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Part 3: Chicago Marathon – Race Start

Thursday, 23 October 2014  |  Favorite Posts, Race Reports

3GrantParkLit, Ton, myself, Bea, Angel, and Trish at Grant Park

Date: October 12, 2014
Runner Check In: Before 7:45 AM

All or Nothing

My goal for the past 4 years has been one and the same: to run the World Marathon Majors. I had completed four of them: New York, Berlin, London, and Tokyo. Boston Marathon, which one can enter by qualifying for a specific time, is a question I have yet to answer because I don’t think I’ll ever qualify for it. So, the fifth and perhaps the last World Marathon Major on my list was Chicago Marathon.

In the past, there have been marathons I chose to run at an easy pace enjoying the sights and sounds of the event. And, there are marathons I run hard hoping to achieve a specific time goal.

For Chicago, my 11th marathon and my fifth Marathon Major, I thought it was apt that I gave more importance to it. I committed to trying to break my marathon PR of 4:24 set at London Marathon in 2013.

They say that if you always do the same thing, then you’ll always get the same results. So, for Chicago Marathon, I experimented on a new program, Hanson’s Marathon Training Program with the goal of hitting 4:10.

I never worked so hard for a marathon in my entire life. After 10 marathons, all of which I trained for with running only 3 to 4x a week and averaging around 50 to 60k per week, Hanson’s got me running 5x a week and reaching distances of 70 to 80k per week. It was challenging and completely exhausting and I wasn’t even sure if it was going to work. But, despite my occasional doubts, I stuck to the program so that I could find out in the end if it really worked. It was all or nothing.

The night before the race I laid out all my gear as I always do before race day. I felt optimistic about this race. I was all set.


Race Start

The weather was cold and chilly on the morning of race day. Together with friends, Ton, Lit, Angel, Bea, and Trish, a friend of Angel’s who was coming to support us, we took a short walk and quick 10-minute subway trip from our hotel, The James, to Grant Park.

The night before, Ton, Lit, and I, practiced the entire route from our hotel to Grant Park timing the entire commute and ensuring we got it right before race day morning. Good thing we did since, by race day morning, we were calm and even excited heading to the race venue.

Grant Park is one of Chicago’s most prominent parks, which is also called Chicago’s “front yard.” It is also where the Art Institute of Chicago (my favorite place in all of Chicago!) and Millenium Park are located. Lucky for us marathoners, it was also the venue for the race start of Chicago Marathon.

When we arrived, it was still dark. The entire street was lined with thousands of runners scurrying towards their respective gates. There were official photographers everywhere ready to take snapshots of the runners. It was organized chaos if you will.


Garbed in our layers of running clothes underneath our throwaways lugging around our race baggage (mine was the heaviest by the way because, based on experience, I like bringing a full change of clothes after the race to ensure I don’t freeze to death soaked in sweat), we made our way towards the strict security and baggage screening, which, to me, brought relief after the devastating bombing of Boston Marathon.

4Gate 5Gate 6Security

Each runners was assigned a specific Corral depending on the time goal inputted during race registration. The Corrals were then color-coded under White, Red, Blue, or Gray, and this was the gate that one should enter on race day.

Lit, Ton, and I were assigned to Corral G under the Blue Gate while Bea and Angel were assigned to another Corral. We bid them goodbye and headed towards the Blue Gate.

We entered the Blue area to find a huge open space with a long line of portalets on the left, gear check area and pre-race hydration and nutrition booth on the right, and information at the center. It was calm, spacious, and very well organized.

We had 30 minutes to spare. Our plan was simple. Fall in line for the portalets, then take our pre-race nutrition (I packed a banana and Gatorade Pre-Race Fuel drink), check-in our baggage, then line up again for the portalet. (Hey, when it’s that cold, one can never have too many visits to the potty!) By the time we ended, we had 10 minutes to spare. Perfect.

We then made our way to the assembly area to join the thousands of runners at Corral G. By this time, the temperature had gotten lower and the wind stronger. In my thick throwaway jacket, gloves, and cap and Lit and Ton in their garbage bags for warmth, we sat by the curb along with other Pinoys who were, coincidentally, TBR Dream alumni, Brian, Lynette, and Adel. It was so freaking cold that I was shivering from head to toe and I could barely make decent conversation.

7Curbwith Adel, Gene, Lit, and Ton. These guys are all TBR Dream Alumni!

7ErmacsBrian and Lynette Ermac

7JabronisA bull and guys dressed as trash LOL

7StartOur corral waiting for the race to start. Fantastic view of Chicago


As the host’s booming voice announced that we were about to start, I took a gel, sipped on water, and stood up from the curb to join the thousands of runners around me. With Jon Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer booming on the speakers and some giddy runners, such as Lit, singing along with him, we inched our way up towards the starting line. It was then that the magnitude of the event dawned on me. Despite running over 10 marathons, the start of each marathon just never gets old. It always feels like the first.

With the Chicago skyline ahead of us on the wide roads of Columbus Drive, I was as nervous as hell. Was the Hanson’s Program going to work? Was my training enough? Gawd, I hope I don’t injure myself during the run! Then, amidst all these worries, an overwhelming feeling of peace swept over me.

It is always a blessing to run a marathon, even more in a beautiful city with your best running friends. I was fortunate to be there with the help of a generous sponsor and partner, Unilab Active Health. I promised myself that I would try my best to exceed myself, but no matter the outcome of the race, I was going to cross that finish line with joy and gratitude.

Previous: Part 2: Chicago Marathon – Race Expo
Next: Part 4: Chicago Marathon – The Race

Thank you to Unilab Active Health for making my Chicago Marathon dream possible! Thank you also to Gatorade, Peak Form Manila, Otterbox, Specialized, and Oakley for the support.

Part 2: Chicago Marathon – Race Expo

Wednesday, 22 October 2014  |  Race Reports


After our morning run through Navy Pier and Lakeshore, we excitedly headed for the Chicago Marathon Race Expo to claim our race kits and, of course, to go shopping! (more…)

Carbtrim – TBR All Woman Race Results

Thursday, 24 July 2014  |  Race Reports


Congratulations again to all finishers of Carbtrim – The Bull Runner All Woman Race held last July 20, 2014 at Filinvest City! Please download your official results below: (more…)

Women Power at Carbtrim – The Bull Runner All Woman Race!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014  |  Race Reports


Last July 20, women power reigned over the devastation brought about by Typhoon Glenda as almost 1,000 female runners and men or “honorary women of the day” gathered together to run for womanity at the Carbtrim – The Bull Runner All Woman Race at Filinvest City.

Thank you and congratulations to everyone who joined us!  There was so much energy, laughter, and fun with boas, bling, and tutus everywhere!  I won’t say much anymore and I’ll just let these photos do all the talking!  (For more Carbtrim – TBR All Woman Race photos, click HERE.) (more…)

Race Report: 2014 Run United 2

Monday, 2 June 2014  |  Race Reports


Over 10,000 runners participated in 2014 Run United 2 yesterday. I joined the 21k.

For the first time, Run United started at Km 0 in Luneta instead of SM Mall of Asia where the past year’s races had started. The change made for a more unique experience as no other race has done this. It was awesome for runners to see the Rizal Monument at the starting line. If Run United Philippine Marathon starts here, it would definitely be more meaningful.

The downside of this change was the inconvenience of having to travel this far and brave the traffic just to get to the starting line. Not to mention we had to do it in the wee hours of the morning as race start was 4:00 AM. No thanks to you, Heat!

We arrived at the assembly area at 3:30 AM which was pretty well organized. I liked this ambiance more than MOA. No long lines at the potty since there were quite a number of portalets. As we waited for the race to start, the crowd was controlled and quite disciplined. As always for Run United races, the race started on time.

When the gun went off, I bid my friends goodbye, put my Yurbuds on, and focused on my race. I planned on racing this fast. I knew I wouldn’t break my half marathon PR, but I hoped to at least run this at sub-2 hours. At the back of my mind though, I had my doubts. The longest I had run was 16k in the past few months so I lacked training, but I thought I might as well give it a shot. Good luck to me LOL.

The out and back course through flat roads and just a couple of flyovers was fantastic! Wide roads except for a few crowded areas due to road work, no sharp turns except for the major turnarounds, and the climbs at the flyover weren’t bad at all as they allowed the legs to take a break from the flat course. Hydration, kilometer markers, and marshals were plentiful. I loved it. It was a PR course!

But, for me, not a PR day haha! I was fine for the first 15k then, suddenly, I hit the wall. The last 5k was dreadful! There’s no one else to blame but myself. I hadn’t trained for the 21k properly and one just doesn’t wing a half marathon.

The humidity made race conditions even more challenging. I think, by now, we all know how doubly difficult it is to run under this crazy summer heat. The best race organisers can do is make race start early so most runners finish before the sun rears its ugly head.

A friend, Bea, mentioned on Facebook that too many runners would stop abruptly during the race unmindful of the runners behind them. She experienced this at 10k and I also did at 21k. It’s an issue that isn’t just for Run United or even the Philippines. It’s common in races abroad as well. When I ran a half marathon in Laguna Phuket International Marathon, a foreigner yelled at me as I slowed down at the side of the road.  I yelled back: “As$H@%!”  Tell me, what kind of runner yells at fellow runners this way?  Aren’t we all supposed to have fun?  Is your PR so important you lose your manners?  The key is for local race organizers to inform runners, especially beginners, about proper race etiquette.  This is more of a problem on proper education for runners rather than manners. (I’ll do the same at TBR Dream Marathon from now on.)  Runners who walk or slow down should move to the side of the road to avoid blocking faster runners. As for experienced runners, you should NOT yell at the runners nor embarrass them. Sure, I cursed to myself when I almost tumbled over a runner last Sunday who stopped right in front of me, but I didn’t pick a fight with him. As an experienced runner, you should practice proper etiquette yourself.

I crossed the finish line at around 2:12 disappointed with my bad time, but I took this all in stride. I think I’ve reached a point in my life where I love the benefits of running and triathlon, but I never allow it to affect my life negatively. At the end of the day, I run for fun. Why cry over missed PRs? Just train harder and crush it next time.

Congratulations to Unilab Active Health and Runrio for a fantastic race!

Ton, Lit, and I didn’t break our PRs that day but we laughed it off over breakfast

Bounce back before laspag attacks!  I took my Enervon HP after the race.  You should too.

The Tamaraw and The Bull

With teammates Ani and birthday boy Dan Brown and Ting Joson

with these fierce and fast triathletes from Fitness First: Ton, Doray and Mark Ellis, Keshia, and Belle

Bromance in Luneta

with strong triathletes Reujen and Lala

My car was parked on this road turned parking lot.  We couldn’t leave the race.  Thank God for Starbucks!