When I signed up for this race, I was not sure if I would be able to join because I had been told that I might join a team of journalists to cover the APEC Summit in Singapore on the same weekend.  So a few days before the gathering of heads of states in the Lion City, when my bureau chief delivered the “sad” news, I accepted the fact that the time to see Barack Obama will have to wait.  And now I can focus on this race.

Two weeks after the KOTR and one week after the Pasig River Marathon, some friends told me that joining yet another half marathon was not a good idea.  I myself know fully well that I deserve a break but I welcomed it as another chance to improve.  But fresh from what I consider a big 4 minute improvement since the Globe run half marathon when I ran at Adidas and after another nice run at the PIM, I was wondering if I had some left to at least finish with a decent time.  A recent post by Wayne talking about his recent 1:39:50 half marathon finish made me silently wishing for a great run to duplicate his feat or even just get close.  In a way it was one of the things that sealed the deal that I am not passing up this opportunity.

Running Buddies

Arriving at the starting line 10 minutes before gun time, I quickly looked for Junrox as we prepared for our third start together but first on a half marathon.  I only met him during the finalists’ dinner three days before the Milo National Finals last October but I already owe a lot of whatever success I’ve had to running with him.

We had a brief chat with TKO250 proponent Jonel and Prometheus Cometh blogger and DJ Jay about our race goals and the registration fee and race organization just before the run started.

The Kenyans are still here?

Well last time I checked it wasn’t called the Timex International Run but I guess to give an international flavor and maybe push our local bets to register a faster time, maybe they can stay a little longer.  Just a little more.  I was just thinking that local runners need those cash prizes, too.  But as expected, the Kenyans were just too strong and soon, eventual winner Kember Kiberess was way ahead of the pack and together with countryman Gilbert Kipkemoi went on a 1-3 finish.  Hats off to Alley Quisay for placing second and challenging the Kenyan juggernaut.

I was on my own battle when I accidentally pushed too many buttons on my watch thus relying solely on the time Junrox had from kilometer 5 until the finish line.  We thought that the long tables at the aid station were enough to make Bald Runner smile as he has been consistently advocating for a higher standard in local races.

Looking good

After the first turn around, I was feeling really great and hopeful for a 1:40 to 1:45 finish.  Consuming one gel shot 15 minutes before the start and another one after midway point on our way to Heritage Park, I was worried for a few seconds after hitting an uneven road with my right leg landing lower than the other.  After a few meters, I heaved a sigh of relief as I didn’t feel any pain and the incident didn’t stop me from my current pace of a little faster than 5 minutes per kilometer.

It was nice to see Natz running at the opposite side of the road.  I motioned for him to join us even for a few minutes.   We talked briefly before he said goodbye and went on with his run while Junrox and I negotiated the 2 km Heritage Park loop.

To push or not to push

It was at this stage that I doubted myself for the first time in the race.  Up until this point, Junrox and I would run side by side but one would go ahead and the other would catch up and follow especially whenever we passed by an aid station.  But inside the park, I found it a bit too challenging to catch up with him and maintain the pace.  Two runners overtook me in the process as we hit the 14 kilometer marker.

Those 2 runners became my motivation and challenge as I struggled but pushed a little more going to the Lawton Ave.-American Cemetery leg of the race.  I was able to keep up with them after a couple of kilometers only to lag behind Junrox again.  At this point, my mind was busy thinking about several possibilities:  I can just finish 1:45 and be happy with that time since I know this was my 3rd consecutive run in as many weeks; I will relax a little knowing fully well that I have built a considerable distance between me and the next runner so the ranking will not change anymore; or I can give it my all for a strong finish.

“This is my race, my time”

Apparently, my decision to do the last option worked like magic and when I made that final push in the final kilometer, while getting interesting looks from 5k and 10k runners/walkers, I made the final turn towards the finish line alone not knowing what my time was at this stage.  My jaw dropped in disbelief when I saw a 1:39+ in the clock so with every iota of whatever strength I had left in me, I ran my darnedest and crossed the finish line before the 39 could turn to 40!

With Junrox and 8th placer Chris

I waited for and congratulated Junrox who finished 16 seconds later.  He and I were both psyched and could not believe what we accomplished that morning.  Beating my two-week old KOTR PR (which I thought was very good for my standards and would hold for at least a few more months), landing in the top 20 of a 21k event for the first time and going under 1:40 in one race exhilarated me to no end.

I’m glad I decided to sign up for the race after giving it a lot of thought especially about how it was the most expensive registration fee I had to pay for.  Looking at how there were enough aid stations, safe and categorized baggage counters and portalets, and helpful marshals and ample kilometer markers all throughout the race, I congratulate Coach Rio and the rest of the team for putting up a great race.  Never mind that they did not give a real “Nike dry-fit finisher’s shirt” as promised in the race packet leaflet.  Extra pat on the shoulder for giving part of the proceeds to the construction of the Timex-Unicef School in Masbate and to the rehabilitation program of the Marikina City government for the recent flood victims.

While some runners will not forget this race because they were able to have their pictures taken with Piolo, I will always remember the 2009 Timex Run as my time to run my first sub-1:40 21k.

Chillin' with the Argonaut (with his own 21k PR) after the race