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Thanks to Bald Runner Sir Jovie, I am now starting to write a log of my past runs.

After reading his 1,000-km Club, I have been encouraged to gather notes and web pages for the runs I have joined and my first recordings of the half-marathon training I got from a magazine before the end of 2007.

Get set

Reading my notes on that magazine page really brings back a lot of memories.  I can still remember how hard that first 6.5 km was for me at that time.  I had been running before that but because I was able to follow a training plan only since then, I decided to take it from there.  It was a 12 week half-marathon plan and on my long run every Sunday, I would start joining 5K and 10K races starting with the one in Subic.  Ah, that first 10K run!

I will then check out web sites with the race schedules and results to track my mileage and time if results are available to complement my notes. 

It would be nice to receive a “1,000-km Club” T-shirt but even if I don’t get the T-shirt reward, I will be happy just to look back at my humble beginnings, then put things in perspective and go on with my running plan for this year.

Running at 6:00 pace, I zeroed in on a mid-distance run after the now controversial Botak marathon last May 10th.  At the beginning of my first run since that road race, I was still thinking that I could have done better, would have finished sooner, and should have prepared earlier.

I strongly felt that I could definitely improve a lot!  But then thirty minutes into my run, I started feeling better, not only in my legs but also in my head.  Most of the anxieties, regrets and other not-so-positive things about my last race seemed to have disappeared and I really just started feeling better.

I began thinking about this run, the “right now” and how much I am enjoying it.  I thought I should be more thankful that I finished the marathon without an injury and still be able to enjoy the sport that I have fallen madly in love with.

After the run, I felt that I had a clearer mind, ready for work, ready to go back to training and ready to conquer greater heights, so to speak.

Boy, do I love running!

The Day

Race bib

After picking up my race packet, checking out the race map specifically where the aid stations would be, doing the long distance run requirement carbo loading and getting enough sleep before race day, coupled with the training hours I had logged, I made my way to the Fort more than thirty minutes before the scheduled start of 4:30 a.m. Even the almost thirty-minute delay did not dampen my spirits as I stayed positive and found my position doing the finishing touches on my stretching at the starting line.

Race singletIt was really nice to see familiar faces before and during the race. Since I have my name on my singlet, people started calling me this time by my first name and not just by “hey,” “bro,” “dude,” or “pare,” not that there is anything wrong with it of course. It was just nice to hear my name at that time, especially coming from people I have learned to call friends after seeing them for over a year now, trying to pace with them, or sometimes overtake or be overtaken by them.

The first 22 kilometers of the race run in Taguig was a very nice run for me, thanks to the water stations and Gatorade stops along the way. At that point, I thought I could run forever, slowing down for water and/or Gatorade at every station and consuming the gel shots I brought with me every hour I ran. At this pace, I would be able to finish the marathon in less than 4 hours! A bonus for me because my goal was just to finish. Period.

I had run that familiar route leading up to the Kalayaan-Gil Puyat fly-over a few times so with my energy level and the training I had, I thought the remaining 20 kilometers would be as enjoyable as the first one. But I was wrong. I was dead wrong.

Well, I was still in high spirits running along Gil Puyat until the Pasong Tamo (Chino Roces) intersection. I was beginning to notice the lack of race marshals and water stations along the way. I followed the faster runners as we made our first Makati u-turn at the Gil Puyat and Pasong Tamo intersection but after I had made the left to Ayala Ave. extension for the Rockwell leg of the race, I noticed that some runners failed to go straight until the u-turn and from Gil Puyat just proceded to Ayala Ave. extension which puzzled me. Did I just make a big boo-boo along with many other runners? Amidst the confusion, I asked some runners if we were really supposed to make that u-turn and some of them were as confused as I was because there were no marshals at the Gil Puyat-Ayala intersection! I saw and heard one of the veteran runners curse at the marshals he saw and blamed them for not being told to make the necessary turns.

I thought, oh no! I didn’t need this confusion and distraction. By this time, I began feeling anxious and could feel some tightness in my leg muscles. I ran along Kalayaan Ave. trying to forget what happened but to no avail. I kept thinking, did I make the right turn, did I run more than I should, or worse, will I get disqualified?

The Rockwell leg of the race proved to be hell for me, and for other runners based on their faces, reactions and comments. I was slowing down or walking each intersection I arrived at to make sure with the marshal that I was making the right turn. I did not think my neophyte marathon body could take extra kilometers more than the already grueling 42.195 km. Fortunately there were marshals to ask, but everytime I asked if there were water stops, it was disheartening to see them shake their heads. Where were the stations I found on the map the night before the race? I started to feel envious of the runners who had their own support team in cars or bikes, making sure they had enough food and drinks.

I also felt sorry for one veteran female runner who I thought lost some time because she was confused with the route, even asking why she did not see any other female runners in Rockwell. At last, I saw one station midway that hellish part, but, oh no, there were no cups! So the runners used the cover of the water jug to drink from. I just used my hands to get as much water as I could. I almost broke down in tears as my body, for the first time, showed signs of not being able to make it and, also for the first time in the race, asked myself if I wanted to quit! Looking back, I think what angered me most was the fact that I entertained the thought of quitting and the idea that it was mostly due to the fact that I felt the race organizers were in a way negligent of letting the runners just take care of themselves, including me. If I had been told there would be no water stations, I would not have expected any and would have prepared myself better.

Now I was starting to feel the effect of chafing in my upper arms, an issue I did not pay attention to before the race. Fortunately though, the pain would almost fade a few kilometers down the road because most of the pain I would feel were on my legs.

One kilometer later, I would walk then run again. It was nice to see a boy spraying water on the runners as we passed by him. I was almost at the 36 km mark when we found out that for the remainder of the race, which was at least 6 kilometers more, there would be no more water stations. Many of us then made our way to the nearest convenience store to try and rehydrate ourselves for the remainder of the race. I bought two Gatorade bottles for me and one for an older runner behind me. And one banana for me, too.

Making my way back up to the Kalayaan-Gil Puyat fly-over, I thought I was going to collapse so I tried to walk again, with some tight muscles until I saw an oasis! The sprinkler on top of the fly-over and the last water station of the race. With two more kilometers to go according to the sometimes-absent-sometimes-present road markers, one of the runners told me his gadget read 44.5 kilometers already at that point! I realized then that I would have been running about 45, 46 or maybe even 47 kilometers on my first marathon at that! I was reunited this time with the runners I saw at the first half of the race and we decided to start jogging then make a strong finish. The corner at Market Market was our goal but it seemed to be the longest 2 kilometers of my life! When I finally did my turn, I could hear music from speakers near the finish line and started running a little faster not mindful of whatever pain I was feeling on my legs.

 

Proudly showing off my finisher's medal

I never thought that the pain, anguish, frustration, disappointment and all the other emotions I had felt during the forty plus kilometers the last four hours or so would just go away at the sight of the finish line! I continued running as fast as I could. I did not have time to look at the clock because I was busy celebrating, smiling and posing for the photographer after I had crossed the finish line, and receving my medal and certificate.

A runner behind me later told me that I finished in about 4 hours and 38 minutes. As of this writing, I haven’t seen the official results but I said to myself, not bad, not bad at all.

Blood, sweat and tears. If I need to go through all these in my next marathon, count me in.

A friend asked me why I would subject myself to such “torture.”

My answer was simple: To be able to say I have achieved the dream of finishing a full marathon.

I can’t wait to sign up for the next one!

My reward after the race:  Japanese lunch!

                    My reward after the race:  Japanese lunch.  Itadakimasu!!!

A Scare before D-Day

Nine days before marathon day, I was having a very nice day, relaxing morning with family, sumptuous lunch and then active afternoon with friends. Little did I know that the day would be punctuated with a weird accident that I thought would endanger my first shot at marathon glory! The back of my friend’s car suddenly ran in reverse with great speed and then hit the wall. Thanks to seat belt, I didn’t have any immediate pain whatsoever after that and later thanked my friend for having the presence of mind to stop the car at a nearby parking area after the car moved forward again. I decided not to train the following day but on Sunday, I had a nice time running with my sisters and nephew in tow. I thought I was okay but on Monday, I started feeling some stiffness in my neck. My friend suggested that I go see a doctor with him just to be on the safe side and to rule out whiplash.

Although I agreed to go for a check up with my friend, I initially thought of not showing up for fear that the doctor would tell me to skip the marathon the coming Sunday. Only after much thought that there would always be marathons to run but I would only have one body to take care of did I finally decide to well, okay, see what would happen.

After an x-ray and a check up, the doctor said I was fine and only had tightness of muscles but I was still so scared to find out that I would be told not to run for a few days. With much hesitation, I asked THE qustion whether I could still run or not. When the doctor said, “of course you can,” I probably heaved the biggest sigh of relief I ever had in my life. I listened to the doctor’s advice of applying hot compress around my neck area for three to four days while winding up my training. Up until that point, the longest distance I had ever run was 26 kilometers, a far cry from the 42.195 km I would have to overcome as pointed out by one of my students, should I really hope of achieving my marathon dream.

The Dream

When I started joining those fun runs regularly in January of last year, I never thought that I would be able to run a full marathon (42.195 km) because I thought, well I was 34 years old and it would be too late to start training for it. I didn’t want to think that I was too old but I still hoped I would be the first one in my family (both mom and dad sides) to be able to do so.My running buddy...
After joining one 5K and/or one 10K race each month, two 15K races and three 21K half marathons for about a year, I decided earlier this year that I would like to try running my first ever full marathon race in the first one in the Philippines for 2009. So I decided to go online and look for an ambitious but quite achievable 16 week training program which included speed training, easy and tempo runs on a weekday and a long run every Sunday. Plus I decided to incorporate my legs and core strength training I had been doing when I trained for the half marathon. This I had to do regularly without fail on top of a busy schedule that started almost at the same time, working full time as a journalist for the Manila bureau of a Japanese newspaper and teaching Nihongo on the side. And oh yeah, studying Mandarin and Spanish on Saturdays. And tennis on some weekends, too.

Many of my friends were very supportive all the way but there were those of course who had their reservations whether it was a good decision to go for it. Which pushed me even harder. Two months into my training, I found out that Botak started sending out information on the marathon which I thought was a good sign, knowing that one marathon scheduled for March got canceled. I was even more excited to train. When weather was great, I would run at the Rizal Memorial track oval and when it would be too hot or raining, I would go back to the always dependable treadmill at Fitness First, where I also did my strength training.

The following month, with my other friends who either had started running regularly with me or those who just picked up the sport decided to register with me for the May 10 run. Three of them signed up for 5K, two more for 10K and one wanted to go for his fourth half marathon run. Since I was 3 months into my training, I casually paid the registration fee for 42K smiling at the thought that my name would be printed on my race singlet and would be receiving a medal IF I finish the race.

I was back to training and around that time, I stopped playing tennis for the meantime and concentrated on my marathon training in between attending press cons and conducting interviews for our articles.

May 2009
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