“The challenge and the energy running requires may be a selfish one but it actually motivates me to be stronger in my relationships.”– Joan Benoit Samuelson
Team PinoyFitness Eco-Runners.
Joining the Epic Relay 2012 is probably the most amazing experience in my life as a runner. Unlike other runs I finished before, this is different because it is not all about the distance. It’s not even all about the time. Instead, it was all about being able to combine forces with other runners because this is, after all, a race that requires teamwork. It’s all about camaraderie.
At the outset, I would like to thank Jeff Lo (pinoyfitness.com) who organized the whole thing for us. Without him and his sponsorship, we would have not been able to experience this. I will forever be grateful to him for giving me this experience. A million thanks also to Cheryl Castaneda, Rachel Jose, drivers Arnold and Bong for the tireless support. Their efforts in making the runners comfortable are very much appreciated. Actually, without them, it would have been impossible for us to achieve what we have achieved.
Nathan’s handheld hydration bottle was a great help during the run.
Thanks also to Mariel Flores and to Nathan Performance Gear for trusting us with their vision. Yours is a vision that is not hard to market and you could have chosen faster and more popular runners, if only to make sure that your aim is associated with more popular runners. But you chose us and trusted us enough to carry your vision. Thank you very much for that. The trust you gave us was another motivating factor for each of us.
Of course, I’d also like to congratulate my teammates (Coach Mherlz, Lala, Mharu, Peachy, Czhel, Jonathan, Edgar, Jackie, and Coach Bob) for the great performance. We did not realize this at first but apparently, we were a force to be reckoned with. We thought we were just there to enjoy but we actually ended up beating our own target. That’s already something.
Let me thank all of you also for the encouraging words, for the camaraderie, for the friendship. I knew from the beginning that I lacked proper training for the uphills but your confidence in me was a great motivation. You have been supportive all throughout and that, in a way, made it easier for me even during the times when I knew I was lagging for one reason or another.
Thank you very much and may we have more kilometers to run together, more challenges to tackle together, more victories to enjoy together.
Here is my epic story.
“Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz
When Jeff called for interested runners who would like to make up a team for the Epic Relay 2012, I immediately (and confidently) signified my interest in joining. I’ve already read a little about the event and I was more or less aware of what I was getting myself into. (I guess, my familiarity with the Bataan route also made me want to take the challenge. But as to how it actually was during the race is a different story.) From the beginning, I knew already that this was going to be a more serious race (as opposed to a fun run). This means that team members would have to be serious and fast runners. I am fully aware that I am not as fast as many other runners but I can confidently say that I am not really that slow either. So yes, I knew I was going to be pressured if Jeff was to choose me to be part of the team but I was resolved to come forward and present myself to run for Pinoy Fitness.
I eventually made it to the team. During our team meetings, Jeff made it clear that winning is only secondary. It was more important for him that we enjoy and finish without any major problems. And as we do it, we were to run with another purpose – that of promoting the importance of being eco-friendly in this kind of activity. This was echoed by Mariel Flores of Nathan Performance Gear who said that “this is not a race na kailangan nating manalo.” As a sponsor of our team, Mariel mentioned that it was also more important for her that as a team, we finish all 250 kilometers of the race. And in line with Nathan’s vision of promoting eco-friendly running, she wanted us “to be the example.”
And so the team was named Pinoy Fitness Eco-Runners.
When it was finally clear to me that I was really running (this was when I was designated to run specific legs of the race), the pressure was on again. At this point, I was already visualizing the terrain and I knew already that (1) I really don’t have enough training for it, and (2) there was not enough time to train since we were given the race routes barely a week before the actual race and participating. I understand what our sponsors said about not thinking too much about our individual times but I did not want to take that as a license to relax – not yet anyway. So despite the explanations by Jeff and Mariel, my mindset was still a bit competitive. I knew it’s ‘suntok sa buwan’ for me to come up on top but I wanted to be as close as possible to whoever is there.
I didn’t want to make my lack of training as an excuse because as I mentioned, I was more or less aware of what I was getting myself into. But I have to say that throughout the whole time, I was praying hard that nothing serious will happen to me (and of course, to the rest of the team). I was really hoping that my confidence will take me to where I want to be. I was hoping that my little knowledge of the race route would help give me assurance that it’s not going to be that hard (again, the actual run was totally a different thing).
“Push yourself. No one else is going to do it for you.”
Our team officially started at 5:25am with Coach Mherlz taking the first leg. Our excitement was at its peak as we boarded our vans to meet her at the first exchange point at Cubi Point. Everything was still on target at the point. Our ever reliable coach gave us an excellent start. It was almost doubling the pressure on us who are coming after her.
Two hours after the gun start, I started running my first leg of the race. But while we were waiting for our team’s second runner at the second exchange point, I was so nervous for some reason. But thanks to the encouragements and last minute tips from my teammates, somehow I was assured that whatever happens from this point would be ok. We were there to enjoy and have fun anyway. At least that was what we were all thinking.
This is the end of my first leg where I had to do a sprint (sort of a 200-m dash) because I didn’t want to be outrun by another runner. I had enough of that already. lol…
When the baton was finally passed to me, I started running like a mad dog. In my excitement, I attacked the first couple of kilometers like I never did before. I was actually going downhill and under normal conditions, I would not have been running faster than a 6-minute pace. Downhills are my knees’ worst enemy and I still have not perfected its management. But at that time, I was only concerned about the road being slippery especially at the sides that are not being tread on by vehicles. I was amazed at how I did when I checked my watch to see that I was actually running around 4 minutes per kilometer. That’s already very fast for me and I was still running comfortably with no signs of knee problems. I cannot be happier at how I was doing.
The excitement was, however, doused by what came after the downhill part – the uphill climb. The next four kilometers were fine because although I slowed down big time, I still managed to move along on a slow run. It’s the 7th kilometer that posed the hardest challenge for me at this point. This was the part that had “Phillip-you-are-not-prepared-for-me” written all over it. It was actually a bit too steep for my liking so I was forced to do power walks. I was worried that if I pushed harder, I’d end up with leg cramps and would have trouble running the next two legs assigned to me. I guess I was too cautious but I wanted to conserve energy if only to make sure that I will not end up with injuries. (Note: There is another part of the route that is steeper than what I have but for one with no sufficient training, that was already hard for me.)
Funny little thing happened: While I was going up one of the steeper parts of the road, my teammates passed by me and they asked if I needed more water. Immediately, I thought “yes, I do need cold water”. But I guess in my confusion, instead of saying “yes please”, I actually said “sige, go” while signaling them to go ahead. I don’t know how that happened but my gestures and my words did not match what I had in mind. So for the rest of the section, I had to make do with the water I had when I started. Good thing I didn’t have any issues.
“Don’t quit. You’re already in pain. You’re already hurt. Get a reward from it.”
While waiting for our teammates at Mt. Samat, we took time to rest and take photos with other runners like Titanium Runner who was also getting ready for his next leg.
At the gates of Mt. Samat, our group (first five runners and support crew) excitedly waited for the other group who took over the baton starting from the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. The excitement was high but I cannot disregard the fact that I wasn’t really feeling very well. And to add to my worries, my thighs have become stiff so I had to ask Coach Mherlz for massage. I was really worried that I won’t be able to run my other assignments but I had to downplay what I was feeling because I did not want anybody to be bothered. I was just hoping that a little rest would supplement the relief I got from the massage.
When it was my turn to run again, everything seemed to be fine. Although my thighs were still not 100% conditioned, it was manageable. Or so I thought.
A couple of kilometers from where I started, I had sidestitch so I had to slow down. (And it had to happen at one of the best parts of the route. Such a bummer.) And if that wasn’t enough, my thighs finally gave in. I had cramps already. I knew already that the next six kilometers were going to be tough and that the cramps will not go away unless I stop. But that wasn’t an option at this point (hell, it wasn’t an option to quit at any point during the race). I had to finish. I would have crawled if I had to (although I knew it wasn’t really that bad lol). Slowly, kilometer by kilometer, I ran-walked and luckily, it did not get any worse.
I was so disappointed at myself because my original plan of attack was totally botched. I would have understood if my cramps started when I was on the actual run. But for my thighs to suddenly go stiff while I was at rest, that made me think something was wrong – that I probably missed something else. That’s what made it so disappointing but there is no one to blame but myself.
But I wasn’t about to beat myself to death just because I was disappointed. I wouldn’t have achieved anything that way. Instead, I took it as additional motivation as I ran my third assignment. This is why on my third run, I pushed like nothing mattered except to finish at the shortest time possible. If previously I was worried about my cramps getting worse, this time I stopped thinking about it. If in the previous leg I walked the slight uphill, this time I kept running. Anyway, I thought, except for the cramps and sleep, I did not have to worry about anything else already. There was nothing to lose at this point. And so I pushed harder and although I know I could have done more, this leg was still my fastest among the three legs I have done. I didn’t realize this until later but the feeling at the end of this leg was exhilarating.
“The sweat. The time. The devotion. It pays off.”
After a little rest, the first five runners wait for the others at the finish line.
24 hours and 57 minutes after our first runner started, our last runner crossed the finish line. We did it. We finished as a team. And we were well within our team target. We could not have been happier. When the yellow medal was handed out, the feeling is unlike any. I know we have all received other medals in our previous runs but for me, this is probably one of the most memorable medals in my collection.
A few hours later, we got confirmation that our team was the second in the Mixed Category. That was the icing on the cake for us. Sure, the competition part was only secondary for our team but the realization that we can actually compete while having fun just made the experience even better.
“You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.” – Steve Prefontaine
After the whole thing, I was asked again by Jeff if I will do this again next year. With no hesitations, I immediately said yes. This shows how happy I am with how I did and how satisfied I am with the outcome. I am satisfied not only because I was able to run but because I ran with a group of energetic runners whose mindset is more or less the same as mine. Ours is a team of people who come from different backgrounds and whose only common denominator is our passion for running. Other teams were composed of runners who work together, who went to school together, who are barkadas outside the running community, etc. But ours is a different one. The members are only connected by running. After our runs, we go our separate ways, attend to our individual lives, and probably talk to each other only in Facebook. Some of us do not even know what the other members do for a living. But this did not prevent us from coming together to run with a common goal.
I am also satisfied not only because I was able to run but because in the process, I built friendships along the way.
So yeah, will I be doing the same thing again? Sure I will, if given another chance. And when that happens, I would make sure that I will be more prepared.
For now, I will make do with savoring the sweetness of my team’s achievement while being thankful for everyone who made it possible.
See you on the road.
All my medals have their own stories but the one for this one is, at the moment, the most exciting one. The fact that I earned it as a part of team makes that story more interesting.
(Photo credits: Thanks to Jeff and pinoyfitness.com for the photos I used here.)