Pace teams are not a new item. But during the Big Sur International Marathon a few weeks ago, I participated in an “impromptu” pace team that pulled a lot of folks (who questioned their conditioning) through this tough course.

Big Sur is a favorite of mine. There is no marathon course more beautiful than this one, which runs along the Pacific coast, offering vistas that are not normally available to runners. This is the only time that traffic is blocked on scenic US 1, each year. Located about a two hour drive south of San Francisco, this relaxed community includes Monterey, Carmel, and a few other towns with personality that Steinbeck made famous in Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat.

After helping with the pre-race announcements, I was climbing down from the stage when my lead announcer, Bob, invited the runners to run with my wife Barbara and myself using our chosen ratio for that day of 1-1 (run a minute/walk a minute). After one minute of running, I counted down to the walk so that all could hear: 5-4-3-2-1 “get over to the side and walk." Turning around, I noticed about 50 people walking in our group.

We picked up runners as we went. When you're only running for one minute, you have time to talk and get to know one another, without huffing and puffing. Most of those who had not used 1-1 assumed that we would finish close to 6 hours. We were pacing about an hour faster than this. The 60 second walk is so restorative that one can really run during the running minute.  Such a liberal walk allowed runners to
talk, get to know one another, enjoy the beautiful scenery and pull one another together.

The group held together very well until about 18 miles when we started catching large numbers of runners who had not taken sufficient walk breaks earlier. When many of them discovered that we were only running one minute at a time, they joined in. A common statement was “Well, I'm tired but I can run for a minute.”

During the last few miles, some of our group slowed down. But within about a quarter of a mile, Barbara and I had about 85 folks cross the line who found some power in the group. Many came up to me later and disclosed that the 1-1 was the only reason that they ran so well, and celebrated that evening. Several set lifetime personal records. Barbara was about 2 minutes under 5 hours and I was about 4 minutes slower than 5 hours. We also celebrated that evening.

You should try the 1-1 if you have never done so. The liberal walk, from the beginning, can bring life to your legs and turn around your attitude about running when it's a tough day.

I strongly endorse the Big Sur Marathon – a quality event with fun activities. We have a special weekend get together in Carmel on Friday morning, which is delightful. The committees who produce this race really care about the experience that each runner has, and it shows. I hope to see you next year.