Challenge Yourself: Run the Spectacular Big Sur Marathon

Are you interested in running a marathon with the best scenery in the United States? Look no further than the Big Sur International Marathon in California. The race has all the elements of a perfect destination event, including a beautiful location with plenty of activities for the whole family. This popular race is already sold out, but you can still apply to run as part of the Project Purple team.

Part of the BSIM course. Photo courtesy of Sally Smith

Why Run Big Sur?

I recently spoke with Sally Smith who works for the Big Sur Marathon. Sally lives in the area and fell in love with the beauty of the course many years ago. In 1999, she began volunteering for the race organization and then began working part-time for the race as its Registrar shortly thereafter.

When asked what makes Big Sur so special, Ms. Smith replied, “Absolutely the beauty of the course. It is like no other course in the country. The race organization is a well-oiled machine. Our goal is to send participants home with the experience and memories of a lifetime. Because the race is so hard to get into, many people only get to do it once. We want their experience to be flawless.” She adds, “If you only run one marathon over your lifetime, it should be Big Sur.”

BSIM California coastline

The Course

The Big Sur Marathon is known worldwide for its spectacular beauty. The course rolls along rural areas of the California coastline. Starting at 6:45 am in Big Sur, runners follow the 26.2 mile course on the road, finishing in Carmel, CA. The course is a rare point-to-point, meaning each mile covers new ground and features new sights for runners to enjoy. For those motivated and inspired by natural beauty, the Big Sur course is unparalleled.

Race Organization Second to None

The Big Sur race management prides itself on working hard each year to give runners an outstanding experience. Their attention to detail is part of what makes the race such a spectacular event. Each year has brought improvements to the marathon. It takes many volunteers to put together a large scale event, and Big Sur’s dedicated volunteer base of over 2000 people help make the race run smoothly.

After months of hard work behind the scenes, Ms. Smith enjoys seeing it all come together. She is there when runners get off of the buses at the starting line first thing in the morning and she sees those same runners cross the finish line, hours later. She enjoys seeing the range of emotions on race day, saying, “Many people cry as they cross the finish line. It is amazing and makes all the hard work worth it.”

The Big Sur International Marathon race organization is committed to making the world a better place. BSIM is a nonprofit organization which raises money both for local organizations and through its charity partner program. Last year, runners raised nearly $1,000,000 at Big Sur. 

Big Sur is a Destination Race for the Whole Family

Runners from all over the world bring their families with them for Big Sur race weekend, and for good reason. The area has something for everyone, including the beauty of the Monterey Peninsula, plenty of hiking trails, golf courses and outstanding restaurants. 

A Project Purple Runner’s Perspective

In 2016, Project Purple became a charity partner with the Big Sur Marathon. The race was a big hit with our runners. Rene DiPietro ran with the team and had plenty of good things to say about her experience. “I absolutely loved it. This is by far the most scenic run of my life. You start in the race surrounded by red wood trees and listening to a creek running by below. About five miles in, you start to see the ocean on your left and cows grazing on the right. The beauty of the hill ranges and the ocean distract you for miles on end.”










Rene adds, “I was spoiled for having it as my first marathon. It was breathtaking. Driving up California Highway 101 is a bucket list trip for many people, and you get the opportunity to run it! You really get to take in the scenery in a way not many others will. It’s also a great place for a run-cation. We stayed in Monterey, and visited the aquarium and Cannery Row. An added bonus was seeing killer whales breaching in the bay. It was such a great trip!”


Going the Extra Mile

Beyond the natural beauty of the course, Big Sur International Marathon makes the race special in other ways. “I really enjoyed how the race had creative mile markers. Each sign had a graphic emphasizing what to expect throughout that next mile. It was something extra to look forward to as you saw the miles tick by! They also had live music throughout the course. At the bottom of Hurricane Point, the highest peak, there was a group banging Japanese drums to pump you up. A pianist was playing when crossing the Bixby Bridge, which is the half way point. He played Bohemian Rhapsody as I ran by. These small details made the race really fun and memorable,” Rene explains.

 If you want to run the spectacular Big Sur International Marathon with the Project Purple team, please follow this link to fill out our application:


Click here for a virtual tour of the race course:

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