Pacing UNICEF Celebrity Advocate Anne Curtis on Her Half Marathon Debut

First came the invite from Queenie of Takbo.ph requesting me to sing the national anthem, but for some reason I begged off. I didn’t feel great or feeling I was all out of my element. Thanks, Queenie for the vote of confidence, I appreciate it.

Then next came another invite from my friend Marga, who works for UNICEF, asking if I were willing to pace celebrity Anne Curtis alongside with other pacers.  The marching orders—to pace Anne on a very discreet manner and run just behind her like plainclothes security personnel.  Anne doesn’t like to have any guards and wants to run just like anyone else.   My answer was a noncommittal, “I’ll try.”  Marga was persistent (in a nice way) in her request that I laughingly told her, “Those two, Anne and Noelle, are fast!”  Finally, I did answer, “Yeah, I think I can.”  Silently I said to myself, “If within the 2:30 finish time.”  Crossing my fingers.

We had about 15 minutes before gun start.   Anne, I observed, was all smiles, excited and at the same perhaps a little nervous. Understandable.  It was her first half marathon after all.   Having a huge number of followers in her Twitter account, I couldn’t help but feel proud of her since she’s using her influence for a great cause.  Unknown to many,  Anne organized this fun run and mobilized her network of friends and sponsors in cooperation with UNICEF.  She should get some credit for  trying to make a difference in the lives of young children.  By the way, it was a sold out running event.

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Photos by Noriel of Running Photographers

With five more minutes left before gun start, Anne, accompanied by her boyfriend Erwan, posed for the cameras at the starting line.  Her back was to us; we (fellow pacers Noelle aka Kikay Runner and Gio) were standing directly across from the flashbulbs and fans at the back slowly lined up, inching one by one at the frontline, hoping to get a photo op with the TV superstar.

At first I wondered, but soon discovered that “guarding”  Anne is not as easy a job as I might have thought considering the number of people who recognized her.  But she was so nice, very friendly with them and generous to her fans especially when they asked for a photo with her.

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Photo by Noriel of Running Photographers

I asked Noelle if there was any game plan and the reply was to just follow Anne’s lead.  The countdown officially began and off we went.   We started off at a (very) fast pace and I was able to run in the pack only until Macapagal Boulevard.  I had no recourse but to pull back and stop to catch my breath.  I could feel my heart was pounding louder than all the feet pounding the pavement. I was about to puke, but thank God, it didn’t happen.  Quickly, I shouted to Noelle to go ahead without me and try to catch up. Knowing Noelle’s capability as an athlete, I knew Anne was in good company.

Rested for a few minutes and was back running again towards CCP grounds, overtaking a good number of runners until I reached Roxas Boulevard area.  It was at Roxas Boulevard where I saw coach Rio dela Cruz running head to head with Kenyan Chirchir. Coach Rio won second place.  I believe he was able to redeem himself in this event after his-not-so-good performance (his own assessment) from his last half marathon race due to cramps. Running the 21K was his tune-up race prior to running the New York Marathon next month.

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A few meters from the first turnaround point at KM00 (Luneta Park), I realized I wasn’t  too far from the pack when I saw them on their way back.  I  was happy about it.  Noelle did her job and the other pacer pretty well.  I saw the pack again after the second turnaround point near a mall in Baclaran.  Again, I was glad to know that I was not too far from them considering I had to stop along the way to tie my shoes a couple of times and greet friends who were too happy either as marshals or racers. 

I’m a moderate-pace runner.  Meaning, I run slowly until I could establish my own pace and settle with it.  I never was a positive split racer.  A positive split is when you run the second half of your race slower than the first half.

For most  of my races, I tend to even or negative split.  This is the reason why my pace and Anne’s were not in sync.  And the wisest thing to do is to pull back.  There’s nothing wrong with it.   Based from experience, it’s better to know when to start the final kick (last two or three kilometers) and reach the finish line with “dignity” intact.

Though I wasn’t in the pack, but I was there from start to finish, just a few meters away from them just tailing behind.  To have finished in 2:35.31 (in hours, unofficial) was a bonus in itself given that I made some stops along the way.  My best 21K time was only 2:10 (2009).  This is my 37th half marathon and my seventh this year (if I remember right).

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Was I disappointed as a pacer?   No, I wasn’t.  For a good number of reasons.  First, I never doubted Anne’s capability to finish the race.  She prepared and trained for it.   Second, whether Noelle and I were there or not as pacers, Anne actually didn’t need us. She’s surrounded with supportive friends and family who are also into sports.  Third, she’s a disciplined running enthusiast, very clear with her goal and focused.  Did you know that she sometimes trains incognito around Ayala Triangle?   If she was able to organize this running event, I didn’t see any reason why she couldn’t achieve her goals.

That said, congratulations Anne Curtis on your strong finish! More finisher’s medals to follow and more distances to conquer!  

Super duper thanks to Queenie for facilitating my race kit, race director Doc Lyndon of Leadpack for the cheers along the route and at the finish line, Ivan Patrick of FRD for your enthusiasm to help as volunteer marshal, Team Boring’s Rod, Vic and Jet for the cheers, and Marga and Noelle for the support.  It was good to see running friends: Coco aka Unyo, Val “the troll”, Jef, Maya, Jay among others.  Congratulations to UNICEF, Takbo.ph, volunteers, the Organizing Team, finishers and winners including the “heroes” of this running event.