05 July 2022, 11am
Monterey Bay Half Marathon
Sun 13 November 2022
The race was created in 2003 by the same non-profit organization that owns and operates the Big Sur International Marathon on the central coast of California. The new race was half the distance, in the fall instead of the spring, and featured a different course and experience through downtown Monterey and alongside the beautiful Monterey Bay.
The race was cancelled in 2018 only one day before due to poor air quality from a massive wildfire more than 250km away. With cancellations in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, this year will be the 17th event.
The course features gentle hills and scenic views of Monterey Bay, Cannery Row, Asilomar State Beach and quick tours of parts of the downtown areas of Monterey Bay and Pacific Grove. It is the only race to go through a road tunnel in downtown Monterey near Fisherman’s Wharf. On race day the lights in the tunnel are dimmer and a DJ blasts techno music and laser lights to help get the runners moving and grooving. Eight to 10 other bands are featured along the course, about half of which is out-and-back to allow runners to see their friends and competitors.
The race was popular right from the start and reached sell-out attendance of 9000 runners by year 10, reflecting the strong growth of half marathons in the US in the mid-to-late 2000s. With accompanying 5km and 3km races the day before the event continues to attract more than 10,000 total entrants, which fills all the space available at the start, on the course, and in the finish village.
The Big Sur Marathon Foundation Board decided to redirect all prize money from the namesake race to the half marathon when it was started. As a result the half continues to draw elite runners. The current course records of 1:02 for men and 1:08 for women indicate the potential for fast times. In 2016 the race began the “Equalizer Challenge” bonus pool. In this program, the elite women begin the race 9:05 in front of the elite men. The top three athletes of either gender to reach the finish line receive additional bonuses of USD 3,000, USD 1,500 and USD 500 on top of the eight-deep purse for each gender. This means the first person across the line receives USD 7,000. To date the elite men have caught the elite women in two of the three challenge races.
With its scenic course and quality organization the race attracts outstanding age group runners from throughout the San Francisco Bay area and northern California. Runners come from all 50 US states and more than two dozen countries. Many combine the race with a visit to other local attractions featured on the course including the famous Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
More than 1400 volunteers are recruited from 80 local non-profit organizations to support the race. The Big Sur Marathon Foundation regularly returns more than USD 125,000 from race proceeds back into the local community and for youth fitness programs.