“The marathon is a charismatic event. It has everything. It has drama. It has competition. It has camaraderie. It has heroism. Every jogger can’t dream of being an Olympic champion, but he can dream of finishing a marathon.” – Fred Lebow
After doing two marathons this year, I can now call myself a marathoner. I have not really considered myself one after my first marathon because I thought I was only testing the waters that time. It was as if I was only trying out the experience enough to get my feet wet. But after the second one, I can now proudly say, “I am a marathoner.” I can also proudly say that I did not just finish the race. More importantly, I finished it the way I wanted to.
I went to the 36th Milo Marathon – Manila Eliminations a little apprehensive. I knew in my mind that I once I start, I was going to finish it no matter what happens. But I still had doubts about my preparations. Have I trained enough? Will I be finishing with no injuries? Will I be able to achieve what I want to? These are just a few of the questions that were bothering me before the race.
To add to my worries, I arrived at the venue with only just enough time to deposit my baggage at the counter. The race was going to start in a few minutes and I did not have enough time even for warm up and proper exercise. This worried me because based on experience, my old knee injuries would almost always kick in if I go for long runs without proper stretching. Muscle cramps are not far behind once that happens.
But not wanting to be at the tail end of the group (which usually causes me to go on an abnormally faster pace at the very beginning), I went immediately to the assembly area and wiggled all the way to the middle, still worried of what could happen. Four hours and 46 minutes after gun start, I had answers to my questions. Yes, apparently I had enough preparations. The fact that I finished it a little earlier than I expected (because I ran a little faster than my planned pace) is a confirmation that I was in better shape than I thought. I might just have exaggerated my apprehensions. But ironically, it’s this nervousness that kept me calm during the whole run. It wasn’t also completely pain-free of course, but I finished with no injuries (unless the “re-awakening” of old blisters count as injuries). And to top it all, I finished the race the way I wanted to, and more.
When I signed up for the race, there is one thing I really wanted to achieve – that is to shave off at least 20 minutes from my previous marathon’s record. In doing so, I should be finishing in under five hours. When I crossed the finish line, I could not be happier when I realized I actually slashed 30 minutes. That extra ten minutes was like an extra incentive.
The little bumps along the way
“Tough times don’t last but tough people do.” A.C. Green
As I’ve mentioned, the run was not completely pain-free. It was a great one but I have to say that I also struggled, although luckily, on not so serious matters. At several points during the race, I had to break my stride because of a lot of things. Of course there is always the factor of getting tired after some time and that had caused me to walk some parts of the race, especially after the 21stkilometer. And then at one point, I had sidestitch. Luckily though, it did not last. Neither did it get any worse. Thanks to what I learned from some running clinics, proper breathing can do some magic. I also thought at one point that I was feeling some pain on my knees – right where my old injuries are. And it had to happen within the first ten kilometers. I thought that was the end of it already but for some reason, it went away. Perhaps it was just my mind worrying so much to the point of panic. At one point also, I thought I had to stop for some meds for hyper-acidity, which I expected because of my experience with the energy drink that was served during the run. But perhaps I was just hungry because after two bananas at the next station, by stomach settled down and I did not have to take the meds. I resumed my pace but I was really alarmed that I had to slow down a bit. Still at one point, after 28 kms, I realized I might have worn the wrong underwear. I was feeling some pain down there because of chaffing. It was not really that bad but when you feel that stinging sensation every other step, it becomes annoying. Still at one point, sometime in the last five kilometers, my thighs started to feel tight. I thought I was feeling the beginnings of muscle cramps. For a while I debated with myself whether to keep pushing because anyway I only had around five kilometers left or to slow down if only to avoid finishing with a limp. In the end, I decided to go on a run-walk combo and it worked because I was still able to run the last two kilometers and actually finished the race running (unlike some other runs in the past where I approached the finish line with a little limp because of some pain on several parts of my legs).
Photo by Lestsky Photography
Before I could be accused of making up excuses, I want to make it clear that I am not and I do not have to make excuses. I am happy with my results and making excuses for nothing would only spoil the fun. I cannot really say that I could have done better had I not ‘suffered’ from these pains. No, that is not my point in enumerating them. The point is that these things either happen inevitably or they can be avoided totally. Either ways, these “down times” are part of the whole experience. To an extent, they are part of the lessons we learn as we continue to develop ourselves in the sport.
Truth is, because of these small problems along the way, I kept ‘panicking’ and that made me check myself from time to time. Yes, I was pushing hard enough to make sure I am within (or even doing better than) my planned pace but every time I feel something out of the ordinary, I would assess myself if I was still capable of pushing harder. In other words, I wanted to make sure that I was having fun – that I don’t end up suffering from more serious pains when I cross the finish line. I wanted to make sure that at the finish line, I would still have enough energy because I knew that a lot of friends will be there and being in pain while in the company of probably the most energetic group is not what I picture myself to be in.
The driving forces on the road
“We can’t all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.”- Will Rogers
Another reason I really wanted to avoid the serious pains at the end is the fact that this run is meant to be fun because of the very reason it was organized. It may sound cliché but thinking of the recipients of the activity also made me want to make sure I enjoy it as much as I could. I was imagining myself being watched by those kids and if they see me wincing in pain if only to bring them joy, would they enjoy their gift as much? I know my involvement is just a drop in an ocean of offerings but if you are tired after running a couple of hours, your thoughts start to wander and look for some kind of motivations. During this run, that was my other driving force.
On the other hand, I also had to keep going because I was racing with myself to beat the medal cut off. As if running a full marathon was not challenge enough, Milo posed another one my imposing cut off times. (The qualifying cut off time was already out of the picture even before I started the run so I had to be content with the medal cut off.) Beating that medal cut off was an additional incentive that was worth looking forward to. At least that’s what I was thinking while on the run.
Of course, I also cannot discount the boosting effect of the cheers and encouragements from other runners and spectators who were there to support their friends. If I have to mention some, I’d start with the ever-supportive Ok-Ok Running Family. Ours is a relationship that extends beyond our common passion for running. We are already like brothers and sisters who just happen to live separately. And just as biological siblings would do, we encourage each other for the better and our support for each other cannot be taken for granted. Thanks very much.
Then there is A Runner’s Circle. Their presence during the run was like a breath of fresh air. Honestly, I felt like a kid making his daddy proud as I ran past Dad Raul and his family cheering for the runners. The short chat with Perkins and Ria at the finish line was just as refreshing. Nothing beats the feeling of sharing your thoughts right after the experience and while you still seem to be in Cloud 9.
Photo by Jesselyn Morales
The Running Photographers and other volunteer photographers who patiently endured the rain just to take photos and cheer on the runners is another thing I have to be thankful for.
Thanks also to the other running groups who, just like the volunteer photographers, were there to provide support for the runners. I took advantage of that, I have to say. I’m sure I have seen Snails cheering. Then I think I’ve seen cheerers from Eat, Pray, Run. I even think one of them handed me a banana while another one offered massage. Then I think I saw a group from Hypersports. They may think they were just enjoying – having a time of their lives – but their presence was a great boost to many of the runners, me included.
Still there are others that I should be thanking but I have to offer my apologies for not being able to name all of them. You know when you run that long, at some point you become so engrossed in what you’re doing that you fail to notice a lot of the people who, in their own little ways, have offered you great help. That is my excuse but from the bottom of my heart, I am thankful.
A satisfied runner
“I loved the freedom of running, the fresh air and feeling that the only person I’m competing with is me”- Wilma Rudolph
Truly, I may have gone to the Milo Marathon with a little apprehension but I went home fully satisfied of the results – now my PR for a marathon and I can only hope in I’d be able to match or do better in my next target run. Do I wish I should have done better? To an extent, yes, because I dream of joining the Finals. But I am fully aware of what I am capable of and at this point, I am definitely not cut for it. Otherwise, I would not change anything. But I will take note of the experience for when I run another marathon again, I would be wiser and more prepared. For now, my expectations just fell into place perfectly and as I said, I could not be happier.
A million thanks to Milo for bringing this experience to more runners. By making it cheaper for us, you are in a way making a statement – that a running event does not have to be expensive to be enjoyed. The fact that you are also doing this for charity makes it even more memorable. Thank you very much for the experience and may you continue to share your blessings to the needy. May you continue to inspire more people.
Although the rightmost part of the table says that I am not qualified for the National Finals because of my time, I am still proud of how I finished. If it comes down to numbers, apparently I am 501st among 1,619 finishers beating the 6-hour cut off.
[P.S. I originally wanted to talk about the run itself but I can only say one thing – it was excellent. I am sure there are some people who would not agree – just there would always be runners who complain on anything – but as far as I am concerned, it’s still one of the most organized runs I ever participated in.]
Photo credits: Thanks to Running Photographers, Pinoy Fitness, A Runner’s Circle, Team USB, Sigue Correr Runners, Team JRunning, Photovendo and other photographers who endured the rain to take photos.