Big Sur International Marathon

“Best Destination Marathon” runs management 100% online and is Gold Certified for green initiatives




The Big Sur International Marathon (BSIM) is a non-profit organization that serves the community by providing a world-class marathon and related fun events that raise money to benefit local charities, while promoting health and fitness. The event takes place on coastal Highway One in California, which showcases one of the most scenic and pristine stretches of shoreline in the world. With such a beautiful course, it’s no wonder Runner’s World magazine dubbed BSIM as one of the three best marathons in America as well as the nation’s Best Destination Marathon. Immensely popular, BSIM celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010 and has already sold out for the 2011 event. For a marathon that consistently sells out every year, this is its earliest sell out date yet! BSIM is also an industry leader for its green initiatives and was awarded a Gold Certification by the Council for Responsible Sport for both its November Half Marathon and April Marathon.

In addition to the marathon, Big Sur also hosts a half marathon, mud run, and several shorter distance fun runs. All combined, the events attract approximately 20,000 runners and walkers annually.


BSIM’s attractive location and well-run course has been a strong draw for runners since its inception a quarter of a century ago. With their event in such high demand, BSIM event organizers make a significant effort to be industry leaders in marathon management. To meet (and beat) the expectations of thousands of participants year after year, BSIM needs to have the best resources to communicate with and register runners. In 2005, BSIM enlisted ACTIVE Network to provide easy, affordable technology for online race registration, website design and marketing services. ACTIVE’s wrap-around solutions automate manual tasks, making BSIM’s operations more efficient and paperless.


After more than five years with ACTIVE, BSIM is operating 100% online. “It works great,” mentions Sally Smith, registrar and website manager for BSIM. “The whole system has some nice features that make our lives easier on a daily basis.” Here are a few of the top functions used by BSIM:

  • Online Registration. All registrations are processed online. This saves the staff hours of time because it eliminates paper forms, data entry, and trips to the bank to deposit payments. The system automatically processes tiered price levels and accepts coupon codes, which are emailed to participants. Because the event sells out every year, offering online registration exclusively is the best way to uphold the “first come, first serve” rule.
  • Reporting. Using one system to process race registrations and collect data creates a centralized, easy-to-access database. ACTIVE’s solution includes customizable, built-in reports that pull data from that central location on everything from financials to demographics. “I use the payment summary report and monitor the registration summary daily,” says Sally. “The database is clean and these reports make it simple for our treasurer to reconcile payments.” They also make it easy for Sally and the BSIM team to get accurate, real-time information without sifting through piles of paperwork and clicking calculators.
  • Websites. BSIM has also taken advantage of ACTIVE’s website design and support services. ACTIVE built a new, custom website for BSIM, which Sally can easily manage herself. “The website content management system (ACM) is great,” notes Sally. “You don’t need to know HTML to use it and I can make updates whenever I’d like.” This ensures that visitors always have the most current information regarding race news and sell out date estimates.
  • “We always get a registration bump from ACTIVE’s marketing services.”

  • Marketing. BSIM sends e-marketing campaigns to ACTIVE’s lists of opt-in subscribers, comprised of millions of runners nationwide. These campaigns include geo-targeted online advertisements, special offer emails and e-newsletters. “We do this every year because we always get a registration bump from ACTIVE’s marketing services,” says Sally. “We can see our numbers increase after we run an ad or send an email to ACTIVE’s members.”
  • Merchandise. BSIM sells its merchandise online in conjunction with race registration. Registrants can add souvenirs like t-shirts, hats and posters to their “cart” and pay for them along with the race fee as they check out. It’s one-stop shopping.

Going Green

BSIM is part of ACTIVE Network’s “Go Green” marathon management program and has taken a Pledge of Sustainability. BSIM also earned a Gold Certification for its greening efforts in the 2010 race. Cited as “one of the most progressive events in the world,” the certification was awarded by the Council for Responsible Sport, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising the level of environment and social responsibility in sporting events.

Below are some of the measures BSIM took to divert waste, in turn saving money by reducing hauling costs and disposal fees:

  • 100% paperless, online race registration
  • Recycling bottles, cans, plastic and cardboard
  • Composting food waste, including utensils, plates, and clear cups
  • Diverting wooden pallets for reuse
  • Donating leftover food
  • Donating abandoned clothing for reuse
  • Encouraging participants to “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Bottle) and use tank refilling stations, reducing the number of paper cups
  • Choosing biodegradable toilet paper for use in porta-potties
  • Using a triple green certified company for all printed materials
  • Using solar power at the finish
  • Offering a “Virtual Goody Bag” where participants can go online and print only the coupons and brochures they’ll actually use
  • Producing a Virtual Results Book viewable online
  • Renting/borrowing tents, fencing, vehicles
  • Reducing the carbon footprint by offering a “Pickup Pal” free carpooling service to the event

Sally and all of the Big Sur event organizers realize the importance of taking steps to increase environmental sustainability. Their efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle go a long way towards keeping their community “green and pristine,” ensuring it remains a top running destination.


From race registration software to online marketing techniques to green initiatives, BSIM is ahead of the curve when it comes to marathon management. The event will continue to work hand-in-hand with ACTIVE Network to provide the easiest, best resources to facilitate communication and give runners the experience of a lifetime. For 2011 and beyond, BSIM is dedicated to living up to its reputation as one of the most scenic, best run and greenest events in the nation.

“The whole system has some nice features that make our lives easier on a daily basis.”
Sally Smith
Registrar & Website Manager, Big Sur International Marathon