Milo Marathon Elimination Race in San Pablo City, Laguna: My Milo Story

Not even tropical storm “Labuyo” (Dujuan) could stop some runners from going to Laguna to join the 33rd Milo Marathon elimination race held last September 6.
Just a few weeks back, while being online over takbo.ph shout box, I was invited by running buddies Joseph (Prince), Gab (Dirty Sanchez), Rod (Red), and Topher (DocT) to join the Milo race. I also learned from the group that Cindy (Drunkenlilly), whom I fondly call Drunken Master, would be running her first 21k. I was hesitant to register then for I already had other plans for that particular weekend. But just couldn’t simply say ‘no’.
Gab, accompanied by Rod, offered to pick me up from my place on Sunday, as I was too afraid to go out in the wee hours of the morning. When we arrived at McDonald’s Buendia EDSA, the meeting place of the group, I saw a pretty good number of takbo.ph runners who were there to either give moral support or run the race.

It was already past 2AM when we left Manila for San Pablo City. Under heavy rains and almost zero visibility, we were slowly passing through South Luzon Expressway. Alas! We arrived in San Pablo with enough time to stretch out and do warm up exercises. The 21k event started at exactly 5:30 AM. I was one of those runners in that event.

It was a difficult run. A long and hilly race and almost endless flat roads ahead combined with uphill and downhill course. So, expecting a good personal record (PR) or just beating a previous Milo time proved to be too ambitious of me. I had to change my goal right there and then–to simply finish the race regardless of time.
On my way to the first turn around point, I saw already the top three runners in the men’s division on their way to the second turn around point. One of them was a former coach of mine, Jesse Ano, who broke the record for the first 100KM race in Metro Manila held last June 28, 2009. Not far behind them were women elite runners. Amazing!

What about us? We were just simply maintaining our pace. It was noticeable how takpo.ph running buddies really supported each other. Gab and Prince paced with Cindy. Cindy, being it her first 21k, was really pacing well. The others like Pojie, Doc T, Gab, Prince, gave me a high five every time I met them along the way. Then at some point, Prince paced with Doc Roy. Doc Roy even had to slow his pace just to take a picture of me running. Thanks Doc Roy!

I was already drenched brought by heavy rains early in the race. My socks and shoes were already wet from the puddles as well as from splashes of water caused by uncaring fast drivers of private cars and jeepneys as they passed me by. Twice tricycle drivers blocked me.

Out of nowhere, I heard this loud sound of thud! thud! thud! from a runner that didn’t wear the right running shoes. Every step he took made me cringed. If only his knees could tell him to stop. My, it was painful to hear. I tried to out sprint him but every time I increased my pace he would also pace with me. All the more I was “tortured” by the thudding sounds he made. Eventually I told him, “If you want to go ahead, then do it.” But he replied, “I was only listening to my hearbeat!” “Huh?” I think I showed him my best poker face. I conceded by slowing my pace and allowed him to go past me. Whew! It suddenly rained so hard.

It was also unnerving to see, on both sides of the road, locals who stared at you as if you were an alien. However, they were friendly ones. A middle-aged person even offered me his umbrella but I just said, “Super thanks!” And he replied, “Super welcome!” There was also this staff in one of the water stations that wished me well. The last cup of water I took from a child I didn’t drink all the way. Instead, I left some water and poured it on his head at the same time saying, “It’s a blessing!” I heard his hearty laugh when I started to run again.

One thing I’ve learned from reading books on running was to ignore people who are shouting “It’s not too far!”You’re almost there!” because for sure you are still far, far from the finish line. There was also this whiner that I just totally ignored.

The last uphill, a 500-meter away from the finish line was a total test of a runner’s endurance. I tried to out sprint the lady runner ahead of me but my legs were too tired.
Every step I made was also painful since I was running on a solid cemented pavement for the past two hours. Hallelluia! Finally! I saw the asphalted road. Reaching the finish line was not that too far anymore. I was so happy to see that I made it to the cut off time. A PR of 40 seconds but still it was good.

The Surprise of My Life!

When I reached the chute, a Milo staff stopped me. He accompanied me to a tent where Milo goodies were handed to finishers. I was about to go but again he blocked my way and instructed me to proceed to another tent. At the other side of the finish line, I saw Pepsi and Carina (Flying Boar), calling my attention and I signaled them to wait. It was in that tent where my identification was verified by the race organizer and my index finger scanned. It was their way of verifying whether a runner has won in other elimination races. It suddenly dawned on me I was one of the top finishers for the women’s division. Wow! Me? A top finisher? 8th place? Really?

Then I was whisked away by another staff who guided me to another tent near the stage where the cheer dancing competition was ongoing. There, inside the tent, I saw the top finishers including Coach Jesse Ano. The staff called our names and made us line up before the awarding ceremony. My name was called first followed by other top finishers. We were asked to raise our medals during the photo op with Milo officials and top executives. I just couldn’t help but smile with this amazing experience.

My first Milo medal, at the back clearly written, San Pablo City,
September 6, 2009, 8th Place, 21KM, Women’s Division

8 + 8 = My 8th place in the 21km Women’s Division and Carina’s 8th place
in the 10km Women’s Division, a double victory indeed!

Savoring victory with takbo.ph running buddies with Milo Sports Events & PR, Andrew Neri and Municipal Mayor of Pagsanjan, Laguna Jeorge “E.R.” Estregan; On his right is Cindy who strongly finished her first 21k; Beside Cindy is Carina who also garnered 8th place for 10k Women’s Division

I did a recovery swim later in the afternoon with swimming buddies Ziggy and Ellen at Makati Aqua Sports Arena also called as MASA. The next day which was declared a holiday, I saw from the paper that even the elite runners failed to hurdle the qualifying time for men’s (1:15.00) and women’s (1:35.00). Top finisher in men’s division said his unfamiliarity with the difficult course cost him a finals slot.

It marked the first time in three years that San Pablo City failed to send a runner to the finals.

Kudos to my takbo.ph running buddies for the support!

Super duper thanks to …

Prince and his friend in San Pablo City who facilitated our registration;

Rodel (Argonaut) for finishing his ever fast 21k and for the photo shoots after the race fellow runners for the high fives and care;

Gab for arranging the transportation to and from;

RJ, Chelly, Pepsi, and Julie for the moral support;

Vic and Rod for the safe and free ride (woot! woot!);

Que and Jinoe for sending the group picture;

fellow runners who finished the 10km distance like Marky, Mac, Carina, and Dhenz;

to all of us–RJ, James, Vic, Pojie, DocT, Mac, Lorie, Julie, Chelly, Gab, Marky, Dhenz (for the photo taken on my way to the finish line), Prince, Carina, Pepsi, Gab, Rod, Doc Roy, and Cindy–who made it;

to other runners who were there to compete inspite of the weather conditions;

most of all to God for keeping us all safe…

Post-race photos at Casa San Pablo my comeback since my last visit in the summer of 2005