Pinoys Conquer Big Sur International Marathon

Tuesday, 26 May 2009  |  Bullish Insights

“If we were told that we could run only one marathon in our lifetime, Big Sur would have to be it.”

– Bart Yasso, Runner’s World

Last April 26, 2009, several Filipino runners made it to one of the most beautiful marathons in the world (as noted in Runner’s World): The Big Sur International Marathon (BSIM).  On its website, the course is described as “point to point, moderately difficult, with live entertainment on the course. Featuring rolling hills, Big Sur is the largest rural marathon in the world, winding through redwoods, paralleling ranches, and offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.”  I can smell the sea, already.


– Photo courtesy of Dr. Peter –

These friends have since returned to share their amazing stories about their marathons (and make us die of envy at the same time)…

Name: Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III
Age: 33
Years running: 3years
No. of marathons before BSIM: 5marathons : Pasig (2007) Milo(2007) New York (2007) HongKong(2008) Chicago(2008)
Finish time: 4:26

Name:Peter Mancao
Age: 49
Years running: 3 years
No. of marathons before BSIM: New York ’07 5:35; Hongkong’08 5:31;  Chicago’08 7:20 (it was hot!)
Finish time: 5:24

– Drs. Yong and Peter with their friend (Photo courtesy of Dr. Peter) –

Name:  Carolyn Que Pe Ching
Years running: Since Dec. 2007
No. of marathons before BSIM: 0
Finish time: 4:36

Name: Natalie Ng
Age: 39
Years running: Since Jan. 2008
No. of marathons before BSIM: None.
Finish time: 4:58.19 (Target was 5 hours. Those pacers are a life saver!)

Name: Michele Siy-Yap
Age: 37
Years running: 9 mos
No. of marathons before BSIM: 1
Finish time: 4:19

Name: Babylyn M. Tiangco
Age: 38
Years running: hmmm, don’t know, would run to warm up for badminton or when there’s no quorum, is that counted? 
No. of marathons before BSIM: 0
Finish time: 5:14:20

Name: Dorothy L Santos
Age: 37
Years running: 1 year and 4 months
No. of marathons before BSIM: Big Sur’s my first!
Finish time: 4:34:22

Name: Don Santos
Age: 36
Years running: 1.5 years
No. of marathons before BSIM: 0
Finish time: 4:34:21


– Carolyn and husband/wife team Dorothy and Don. Photo courtesy of Dorothy –

Why did you choose Big Sur Marathon? 

DR. YONG: I wanted to experience the “Most Beautiful and Scenic” marathon in the world. My goal is to complete 33 marathons in my lifetime.

DR. PETER: I read Bart Yasso’s book and he highly recommends it.

CAROLYN: My cousin in law told me to check out the website. The beautiful scenery and their website sold me. Plus I’ve never been to Carmel, CA.  New place to see and explore!

NATALIE: A friend invited us. When I looked at the website, I just loved the scenery and how organized the event seemed to be. I wanted the whole experience to be special – for that kind of distance, there is no way you can not train and just wing it so I didn’t want it to just be any run. Take note though this is not one of the big events with huge cheering crowds. In fact it is a smallish crowd (4500 runners for the marathon vs say 45,000 in the NY Marathon) with a ‘no frills’ finish. It’s you and nature in all its glory. Exactly my type of run.

MICHELE: I chanced upon it by accident as I was invited by running mates Lyn Ching and Stella Que. They also signed me up and arranged all logistics involved. The first time I seriously looked into Big Sur Marathon, it was 2 months from the run.

BABYLYN: It was more of things falling into place for me.  Ige said I still had time to seriously train when I asked him in January.  Also, my family had a scheduled trip to the US around that time so didn’t have to worry bout paying for my own ticket. Hehehe.  Then I knew a lot of people who were gonna join.  Lastly, my cousin insisted that I do a marathon abroad because it’s easier to run when it’s cold.

DOROTHY: A friend, Carolyn, told me about it. It worked with our training schedule. Heard it was a beautiful and fun marathon so we went for it. When we found about Hurricane Point it was too late, we were already registered.

DON: I was training for the March 8 Philippine International Marathon (Pasig River) before it was cancelled. We looked for a marathon that was scheduled not far from that one so as not to waste the training. Big Sur Marathon’s schedule seemed to be perfect as we had already planned to be in the US at that time. But more compelling was my running buddy’s encouragement to join it in spite of the difficulty of the course, i.e., Dorothy forced me to join…


– Photo courtesy of Dr. Peter –

What was the highlight of your race?

DR. YONG: Starting at the 16th Km and ascending 160 meters over the next four kilometers, “Hurricane Point” presents the course’s greatest challenge, typically with winds blowing down towards the runners around 50 KPH. Upon reaching this point, we were greeted by Mr Martinez playing his grand piano.

The Big Sur Int’l Marathon officially advises all runners to “plan to add 30 minutes” to their normal marathon times

DR. PETER:  The view and for the first time i joined a pace group(5h30m)

CAROLYN: So many highlights!!  The cold, the travel, the long wait before the race, the 2:30am wake up call.  The fantastic entertainment along the stretch of 26.2 miles (my Garmin read 42.7km).  We had an all girls trip doing this. It was such an adventure with my sister, Natalie and good friend Michele.  Left our husbands and kids behind and just ran! The first 10km was the easiest, the last 10km was the hardest.  I noticed that the Americans ran with this care free and let’s go out there and just have fun kind of attitude which is great! “Hurricane Point” which was halfway through the marathon was great too and not to gruelling for those who love hills.  Yes, the hills even appeared to be conquered during the very last few km to the finish line.

NATALIE: Finishing! I didn’t realize I had committed to a ‘challenging’ and hilly marathon course till after I signed up! I never considered myself a serious runner and till the actual day didn’t know if I’d finish! I was very worried I wouldn’t make the cut off time and get swept by the bus! All the way to the US to be bussed back was not what I wanted!

MICHELE: It is surprising but crossing the finish was not the highlight of the marathon for me. The highlight was at the start when the atmosphere of excited runners felt very exhilirating. It was then that I knew for sure that IT IS REALLY HAPPENING.

BABYLYN: Finishing before the cut off time, enjoying the race and the view, (oh, and I wasn’t the last Filipino to cross the line…. heehee—my friend’s gonna kill me)

DOROTHY: Crossing the finish with Don at a good time.

DON: In no particular order:
– Barely conquering the nth and final hill in mile 25+ and crossing the finish line of my first marathon with Dorothy.
– BEER at the finish
– Running on Highway 1 and enjoying the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean
– ICE COLD BEER at the fiinish
– Great fans, support and organization
– FREE ICE COLD BEER at the finish

Would you recommend Big Sur Marathon to Pinoy runners?

DR. YONG: Of course, for Marathoners, this is one marathon they should experience at least once in their lifetime.

DR. PETER: YES! It’s only an overnite plane ride from Manila (viaSFO), very manageable field (5t runners), very good support (water, gatorade, fruit, GU), perfect weather and of course the spectacular view.

CAROLYN: Yes, it’s definitely a great marathon although because of the hills and slanted roads you may want to choose an easier first marathon course! For me the scenery and experience was so worth it.  Just practice on McKinley Hills 🙂

The organizers really did a fantastic job and you can tell they are really experienced at doing this year after year. Next year it’s April 25, 2010!! The best hotel is Carmel Mission Inn because it’s across the street from the Finish Line!  I’m looking forward to more runs in the U.S knee willing.

NATALIE: There are a few things to consider before joining Big Sur:
– Cost and time
– Jetlag
– You need to check into a hotel nearby before the marathon (highly recommend Carmel Mission Inn as it is reasonable and located right across the road from the finish line)
– Challenging course. The hills are a large large part of it with one of them stretching over 3.5km! A sadistic touch – last hill was on the 41st km!
– Short cut off time: if you don’t pass 22 miles in 5 hours you don’t continue; if you don’t finish in 6 hours you don’t get a medal.
HOWEVER once you’ve done it, you know that most other marathons will be easier and few if any will be as beautiful. For this alone it is so worth it.

MICHELE: I will highly recommend it because the scenery, the people and the weather was simply beautiful. It was cool throughout the run but not freezing and the course was also challenging. I think it makes for a memorable experience for any runner.

BABYLYN: Definitely! well organized race.  The breath taking view and awesome support: lots and lots of water/gatorade, cold fruits for energy (after a while you just wanna puke out gels), bands, mile marker, at each marker someone was shouting your pace and expected finish time so u try to push yourself harder, at one point, they give hugs!!! but i didn’t avail of that.

DOROTHY: Definitely. It may be tough but having trained a whole lot in Manila worked to our advantage. The spectacular views and well-organized race was well worth it.

DON: Yes.