Alone for the Dreaded 32k

Wednesday, 7 October 2015  |  Bullish Insights


Confession: I have a love/hate relationship with marathon training.

I always say that my favorite part of the marathon is the journey leading up to the race.  The actual marathon is just a bonus.

There’s something about the gradual progression from weak legs at 10k to feeling stronger at 32k weeks before the race. I especially like how you train your own mind: one begins feeling like 10k is forever and, in a few months, the same distance is just a warm up for an easy 25k. If you train with friends, then the experience is even more enjoyable as you embark on this crazy new adventure together, suffering and laughing along the way.

Having said that, with every marathon training period, I can’t escape the dread of running that longest run, the 32k 3 weeks before the race. Even in the early weeks of training, it looms over you like a rain cloud; you know it’s coming and you do your darndest best to prepare, but one can never be fully ready for such torment.

Last Sunday, I ran my 32k. And, for the first time ever, I had to run it alone. I had never realized, until the night before the run, that in all the years of running and after 13 marathons, I had never really gone on this road alone. I always ran the 32k with friends to make the long hours—and the sore feet—more bearable. As I packed my gym bag and prepared my gels for the run, I was filled with anxiety. Would I have the discipline to finish 32k without quitting when it got hot, exhausting, or just plain boring?

That morning, as I was about to start, I bumped into friends who coincidentally were training for Osaka Marathon too. I ran the first hour with them. (Thanks Michelle, Bambi, Hannah and Pat!) Then, I headed to Filinvest City where I met Jay and later on, Ardie, who were both also training for Osaka. Time flew by so fast in that first 23k. For the last 9k, I was all by my lonesome.

I won’t lie. It was tough. All the mircropore tape I had put on my toes to prevent blisters had slipped out and rested comfortably between the tips of my toes and my socks.  It was like running with pebbles in your shoes. My socks and insoles were soaked with sweat. I wanted to change my top but didn’t want to stop and sit in the car for fear of cramps. Worst of all, I was hungry!  All these little nuances started tapping at my shoulder the way little kids make you kulit when they desperately want your attention.

People may tell you that they listen to the birds chirping, smell the fresh air around them, and think happy thoughts when they’re out on these long runs. Sure, sometimes, you feel complete bliss when you’re out there on the road. But, when you’re down to the last few kilometres of a 30k plus run, all you hear is that voice in your head saying: What if I quit now? No one will ever know.

I did my best to silence all those nasty thoughts in my head.  I stopped allowing minor things to bother me and looked at the bigger picture: I was so close to reaching the end of my goal!  I calmed my mind and focused on putting one foot in front of the other.  30… 30.5… 31… then I did it.  I finished my 32k and boy was I proud of myself!

What did I learn in that long 32k run and those solo last few kilometres until the end?  Just three important life lessons really:  1) Things aren’t always as bad as they seem, 2) Quitting, even when no one else is looking, is just another way of selling yourself short, and 3) You have to enjoy being with the person you’re with the most, yourself.

Ran Miles, Not Milo

Monday, 6 July 2009  |  Bullish Insights

While most runners ran in green at Milo Marathon yesterday morning, I ran a blissful 14km in shaded, asphalted roads in Makati with the hubby and friends Harvie and Mike. Oh, to commemorate one of the biggest race days in the country, I wore green too.

Our pace ranged from 6:15 to 6:45 most of the time. Heart rate stayed happily at zone 3. Conversation revolved around marathons, Camsur, supplements, business, family, and everything else under the sun for the entire hour and a half. Time flew with non-stop conversation. Aaah, I’m telling you, I’m falling more and more in love with my long, slow runs.

Aside from the talk, what made the run most enjoyable was the absence of niggles in the knee or tightness in the ITB at all. Running at my usual concrete training grounds, I’ve gotten used to feeling minor, innocuous pains in the knee or ITB during each run. I’ve always known about the importance of choosing asphalt over concrete, grass or the track over asphalt, but I always prioritized convenience over the ground I ran on.

However, as I spent the past two weekends running long on asphalt, I’ve noticed the significant difference in my legs. I end each asphalt road run feeling like I could run another 10km. But, my usual training runs on concrete—whether a fast 5k or a slow 15k—leaves me feeling like Pinocchio on stilts. It doesn’t take a genius runner to decide which types of roads I should be running on next time.

We ended the run at around 8:30am just when the sun started beating down on us. While the hubby and I did our post-run stretches and as I sipped my iced chocolate with mint from Starbucks (heaven!), a foreign runner approached us with this as his intro line: “This is too hot for those Milo runners.” That initiated a long conversation about Milo, marathons, Rudy Biscocho, ultramarathons, PSC, and more (we runners can just go on and on about our beloved sport, can’t we?) Turns out, this runner is Peter Parcell, an Australian who was based here in the 80’s and 90’s and was very much involved in the local running scene.

– with Peter –

Peter had such great stories to tell: the time he ran 80+ km a day across Japan and when the press greeted him at the end of the journey to ask what he would do next, he announced “I’m running to Seoul!” or the time he and other Filipino runners stood their ground against a controversial issue, or how his grandfather and father were all top runners in Australia, and how his all three daughters now are all runners like him. Funny how you learn a lot from one man you meet by accident.

It was a wonderful morning for us. Not as great as those who finished the full marathon at Milo—especially Jay (Prometheus Cometh) who PR’d at 3: 38 or Dindo ( who conquered his first full, but definitely a good one.