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.
AND THE RACE BEGINS
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.
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.
LA MESA ECO PARK
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.
BACK ON THE ROAD
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.
ON MY OWN
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.
THE LAST 10KM
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.
FINALLY…MY FIRST MARATHON!
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!)
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.
* Thank you to Raymund for some of the photos.