*PIM – Philippine International Marathon, also known as Run for Pasig River

**ADMU – Ateneo de Manila University, also home to the Confucius Institute in the Philippines

***HSK – Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (汉语水平考试 ) or the Chinese Proficiency Test

When I decided some years back that I would make it an effort to exercise to keep not only my body in shape but also my mind, I never imagined that my journey would take me to what I experienced last Sunday, November 8, 2009.

Meet Ogawa-san

Mrs. Ogawa is a character in the textbook I use when I teach Nihongo.  She appears on Lesson 36 talking about how at the age of 80 she manages to stay healthy by using both his body and head–she swims, learns the tango, and has recently started to study French to prepare herself for a trip to France.  I would stop short of calling her an idol but despite the fact that she is a fictional character, I guess it won’t hurt if people try to follow in her footsteps.  But I never imagined to do one after another with almost no time to breathe in between…




After I had found out that the HSK and the PIM were scheduled on THE SAME day and only 4.5 hours apart (PIM gun start was 4:30 and HSK started at (9:00,  yes, AM), I spent days agonizing which one to choose and which one to drop.  Until one morning, an epiphany!  Based on my Milo National Finals time and knowing that any race organized by Rudy B. starts on time or usually earlier, I would be done with the marathon “stage” by 8:30.  The tricky part was to get from Quirino Grandstand to Ateneo in time for the test.  Of course there was always this fear in me that I might get cramps, injured or, worse, DNF, everytime I’d run a full marathon.  It sounded mission impossible to my friends.  All the more reason for me to try and pull it off…

Decisions, decisions


... or Chinese proficiency test???

Two days before Marathon and Test day, adding more challenge and difficulty to decide whether to make a go for it or just quit altogether, I was suffering from indigestion and slight cold.  I made a conscious effort to eat food which was both good for the cold and easy on my stomach.  I can’t remember ever drinking more fruit juices in my life!  One more obstacle was the second hand smoke I was getting at work which almost canceled everything I was doing to be able to get close to, if not be, a hundred percent and be ready for a demanding day to say the least.  And as if it wasn’t enough, my brother, who had agreed to transport me (while I’d do my stretching as planned) changed his mind due to some concerns on “logistics.”  I didn’t know what to do.

11 p. m., November 7.  I was doing some yoga and preparing to go to bed.  I had set the alarm at 3:15.  I was staying in Malate for the night so that I would be close to kilometer 0 and thought that I would “listen to my body” and decide on the morning of November 8.


When I woke up, I wouldn’t say I was feeling 100 percent but close enough so I decided to do it:  Grabbed my things for the 3 “stages” of my first (and I’m sure the most unique and never to be duplicated ever) “triathlon.”

  1. Marathon stage:  race bib no., sports drink and water
  2. Transport stage:  money and something to change into (lest all the examineed would stare at me should I decide to take the test in my race outfit)
  3. Test stage:  test permit, HB pencils, eraser, Chinese textbook

I put everything that I wouldn’t need for the race in my bag and made my way to the baggage counter at the Quirino Grandstand (I planned to leave as fast as I could after finishing).  It was about 15 minutes before gun start so I didn’t waste any time and went to the starting line.  Seeing and greeting runners like Bald Runner, Junrox and Jonel definitely eased some nerves I was feeling.  Like the Milo Finals, Junrox and I decided to run together.  We were later joined by Joms, another tall runner.

Running along the river

It was still very dark as we negotiated Delpan Bridge, the first of 9 bridges scattered along the Pasig River we had to run for the race.  There was the usual “different” smell near the river but it was an interesting experience to run through Taft Ave., the Escolta area going to Mendiola Bridge, Nagtahan area all the way leading up the narrow and narrower streets of Mandaluyong early in the morning.  It was fun hearing the early morning “tambays” talk about the Kenyan runners and kids offering if we wanted water.  🙂

Nice run and route

The three of us were enjoying talking and running in a “controlled” pace of 5:15 to 5:45 minutes per kilometer.  Conversation shifted from our jobs, to hobbies and interests, the migratory birds we saw.  We weren’t talking the whole time and we didn’t feel the need to.  We understood when one would stop talking, then take the lead, or yield to the other runners.  Running in the area of J. P. Rizal in Makati going to Guadalupe, where I once lived, not far from where I attended elementary and high school, brought back a lot of memories.  The only difference is I now run along the roads I used to pass by going to and from school.


One down, two to go...

Unlike the Milo marathon where you basically run the same route a second time on your way to the finish, the Pasig River route was different since the only turn around point was in Delpan Bridge and from there, we went “around the river” covering the cities of Manila, Mandaluyong, Makati, Pasig, Taguig, Makati again, Pasay and then back to Manila.  It seemed longer but I thought it was an easier run for me, many thanks to the ample aid stations, cheer leaders and bands.  I thought of finishing stronger for a PR but I tried to save some of my strength for the next “stages.”  🙂  Special thanks to my ever dependable “support team”, Grace, who waited for me patiently in Mandaluyong somewhere in km 20 and then again in Makati 13 km later.


After finishing and posing for a finish line shot taken by Junrox’s wife Arlene, I wasted no time and proceded to the Baggage area (after saying hi to ABS-CBN’s Karen Davila  🙂 ).  I was surprised to find a cab IN the grandstand so I rushed in and asked Manong to go to Ateneo as fast as possible.  Within traffic rules of course.  It was almost 8:30 and I thought I would have seen Junrox and Joms finish had I stayed since they must have been done by that time but I was really in a hurry.  Would have also loved to see Argonaut finish (who called out in the earlier stages of the race).  Manong was very kind to let me ride despite my soaking wet clothes.  As we were on our way, I saw a regular marathon face so I shouted, “Go Ben!”

For those who haven’t tried changing your entire clothing in a car, you should try to see how challenging it is.  In broad daylight!  I had no choice but to do it as the only stop over I could afford was to get water from a nearby store and at an ATM machine when I found out I didn’t have enough money for the taxi fare!  I think I have mastered the art of quick change because I still had time to stretch while reading a few Chinese characters (which fortunately I was able to recognize during the test!) after changing into a “regular” set of clothes.

The eagle has landed

ateneoblueeagle[1]The test was supposed to start at 9 but I got there at 9:15, some 2 minutes just before the first part, listening test, actually started.  Whew, that was close!  Then came the hard part.  Even as the test continued to the grammar and reading comprehension parts, I could still feel the stiffness in my legs of course and could not get my mind off the highs and lows of the race so I could not focus very well on the task at hand.  The important thing for me was I finished the test!

My times:

  • Marathon leg:  42 km, 3 hours 49 minutes (unofficial)
  • Transport leg:  13.5 km, 45 minutes (official)
  • Test leg:  150 items, 2 hours 15 minutes

So there was my one of a kind “tri,” 6 hours and 49 minutes of great running experience, stressful taxi ride, and a gruelling Chinese exam!

Now where can I sign up for something like this again…


What a race! Thanks Arlene for the finish line photos 🙂