Monday, February 13, 2012

Road to 42.2 Kilometers

It has been a year since my mind is toying the idea of finally running a marathon. For almost two years, I invested on training hours just to be able to finish a marathon one day. Unfortunately, we can only run the distance that our training can afford. Work and other priorities did not go well with my time line.

Early Plans
Enjoying the drizzle after a
training in Westborough, MA
I originally targeted the Quezon City International Marathon 2011 to be my marathon debut. However, my stay abroad introduced a lot of distractions. Having to stay in Massachusetts for almost 6 months had its pros and cons. I love the location where I stayed. The area was blessed with a number of hills for workout and with plenty of fresh air. The later part of spring and early part of fall  proved to be chilly yet great for afternoon runs. The heat of summer was made for endurance training. But some weekend adventures and misadventures, as well as weekday unplanned roaming made it hard for me to follow my self-made training plan. When it was time to go home, I was not ready for any long races. I did get a few months of good training outside the Philippines but not enough to make my planned December marathon debut a reality.

Back to Zero
October was the start of the decline. Having managed only a total of 15KM for the month, I was so eager to go back, thinking I may still be able to do the 42 on December. But November was also worthless, still adjusting again to the environment , I managed to put up only a disappointing 27km for the month. By December, I really need to up my mileage. I was not concern about the intensity of the run, I was more concern of the quantity. So there was me, slowly and patiently, building my base once again hoping that I would not falter.

The Condura Skyway Marathon
Condura Skyway Marathon 2012
I always had problems getting a decent long run during weekends. As part of my effective, yet expensive strategy , I really really need to join a running event to force myself to do the long run. My mind was focused on  The Bull Runner Dream Marathon 2012  come March. Out of nowhere I said to myself I am going to run 42.2Km on the skyway next year as part of my training for TBRDM. I will not race nor bust my lungs, since it will be my first marathon , I will enjoy each kilometer of the skyway.  December and January became a busier month and I have to say, it was all worth it.

Race Day

Getting  ready for the race day.
Unlike most of the racing events here in the country, the Condura Skyway Marathon 2012 is unique. Not only that it is the only event that let runners experience running in the skyway, this year, it is the first marathon event in the country that starts at exactly 12 in the midnight.  I felt I was at the disadvantage, having only slept for 2 hrs in the morning, I had to go to the venue early to make sure I will not get lost. After following some "runner looking" dudes wearing singlets and ready to run  after alighting in Alabang, I was already at the venue before 10PM! Early bird as I am , I had the chance to have another overpriced tapa king dinner to fuel my body.  Finally, after two hours of waiting and excitement, the race begun with lots of bells and whistles. Fireworks filling the dark night and the noise from the crowd pumping up every running soul who dared to brave the skyway!

KM0 - KM10
Run conservatively was my battle cry. I wanted to enjoy my first marathon. I started relaxed, I was running at an easy pace between 7-8mpk. The skyway was rather wide for the 42K'ers, I had the freedom to move from one lane to the other without the fear of bumping or cutting other runners. Everyone was all energetic. The first 10K went down the drain with no pain, injury or feeling of exhaustion.

KM11 - KM20
Feeling the hills on the skyway
Still going strong and composed, I continued on my planned pace. As I cruised my way to the ups and downs of what they referred to as the "back of the dragon", exhaustion came creeping in every kilometer and before I knew it, my average pace has dropped and finished  the next lap almost 5 minutes slower than the first!

KM21 - KM30
I feel refreshed and full after the banana station on the 20th KM, thus, I was confident that I would get through the next 10KM with the same energy and strength. For the first 2-3KM I was running consistently, then the steep decline came. I became addicted to walk breaks , even Galloway would not be happy with the rate I was doing it :P. Even the energy gel that I took did not help. I tried conditioning my mind to keep running but my legs wont allow it, so I gave in to what it wants and I was literally walking in the park! I completed the 3rd lap 17minutes slower that the first one.

KM31 - KM40
Burned yet cold, I felt so tired running, or shall I say walking, the last ten kilometers. But i have continue what I started. So I took  the salt stick that I brought to recharge the lost electrolytes after almost  4 hours of running. I was 12KM away from completing my first marathon, I will have to gather my self up and start pushing again. Then I saw the dreaded 32KM marker. After all the reading that I have, I was waiting to hit the wall. Fortunately, I did not. Ironically, I felt even stronger knowing I have only 10KM left. Gradually, I felt the strength is coming back, the desire to finish strong is playing in my head. Second wind effect as they say it. I regained my enthusiasm , I minimized the walk breaks and tried an acceptable Galloway method for the first time .  I took my second energy gel near the 37th KM mark and hoped that it would fuel me for the last 5KM of the race. As I saw the 40th KM, my excitement grew larger and I desired to run stronger. 

Last 2.2KM
It's just a few kilometers separating me from the finish line and the desire to push myself faster keeps teasing me. I tried increasing my pace, hoping to do make the 5:30 mark. My legs has been so cooperative all throughout the race, I cant see a reason to falter now, but as i run harder, my body tried to signal me something. Cramps! My experience during the 2011 Half Marathon Condura Run is still fresh in my mind, I dont want it to happen again. So I slowed down a bit and glance at my watch, the distance is nearing the 42.2K mark and yet Im still in the skyway on the ramp going down. I know where the finish line is and it is not located just after the ramp, my plan to do the 5:30 slipped away. The sight of people cheering every runner gave me chills, at last , I could see the end of the race. I run harder, I know I have to finish strong. Fifty meters away, my right calf cramped! I could not stop now, so I shut my mind from the pain and just kept on running. In a few seconds it was done, there I was walking into the crowd loud and proud. That day, I did not just finished my first marathon, I pushed myself to the limit and ran the longest distance so far in my life.

Post Race
Post race events was never boring for Condura. After getting my "ga-platitong"  medal and some freebies, I feasted on free Coors Light Beer and on the free ice cream sticks. I wandered around the Condura Village, met some friends and finally joined  the Six:30 Barneys for the the post race breakfast. What better way to end my quest for my very first marathon.

"I find solitude in running. While others ran in groups during that day, I chose to ran alone. I wanted to savor the whole 42.2KM stretch to be with myself and reconnect with my soul. "

After Thoughts.

Running a marathon is not only a test of endurance, it is also a test of mental toughness.  We gain a lot of lessons during training but we have to prepare for the worst during the race day. We do not need to be an athlete to finish a marathon, we just need to have the desire and the discipline to prepare , train and to finish the race. However, completing a marathon should not be the end of what you greatly started, continue to be physically active and live fit and healthy. I'm still training for The Bull Runner Dream Marathon this March where I plan to improve my finish time. I plan to go back to sweet and short races and eventually do an ultra marathon before this year ends. For me, Condura Skyway Marathon 2012 is just the start.

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