Runner’s Interview: Mike Mesina

Friday, 28 November 2008  |  Interviews + Features

I have decided to resurrect TBR’s “Runner’s Interview” to feature runners of all shapes and sizes who have something noteworthy, significant, or inspiring to share with their fellow runners.  My first interview was with Sen. Pia Cayetano followed by Pinoy Ultra Runner’s Team Principal Neville Manaois last year.  Hopefully, I can churn out at least one interview every two weeks for all of us to enjoy.

In this 3rd interview, I’ll be featuring Mike Mesina, a serious runner based in New York, who caused a lot of commotion online due to his spectacular finish at the recently held ING New York City Marathon with a time of 3:12.  Here goes:

So, we all heard about the now famous Mike Mesina finishing the NYC Marathon with an impressive time of 3:12.  How was it?  What were the highlights of the marathon for you?   

I admire you for a job well done on your blog site. It’s certainly beneficial for Filipino runners to find a channel to share passions and interests in running.

 Mike_New York Marathon - 2 Nov 2008

– Mike at ING NYC Marathon 2008 –

The NYC Marathon has been the one race I’ve wanted to run more than any other race since I got into formal endurance events. There’s something to be said about running around the city I’ve come to call my second home while being cheered on by thousands of spectators throughout the course. I, myself, was a spectator for so many years and always found the event to be an incredible one. The stories finishers told were filled with varying and magnified emotions and always ended in utter satisfaction. So you can only imagine how ecstatic I was when I was finally accepted to run this year after two failed attempts. This would probably be my most memorable race. I couldn’t believe it. 

It’s difficult to pinpoint a few highlights through the race because the entire experience was filled with memorable events for a first timer like me. Staten Island, where the race starts, was freezing and waiting by the sidelines was nerve wracking. Running the 26.2 mile course was absolutely amazing. I will never forget how difficult it was to keep going past the 23rd mile. My legs and knees were about to give way and I did everything I could do to keep my mind off the pain. The crowds were so involved and at times even animated, and that kept me going enough to get me to see my family and closest friends cheer me on a mile from the finish. Certainly finishing at the time I did was also a highlight. It affirmed the time and energy I invested into running the best race I could run. 

Was your time within the goal you set for yourself? 

There wasn’t a set hard goal time. It was my second marathon so I didn’t have much information and experience to go with. I finished my first marathon in Athens a year earlier in 3:15. However, I seriously thought I just had a really good day, one that couldn’t be easily replicable. It was improbable that I was going to beat that time. Based on a few assumptions, I expected to run between 3:20 and 3:40 so in that respect, I finished better than my goal. But I wanted to enjoy the race and take the event in as well, so the experience of running it was more important for me. I probably should have studied the course a little more. Most of my information about race was anecdotal and based on comments from people who’ve done it. 

At the same time though, I knew I failed to qualify for Boston by a minute and a half. It was one of those “konti na lang!” moments but I can’t complain. I PR’d in my first NYC marathon. That to me was a great feat. 

Is there anything you wished you had done differently during the marathon? 

Well, most of what I learned, I learned through my preparation and training so in hindsight, I should’ve been more systematic in my training plan. For this race, I did two 18-mile runs which in my opinion, was a huge a mistake. Ideally I should’ve done at least two more long runs of 20-22 miles. My body would have been much more prepared to keep my pace past mile 22 to the finish. I bonked at mile 23 and my legs started to cramp. I wanted to walk so badly but I knew the repercussions would be regretful. 

Did you meet other Pinoys? 

I already knew a few Pinoys who ran for ING Philippines like Sen. Pia Cayetano, Jon Jon Rufino, and the Carpo sisters among others. I’ve had the privilege of running with Jon, Amanda and Chesca Carpo when I visited Manila last year. These are great people and I admire their passion for the sport. 

Jon organized a brunch the day before the race and there I met the rest of the Pinoy runners. There are also a few Pinoy friends who are based in the States. It wouldn’t hurt to form a Pinoy running group in the near future. That would be a lot of fun. 

How long have you been running?  I presume NYC was not your first marathon, right?  

I started participating in triathlons three years ago and that’s what got me into running. A good friend of mine, Patrick M., convinced me to try it out with him so we did our first triathlon together an hour away from Manhattan. We didn’t know how to train properly for it, but we definitely enjoyed the dedication of training for the three events. After we finished the event, we were hooked and since then, we’ve done several races of varying distances together even if he’s moved out of New York. 

Because of that, I found a greater appreciation for running. I started joining races organized by the New York Road Runners and love running around Central Park. The park has become my church. It is a haven for runners and cyclists coming from all walks of life. The park’s moderately tough 10k route with a few rolling hills makes it ideal for training.     

Training for Athens was a struggle because at the time, I was based out in Sudan, Africa. I left NY for Africa in July 2006 until July 2008, so basically the bulk of my training was in Africa. I had no choice but to run in the desert with temperatures reaching 120F. That was extremely difficult but it helped – a lot!

 Mike_Athens Marathon - 4 Nov 2007

– Mike at Athens Marathon –

How does your running program in a week look?  

For the two marathons, I never included intervals, tempos or fartleks in my running routine. To be honest, I didn’t know what a lot of them meant. I just love to run long distances and that’s how I trained. 

My typical running week is below. It needs a lot of work so feel free to comment on it. 

  • Monday – 10k at easy pace (7:30 min/mile average) 
  • Tuesday – 10k at hard pace (6:50 min/mile average) 
  • Wednesday – 10k at hard pace (6:50 min/mile average) 
  • Thursday – Swim or bike 
  • Friday – Rest Day 
  • Saturday – 8-10k at easy pace depending on what’s scheduled on Sunday, which is usually a local race in Central Park from 10k’s to half marathons to 18mile marathon tune up races. 
  • Sunday – Race Day at race pace (6:50 min/mile average or slower, depending on the conditions and distance)

What is the best experience you’ve had during a run or a race? 

Aside from Athens and New York, my most memorable experience was a 10k fun run i joined in Sudan. The race started at 2pm and it was 120degrees. There were 7 false starts, no bib numbers, no timing chips, no water stations, no mile markers and to top it all off, I was the only non-Sudanese who joined out of the 500 participants. I got heckled by the spectators and even the runners themselves through out the race! People stared at me not having used to seeing a Filipino runner amongst them. Furthermore, most of the runners were wearing jeans and flip-flops! But man, they ran like their lives depended on it. They had no need for dry fit shirts or shorts, running shoes, or heart rate monitors. They just ran and I ate their dust. 

Mike_Sudan Fun Run
– Mike at the Sudan Fun Run –

What is the worst? 

Tough question. I would probably highlight two, both being my worst blunders in running to this day.  

The first was the Luxor Half Marathon in Egypt. I got spoiled with properly organized events in the US where there are mile markers and race volunteers directing you every step of the way. Egypt was the opposite. The course was spectacular and included historical sites. Because it was flat, I was trying to beat my previous half marathon time of 1:29. I was feeling good and strong through the race and was running my fastest pace, I was really hammering down the pace and kept my focus on the road until the last loop when I missed my turn for the home stretch!

I continued running with a pack who, after a few minutes I realized, was running a full marathon distance. Essentially, I lost 10 minutes trying to get back to the turn to reach the finish. Quite disheartening but also a lesson learned. You can’t be too focused on the pavement, you have to be aware of your surroundings. 

The second is hysterical. It was during a 10k event in Central Park back in 2006. I had just completed my first half marathon a few weeks before so I didn’t think it would be entirely difficult. It was just another 10K. At least that’s what I thought. 

I went out with some friends the night before the race which went from a quiet and relaxed evening to an all-nighter. It was a huge mistake and I was simply overconfident.  I came into the race obviously not as physically ready as most of the other runners. So when the race started, I overshot my pace and started running hard. After a mile, my stomach started churning and my body felt like shutting down. I went to the curb and threw up, got back and ran and threw up again! This happened four more times until I finally finished. It was idiotic, irresponsible, and not something I would ever do again. The lessons are obvious. But this really was a question of dedication and all I really did was cheat myself and disrespect the event.  

Why do you run? 

There are so many adjectives to describe what it feels like to run. The runner’s high and endorphin kick doesn’t hurt. The sense of accomplishment after a race is wonderful. Being dedicated to something, I’ve found, has become quite important to me as I grew older. I’m the best at who I am when I’m running – does that make sense? 

Running is time for myself and is an outlet to distress and have fun. It allows me to push my body to transcend limits and discover what I am capable of accomplishing. The best feeling  after a hard run is when you’re muscles are twitching and you feel the pain when you come down the stairs. It feels like you put your body to the test. 

After NYC marathon, what is your next goal?

My goal is to run ING Miami Marathon in January 25 in hopes of qualifying for Boston in April. The NYC marathon just left me feeling a little hungry and I feel that I owe it to myself to give it another shot. But with the winter season already here, it’s going to be hard to train. We’ll see how it goes. 

I plan to start preparing for the triathlon season in the spring. The NY marathon is definitely in my radar for next year and my training regimen will certainly be more comprehensive.

Good luck at Miami, Mike!  Thanks again for the interview!