ABS-CBN Foundation, thru its Kapit Bisig Para Sa Ilog Pasig program, seeks to restore the river to its former glory. The registration fees will help finance the foundation’s program to clean the river. And I wanted the river cleaned by supporting the marathon event.
There are 13 bridges that cross the river–Bambang Bridge or Napindan Bridge, C-5 Road Bridge which connects Makati and Pasig cities, Guadalupe Bridge which connects Mandaluyong and Makati Cities, Makati-Mandaluyong Bridge which ends at Makati Avenue, Sevilla Bridge, Lambingan Bridge, Padre Zamora (Pandacan) Bridge, Mabini Bridge (popularly known as Nagtahan Bridge), Ayala Bridge, Quezon Bridge, McArthur Bridge, Jones Bridge, and the Roxas Bridge–where nine of these, if I’m not mistaken, were included in the PIM race route.
I couldn’t sleep well the night before the race and was up at 2:30AM after receiving a text message from fellow marathoner, Totoy, to inform me that he was already on his way to the race venue. Whooa! 2:30AM! It was just barely a four-hour sleep for me. I prayed hard for this race–for the safety of all runners and for me to finish my first 42-kilometer run.
As planned, I informed Coach John, my pacer for this race, that I would be at the venue at around 3:30AM. Coach John, a member of the Philippine Team, won the the gold medal in the 800m-track event, silver medal in the 1500m-track event in the 2001 Malaysia SEA Games. He also broke the national record in the 800m-track event (and still undefeated) in the 2002 Asian Grand Prix held in Manila. He won another gold medal in the 1500m-track event in the 2003 Vietnam SEA Games. He recently joined the 2009 CamSur Ironman 70.3 three-man relay team. Their team won second overall. I was really grateful that he said yes to pace with me.
It was a festive mood at the starting line. A military band performed near the stage while TV cameras were rolling. The host for the event then announced that the 42k marathon would start in five minutes. I was nervous but when I saw Coach John, I knew I would be all right. I was so glad, too, to find familiar faces that of Sir Amado who wished me well, fellow Happy Feet runners, Totoy and Joms, and Takbo.ph running friend, Joseph also known as Prince, and Quennie who was looking for the 42k relay members.
The race started right on time. It was a good and steady pace for Coach John and me. He told me to maintain that pace. But within the 10km run, I started to get uncomfortable, as I needed a kidney break.
As we reached Nagtahan Bridge, this was where I felt cold and got chill bumps. It was a difficult uphill run for me. I was still running OK but upon reaching km19 that was where I felt muscle cramps building in my right calf. So stopping in every water station was my only walk break then off I ran again. I felt another nagging pain at the right side portion of my leg at km22, along EDSA in front of Robinson’s Pioneer after. It was also in that area where I saw Sam, the Running Ninja, struggling a leg pain. Then a runner stopped by to offer both of us a liquid Salonpas. I was so relieved by it. Then off we ran again.
The sun was up already as we were turning right at Pioneer Street on our way to Pasig Avenue . Coach John told me that it would be a good downhill run near Ultra area. It was where I regained a bit the minutes, which i missed when I stopped and walked a bit to relieve my leg cramps. While running in that area, a runner offered both of us a piece of the bananas he brought with him. I tried to eat a little but just gave the rest to Coach. As we got nearer to C-5 Bridge, I saw another uphill run for us. But before I got there, I took another walk. The sun was hot. Coach urged me to run again. It was where I saw Prince slowly running and the Team Logan attempted to talk to me.
As we reached Market! Market! area, I felt the unbearable heat slowly burning my skin. Coach even commented that I was turning red but I said I still felt OK. It was a pure relief to finally see another water station that I doused myself with water and pulled my socks down as my legs were beginning to feel the heat too.
From a distance, I saw the looming Buendia-Kalayaan flyover. It was a menacing sight because it was too hot. I had no recourse but to run it slowly. Carol a.k.a. Twinkletoe ran with me and asked if I still felt OK. All I could do was nod and just continued running. I was oblivious to the people running with me. What I felt then was the heaviness of each step I made.
Running the flyover was pure agony. It was too hot, and you knew what I was talking about. That area was an open space. There was a helicopter hovering above us, may be, awaiting for any of the runners to collapse. I was praying all along that I wouldn’t suffer any heat stroke while running the flyover. I walked again. I remembered Mon calling my name. I tried to run with him but my strength was slowly ebbing away. But no, I was still far. Every time I stopped and walked, Coach didn’t leave me.
It was pure delight to see another water station as we were running down the flyover. “Almost there at km 32,” my silent thought. Thank God! But I was still way too far from the finish line. We ran slowly again until we’re almost Makati Avenue. Ahead, I saw more people waiting. As we got nearer, it was then I realized that most of them are my running buddies, the Takbo.ph group. I smiled when I saw one of them opened a poster with my name on it and I also saw cheer pom poms held not by any of the ladies but by Luis popularly known as Gingerbread Report. There was a loud cheer! Again, I couldn’t muster to greet nor approach any of them as I smelled so badly and I knew I looked pretty bad.
I did get another cup of water then off I ran slowly again. Somewhere along Buendia, between km34 and km36, this was when another muscle cramps happened again. I could no longer make another step nor could run slowly. It was agonizingly painful.
Surprisingly, Gail, a fellow runner who happened to be a therapist, offered to help and had my leg stretched. It was gone! Off I ran again. But just a few meters away from where I stopped, another muscle cramps happened in my right calf and it was slowly creeping up to my butt. Rodel a.k.a. Argonautquest, who was strongly running, made a short stop to ask if I was OK, and I couldn’t remember what my response was to him.
I was advised by Gail to lie down on the sidewalk so she could stretch both of my legs. With me were Coach, Gail, Pepsi and Mark who took turns to give me water and Gatorade. It was while I was being tended that I almost cried because DNF (did not finish) was playing in my mind already. But I got hold of myself and stopped entertaining that thought. If these people with me believed in me, I had to believe in myself, too.
As the pain was slowly ebbing away, I stood up and felt I could run again. I kept on saying sorry to Coach for not making it with our target time. But Coach told me not to worry. He assured me that this was my first full marathon. I asked if we had still time to beat the cut off time, all he said was if I didn’t walk, we could still nail it. But with my condition, I accepted not defeat but the will to reach the finish line no matter what.
Off we ran slowly until we reached south Super Highway, crossed it, running slowly still and then I stopped running and started to walk again. The heat was really burning my head and back, all over my body. It was then that I thought of these runners with me, who unselfishly paced with me, exposed under the heat of the sun, who sacrificed their time and effort, I just couldn’t let them down. So, I ran again aiming to reach the Buendia U-turn slot going right to Roxas Boulevard.
From then on, was my longest walk in a race. I walked and talked with Coach. The three runners were also walking behind me. Ahead of me were two or three marathoners who were slowly running or walking. Then as we were approaching Pedro Gil, a group of Polo triathletes were also slowly walking. Wooah! Even them surrendered to the heat!
It was when reaching T.M. Kalaw that we started to run slowly again. They were urging me for a strong finish. It was along Luneta where I heard Lorie a.k.a. Silverprex and her sister cheering on me. Few more meters, almost there … the finish line … with clock ticking … accompanied by Coach John, Gail, Mark, and Pepsi … saw Vener a.k.a. Run Unlimited on the left side … to the shouts and cheers of Takbo.ph friends … I’ve finished the race with a time of 5:25.30, with seconds ticking slowly … thank you, God! It was Mr. Rudy Biscocho, PIM Race Director, who handed me a cup of water and greeted me with a loud congratulations.