Around 12,000 runners gathered for one of the most anticipated races in the country, the Run United Philippine Marathon with distances of 500m, 3k, 5k, 10k, 21k, and 42k. The event was part of the Run United series by Unilab Active Health organized by RunRio. It was the first time the race offered a marathon with thousands of runners eager to join the inaugural 42k.
I participated in the 21k event which, for me, was very well organized in terms of hydration stations, including bonuses of sponges and bananas, road marshals and traffic enforcers, portalets, kilometer signs, Finisher’s loot bag (love the messenger bag!) medal (a humongous one at that), and post-race activity area. The route—a fast 21k course from Bonifacio High Street to SM Mall of Asia—was the same as other Run United Half Marathon events, which one can either think of as redundant (What? The same route again?!) or challenging (Do I beat my past Run United 21k times?)
Perhaps the only things I noted that needed improvement in the 21k course were these: 1) The need for more floodlights near the end of Buendia and 2) High traffic until Buendia Flyover. While the latter is a minor issue, I only hope that if or when the 21k event increases (3,000 runners in this race if I’m not mistaken), the organizers consider wave starts to reduce traffic in the narrow Bonifacio Global City areas. That way, we can at least aim for a PR without having to weave through a sea of runners.
As for the inaugural Run United Philippine Marathon, I did hear from friends that hydration ran out for the last 10k of the race. I’m sure organizers are ensuring that this won’t happen again.
TAMING THE BULL
Not a lot of people know that I initially planned on running the inaugural Run United Philippine Marathon. Fresh from Berlin Marathon, I had the bright idea of joining Run United’s first 42km almost as soon as I stepped on Philippine soil. Three reasons: 1) I found myself goal-less. Gasp, what do I work for now?! I thought in panic. 2) I was bored. Y..a..w..n.. and, last but not the least, 3) How cool would it be to run the first Run United Philippine Marathon?! I had visions of myself 50 years from now telling tales of this inaugural marathon to my grandchildren as I sat on my rocking chair barely able to lift my head with the oh-so heavy gargantuan medal around my neck.
Then, I recalled how I got injured immediately after running New York City Marathon then California International Marathon just a month apart last year. Was I stupid enough to let this happen to me again? So, two weeks before race day, finally being smart about my running, I opted to run the half marathon instead.
SORE THROAT? SO WHAT?
I stood in the assembly area with running buddy Lit who I basically bullied into running fast with me for the day. No breaking PRs because we definitely lacked speed training. But, hey, no kwento pace either because we had more than enough of that the past months. As agreed, we were to push hard for as long as we could.
Just one problem: I woke up with a cold. My throat was itchy and my nose runny the night before. I committed to try my best equipped with what I needed the most: five pieces of Kleenex rolled up and tucked neatly into my Spibelt arm sleeve. Hah!
The first 15k went, well, fast. We ran mostly below 6 min pace and we knew we could sustain it. But, ooooh boy, things soon changed after we crossed the 15km mark.
RUNNING ON FUMES
It was no surprise that I was starting to tire out. In truth, it was just as I had expected with the lack of training. Starting from 15k onwards, I struggled to keep the pace. I stopped at every station to hydrate, pour water on my face and arms, take a long deep breath followed by a loud grumble, then plod on forward.
Lit suggested we slowed down. I nodded my head in a daze, then thought: No way. I’ve gone this far. I can suffer some more.
And so, I zoned out pushing my legs to maintain the pace I committed to. In my mind, I reminded myself that the pain was temporary and it would soon end. Just a few more minutes. Just a few more kilometers. I could do it. Keep the pace.
It was probably at around 18k when a lady runner runs by my side at Roxas Boulevard. She chats me up at a time when I could hardly even breathe. “Ganda naman ng pace mo. Sabay tayo ha.” I nod my head unable to speak. I think it was pretty obvious in my face that I was dying, but for some reason she chose to chat even more. “21k ka?” For her, I managed to mumble a “Oo.” She says a couple more things and repeats the same question: “21k ka?” On better days (or maybe when I’m not trying to survive the last 3kms of a race I didn’t train for!), I’m usually a nice person. But, at that moment, I replied “Uh huh” again while thinking: I don’t need this crap now. Get the hell outta here!
I lose her at a station. Thank. You. Lord.
Unbeknownst to me, Lit overheard the lady runner and her friends saying that they would run along with us, then leave us behind at the last few meters of the race. Lit then told me: “Save a little then let’s take these guys at the finish.” Unaware of their devious plan, I replied to Lit: “I don’t think I can do it. I’m running on fumes.”
At the last few meters, true enough, the lady runner and her friends were ahead of us by a few meters. Lit could’ve overtaken them (he actually did, but had to slow down to wait for me), but I definitely couldn’t. I was pushing as hard as I could.
We crossed the finish line unofficially at 2:04 according to my Garmin. I was ecstatic. We finished ahead of our target and without training. Imagine what we could do if we trained harder! Perhaps I can target beating my half marathon PR again soon! Goodbye boredom. Hello speed!
After the race, I learned about the “secret devious plan” of that lady and her friends. Are you kidding me?! Had I known about this, I would’ve pushed 10x harder if only to send two special messages to that group: 1) Never ever talk loud enough for your targets to hear your plans. It doesn’t only spoil your scheme, but it’s also quite rude! 2) I’ll get you in the next race, baby! Tsk tsk.
The bull is back. Raaawr. I mean: Rrooor snort snort.