Everything you need to know about Boston 2 Big Sur


(Updated in 2023) It’s a runner thing… Boston 2 Big Sur. You run the Boston marathon and then you fly to California and run the Big Sur marathon.  Some years the races are 6 days apart, some years the races are 13 days apart.

I’ve run it twice now, once in 2017 and again in 2023, both years when the races were 13 days apart. I thought I’d share the specifics of running Boston2BigSur. If you want details on Boston specifically check out my Everything you need to know about the Boston marathon post.

Step 1 – Get a Boston Bib

You cannot register for Boston 2 Big Sur without a Boston race registration. So you will need to either qualify for Boston and secure a bib (i.e. if there is a cut-off time you need to be under the cut-off time) OR be accepted to one of the Boston charity teams. Boston race registration typically opens the second week of September and cut-off times are typically announced one to two weeks later. In 2023, Boston registration opened on Monday September 12th, 2022 and remained open until Friday September 16th. On Wednesday September 21st they announced there would be no cut-off and that all runners who registered with a valid BQ would get a bib. Boston registration in 2023 cost me $235 USD as I am from Canada, it’s slightly cheaper for U.S. Runners. Charity teams in Boston set the bar high and typically expect their runners to fundraise $8,000 USD or more and they take your credit card information so if you don’t fundraise the total they will charge the difference to your credit card.

Step 2 – Get a Boston2BigSur BibBigSurlogo

Registration for Boston2BigSur usually opens shortly after Boston confirms their bibs. In 2023, registration opened on Thursday September 22nd. You need to register specifically for Boston2BigSur. Big Sur marathon registration opens in August. You cannot register for the Big Sur marathon and then ask to switch you to the Boston2BigSur registration later. In 2023, I was able to register for Boston2BigSur in early October and was confirmed on the spot. In 2017, Boston2BigSur was a lottery. 6 runners from my run club entered the lottery. When the lottery results were announced 4 out of our 6 runners were accepted. We had one runner number 12 on the waiting list, and another runner number 43 on the waiting list.  Apparently a lot of people think it’s a nice idea but when it comes down to it have second thoughts, because in the end everyone, including #43 on the waiting list was accepted so we all got to run Boston 2 Big Sur. In 2017, they accepted 400 B2B registrations for the Big Sur marathon and there were about 4500 runners total in the 2017 Big Sur Marathon. I can’t find official numbers for 2023 but the bib numbers went up to 355. I suspect that like many marathons post-COVID registration numbers are down, so they probably would have accepted 400 but did not reach that limit, which would also explain why they did not bother with a lottery for B2B bibs in 2023. The cost for the B2B registration was steep at $530 USD double the cost of a regular Big Sur marathon bib.

What do I get with a “Boston 2 Big Sur” registration

Yes, there are some perks of having an official B2B bib. We all know swag matters 🙂 So, what you care most about is probably that you get a really nice long sleeved training shirt (if you live in the U.S. they mail it to you, if not you pick it up at the race expo), and an official Boston 2 Big Sur finisher jacket at the finish line. You also get two medals, one for completing Big Sur, and a second for completing Boston2BigSur. You also get access to the VIP tent at the finish line which gives you a place to sit down with tables and a view of the finish chute. In the tent you will find catered food and drinks including beer, wine and cookies. I particularly appreciated the cookies. You will also find lots of other Boston2BigSur runners who make for wonderful post-race company. The tent is not exclusively for Boston 2 Big Sur runners, as there are other race packages that give you access to the VIP tent. You do not get access to any special transportation to the start, or access to the VIP area at the start village.

For those who are competitive there are prizes for the top three men and women overall and the top three men and women masters (40+) based on combined Boston + Big Sur race times.

The race expo has a lot of Boston 2 Big sur branded clothing and goodies you can purchase in addition to their Big Sur race gear. They have some really nice shirts, socks, jackets, hats, headbands, etc… Makes for a dangerous (aka expensive) race expo if you are anything like me. I ended up buying a few items with theBoston 2 Big Sur brand and a couple of items with the Big Sur brand just because they were really nice. I get a lot of use out of my Big Sur Marathon rain coat but yes the Boston to Big Sur socks were really just to make me smile whenever I wear them. It’s not like you can tell they are Boston 2 Big Sur once I put on my running shoes.

I was a bit disappointed with the jackets in 2023, just because the old jackets were very different. The new jackets are more of a light weight windbreaker, whereas the old jackets were heavier weight track jackets with embroidery. In 2017, they also gave B2B runners passes to the post-race dinner but they don’t do that any more either. I am glad they still give out what I think are very cool clay medals.


2 Marathons  in 13 days are you nuts?

Well not as crazy as the ultra runners who do 100 km in a day up and down mountains, or the people who do B2B the years they are 6 days apart.  But a little crazy yeah.

How many marathons should you run before attempting B2B?

When I ran B2B in 2017, my running buddies had all run at least 20+ marathons.  2017 Boston was my 5th marathon, and Big Sur was #6.  So as marathoners go, I was a relative newbie. I was still learning how to train properly and how to pace myself.  I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone who had not run at least 3 or 4 marathons.  I think it also helped that I had run the Boston course before. 2017 was my 2nd Boston marathon. My first Boston marathon I made all the classic mistakes first time Boston runners make, starting out too fast, getting beat up by the Newton hills and really struggling the last few miles. In 2017, I was much more relaxed at the start and I knew what to expect from the race course, I was able to run all the Newton hills without walking. It’s going to be harder to do Boston 2 Big Sur if you have never run Boston before. But of course you don’t have to have past Boston experience. In 2023, my friend Christopher got a Boston bib by fundraising for Dana Farber. He was an experienced marathon runner (10+ marathons) but had never run Boston before. He had run New York marathon a couple of times which is comparable difficulty to Boston in terms of hills which I think was probably helpful.

Do you need to be a “fast” runner to do B2B?

I am not slow, I did qualify for Boston, but fast is a relative term.  Your definition of fast really depends on who you ask and who you hang out with. In 2017, the others who ran B2B with me had Personal bests that ranged from 2:55 to 3:35.  My personal best is 3:51 and change. So for that group I was the slow, inexperienced runner.  but I have other runner friends who say ‘whoa you have run a marathon in under four hours, you are fast!’  You know my PB, you can decide if you consider that fast or slow. 

What is important to know is that the cut-off times for Big Sur are tougher than the cut-off times for Boston. Boston has a 6 hour cut-off, but that time starts from when the last runner crosses the start. Boston has 30,000 runners who start in 4 waves of 8 corrals. Each wave starts 20 minutes after the previous one, so depending on your wave and corral you may actually have much more than 6 hours to finish Boston. Big Sur only has about 5000 marathon runners in 4 corrals that start just a few minutes apart. Big Sur also has to be strict about the cut-off times because they need to re-open the Pacific Coast highway. So you need to average a 13:45 minute mile to make it under the cut-off. If you are exhausted and have to walk a few miles you will make it, if you have a serious injury and are trying to walk the whole thing you will probably end up in the SAG wagon. Big Sur is the only race I have run where I saw the SAG wagon driving by with runners, so they are serious about the cut-off.

How did you train for it?

I did not worry about my speed at all.  The training was all about getting stronger NOT faster.

The goal was simple: Don’t get injured and finish both races strong. In 2017 I was terrified so I did a total of 4 runs that were at least 20 miles during my training.  I also made a point of cross training to avoid injury.  I did yoga once or twice a week to loosen up all those joints and muscles strained by the long runs.  In 2023, I did two 20 mile runs during my training. THE most important training you should do is hill work.  In 2017, for the last 8 weeks of my training I finished my long runs with hill repeats at the end to practice running hills when tired.  In 2023, my long run route didn’t offer that option but I did make sure I selected a long run route that gave me some hills, and I modified my shorter runs where possible to insert hills. Given the two races close together I did not go after a personal best. Both years my goal was to build strength and endurance so I could finish strong and have something for race #2.  My weekly routine included:

  • Monday: Optional easy recovery run 3-5 miles
  • Tuesday: Hill repeats
  • Wednesday: 6-11 mile run. I never pushed the pace on Wednesdays (this was the run I missed most often or had to cut short)
  • Thursday: Speed work (5 or 6X1600s were the hardest nights)
  • Friday: rest… no biking, no swimming, just enjoy a day off , maybe a yin yoga or some foam rolling
  • Saturday: spinning class to build my leg strength without the impact (2017) or 6 -8 mile easy run (2023)
  • Sunday: long run
  • Something to loosen up muscles and joints twice a week (e.g. yoga, fascial stretching, massage)
  • Something low-impact for strength twice a week (e.g. core work, power yoga, kettle bell classes, calf raises, single leg exercises)

In 2017, I had planned to do morning swims twice a week, but I’ll be honest most of the time I only made it once a week, and in the last 6 weeks of my training I might as well have just turned off my alarm, because I decided a good night’s sleep was more important and almost wore out the Snooze button.

I think the key elements in my training plan were having several high mileage weeks (which I built up to gradually so I would not get injured) doing something to loosen up given all that mileage, and the hills. YOU CANNOT DO TOO MUCH HILL WORK!  Even on my shorter runs I deliberately chose routes that added hills.  During my 2015 Boston I fell apart on the hills, Big Sur is tougher than Boston in terms of hills. I have learned my lesson. Don’t forget to practice running downhill as well as uphill!

How fast/hard did you run Boston?

It was pretty hot race day in Boston in 2017. I decided up front to walk every water stop. Given the number of water stops in Boston, that’s a lot of walking… I only walked for 10 seconds at each water stop, but yes I did stop to walk at each and every one. I did this for two reasons, one to make sure I actually drank some water or Gatorade to stay hydrated, two to just shift up the way I walked for a few seconds and reset the muscles and joints.  I forced myself to slow down for the first 6 miles despite the steady downhill. Boston has rolling hills in the first half but the hills get bigger in the second half.  My goal was not to stop and walk on any of the hills. I was going to get through all the Newton hills including the infamous Heartbreak hill without walking this year.  It was hot, and it was tough going. But the warm weather also mean huge crowds cheering us on.  I wrote my name on my arm in Sharpie so fans could shout my name (no name on the bibs in Boston so if you want to hear people call your name, you have to get creative). I gave myself a maximum pace… I was not allowed to run faster than a 5:30/km pace (which is about a 3:52 marathon).

The end result, the only walking I did was the water stops, and I finished in 4:10.  I was tired but my knees, hips, etc… were in better shape post-race than my previous marathons. I have never been so happy with a personal worst (my previous PW was 4:07 at Grandma’s marathon in blistering heat). My sister (also registered for B2B) also took it easy in the first half of the race, but then she felt so good she picked it up in the second half and ran a great race finishing 8th in her age group overall! My friend Faye took it easy at the start and also felt good at the halfway mark and picked it up a little bit. (I guess all those people who tell you negative splits are the way to go may be right ;))

In 2023, we had cooler weather. I was a more experienced marathon runner (this was marathon #18 and my 7th Boston). I ran entirely by feel, I was relaxed and did not set myself any time goal. I high fived the kids on the side line, stopped for a kiss in Wellesley and got lots of high fives from the students at Boston College. . Once again I wrote my name in Sharpie so fans could cheer me on. I ended up running my fastest ever Boston 3:52:15 which was my fastest ever Boston and also my first BQ in Boston. That’s fast for me, and it was quite unexpected. I guess the training paid off.

How did you feel after Boston?

In 2017 at the age of 47, the bottom of my feet were very unhappy as soon as I crossed the finish line. I got a few concerned looks from the medics as I left the finish area in Boston because walking was such an effort.  My quads were sore. Walking downstairs sure wasn’t any fun. Some of our crew knew there were toenails whose days were numbered. But I had no joint pain.  I was pretty confident the aches and pains would be gone by the time I crossed the start in Big Sur. In 2023 at the age of 53, I was more nervous, my previous two marathons I had developed injuries when I tried to run too soon after a marathon. A knee issue after the fall Boston in 2021 and a hamstring issue after spring Boston 2022. I also had a grumpy Achilles in December 2022. My body clearly needed more time to recover as I was getting older (for the record, I was definitely solidly in the pre-menopausal / menopausal years, still far too little data on how this affects women runners, but I did follow the basic guidance of do more runs slow and easy but do the hard workouts hard avoid the ‘moderate’ pace). I met with a Pedorthist (among other things to do gait analysis) in December to discuss a strategy to get me through both races without injury and we came up with multiple tactics: dynamic work to improve hip mobility which was causing my calf to take on more load than my hamstring, shoes with a higher heel toe drop, monthly massage during training and a massage pre-post Boston, an adjustable standing desk so I could avoid spending a full day sitting, plus calf strengthening exercises. Fear is a powerful motivator I did it all! I have never done so much mobility work! When I ran Boston, my legs were tired, but nothing particularly bad, I was sore the next day but just the usual sore quads. My Achilles was pain free (it got gradually better during training) and no new injuries appeared.

What training did you do between races?

In 2017, I ran one easy 5 km run and one easy 8 km run. My training plan said do a 15 km race on the Sunday between races. Two of my running buddies team did the 15 km, the rest of us just did a couple of easy short runs.  Most of us made a point of finding either a yoga class or a massage treatment between the two races.  Highly recommended! In 2023 I went for a massage first chance I got after Boston and did one easy 5 km run. That’s it that’s all.

Did you fly or drive?

If you are running B2B you are going to end up flying to at least one of them! I had a 7 hour drive to Boston and 7 hours of flying to reach California.

Sitting for hours tightens up your body and it’s important to find a way to loosen up before you hit the start line.  Find something that works for you post flight or post drive, yoga, dynamic stretches, whatever.

A couple of things you might want to add to your Big Sur packing list

1- Your Boston jacket, Boston 2 Big Sur training shirt, or Boston race shirt to wear. At the Big Sur marathon, the Boston 2 Big Sur runners are a big enough group to be noticed around town, but few enough of us that other runners may comment on your jacket and ask if you are one of the people doing B2B. Also nice to have for your group photo Saturday.

2 – Your Boston bib. Many Boston 2 Big Sur runners pin their Boston bibs on their back so on race day you can spot them on the course.

3 – Your Boston medal. Makes a great photo when you celebrate after the race if you have all three medals: Boston, Big Sur & Boston 2 Big Sur.

4 – A hydration vest. The water stops are more spread out at Big Sur so if you are expecting to see water stops every mile like you had in Boston you will be disappointed. Big Sur only has a few very specific stops where they can set up water stations, so it simply isn’t possible to have them as often as you do in Boston.

Big Sur is SO DIFFERENT from Boston.

The expo

The race expo in Boston is a mad house, every vendor you can possibly imagine is there and the place is packed! Big Sur is a much smaller expo, but you will find gels, and some really nice race clothing to buy. There is also a special bib pick up area for Boston 2 Big Sur runners. The volunteers there make you feel special, it’s the closest I will ever get to being treated like an elite.

The spectators

Boston is lined with spectators cheering you on and has 30,000 runners all doing the marathon. For the first 25 miles Big Sur has more cows than people on the sidelines (no I am not exaggerating).  The only sounds you hear are the other runners, the occasional birds singing or cow mooing, and in some stretches the sound of the waves.  They do also have musical acts along the course which are a nice treat.


Both races can be windy, but the winds are more likely to be an issue at Big Sur. Hurricane point is infamous.  We got lucky in 2017 very light winds, but in 2023 we had winds gusting over 30 mph and most of it headwind. Bibs were flapping, hats were flying off, some gusts actually blew one foot into the other mid-stride. Don’t be fooled by the reports saying 3-4 mph winds, that’s the wind at the start where you are sheltered. You won’t know the ‘real’ race weather until you hit about mile 6.


There is zero shade on the Boston course, but there were actually a few shady patches in Big Sur.

Aid stations

There are lots and lots of water stops in Boston, plus spectators offering everything from freezies to peanut butter cups(?!) to orange slices and beer! There are about 11 water stops in Big Sur. I ran with water (which I have not done at any other marathon). In 2017, it wasn’t too hot and I hardly touched my water and could have managed without, but it was comforting to know it was there. In 2023, I drank my water a lot more because I was out there longer . If we had the heat we encountered in Boston 2017 I would have really needed it.  They have water bottle refill stations at every second water stop (two or three volunteers holding beer pitchers filled with water), so if you do bring water you don’t have to carry too much. They also have orange slices at the last few stops and strawberries at Mile 23.

Mile markers

Miles and kms are well marked in Boston. Miles are clearly marked along Big sur (with some awesome signs… trust me on that one).


Both races are net downhill but that doesn’t mean either of them is easy!

Boston has lots of rolling hills and very little flat. Of course you also have heartbreak hill – infamous for being tough because it shows up at 20 miles after you have already run the other three Newton hills. You can see my Elevation chart from Strava below.


Big Sur has hurricane point, it’s a 2 mile climb but it shows up at the 13 mile mark.  With all my hill training I actually didn’t find hurricane point as bad as I expected, but then the fun began… I read one report that said there are 11 hills in the second half of the Big Sur marathon.   I tried to count but lost track after a while, all I can tell you is that last hill at 25 miles just adds insult to injury!  Basically assume you have one good hill in every mile for the second half of the race. Ugh! Another challenge in Big Sur is on many of the downhills (and uphills) especially in the last third of the race there is a really bad camber /slant to the road that also takes a bit of a toll on the body.

You can see my Strava elevation chart for Big Sur below


What was your game plan for Big Sur?

We managed to find a list of the times the previous years B2B runners posted at each race. Most of the runners ran Big Sur in a time that was within 10 minutes of their Boston time. Most of the runners were slower in Big Sur.  In 2017, based on that I decided I would go out at a 5:45 /km pace and see where that took me.  I kept the pace nicely on the first half, and slowed down considerably on the hills in the second half. I walked at each water stop (but there were only half as many as Boston so less walking overall). I did walk the very last hill at mile 25. I could have run it. But honestly, at that point, I decided I would prefer to walk that one hill and then finish a little stronger and faster. The break felt great and I actually passed a lot of people when I started running again for that last mile. I finished in 4:16.  A new personal worst, but I was quite happy to run a course that tough 13 days after Boston and only be 6 minutes slower.  Again, I was tired (okay exhausted), but no knee or hip pain (I have battled IT band issues in races past). I am very happy with that race. Three of our 6 runners in 2017 placed in their age groups. In fact there were a LOT of B2B runners who placed in their age group!  To be fair, I think that may partly be because most of the runners who do B2B are pretty experienced runners and have trained hard for the double marathon. In 2023, I just wanted to enjoy the opportunity to be back on this beautiful course. I stopped for lots of pictures and fun experiences along the way, stopping for pony hugs, playing drums, etc… I finished in 4:37 (setting another new personal worst ) but completely reasonable given the wind and how I ran the race so I have zero regrets and quite happy with my time! Even with that wind there were B2B runners who ran within 10 minutes of their Boston times in Big Sur in 2023, but on average the pace drop from Boston to Big Sur was bigger in 2023, likely because of that wind.

What are the perks of doing B2B?

Was it worth it?

Hey if you are reading this you know the real reason you do B2B, bragging rights 🙂 I have no regrets and if you had asked me in 2017 I would have said I will never do it again. I would run Boston again. I would run Big Sur again. Then in 2023 when a friend was doing a one and done Boston, I couldn’t resist joining him for his one and done Boston 2 Big sur. It’s a big commitment in terms of time, training and money. Add up the flight, hotel, vacation time, meals, etc… and suddenly the “free B2B jacket” doesn’t seem so free any more.  If you do it in a year with a 6 day break between races than good for you! You make me look sane 🙂

Here the rest of my running related posts and race reports.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Emily Chan on October 3, 2017 at 12:11 AM

    Thank you for posting this. I just signed up for karate first Boston marathon and B2B. I am both excited and terrified. Your post will help tremendously. Glad you got to do it. Congrats!


  2. […] over. I find it easier to get over a bad race if the weather is outrageously bad, or the course is crazy hilly, then at least I have something to blame […]


  3. […] 5 members of my running club: Faye, John, Mike, James and my sister Judy. James suggested we all do Boston 2 Big Sur this year and at the time it seemed like a good idea […]


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