order it in coolmax.

Sharing the love: I ran most of the race very close behind or ahead of the 1st place woman. Appropriately, the spectators and walkers go crazy when the first place girl runs by. I heard a full three hours worth of “Go girl!” or “Hey – first woman!” and all sorts of whooping and hollering. For some reason, the crowds don’t make as big a fuss over the 28th place male. But running near the lead woman is a nice way to hear a lot of cheers – and if you close your eyes, you can just pretend they are for you.

Completely random and improbable accomplishment: This was my fourth straight year of being the 28th overall finisher. I'm not flashy, good-looking, or blazing fast, but you can call me Mr. Consistency.

The sons also run: My 7-year-old son ran the 5K, then hung around the course to cheer me across the final bridge at mile 26. He then ran the rest of the way with me to the finishing chute, thereby crossing the marathon finish line ahead of Mike’s 31-year-old son, who ran his first Big Sur Marathon in 3:30. Both dads were very proud.

After pain comes pleasure: There’s really no way to describe how good it feels to be massaged by six hands at once shortly after finishing a marathon. But that’s just what happens in the massage tent following the race. If we could figure out some way to go back several times, one of these years we might just skip the race, and duck in and out of the massage tent throughout race morning. That alone could be worth the price of a race entry.

The streak is over: Mike’s Lance Armstrong-like streak of consecutive age group victories came to an end this year, as he finished second in the 55-59 age group in his slowest Big Sur Marathon time of 3:12. When it was announced at the awards ceremony, the crowd let out a collective gasp like when Mandisa was voted off American Idol. Count on Mike to have the eye of the tiger next year when he turns 60 – all you 60-year-olds should be very afraid.

Best reason to make friends with fast relay runners: Individual age group winners traditionally receive a bottle of Blackstone (Monterey County) wine. The winning 5-person relay teams don’t get separate bottles, but instead are awarded a large magnum bottle. You know they have to open that bottle sometime – so why not stop by with a corkscrew some night to congratulate them?

Warmest reception for age group winners: Hugo Ferlito, chairman of the BSIM board, stands on the podium while awards are handed out after the race. He shakes the hand of each winner as they exit the stage, and when local runners pass by, he embraces them in a warm hug. It’s a great feeling to get a bearhug from the chairman - and just another example of the hometown charm at this world-class race.

Hopefully some of these stories and other articles about the marathon will inspire you to join Mike and me for the 22nd running of the Big Sur Marathon next April. You now have a full year to train for it, so go ahead and get started! We’ll be here to help you along the way.

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