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I was checking the My Races page of this site and looking at the races I’ve participated in, I can’t help but wax nostalgic and go over through each race, trying to remember how I did, the people I ran with and checked some photos along the way.  I started joining races regularly since the Subic Marathon (10k) in 2008 but the very first race I joined was the 5k side event of the 2006 Milo Manila Eliminations.

Ai and I

It was Ai Tateyama, a Japanese colleague who asked me along with other teachers if we wanted to join the event.  All we had to do, she said, was fill out the forms and give her 100 pesos for the registration and the money to purchase the required Milo product.  She bought Milo, submitted the application forms and then handed us our race shirts and bibs later.

Before that, I had never run that distance, well, not for a race I think.  I remember participating in track and field try outs and contests in grade school, 100m, 200m, high jump and long jump, but no long distance races, and no more races or anything related to track and field for that matter when I entered high school.  I’m not sure what happened but track and field ceased to be a part of my life…

Running muscle memory

So the Milo 5k run 3 years ago brought back all the memories of competing and just running in general.  With no regular running buddies or team, I just did some running one week prior to race date.  Even if I was going to the gym since 2004, most of the running I did was for warm up, 10 minutes @ 7:00 pace.  I thought if I could run 5 kilometers on the treadmill, I would at least be able to finish the race.

We're a team of Filipino and Japanese teachers and volunteers doing our very first Milo race.

M-I-L-O! A group of Filipino and Japanese teachers and volunteers doing our very first Milo race.

So race day came.  The Japanese volunteers and the Filipino teachers met at kilometer zero 30 minutes before the race.  If you have participated in the Milo 5k run, you know how hard it is to start when you’re not in front of the pack!  Imagine 4,000 runners starting at the same time!  I remember trying to make my way through the crowd (many of whom stayed in front but decided to walk) but not spend too much energy just to be able to finally cross the starting line.

Two-way contest

I remember running very fast for my standard then and when I saw one of the fastest and most athletic Japanese runners in our group, Wakabayashi-san (runner#25771), a few hundred meters before the finish line, a race between the two of us ensued where one would take the lead alternately with the other until I went for it and crossed the finish line ahead of him.  We thanked and congratulated each other afterwards for a nice race to the finish.  We later learned that another Japanese in our group finished way ahead of us!  But I can still remember feeling competitive and wanting for more after the run.

I still join 5k races every now and then, the last one of which was the week before the Milo eliminations this year, a run for a cause sponsored by JAL.  Although my time 3 years ago is relatively slower than my time now, I still think that it was one of the most special races I’ve ever done.

Minutes after the race with Nihongo Center colleagues Frances, Jovy, Sam and Ai

Minutes after the race with Nihongo Center colleagues Frances, Jovy, Sam and Ai

After the race, I would have jogging sessions with Ai once or twice a week around the villages in Makati but the 2006 Milo run was to be our last race together.  She went back to Japan the following year.  The other Japanese who ran with us are also either back in Japan or are doing their posts abroad.

Sometimes it really pays to look back and cherish the wonderful times you’ve had, the fantastic friends you’ve made and hope that there will be more in the coming days.

Oh, if you’re wondering, I finished in 25:16, eight seconds ahead of Wakabayashi-san.  🙂

(This is the race result which I just saw a couple of days ago, more than 3 years after the actual race!)

I’m still excited about the results and very thankful for all the people who made Run for Home possible.  I just downloaded the Photovendo pics.  I’m really impressed!  When I checked the results again to try and post some details of the results, I was pleasantly surprised to find out I moved up one place in the overall ranking.  I wonder how that happened…

 

Running past the 6 km marker along Ayala Ave.

Running past the 6 km marker along Ayala Ave.

Checking the time

Checking the time

Almost there

Almost there

Run for home results

I got my Run for Home results and boy was I surprised!  Chip timing is really awesome, although a little disappointing that the Gun Time is THE official time (NOT the chip time).  But given the so many details about the race, my time, and other racers (you can compare your performance with other runners), it really makes me want to sign up for the next race using electronic timing chip.  More than anything, I’m happy to have been able to improve my 21k PR by 3 minutes!

newAlfred's Run for Home Resultsnew

Congratulations to the organizers and to all runners, especially to the 5 female runners who finished ahead of me!!! 🙂

flyer

I always mention in my posts that running itself is a reward but to be able to be part of a worthy cause is an icing on the cake.  This was the case last Sunday, when I, along with the other six thousand or so runners, joined Globe and Ayala Land in helping fund Habitat For Humanity’s on-going construction of houses in a housing relocation site in Brgy. Dayap Calauan, Laguna.

chip

According to the instruction included in the race packet, this is how you do it. I think... Also serves as a nice race souvenir.

Running with technology

This race also claims to be the first in the country to use an individual electronic timing chip to accurately time the race, although some people didn’t know that starting late wouldn’t make a difference in their official time and still some others didn’t tie their chips to their shoes!  (For more on chip timing, click here)

family

The family that runs together...

Based on the time at the finish line, my two sisters, friends and I all registered our best times in our respective races.  That’s why we’re all excited to see the official results and stats on July 23!

Sports drinks and crowded roads

I just wish they had anticipated the number of runners, particularly at the point when I was on my way back at the Buendia-Kalayaan flyover and saw the 10k runners filling the whole width of the road.  It was very hard to make my way through the crowd much less drink at the aid station. 

Speaking of drinking, I think I have to get used to drinking sports drinks other than Gatorade and Pocari Sweat.  Some runners (me included) just didn’t like the taste of the available drink at the aid station.  Fortunately I brought one bottle of my favorite drink with me.

Designated running lanes next time?

I also had to exert extra effort when I made my way up Lawton Avenue as runners who were walking also occupied the whole street.  Of course I have nothing against “runners who walk,” (I always tell my friends who just got into the sport to always “listen to their body”).  I think it should be the responsibility of the organizers to anticipate the number of runners and plan the race wisely (say, assign lanes for different race categories) for a hassle-free run for everyone.  Or we can always zigzag our way through the crowd or run against fast moving cars and jeepneys.

Running with a pacer

Another plus for this race is the presence of race pacers.  It was a goal I set for myself at the beginning of the race that I will run with the 5 min/km pacer somewhere during the race so I was more than happy to see her (yes a very strong and accomplished female pacer!) at the 16 km marker.  At this point I was just thinking of maintaining my pace to finish within my target 1 hour and 45 minutes but towards the homestretch, the thought of speeding up to the finish line was just too tempting to resist!

Bargain sports apparel are starting to be a fixture as an after-race attraction

Sports apparel bargains are starting to be a fixture as an after-race attraction

Overall, it was a really enjoyable experience considering I was not sure at first if I wanted to join this race two weeks after the Milo eliminations.  I’m glad I made the right choice!  🙂  Thanks and congratulations to Globe, Ayala Land and Finish Line!

Our usual reward after the race!

Our usual reward after the race!

 
Catching my breath, minutes after crossing the finish line.

Catching my breath, minutes after crossing the finish line.

“You’ve made it!”  were among the words I heard when I had a brief conversation on the phone with RACE main man Rudy Biscocho.   I was asking about the official results of the Milo Manila eliminations held on July 5.  Mr. Biscocho as always was accommodating and kind.  When I missed the deadline last year, he allowed me to go to his house (I think) in North Greenhills and sign up for me and my friends.   He would always reply to my inquiries via text messages promptly, too.

So I was more than happy that he himself picked up the phone when I called his Greenhills office yesterday.  He mentioned the carbo-loading dinner to be held at the North Greenhills club house on the Thursday before the National Finals on October 11.
 
He even asked me if I enjoyed the race, to which I replied of course I did!  When I told him it was my first Milo marathon, he said now I have to be ready for the second one this year as I have qualified (barely…he he…) for the finals.  He slowly dictated my rank, official time, and pace.  I thanked him again before putting the phone down:
 
128     88    Alfred Delos Reyes     36    M     3:52:33     5:33
 
Here are the complete results from the Milo website:
33rd National Milo Marathon Metro Manila Elimination Run:
Days before the eliminations
 
I would have wanted to train more than I did but because of the recent developments in and around the Philippines, work at the newspaper bureau was a little busier than usual so I had to make do with what little time I had to do my final tempo and easy runs during the last week before d-day on July 5.  I was thinking that it would be okay if I don’t make the qualifying time of 4 hours although a little disappointing after doing a couple of Yasso 800s that made me believe I would do a sub-4 marathon.  So with barely two days to go, I made some last minute shopping (I badly needed a decent stop watch at least) and got a massage to somehow feel better about my time-pressed preparations.
 
It’s the Milo National Finals or Bust!

That’s what my Facebook status read on Saturday, 1:50 pm.  I decided I had to start believing that I will do much better than how I fared in the Botak marathon.  Knowing that Rudy Biscocho was at the helm, I was positive that the race would be well organized (and I was right!) so it would boil down to sheer willpower and determination to do well.

A Good start

With 10k finisher and tennis partner Mark and one half of my support team, Grace.

With 10k finisher and tennis buddy Mark and one half of my support team, Grace.

I was in high spirits at the starting line although I only had 3 or 4 hours of sleep the night before as I had a class until 8 pm (I knew this would happen so I tried to get enough sleep every night for two weeks before race day).  After doing the stretching and while waiting for the starting gun, I looked around to see that there were more marathon runners than I had expected.  I also saw the Bald Runner.  I wanted to say hi but there were quite a number of people between us and he was busy as a friend (or fan) was taking their photo.  I smiled and said “good luck” to the runners around me.

It was my first time to run as early as 4:30 am and I must say I loved the nice, cool breeze.  Roxas Boulevard was still very dark but lighting was not bad so I really didn’t feel it was dangerous at all.  In fact I enjoyed that leg and by the time I did the first turn-around at the airport road, I was really feeling good.  I smiled when I saw the Bald Runner again, this time surrounded with other runners (or friends or fans or bodyguards… he he…)  I also recognized Sam even before he shouted “Running Ninja!”  I tried to pace myself and not run too fast.  At the 10km marker, my watch read 51.54 minutes so I started calculating in my head (which I often do especially on a long run) and thought I could finish the race in about 3 hours and 40 minutes should I run at the same pace.  But I also thought that it may be a little too fast for my rather inexperienced legs so I relaxed a little for the next leg of the race.

Touched by an angel

The next 10 kilometers of the race took us to Makati from Pasay and it was at this part that I met my first support team member Grace taking photos and handing me my fluid and gel shot refill (I originally had three gel shots in my shorts and carried a bottle of gatorade but I knew this wouldn’t be enough for 42 kilometers).  It was such a welcome sight to see my own supporter although it was also nice to hear cheers from strangers along the way.

With Mark and Reina, the other half of my support team who had to hop from one cab to another to make it in time for our scheduled meeting places.

With Mark and Reina, the other half of my support team who had to hop from one cab to another to make it in time for our scheduled meeting places.

It was also during this leg of the race where I met Jun who was giving words of encouragement to other runners.  I caught up with him at the 16 km marker and tried to interview him (the journalist side of me!) as I was amazed how someone like him, whom others would call handicapped, could run that fast.  I didn’t underestimate him of course and I was really impressed seeing that his right leg and right arm were much thinner than the left.  I learned from our brief conversation that he would join Milo races and para games regularly.  He said he was trying to conserve his energy for the second half of the run.  I said goodbye and wished him good luck as I approached the halfway mark near the American Cemetery.  My pace dropped to 6:00 but I will never forget that nice chat with Jun.

Blessing from up above

I knew that the third 10k would be challenging because of the hilly surroundings of Heritage Park plus I knew that fatigue would be a factor knowing that even during my long runs, I never did 30 km!  So I was trying to keep the pace when all of a sudden, it started raining!  Many runners shouted in delight as they chanted for more rain.  And they got what they wanted for after making the third turn-around near C-5, it really rained hard!  I had almost zero visibility (I decided not to bring my running cap) but still tried not to slow down too much.  I saw BR turning his scarf into a hat (nice move!).  After the 10 minute downpour, the road markers, which up until this point gave the kilometer reading every kilometer (and sometimes every half kilometer), became a countdown and now read “15K to the finish line.”  I checked the time and I found out I had a little over an hour and a half to negotiate the remaining distance as I run towards Lawton Ave.

Two more kilometers and I met a man and a woman providing support not only to their team but to strangers like me as well.  The man offered to pour a cup of cold water at the back of my neck so I bent down and realized I really needed that because after the short heavy rain, it was the heat again that we had to endure.  A couple more kilometers and I was back to the Buendia-Kalayaan flyover, where I would meet the marker that read “11K to the finish line.”  I checked the time.  I only had a little over an hour.  I was about to give up when on my way down the flyover, I saw Grace, this time with the other support member Reina, with more pocari sweat and gel shots which I had been consuming every hour.  I swear everytime I saw Grace and Reina during the race there was this weird “electricity” that got switched on inside of me and kept me going.

The Wall

Many runners talk about The Wall when they think of giving up, or their bodies can no longer take the physical challenge a sport like running brings them.  I almost encountered the dreaded Wall but decided not to even try thinking about it.  When I saw that I had 10 kilometers  and exactly one hour to finish in 4 hours flat, I thought I really had to dig deep and run faster.  I thought I really wanted to make it to the finals and it would be a big letdown if I finish a shade off that magic time.  I did some calculating in my head again and was a bit surprised to find out that to be sure about achieving my goal, I would have to run as fast as I did on the first 10 kilometers.  Daunting, yes, impossible, hell no I thought!

The road to the finals

Digging deep to speed up at the last few kilometers along Roxas Blvd. still ready with a smile.

Speeding up at the last few kilometers along Roxas Blvd. always ready with a smile.

By this time, there were a lot of cars and buses along Buendia so along with heat, fumes added to the challenge as I went on running in 5:00 or 5:30 pace making allowance for some water and gatorade aid station stops.  Also by this time, many runners had started walking, which I tried to ignore for fear that I would end up doing the same.  Some runners started getting cramps and stretching themselves for that one final push.

Every kilometer seemed to be farther than the previous one so I constantly checked the time and I seemed to be doing better at maintaining my speed without much difficulty.  It would take me each kilometer just a little over five minutes as more and more people started watching and cheering for the runners.

The luck factor

When I made that right turn going back to Roxas Boulevard, a woman said “Kuya, ang ganda ng number mo, ah!”  And for the first time in the race, I remembered that I had 88 for my race number. bib number I need all the luck I can get now, I thought.  Almost all runners were walking now but I really thought of making a strong finish so when I saw the 5, 4 and then 3 km to go marker, I thought I wasn’t about to slow down now.  Seeing Grace and Reina again gave me not only fuel but also the energy to speed up running the last 2 kilometers of the 42.195km course.  And I never thought I would be that happy to see the Rizal monument and the carabao at the opposite side again as I made my turn towards the Quirino grandstand.  I could hear more people cheering now and as I ran to the finish line, my friends and the volunteers started cheering some more and gave me high fives as I took one final look at the time and pumped my fist in the air thinking I did it, I really did it!

Ah, the finish line, what a wonderful sight!

Ah...the finish line--what a wonderful sight!

3 hours, 52 minutes and 33 seconds of human drama and test of guts and spirit.  I feel very, very lucky to have experienced them all!

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