It’s become an annual tradition for me to post stories written and submitted by our fresh batch of TBR Dream Marathoners. Every year, days after the event, it always happens that my inbox gets filled with emails—some short thank you notes, others long essays—all saying the same thing: how memorable and meaningful their first marathon experience was. And so, this year we begin the storytelling with one of the most moving emails I’ve ever received from the past three TBR Dream Marathons.
It comes from Jacob Divino, TBR Dream Marathoner, Bib No. 174. He finished TBR Dream Marathon last March 18, but writes, not about himself, but his friend, Dax.
Dax is a TBR Dream Marathoner who trained with us through our Bull Sessions, but never got to join the race. Our TBR Dream Team spent countless hours debating and even arguing about his case, but, at the end of the day, he couldn’t provide us with the medical certificate we needed to give him clearance to join. It broke our hearts, but, as Jacob will share, perhaps there was a reason for all of this. Read on…
Yesterday, 18 March 2012, I crossed the finish line of my very first marathon. It was a dream come true for me and it even felt more complete to have my wife and 2 kids greet me at the finish line and share in my success. Hugging and kissing them after the marathon never felt sweeter. By the way, I also crossed the finish line with my running buddy, Dax Jaurigue. And by the way, this half story is about him, not me.
Dax Jaurigue is a :58 finisher at the 10k, and a 2:13 finisher at the half-marathon. During our last LSD in Nuvali, he finished 31 kms in 3:30. He is fast by average runners’ standards. He is way too fast by my standards. So why did we cross the finish line together? Well, Dax wasn’t allowed to run the TBR by his doctor. But instead of sulking at home during race day, and with Jaymie’s permission and of the TBR organizers, he decided to pace me and our running buddy, Joey Consunji, to ensure that we finish what we promised to undertake in this stage of our lives. We planned to race this marathon as the team “42@42”, a bunch of 42 year old geezers wanting to celebrate their 42 years on earth with a try of the 42km marathon. It is our way to celebrate our lives on earth, our blessings, and to achieve our dreams…
Let me backtrack a bit. Dax suffered a heart attack (myocardial infarction) in September 2004. This unfortunate event has left at least 40% of his heart tissue scarred for life. Having said that, he only has a 60% functioning heart muscle. Hence, I call him my half-hearted running buddy.
During the first year after his attack, he ran out of necessity and to say the least, it was a chore that he FORCED himself to do to ensure his continuous recovery from an otherwise debilitating disease. As the years went by, he took more and more interest in running and it came to the point that a day wouldn’t be complete without putting on his sneakers and running to his heart’s content. By 2008, with the help of a reasonable diet and a change of lifestyle, he was logging at least 30 kms a week and enjoying every minute of it. By 2009, I introduced him to organized runs, his first being the Nature Valley 10K of Runrio. He had such a blast running in the event that from then on, he was hooked. He would join at least one long run per month augmented by his regular daily runs. He would run day or night, rain or shine, hot or cold. It never really mattered where he was nor what the conditions were, it was always about him and the open road! The thing is, with a half-functioning heart, he ran fast…and faster than most of us with fully-functioning hearts. He says that running has liberated him from an otherwise restricted way of living and whenever he finishes a race fast, especially with a flourish to the finish line, he feels as normal as the next Joe beside him. As is often the case, as he waits for me to cross the finish line, he surveys the field that he has passed, in thankful silence that his run has made him feel whole again just like the average Joe.
Hence, it was a big letdown for him not to be able to run the TBR marathon (especially with all the love showered on that day). I can only imagine the intense feeling he would have felt crossing that finish line and having that medal hung around his neck. That would have been indescribable for him. But what is a half-heart to do? For him, it was doing the next best thing, be an instrument for others.
I now understand why people associate a marathon to a life’s journey. The first half of the course was fairly manageable, as I guess all of us in the batch have experienced the threshold of a 21k. We knew how to run it…we knew how it felt. But to most of us first time marathoners who have had one LSD beyond 30k, the journey after that was like a journey to the unknown. You never realized that a 3rd gel taken on the 3rd hour tastes like paste that made you want to vomit, that the water you douse on your head slowly drips down your compression tights and down to your socks creating a mushy-blister-enducing feeling to your feet, that the logical becomes illogical when your mind tells you that the 2nd loop seems longer than the first, that after the 32k mark your body divides into 2 –the mind that wills and legs that say “no more”, and that your math becomes fuzzy math when from 4:1 you descend to 3:1 until you end up doing 30secs:2mins. Just like every man’s journey into the unknown, the journey in itself is a true test of the human spirit and the finish, a triumph of the soul.
Then you have Dax, a half-hearted running to feel whole-hearted, a guy who runs fast to experience the zest of life…and of course, a guy who has experienced debilitating chest pain more than I was feeling in my whole body during the marathon. And here I was the whole-hearted running what appeared to be half the effort I could muster. And I think when he saw me during the last stretches, he knew that my pain was bearable and that the remaining kilometers tolerable…for I after all had a full-heart, pumping blood at full capacity. So there he was egging and pushing (and teasing), until I felt that second wind and inspiration to sprint the last kilometer the fastest I could at that moment. There was that constant voice cheering “push, push, push”. As we neared the finish line, I took his hand and made sure that I raised his hand as we crossed the finish line. I wanted him to know that even if he crossed the finish line as a pacer, he was still a winner every step of the way– a half-hearted living the life of the full-hearted runner, trying to pursue a dream that was supposedly made only for full hearts. Funny and quite ironic, it is the half-heart teaching us full-hearts to live life to the fullest, run the fastest, and to finish the journey.
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