After this week’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, the officials of Big Sur International Marathon are re-assessing security, and getting ready to welcome 400 runners who also raced in Boston.
Less than 24 hours after two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Doug Thurston is back at his office in Carmel. As the Executive Director of the Big Sur International Marathon, he was in Boston to promote his race and cheer on a friend at the finish line. “It wasn’t more than ten minutes after she finished when the bombs went off. So we saw the explosion, we saw the dust and debris, and we were walking away from it, so we just continued,” said Thurston.
Now as he sits at his computer, his inbox is full of mail from runners, some with concerns about whether the bombing changes anything for the April 28th running of the Big Sur Marathon. On the edge of his desk there’s a mock-up of a t-shirt with the date of the Boston Marathon 4-15-13. Thurston says they’re thinking about selling it as a way to raise money for victims of Monday’s attack. “Again because we have that connection with Boston, so we’re just toying with some ideas. Obviously is a very quick last minute thing,” said Thurston.
In the way that the Boston Marathon has always attracted runners for its prestige and competitiveness, the Big Sur Marathon attracts runners for its beauty. The 26-point-2 mile course runs along highway 1 from Big Sur to Carmel. “Both events are kind of on runners bucket lists,” said Thurston. So it only made sense to Big Sur organizers to unite the two events with something called the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge. It started four years ago. The challenge is open to 400 runners who commit to running both races, sometimes just six days apart. “It’s another notch up on the marathon challenge scale to do kind of coast to coast, back to back marathons,” said Thurston.
Lora Mays, who blogs at crazyrunninggirl.com, is one of the 400 runners who participated in Monday’s Boston Marathon, and will be running Big Sur a week from Sunday. She had already crossed the finish line when the bombs went off. Reached at her office in New York City she said, “I think it’s really important for everybody to keep running, and not let this person, whoever it was, win.” For her that means completing the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge. “It’s just going to be an opportunity to honor everyone who was impacted on Monday, and for me the race is going to be extremely emotional, but it’s just my way to show my love and support for everybody,” said Mays.
About 10,000 runners will participate in Big Sur Marathon race day events. Keeping them safe is up to a team that includes area police, fire, highway patrol and medical personnel. Sand City Police Chief Michael Klein heads up marathon public safety. “We have immense challenges that no other marathon in this world has. We have a closed course. The only way that you are going to get on the course to provide for any type of support is either driving south or driving north, there is no lateral accessibility anywhere along the course, other than by helicopter,” said Chief Klein. He adds that the marathon has long had a response plan in place for a mass casualty event, whether that be a bus full of runners crashing or an act of terrorism. He says they’ll be watching as the investigation in Boston unfolds. “A lot of times one has the issue of copy cats. And let’s face it, a marathon regardless of where it is, is a very soft target as it pertains to a terrorist attack. So would it be possible for another such occurrence? I hope not. But is it possible? Certainly,” said Chief Klein.
As for Mays, she’s less worried about a repeat event, and more worried about running another marathon so soon. “I’m a little concerned about that now because my quads are quite sore, so I’m hoping that soreness goes away pretty quickly, so I can get a couple fun runs in before the race,” said Mays. And she’s hoping lots of spectators will come out on Sunday, April 28th to cheer on her and other runners at the finish line.