it felt like it was my first race all over again. almost exactly a year ago, i joined my first marathon, running a 5km course. the race was Run for Life. they had it again this year but was set the day before the adidas marathon. despite wanting to have joined it, i could not since i had work that day. i recall back then, i could not sleep the entire night owing to nerves. i was awake as early as 3am and was already pacing around the house, half eager, half dreading the race that was about to come.
now, it was like deja vu as i found myself awake, yet again, at 3am for the adidas king of the road 2009, my first 21km run. i had never thought that i would reach this point this quick since my venture into long distance running, considering that not too many months ago, i found myself injured and limping in pain. i had developed sheer shins due to improper running as i trained and thought it was the end for this hobby. thankfully so, stubbornness and muay thai (yes... muay thai and all the kicking and bruises that came with it) helped me in my recovery. after a few months hiatus, i started running 5kms again, and then 10kms. i had also, by now, convinced my brother to take up running as well. now we join races together. the adidas race is his first 10km run.
to say that i was anxious is an understatement. i could not keep myself still the entire night prior, up until the start of the race. the dread of running a course that was more than double the course i last ran (10km eco-dash) kept lingering in my head. studying the race map, i could not imagine i would have enough stamina to finish such a long route considering i would most often than not be already exhausted at around the 9th km. thankfully so, i had a boost of support from a great friend and running bud, outednarnian (ON). this would be ON's 3rd 21km so i could not have found a better running bud. pacing was key and considering i have a propensity to speed up unconsciously, i really needed an "anchor" of some sort just to keep me from going roadrunner! it was also a great comfort to know that you are enduring something with a friend and feed off each other's support.
the countdown began and i gave myself a quiet prayer. i was really worried of getting injured since i really didn't feel i had trained enough. ON was also recovering from an injury himself, so i was concerned for him as well. one minute to go. this is it, there was no turning back. quitters never win. rio dela cruz (marathoner extraordinaire with an afro) turned around and gave both of us a nod. what an ego-boost that was, i thought, considering that i would be DYING in just a few hours from now. last 10 seconds. the runners were now bouncing as you could palpate the euphoria building up. BANG! the gun shot heralded hundreds of runners bolting forward like bunnies towards infinity!
i was running beside ON and tried to run according to his pace. he has ridiculously long legs so it was rather difficult to synchronize to his rhythm. my brontosaurus thighs were complaining that they could not keep up. i later then decided to just run slower than my pace and just keep visual track of him. the advice of this australian runner i met on my last race then came to mind. he said "running should be effortless and automatic, like walking". and so, i "walked". runners soon started zooming past me, young and old, male and female. the spaces between us started to increase and i could feel myself have the urge to run after them, but i did not. we were barely on the first few kilometers, i told myself, there will be more chances to catch up. i could not risk tiring this early. there was still a long way to go. a very LONG way.
a chunk of the course was familiar to me, around the fort, the kalayaan flyover, buendia. i have never ran past reposo though and as i crossed that intersection and found myself inching towards ayala avenue, i could not help but feel ecstatic. i have never RAN this far before. the lead runners were now coming back, headed by this kenyan (who won the QC marathon the week before). he was amazingly fast!!! i soon saw rio run by. again, he gave me a nod as he zoomed past me. ahead, i could see the first u-turn at buendia-osmena intersection. HOLY CRAP was i tired, 1/4 of the race down, and more to go. ON was 3 runners behind me, keeping his pace. i had not realized that i was running ahead of him already since i was looking at the road most of the time. i noticed i would accelerate when i focused on the runners so i had to stop doing that. running back to the fort felt shorter this time and surprisingly, after the U-turn, the fatigue went away. the endorphins kicked in i guess. as i approached the kalayaan flyover, i was greeted by the SEA of oncoming 10km runners. there were soooo many of them! so many, they took up almost the entire width of the course, leaving just a sliver for the 21k runners to course through.
entering back at the fort, we started heading towards the second part of the race, running towards mckinley. i recall ON mentioning how terrible this leg of the race was so i was bracing myself for the worst. he was not mistaken, the mckinley-bayani road leg was hard!!! long flat stretches, uneven roads, and long inclines soon took it's toll on my legs. i started feeling my knees hurt and my ankles began to feel sore. i began to get nervous. i was very much tired by this point as the climb back up the flyover exhausted me. i soon stopped and began to walk. i fought the urge to run after the people running past me again as i did not want to risk having fatigue set in. i knew i still had some juice left, i just needed to find it. i began running again, keeping my rests to my 10-20 second time frames. jog, don't run. don't speed. stay focused, i kept telling myself again and again. ON was no where in sight and i didn't really know where i was already. all my brain was telling me was "forward". soon, i found the lead runners running back. i anticipated the U-turn to come soon but didn't realize how much farther it was still. reaching this U-turn at the end of bayani road was the hardest for me. by this time, my body was on an uproar! my knees buckled a few times and my shoulders were starting to spasm. my ankles felt like i had lead weights strapped around them and my chest felt like it was going to explode. 15kms down.... 6 more to go.... 6 EFFING MORE!!!! ON soon appeared beside me, looking just as exhausted. he urged me not to stop since (apparently) we were doing great time. he exclaimed we could finish the race under 2 hours!!! with that idea in mind, despite the pain, i started picking up my pace again. this was the communal mantra, it seems, as the runners who would see ON and me slow down would urge us forward to finish under 2 hours! blame it on my sense of humor and maybe the endorphins, i kidded back at one of them that i had change with me to take the jeep back. my joke was received with some chuckling, the laughter helping distract me from the pain.
the fort soon appeared on the horizon again and ON and i were now running side by side. a few minutes later, the sound of the cheering crowd at the finish line could be heard. the group of 21km runners soon joined the stream of 5km runners as we all inched towards the finish line. ON and i decided to walk for a bit to gather energy for the final mad dash. we turned the corner at serendra and gave the race all the energy we had left. all the energy i had. all the emotion, all the thoughts, all the frustration, everything i had, i focus to one singular burst. it truly was a mad dash as i felt like a crazed driver running after someone who just clipped my car. the pain i had been feeling disappeared. the fatigue i had carried for almost 2 hours, gone. all i had was the vision of the ticking clock and seeing that i was going to run under it before the hour turns 2!
and i did. my unofficial time, 1 hour and 54 mins.
stopping after i crossed the finish line, i felt my entire body burn. i immediately went under the shower the race provided and cooled myself down. as i felt the cold water run down my clothes and soak into my shoes, i could not help but feel relieved and glad. i had overcome another hurdle. i did what i thought i could never do, and all the bad things i thought would happen didn't happen. getting out under the water spray, i started looking for ON. he crossed a fraction of a second after, his fastest time YET! i found him and we congratulated each other for a fantastic race. what happened after that is a bit blurry now since i think my brain walked out on me, hahahaha. all i can recall clearly was me congratulating him and then turn away to look for my kuya! (sorry ON if i came across as rude!!!! SORRY!!!).
i found my kuya by the stage. he had a great 10km run and was beaming with pride for how good his run went. he asked me how mine was and without batting an eyelash, i said "painful!" :) my dramatic self was on apparently and now needed to be validated. hahahahaha!
thank you LORD!!!! till the next 21km on november 15 for the timex run!!!!