QCIM: My First Marathon

Monday, 19 October 2009  |  Favorite Posts, Race Reports

I woke up at 3 a.m. yesterday morning expecting to run a slow and easy 32km at the first Quezon City International Marathon. Little did I know that I would end the race as a marathoner. Yes, I finally achieved my long time dream of finishing the full 42.195km. You’re surprised? I was too!

Here’s the full story:


I was to meet good friend and now training partner, Alvin, at the assembly area. He was to run the full marathon while I was to stop at 32km. Target pace: 6:30 min/km. I was registered for the 21km but I was to start with 42k at 4:30 a.m. so Alvin and I could run together. Unfortunately, Alvin and I didn’t find each other before gun start.


Of all people to bump into during the last minute before race start, I was lucky enough to have found great company. I ran alongside Run Radio co-host, Jay (Prometheus Cometh) and Atty. Raymund who celebrated his 30th birthday that very day.

No pressures for this run. It was just a training run for me after all! We ran at an easy 6:15 chatting and laughing along U.P. and Commonwealth before the sun rose.

– with Raymund, the birthday boy, and Jay (Prometheus Cometh) –

Occasionally, we would get cheers from others: young students with whom my two running buddies exchanged high fives with like celebrities, race volunteers (one even yelled out “Mabuhay and kababaihan!” to me at which I replied “Mabuhay!”), and even Coach Rio, who shouted what I thought was the word “Injury!” from his vehicle only for me to find out from Jay that it was actually “Jaymie!” We met interesting people along the way too: Love Anover of Unang Hirit, who was Atty. Raymund’s support and John Pages of Cebu Marathon along with his brother.

– with Raymund and Cebu marathoners, John and Bro. Carlos –

– Looks like we were going at 4 min/km pace. But it’s probably the photographer who went that fast –


It was smooth and easy all the way until La Mesa Eco Park. Entering the area was a wonderful break from the monotony of the city roads, but the course was also quite challenging. The hills were undulating and steep. As we didn’t care about speed nor time, we took frequent walking breaks during the climbs while chatting away.

My favorite part of the entire course was here. The course took us by the dam, where the temperature cooled and the view of the water and the trees was much more scenic; I felt like I was in Subic.


When we exited La Mesa Eco Park, it wasn’t only back to urban reality, but even worse. As we ran by SM Fairview, the road traffic was terrible with cars and buses sweeping past us. If that wasn’t dangerous enough, the air was polluted, not the best atmosphere for health-conscious runners. And, worst of all, water ran out at the stations. Thank God I still had 4 ounces of Gatorade left in my amphipod.

When we hit North Avenue and Commonwealth again, it was back to safe and relaxed running. By this time, it was just Jay and I running together. Half of the road was blocked, so we could view (and hear) irate motorists stuck in traffic. Although I was on the other side of the road, the traffic posed a huge problem for me; it meant that the hubby wouldn’t be able to pick me up at Km32 on Commonwealth. I had brought my cellphone with me, so I texted Hubby to say that I would run back to City Hall instead, which would be around 35km.


By 30km, Jay and I parted ways and I ran the rest of the race alone. Still on training pace mode, I maintained an easy 6:15 to 6:30 pace and took walk breaks, especially at the climbs. By this time, water had been replenished at the stations, so I stopped at every station to take a sip and drench my head and arms with cold water.

I hit the 32km mark alone. Much to my pleasant surprise, I was feeling great—no pains, no blisters, no tightness—so it was then that this Bull started welcoming nasty thoughts of just going for the full 42k.

Soon after, I spotted Hector of Second Wind, almost like an angel (but darker and on a mountain bike), sweeping down the road with a bagful of yellow Gatorade popsicles. Manna from heaven! I thanked him profusely and, as he left, Neville, his best friend and Team Principal of Pinoy Ultra Runners arrived. He started to bike slowly by my side.


Neville stayed with me from then on until the end. As the leader of PUR, this guy knows how to support a runner in need. He carried my hydration belt to lighten my load. He didn’t ask endless questions nor did he bombard me with small talk. He was silent most of the time, except for the instances when he’d share info about the course ahead. He advised me to just decide at Km35, when we passed the assembly area at QC City Hall, if I should stop or go for the full.

We passed Km35 with no fanfare nor talk. In silence, I had decided to push through with the bullish, foolish, or whatever-adjective-you-wish-to-describe-it decision to run the full marathon a little less than two months in advance of my planned first marathon in Singapore.

During these last 10km, I was fearfully expecting to hit the much talked about “wall.” I took one step at a time, listened to my body, and waited, but “the wall” thankfully never came. My legs were completely fine. My mind was calm and confident.

When we hit 37km, Neville told me “the last 5k will be the longest 5kms of your entire life.” As I went through each of them, it was quite the opposite; I actually enjoyed it. Each kilometer marker didn’t leave me thinking “4 or 3 or 2 more kilometers to go…” but I was thinking “Wow, I’ve done 38…39…40…Cool!”

Neville then told me, “You’ll enter Trinoma for 500m and I’ll wait for you here outside. After that, it’s just 500m to go.” I ran in, hit the turn around at the end, and exited unscathed. I spotted Neville and ran once again until the end.


I crossed the finish 4:54:23 according to my Polar. Clock time read 4:55:36. I couldn’t be happier with a sub-5 for an unplanned and ill-prepared training run turned impromptu marathon. I didn’t shed a tear nor jump up for joy. I ended the run in a state of disbelief, excited to see the hubby who was famished by that time (as he only learned I ran the full when I was at 40k!)

– A race I trained for since I started running in 2006 –

– Big thank you to Neville of PUR! Ultra next year? Game! –

As they say: Running is a metaphor for life. In this QC International Marathon, I was proud to have gotten a glimpse of my life in a 42k. I learned that obstacles shouldn’t be feared but used to jumpstart a stronger, better you; that friends will be there for entertainment, for company, or most importantly, for support when you need them most; that you must grab every opportunity thrown your way and try your darndest best to make full use of it; and that no matter what you go through, the one who loves you most will be the one waiting for you at the finish.

– 42km: DONE! –

* Thank you to Raymund for some of the photos.

Hood to Coast: Best Race Ever!

Sunday, 6 September 2009  |  Favorite Posts, Race Reports

“You’re tougher than you think you are,
and you can do more than you think you can.”

– Ken Chlouber on the Leadville Trail 100 (Born to Run, Christopher McDougall)

It was my turn to run. As I saw Cool Aussie running towards me, I took a deep breath, grabbed the green band from his hand, and set off to run my first leg.

LEG 10: Windy Run through the Backroads of Oregon…Fantastic!

Time: 2:30 p.m.
Weather: Cloudy and windy
Temperature: 27C
Description: “Long leg mostly along Springwater Trail then city streets over relatively rolling and flat terrain”

– Springwater Trail –

By this time, the intense heat that scorched my teammates during their run had dissipated and I was blessed with cool weather with winds blowing upon my face. The long paved road I was running on was narrow—just enough for two runners to run alongside each other—with trees lining both sides. I glanced at the road ahead with pure excitement, cranked up my speed, and put on my race face.

I swept past a few runners, but could not, for the life of me, outrun one older lady runner. After a few kilometers, we settled into a comfortably hard pace and run side-by-side. Boy, she was tiring me out. When we reached a turn on the road leading to a short climb towards even narrower roads, I spotted my teammates waiting to provide support. I smiled, waived off the drink they were offering, and sped off to leave lady runner behind.

This was the time I managed to admire my surroundings: abundance of nature around me, fresh air, and the sound of only panting runners, made me smile no matter how tired I was. I remember thinking how absolutely happy I was at that very moment and thanking God once again for such a great opportunity to run.

The run was much longer than I thought. After throwing all I’ve got during the first few kilometers (a common mistake for overly eager runners), I realized I was tiring out. I was glad to see city roads which meant I was nearing the exchange point, but it was a long ascent towards the finish. I trudged along, made a right turn towards the end, and excitedly searched for my teammates, especially Fast Boy, who was the next runner.

Distance: 10km*
Time: 54.19
Ave. Pace: 5:25 min/km*
Ave. Cadence: 87
Ave. Altitude: -12m
Ascent/Descent: 15m/25m

* adjusted from uncalibrated Polar reading

Among the crowd of runners, I yelled out with outstretched hands “Where are my teammates?!!!” They were nowhere in sight. I was about to exit the exchange area until a marshal said it was against the rules. I waited, and waited, and waited. A runner told me “I feel sorry for you. Your team abandoned you.” I didn’t think so, I was sure something had happened. Did they lose their way? Or worse, did they get into an accident? I replied, “Oh, it’s okay. I feel sorry for the next runner who’ll have to make up for lost time.”

After a long wait, my teammates arrived. They mistakenly drove towards the next exchange point, skipping mine. Fast Boy ran his leg and we all entered the van laughing. This little mishap essentially spelled out our van’s mission for the race: to have fun. Other teams would’ve labelled this a “mess up,” or blamed each other for the lost time, but not our team. As we drove off, our van captain, Cool Aussie, said that this little mishap made our race experience all the more richer. In between bites of chicharon, we agreed.


When all six of us completed our legs, we turned over the band to Van 1 and headed back to the hotel. We showered, rested a bit in our own rooms, and met again at 9 p.m. to head to the next exchange point.

– Bumping into Team Singapore Noodles just outside the hotel –


LEG 22: Wet and wild night run

Time: 1:10 a.m.
Weather: Cold and rainy
Temperature: 20C
Description: “Gradual up and downhills on paved but narrow back country roads”

– It was cold, wet, and dark by the time we reached the exchange point –

– The start of Leg 2 for all of us at Van 2. Here’s Van 1 turning over the time sheet to Van 2 –

Before my run, CK had run her leg with no incident. As Coco run his tough uphill leg, we had yet another mishap where we waited for him in the dead of the night along the course, only to discover that he had been waiting for us at the finish for some 30 minutes. (It was so dark out that he probably ran past us on the road.) As usual, we had a good laugh about this mishap. Cool Aussie, as usual, ran a fast leg in the dark.

By this time, it was freezing cold. I wore a long-sleeved top, long tights, jacket, beanie, and gloves, yet every time I stepped out of the van, my teeth would start chattering. The rains didn’t help at all.

As I prepared for my second leg, I also wore the reflective night vest over my rain jacket, chose to carry the torch instead of a headlamp, plus I added a cap to wear on top of my beanie. I left the gloves behind. I was nervous and scared about this run. I had never run this early in the morning in the dark, and here I was making my first attempt in unknown territory.

I saw Cool Aussie coming in, grabbed the band from him, and climbed up the narrow trail along with a handful of runners. After a few meters, the terrain changed to paved roads but the ascent was steep—similar to the zigzagged roads of Baguio—that I was short of breath. The thin, cold air made it all the more difficult to breathe. It was so cold that in my second kilometer, my upper lip completely went numb!

I was having some difficulty with the torch, too. In pitch black, with every swing of my arm, the light would sway back and forth ahead of me; it was like running in a disco and it was getting me dizzy. I shut it off for a few seconds, and in an instant, I could see absolutely nothing, I turned it on and swore to God I would never scare myself that way again.

The entire time, I ran on the left side of the road at the edge of the mountain; one misstep and I could fall into nothingness. One time, as I tried to fix my beanie which was sliding off my head, I didn’t realize that I was veering off to the left (one doesn’t notice these things while running full speed ahead in the dark). When I focused my torch on the road, I was so close to the edge that I could’ve slid off in a step or two! Phew.

After the long climb, it was all downhill to the end. I abhor downhills as they’re bad for my knees, so I ran fast but practiced caution. Before I knew it, I could see Fast Boy waiting for me at the end. CK grabbed me by the arm to lead me to the car. Coco asked my time and I looked at my watch in the dark and said “1:10” Geez, 1 hour 10 minutes for approx. 11k? That was slower than expected. No worries, I submitted that time anyway. (It was only when I got back to Manila that I discovered I submitted the time of day, not my actual time! Whoops)

Distance: 10.96 km*
Time: 1:00 hour
Ave. Pace: 5:27 min/km*
Ave. Cadence: 88
Ave. Altitude: 29m
Ascent/Descent: 120m/180m

* adjusted from uncalibrated Polar reading


After our van finished our legs, we set off for a local highschool that offered hot showers and sleep areas at their gym for all Hood to Coast runners. For $2, we got to wash up (in a public shower…oh boooy!) and we got to secure our own tiny spot on the gym floor where close to a hundred runners lay in the dark getting as much sleep as they could before it was time to run off again.

– Our home away from home –

– Yes, that’s what we needed! –

By 7 a.m., we got up, and without washing our faces nor brushing our teeth, we loaded our van with gas and headed off for the next exchange station.

– Our view as we entered the car to start our 3rd leg –

LEG 34: Tough and Tiring

Time: 11:22 a.m.
Weather: Cool and rainy
Temperature: 22C
Description: “Very short leg in length with gently rolling hills along paved country roads”

Surprisingly, I didn’t feel sleepy nor tired that morning. I was looking forward to my last leg which, based on the course description, sounded like it was going to be easy. CK had decided to run the last leg with our last runner, Hyper T, so Coco chose to run my seemingly easy leg along with me.

– Runners that passed us as we waited for our runner, Cool Aussie –

– Coco yelled out to a male runner “My teammate loves you!” referring to Hyper T. Unfortunately, it was Fast Boy standing beside him! –

– Photo op with the big red barn while waiting –

– There’s our runner, Cool Aussie! –

For the 3rd and last time, I grabbed the green wristband from Cool Aussie and ran full speed ahead. Coco stayed right behind me.

By the first kilometer, after one major uphill climb, I yelled at Coco and told him “Go ahead if you want to. I’m super tired.” And, I was telling the truth. I felt like that first climb had yanked all the energy out of me and finally all the hours of running and traveling had caught up with me. I don’t even remember what he answered, but he remained right behind.

So much for “gently rolling hills,” I thought. These hills we were running were not gentle; they were aggressive and angry! The hills would not let up. After one hill, there would be another, and another, and another. I continued to plod on forward, but I was falling apart. Thankfully, on the middle of the road, our van awaited and provided us with Gatorade, which allowed me to push forward once again. We even managed to enjoy the sights when we passed a huge plot of land filled with the most cows I had ever seen.

– Ack, I get tired just seeing this photo! –

The last uphill was the toughest. It was long and arduous and I felt like I wasn’t making progress even as I took one step at a time. Slowly but surely, we reached the top and a few meters ahead, I saw Fast Boy and turned over the band to him.

– We did it! –

Wow, we survived! I finished my three legs in one piece and with no injury! What an amazing experience!

Distance: 6.85 km*
Time: 35:51
Ave. Pace: 5:14 min/km*
Ave. Cadence: 86
Ave. Altitude: 5m
Ascent/Descent: 50m/35m

* adjusted from uncalibrated Polar reading

– Race conditions before the last leg for Hyper T and CK. It was cold and muddy –

– Right before they got their jackets and set off to run –


The Nike Hood to Coast Race ends at the beach in Seaside, a picturesque little town which came to life with decorated vans and thousands of runners walking about in the streets.

– Town of Seaside –


Cool Aussie, Coco, Fast Boy and I headed for the finish area and waited for our runners CK and Hyper T to come in. After a few minutes, we spotted Hyper T and watched her cross the finish line to mark an amazing finish for Team Singapore Chili Crabs.

– Last few hundred meters towards the finish –

– Finish line –

– Nike area –

– Nike Japan team…heehee –

We met up with the rest of our teammates and Singapore Noodles at the Nike area on the beach. Against the background of the cloudy sky and the Pacific Ocean, we had tons of food to eat, beer, and lot of stories to share for hours.


The Nike Hood to Coast relay is what you make of it. Our team dove into the adventure with nothing but fun (and a little bit of competitiveness) in mind, so we came home with a treasure trove of happy stories to tell and memories to cherish. I will never forget the three different race experiences I had on those three legs (especially Leg 22), the great teammates I loved being stuck with for over 24 hours in a dirty, stinky van, the many mistakes we made yet laughed about, the beauty of Oregon I saw by foot, and of course, the lessons I learned along the journey. As many of us said after the trip, it was definitely the best race ever!

– Best teammates! –

– Singapore Chili Crabs! –

Previous related posts:
Hood to Coast: Aug 26, Wednesday
Hood to Coast: Aug 27, Thursday
Hood to Coast: And the Race Begins!

Animo Triathlon 2009 – Part 1

Sunday, 14 June 2009  |  Favorite Posts, Race Reports

This was so much more fun than my first triathlon last year!  While the first tri was a race to finish, this one was a race to beat—not others—but myself.  I jotted down my time for each sport in last year’s Animo Tri and, as I trained, I made sure that I improved on those times. With the training I had the past week, plus the bike lent by my friend Hans, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be the turtle that I was in 2008.  (Well, I wasn’t that confident but I sure was praying for that!)

– Big big thank you to Hans of GranTrail Bike shop, West Gate Center, Alabang –


Check in and body marking was quick and easy.  Hubby, who did his first mini-sprint, and friends Jamike and Jun were just a few meters away.  After hanging up our bikes on the racks, placing stickers on our bikes and helmets, and preparing all our gear for easy transition, we calmly walked towards the DLSZ swimming pool.

– Transition area set up –

{SWIM: 350 M}

This is when I started getting all jittery.  Seeing the green, murky water in the DLSZ pool didn’t help at all to alleviate the tension.  I ran to the bathroom twice, talked with my father-in-law about anything that came to mind, fidgeted with my goggles and swim cap, and started wondering if I should just stick to running instead.

When it was our turn, I jumped in the pool along with the other female mini-sprinters.  It was great to see my two highschool friends, cousins Jennie and Tintin, both strong athletes who were as nervous as I was.  After a brief chat, we heard the horn signal the start of our race.

There was a lot of pushing and kicking going on in there.  And, these women were fast!  I threw caution to the wind and went as fast as I could too paying no attention to the kicks I got or gave.  By the first lap, I was spent.  Obviously, I was not made for sprint swimming.  I took a 5 second break and went at it again.  Same speed, same gusto, but probably with terrible form.  


– Forgot about pacing. I went as fast as I could –

It went on like this for the next six laps.  Before I knew it, I was done.  Out of breath and tired, I ran out of the pool, slipped into my flipflops (which I now left near the exit unlike last year) and made my way towards the transition area.

SWIM TIME: 8.46 mins vs 18:00 mins 2008.  Beat my old time by 9.14 min.

{BIKE: 11KM}

Since the bike course was initially flat at Narra, I got to recover a bit from the tiresome swim portion.  I was still pretty much in relaxed mode at this portion.  As we headed out towards University Ave., that’s where the real race began.  I overtook bikers while the same bikers would overtake me.  It helped that I memorized the ocho-ocho loop a few days before the race.  There was no time lost on second guessing the route, or worse, missing out on a turn or doubling a loop, mistakes that were committed by a lot of participants this year and the last.

After we climbed up Country Club Drive, it was basically one other female biker and I who were competing with each other.  She and I started chasing each other through the rest of the course.  Aaack, it was tiresome, but I gotta admit, it was fun too!  Near the end of the course, I recognized her face and realized it was an acquaintance, Mavis.  We reached the end of the bike portion at practically the same time.  After transition and as we headed out towards the run, I told her how the bike portion became so much more challenging with her presence.

BIKE TIME: 34.21 (11km) vs 41.01 (12k) last year.

– Never thought I could have that much fun on a bike. I’m a convert. (I look like I’m in pain in the photo though haha) –

– Sprinters heading for transition –

{RUN: 3.5KM}

And now for the part we all love…When I started to run, I was breathless; I was panting like a puppy.  Nevertheless, I pushed forward, taking one quick step at a time, still paying attention to my form.  By the time I made it out to University Ave., there was no one behind me nor in front of me.  Honestly, had I not ran this route during our simulation last Tuesday, I would’ve thought I lost my way; there were no race signs nor marshalls.  I trusted my instincts and just plodded forward.  Soon enough, I spotted a couple of runners ahead.  One male, one female.  I followed.  There was another female heading back and she was escorted by a marshall on motorcycle, so she was #1.  The lady ahead of me was #2.  Then, in complete disbelief, I realized that I could actually be the 3rd!  

As I circled the turnaround, I spotted female #4. Lord, not her!  It was the super strong french lady runner from Hope in Motion 3 last year. (After chasing her throughout the race, I gave up and fell behind.  She placed 2nd and I 3rd.)  When I saw her, I wanted to run for my life!  Unfortunately, I was just so tired.  I just gave it my all, put on step in front of the other, and prayed to God that she was as exhausted as I was.  In a few minutes, I made the right turn and headed towards the finish line.

RUN TIME: 17.18 (3.5k hilly course) vs 16.06 (3.4k flat) last year.  

– Tri is lovelier the 2nd time around! Finish time: 1:00:25 –

– with my training buddies: Jun, Jamike and hubby (or as Annie would say Tito, Vic, and Joey heehee!) –

– with my “Team Mate”…same trisuit, long hair, but she was a lot leaner and taller and faster on the bike. Sheesh, forgot her name! Please email or comment! –

– with highschool classmates, Bau and Tin. See you next year? –


Turns out I got 2nd place for female overall, while the french lady won 3rd.  The lady runner ahead of me at the run won 1st place; she beat me by 24 seconds.  I don’t exactly know what happened to the lady leading the pack.

The podium finish was a pleasant surprise.  I really just set out to beat myself, so the medal and P250 David’s Salon Gift Certificate (perfect for covering up my new dead toenail) are really just bonuses for an hour of sweat, excitement, and friendly competition.

– 2nd Place female overall –

– Official results –

More photos in the next post…

I’ll Miss You, Annie

Saturday, 31 January 2009  |  Bullish Insights, Favorite Posts

This evening, my bestest running buddy, Annie, will be on a flight to Singapore to start a new job there.  As much as I want to be happy for her, I can’t help but feel otherwise.  My running soulmate and partner-in-crime is leaving.  And, I am completely devastated.  

We met way back in the summer of 2007.  Two young mothers who had a deep interest in running.  We would run every other day, no fail, rain or shine.  More often than not, we would run side by side, but there were times when she would run ahead of me (as she was much stronger) while I slowly improved trying my best to keep up with her. We had great fun talking and laughing during runs, but during tough climbs or tempo runs, we would be serious training partners, pushing each other to perform better.  By the time summer ended and our Coach had deserted us, we had already forged a bond built around—what turned out to be—not just an interest, but an obsession for running.  


October came and we decided to train for our first marathon together: Pasig Marathon 2008.  We ran our Saturday long runs together, but they didn’t feel long at all;  two hours would fly by so fast.  We learned more about each other, how we were alike in so many ways: that our birthdays are only a day apart, that our husbands are so extraordinarily patient and supportive, that running is not just a hobby for us, but a huge part of our lives.  We talked about our marathon dream and we could completely relate with each other.  Unfortunately, I got injured while Annie went on to finish Pasig Marathon at 4:07 in February 2008. 

In the summer of 2008, we signed up with another coach, Coach Jo-Ar, and started training in Ultra together.  From the roads, we moved to the track and, together, we had even more fun climbing up those stairs, racing up the hills with kids half our age, or hanging out with the legendary Elma Muros.  Still, we continued our regular Saturday long runs on the road as if it was a sacred tradition, a special day that we both looked forward to at the end of each hectic week.

By mid-year, we both decided to embark on our craziest running adventure yet: Singapore Marathon in December 2008, just the two of us pursuing our dream to run abroad for the first time.  We prepared for this together, and we did it.  Annie ran a 3:59 marathon, while I finished 2:08 for my half.  It was an amazing, unforgettable event that we were only too glad to have experienced together.


Finding the perfect running buddy is like finding a needle in a haystack.  It’s finding that partner that you have a certain chemistry with: one you can talk to for hours to make you forget about the distance or the pain in your legs, one who will adjust his/her pace according to the needs of the day, one you can trust to be there for you when the going gets tough in a run…or in life.  That was Annie for me.  And, I’d like to think I was the same for her.

Now, the sad reality.  She’s leaving tonight.  I am losing a running buddy, a sister, a dear friend.  I burst into tears just thinking about our laughable conversations about thongs, tampons, or men who waved at us on the road.  I worry who will be there to remind me to take it easy when I’m injured or to accompany me when I embark on a new cross training activity.  And, worst of all, I choke at the thought of Saturday long runs and Sunday races without her. With Annie’s departure, running for me will never ever be the same.

My Singapore Half Marathon Experience

Tuesday, 9 December 2008  |  Favorite Posts, Race Reports

I’m sitting here trying to organize my thoughts and I don’t know where to start.  How can one find the words to share such an amazing experience, one that occurred in a little over two hours, but forever changed the way I think about myself and the way I will view life?  How can one explain how one race in a new city among friends allowed me to experience camaraderie, selflessness, passion, determination, and humility in its truest form so much so that my finishing time—the focus of so much of my attention prior to the race—was of little importance in the end?

Here’s my story but let it be known that this is but a small fraction of the entire race experience:

5:15 AM
Together with Aljo and Jun, I had arrived at the race assembly early and sat by the river behind The Fullerton Hotel as the full marathoners awaited their 5:30 AM race start along Esplanade Drive. We listened from afar as loud, upbeat music and two super hyper DJ’s welcomed all of us 48,000 runners.

I was in relaxed mode, unperturbed over my own 21k, even as the blowing of the horns marked the start of the marathoners and I wondered how Annie, Ben, Coach Jo-Ar, Kim, Glenn, Coach John, and all my other Pinoy friends would do.

5:30 to 6:00 AM
I visited the portalet three times. Did my warm ups and stretches. Gobbled down 1 Vanilla Bean GU gel. Bid Aljo good luck in his 10k. Jun and I then proceeded to the starting line for half marathoners. Still in relaxed mode.

Our “good enough” target was 2:15, but our secret target was sub-2. We hoped to run at 5:40 pace to finish at 1:59. We weren’t sure if it was achievable, but it was worth a try.

6:00 to 6:30 AM
In the darkness before dawn, we stood along Esplanade Drive along with the sea of half marathoners from various parts of the world. The bright yellow spotlights against the backdrop of the dark sky combined with the loud music and excellent hosting made this feel like the biggest show on earth, or at least, the biggest show of my entire life (and to think I was just running the half.) I was completely consumed by this moment; it was wild yet magical, noisy yet serene, communal yet personal, and beyond what I ever imagined this race could be. Jun and I hardly exchanged words, but I do remember telling him something like “Even if we don’t hit sub-2, it will be fine.” At that point, I just felt fortunate to be running the race no matter how I finished.

20 seconds before the race started, the music and Dj’s were silenced. There was not a sound—not a whisper nor a cough—from any of the runners. Then, the horns broke through the stillness and we were off.

Km 1 to 3
I felt like I was going off to war. The steps of a thousand runners hitting the pavement every single second sounded like marching soldiers, and were almost lined up in rows with elbows and arms hitting one runner to the left or right. It was crowded and slow. At one time, I panicked when I saw our pace hitting 7:30 but what could we do. Jun and I spent most of our energy overtaking runners one at a time unable to reach our desired pace.

Km 4 to 8
The crowd eased up as we made our way to wider roads. Our pace increased to 5:35 to 5:40 and Jun and I hardly spoke to each other. I was feeling strong and was enjoying the run. The weather was perfect with cloudy skies and occasional winds blowing on our face.

By this time, I started feeling slight knee pain but I refused to acknowledge it. Jun asked how I was doing and I told him I was completely fine.

Km 9
I took my 2nd GU gel with no water station in sight…big mistake. As we entered Nicoli Highway, my thoughts were just on water or anything else to down the gel that lined my entire throat.

Km 10-12
The GU gel worked its usual wonders on me. Suddenly, I felt fresh and strong, as if I had just started the race. My knee pain would go in and out, but it was manageable.

At one point, we spotted Coach Rio, who also ran the half, on the opposite side of the highway making his way back already. He was in great running form, his hair bouncing up and down, sporting a big smile on his face and he had but a couple of runners around him. He waved at us and we yelled back cheering for him. The sight was amazing. A Filipino making it to the front pack of runners.  Kulang nalang hawak niya ang bandila ng Pilipinas.

It was around this time that we agreed to put on our ipod shuffles. Well, we weren’t talking much anyway. This race was much more intense than our New Balance kwento pace.

Sometime during the run, Jun glanced at his Garmin and said “We won’t make sub-2.” I repeated what I said in the race start “Oh, that’s fine Jun.” But, little did he know that it pushed a little button inside me to speed up and still attempt to make up for a very slow start.

With almost fresh legs from GU, I found my rhythm and ran at a steady pace.  As for Jun, who is a stronger runner than I am, I pretty much knew something was wrong when he started slowing down. I only learned after the race that, by this time, he was already cramping and feeling a bit of pain in his hamstrings. We parted ways somewhere around this area.

Km 13 to 19
If I thought I could make it to sub-2, this portion, especially the latter part, pretty much blew all my hopes for it.

It was at this point when my knee pain intensified and I wasn’t sure if I would finish. Each step was painful and I wondered if I should push it. I then recalled what Glenn told me during our carbo loading party at Kim’s the night before. He told me that he talks to his injury and asks it to behave. I laughed it off then, but with the pain increasing, I thought it was worth a shot.

So, I started repeating words such as “C’mon, let’s go knee,” “Behave, knee” or “Goodbye knee pain” over and over in my head. And, believe it or not, it worked! Talk about the power of the mind!


During the latter part of this race, I didn’t see the roads nor the people around me. The pain would drift in and out and all I remember now is the physical pain on my left knee and the mental battle to make it subside every single time it appeared. It was long and tough and tiring but I never succumbed, never even stopped to walk unless it was to sip water at the station.

Km 19/ 20
I was running at below 6:00 for the last few kilometers despite the knee pain. I was pretty confident I’d finish the race. Then, as I made a turn at one point, my knee locked and I couldn’t straighten it. I thought to myself “Noooo, not now! Please let me finish!” I didn’t stop but plodded on using the strength from my right leg to carry me through. It was pure hell, but thankfully, after a minute or so, the pain subsided and I resumed my regular run.

Km 20 – 21.5
As I made my way along Esplanade Drive towards the finish line, a quick glance at my watch told me that I was past my secret sub-2 goal. But, as I learned early on in the race, it didn’t matter. So many thoughts were floating about in my head at this time, but all were positive.

I was practically smiling from inside as I couldn’t have been prouder of myself for finishing the race despite the circumstances. It was only when I was forced to endure such a challenge that I actually learned how tough I was.

During the last hundred meters, I even managed to sprint to the finish. When I crossed the finish line, for the first time ever, I raised both hands up in the air and felt like a real winner.

My official time based on chip: 2:08:35
My garmin time | distance | pace: 2:08:31 | 21.52 km | 5:58 min/km


Next post: Pre and post race photos with friends…