About the Race for Open Space

Big Sur Land Trust's mission is to inspire love of land across generations, conservation of our unique Monterey County landscapes, and access to outdoor experiences for all. We were founded in 1978 by a group of families who wanted to protect the majesty of Big Sur for generations to come. Since then, our donors have ensured that over 40,000 acres have been conserved throughout Monterey County--from a parcel of Carr Lake in the heart of the City of Salinas, to a ranch at Arroyo Seco near Los Padres National Forest, and many places in between. In addition, we work to connect communities to the land through volunteer days, hikes and outings, camp programs for youth, and community events like the Race for Open Space.

The Race for Open Space is a fun trail run/walk that promotes healthy outdoor recreation in connection to our local landscapes while raising funds to support our work in the community. You can register as a fundraising or non-fundraising participant, and you can also register to fundraise without participating in the race. All race participants will receive post-race refreshments, a chance to win some great raffle prizes, a participant medal, and an event-themed race bib (while supplies last) plus the opportunity to pick up some free goodies. Please bring your own bag to pick out the goodies, freebies, and informational handouts you want to keep, as we are trying to diminish our waste.

Because we want to be good stewards of our land and trails, registration is capped at 300 participants. Online registration closes on April 12 at 5PM or when registration has reached 300 participants.

The Race for Open Space takes place at our historic Marks Ranch property in Salinas, CA, bordering Toro County Park. The event timeline is as follows:

  • Monday, December 10
    • 9:00am - Online registration opens
  • Saturday, March 16
    • 5:00pm - Early bird registration closes
  • Friday, April 12:
    • 8:30am - Bib pickup available at our office until 6pm
    • 12:00pm - Online registration closes
  • Saturday, April 13
    • 6:00am - Same-day bib pickup
    • 7:30am - 10K race begins
    • 7:45am - 5K race begins
    • 8:45am - 2.5K race begins
    • 9:30am - Award ceremony
    • 10:00am - Post-race activities options
      • Stretch-out session with yoga instructor Kiara McBain
      • Music with Monterey DJ (email your song requests here)
      • Beer from Alvarado Street Brewery
      • Learn about Big Sur Land Trust
      • And much more!

All runners and walkers must be off the course by 11am for cleanup.

Marks Ranch has a rich history, having been originally settled by Benjamin and Nisene Marks in 1890. Suddenly widowed, Nisene raised chickens to support her family, eventually building one of the largest egg ranches in California. During the Race for Open Space, you will pass several historic structures that were used by the Marks Family during their ranching days. These include Grandpa's House, the Hacienda, an Incubator House, an Egg Pond, and the Dance Hall. 

In addition to its historical importance, Marks Ranch provides a vital wildlife corridor between the Sierra de Salinas and Fort Ord conservation lands, a significant regional connection. Deer and small mammals, as well as coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions find habitat on the property. Open grasslands provide excellent foraging opportunities for a variety of songbirds and raptors. California quail and turkeys also make their home on the ranch. Amazingly, Marks Ranch is also home to 90 species of wildflowers!

Marks Ranch was originally donated by the last family member to St. John's College in 1982 to build a west coast campus, leaving instructions that the last piece of the Marks family legacy would remain in its natural state and offer educational programs. In 2003, St. John's signed a 28-year option with a development company to build over 500 home sites on the property. However, the local community strongly opposed teh development and the County did not grant the zoning change. In 2004, Big Sur Land Trust worked with St. John's to secure a 3-year option to buy the property in order to protect the ranch's rich history (both natural and socio-cultural). 

Big Sur Land Trust purchased the 816-acre Marks Ranch property in 2007. Most of this land, especially the back country, has been transferred to Toro County Park. Big Sur Land Trust retains the front 73 acres of the ranch, except Grandpa's House. You might see cow paddies on the land--that's because Big Sur Land Trust maintains a 600-acre conservation grazing lease on the property. Big Sur Land Trust also hosts Youth Outdoor Programs at Marks Ranch during the Fall and Spring school semesters.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is this race timed? Are there prizes? Yes, your race bib contains a special chip for timing. Don't forget your bib on race day! Yes, handmade oak medals will be awarded for first, second, and third place finishers by gender category for each course length. Certificates of acknowledgement will be awarded to each age division winner within gender categories as well. Big Sur Land Trust will also offer two special awards: Outstanding Fundraiser and Outstanding Spirit.

Can I run both the 10K/5K and the 2.5K? Yes, and you need not create an additional registration for the 2.5K. You will only be timed for your 10K/5K.

Can I bring my dog? We love your furry friends as much as you do, but unfortunately Marks Ranch is not a dog-friendly property.

How do I get to Marks Ranch? And where is it, anyway? Marks Ranch is in Salinas, bordering Toro County Park. Use the navigational bar above or click here for directions to Marks Ranch.

Do you have same-day bib pickup and registration? We have same-day bib pickup. Please arrive early for bib pick-up so that you do not miss the start of your race. We may or may not have same-day registration available--there is a high likelihood that this race will sell out, and if it does, we will not offer same-day registration. News of whether this race is sold out will be posted on the Race for Open Space home page.

How long will bib pick-up be open, and where do I go? Bib pick-up will be available at Big Sur Land Trust's office at 509 Hartnell Street in Monterey on Friday, April 12 from 8:30am to 6pm. Please bring your driver's license or other ID. We also offer same-day bib pick-up starting at 6am on Saturday, April 13. Please arrive early so you do not miss the start of your race.

My friends are coming in from out of town to participate, can I pick up their bib for them? As a general rule, unless you are a parent picking up your child's bib, you only be allowed to pick up someone else's bib if you bring this form, completed and signed by the person/people whose packet(s) you are picking up.

Why aren't you doing goody bags this year? Big Sur Land Trust recognizes that the running community is becoming more environmentally-conscious, and we want to do our part to make sure that we diminish our footprint and aren't giving you disposable things that you don't want. For this reason, we ask that you bring along your own reusable goody bag to fill! We will have a couple tables full of freebies from our sponsors as well as printed information that you are welcome to collect as you wish.

What weather conditions should I be prepared for? At Marks Ranch in April, it can be hard to predict what the weather will be like. It could be very chilly in the morning and could warm up significantly as the day goes on. It could be very foggy, even drizzly, and it could also be a sunny and cloudless day. We recommend preparing yourself for all kinds of weather possibilities, especially by wearing layers and sun protection.

What kinds of hazards should I prepare for? At Marks Ranch, we have poison oak, thistle, and ticks. To prevent contact, we recommend long, light-colored layers and light-colored tube socks. We also have terrain that can be muddy or sandy depending on the weather. The terrain on the 5K and 10K courses is quite steep and can be uneven where cows have "moo-ved" through. If you own trail running shoes, we recommend wearing those.

Will there be a photographer, and if so, where do I go to find the photos later? Chris Cleary of The Treadmill is our official event photographer this year. Some volunteers will also be staged throughout the course, and selected photos will be uploaded as an album to Big Sur Land Trust's Facebook page. Unfortunately, we are unable to upload every single photo taken by our volunteers during the event. We highly encourage you to share the photos you take as well! You can tag us using @bigsurlandtrust on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We also encourage you to use the hashtags #race4openspace, #supportBSLT, #forlandsyoulove, #trailrunning, and #getoutside.

What are teams, and how do I sign up for one? When you register for the Race for Open Space as a fundraising participant, you will be prompted to decide if you would like to join an already-existing fundraising team or if you would like to create your own team. If you register as a non-fundraising participant, you will not be able to join a team or create a team. Teams compete on fundraising goals for the Race for Open Space; they do not compete for best race times. An award will be granted to the top fundraising team.

I want to fundraise for this race, but I don't know where to start. What should I do? We've create a page of resources just for you to help you get started! Click here to check it out.