There is no better way to tell you what happened at TBR Dream Marathon than to have the runners share their own experiences with you. This begins a series of articles written by TBR Dream Marathoners themselves telling you about their 42km journey towards achieving their dreams.
I met Gerry and Ping at a Bull Session last year. Two young lawyers and family men who I guessed just by first impression that they had their marathon training program printed in triplicates then notarized before they followed it to the letter. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When I asked how training was going for both of them, Gerry replied with a smile: “Uhm do we really need to follow the training program?” Alarm bells started ringing in my ear as I answered with an emphatic “Yes!” (Ping later says that this was actually their wake up call to start taking training seriously. Thank God they did!)
BIB NO. 224: GERRY LLAMAS
From the time the Ancient Greek messenger Phidippides completed his heroic run form Marathon to Athens to herald the victory of Athens over Persia in 490 B.C., countless have risen up to the formidable challenge of the Marathon, each with an inspiring story to tell, all with a proud medal of triumph. On March 20, 2011, this illustrious roster of elite runners was joined by 313 more. I was one of them.
I would like to think that my marathon story did not begin on race day itself but several years before that. I was born about 42 years ago, in the year 1968. It was an earth shaking year, I was told, as it was then that Manila was rocked by an earthquake strong enough to destroy an entire building. I wonder if it was a foreboding of memorable yet moving things to come.
My earliest foray at running happened when, as a La Salle-Taft grader, our P.E. teacher asked my classmates and I to sprint a distance of 100 meters. And run I did, the fastest I could muster. Right after, my P.E. teacher tapped me in the shoulder, raved at my running form and asked me to consider trying out for the Track and Field Team. Back then, nobody I knew was into running. I did not show up.
The lackluster incident soon faded in my memory, and life went on with amazing speed. I eventually finished high school and went to college, where I met my future wife, Tanya Enriquez. I pursued a law degree and became a lawyer. Not too long after, I got married and started a family of three (3) wonderful daughters named Angela, Sophie and Bea. I had my hands full, juggling litigation practice with raising a family, and it was little wonder that I found myself ballooning to almost 200 pounds and in dire need of drastic measures. At that point, I embarked on a roller coaster ride towards a healthier lifestyle. This included occasional running and weight training, interspersed with binge eating.
In 2005, my wife gave birth to our fourth child and only son, Martin. Unfortunately, my son was born with Trisomy 18, a rare chromosomal disorder which was not compatible with life. Barely a month after his birth, little Martin succumbed to his illness and passed away. He is now our angel in Heaven.
My family has since moved on from this tragedy, and our daughters have grown fast. In my quiet moments, I would run and dedicate my efforts in Martin’s loving memory.
In 2009, my law school friends Dacky Casino and Lawrence Luang challenged ourselves to join the “Globe Run For Home” 5K event. Hesitant at first, I was surprised with the fact that I was able to complete the race with little training. The rest, as they say, is history.
In the next two years, I joined races more than I can count. I gradually moved up to longer distances and ran 10k, 15k and 16k events, a number with running buddy, Ping de Jesus. A mere spectator at first, Tanya soon caught the running bug, and was joining 10k races herself. My 3 daughters, though, are a hard sell. No amount of persuasion could make them leave the comfort of their beds at 5:00 a.m. to join their Mom and I for the Sunday runs. And when they finally ran the 1.5k event at the Assumption Fun Run (ok, it was more a required school activity), Bea, my 9 year old, tired and profusely sweating, said: “This is my last race ever!”
In no time, I was already running 21k races, leading me to believe that I was ready for the “full mary”. With not much thought, Ping and I signed up for the TBR Dream Marathon 2011. Luckily, albeit not without a silent prayer, we both made it to the final list.
I could still remember Jaymie’s look of concern (which was more a look of consternation, in hindsight) when she learned at the Bull Session 2, the very first one we joined, that Ping and I had not been following the Training Log. Jaymie practically begged (and scolded?) the two of us, giving us the needed jolt to seriously get in the game.
With a few months remaining, we got deep into training. With a firm resolve, we ran, ran and ran until our legs and feet were sore. The Peacerunners, composed of Ping’s Ateneo Law School buddies Abel Alegre, Raffy Guina, Randy Guina and Edcel Bolinao, provided us the needed boost to keep going.
Finally, on March 20, 2011, after long hours of training, running, and walking, Ping and I lined up with our eager but nervous TBR Dream Marathon 2011 batchmates at the starting line at Solenad to begin the fulfillment of a dream. The mood was festive, and I exchanged high fives with my UP Diliman Class ’90 batchmate Naoemi Llamas, Ateneo Law Class’94 classmate Philip Gan, and Bull Session fellow “9:1” trainee, Jun Rodriguez, at gun start.
Everything that happened next was a blur. Ping and I ran at a very good pace all throughout the first loop, until we reached about Km 27. Like a thief in the night, we were suddenly robbed of all our energy as we struggled to trek the dark, hilly route. We dragged our weary feet to the next few kilometers, and we ended up walking more than we were running. We would not have escaped the melancholic rut were it not for the Dream Chasers’ tent at Km 30 manned by Ping’s Ateneo Law School friends, whose chippy, bananas and gummy bears tasted, at that point, even better than steak!
Every step seemed a herculean effort from then. Pain enveloped our bodies. Beads of sweat incessantly trickled from our heads.
Before we knew it, we were at the homestretch of the race. Slowly and steadily, Ping and I came closer and closer to the coveted dream. But the heavy pounding of the pavement took its heavy toll on my tired body, and with only a kilometer away, I could barely lift my feet. And then I saw the most touching and heart-warming vision I had ever seen. Standing a few meters from the finish line was Tanya, whose ear to ear smile made her look as beautiful as the day I married her, and my three (3) lovely daughters, excitedly holding posters that read: “Don’t give up, Dad. You’re almost there!” and “A few more steps, Dad!” After giving Bea a kiss in the forehead, I sprinted to the end of a long and meaningful journey that took me 42 years to finish.
After finishing 110th place in the TBR Dream Marathon 2011 with a time of 5:44, Tanya told me that the day before the marathon, while I was at the Paseo Premiere Hotel for a pre-race rest, Angela, Sophie and Bea busied themselves making the creative posters they held for me on race day. Unbelievably, the girls woke up at dawn the following day and hurriedly dressed up for the long drive to Sta. Rosa just so they will not miss me cross the finish line. Still sore from the run, I asked the girls the next day if they will join their Mom and I for an upcoming 1.5 family race. With bated breath, I waited for their answer. The girls looked at each other and smiled. In unison, they said: “Yes, Dad!” Right then, I knew that all my hard work was worth it.
My daughters have always looked up to me as their pillar of strength. I am their father, protector from harm and provider. If I had not finished the race, their world would have crumbled and they may have lost faith and confidence in themselves. Now, I am a MARATHONER, and I am overwhelmed with the thought that by fulfilling my own dream, I had inspired them to reach for theirs. As I soothe my weary feet and train my eyes on my next marathon, I bask in the vision that in the TBR Dream Marathon 2021, while Tanya and I stand a few meters from the finish line holding up posters that read: “Don’t give up. You can do it!” and “Just a few more steps!”, our girls will be sprinting to the end of their own journeys. Hopefully, it won’t take them 42 years.