A Celebration of Life (Milo Race Account)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I have sentimental attachment to Milo races. My first ever road race was a Milo 5K. However, I have mixed feelings about joining the Milo 10K on Sunday. For one, it is inconvenient for me to troop to Greenhills to register. Second, none of my regular running buddies are interested in joining. One group was even trying to entice me to join them in Clark up to the night before the race. I gave my caller friend the tentative answer that I would join the Milo 10K. Perhaps an online acquaintance was right, here was a chance to unofficially improve my 10K PR - if I manage to wake up for this.

In any case, the night before the race I scouted Boni High Street for something green I can wear to blend in with the Milo crowd (Forgive me, Milo and Mr. Biscocho, but I would be running as bandit this time. I promise to bring my own water and purchase a big can of Milo after the race). As I strolled on the grass I realized that the heel pain I have been puzzling over is plantar fasciitis, caused either by my excess weight, bad foot strike or anatomical imperfection. For a moment I was disheartened: there goes my quest for better PR and breaking the 60-minute barrier. Good thing the optimist in me prevailed and I end up going home with a green singlet and a resolve to rise above my imperfect feet.

Suddenly, I was excited about the race. Racing for a better PR was replaced by a more noble calling. It would be a celebratory run for me - a thanksgiving for being shown answers to issues bugging me, and for being granted a chance to transcend my physical liabilities.

Witnessing a Marathon. I set the alarm at 4am, got off the bed at 4:20, and was driving off by 5am. I had to hurry - crowds would be massive and parking would be a nightmare. I was a little annoyed that I was stopped before Gil Puyat. It was 5:20am already. Don't the cops know I have a race to run? Well, the cops were fully aware, but your race aspiration was small fry compared to those marathoners passing by. Hey, wasn't that Buenavista I saw across my windshield? Oh my God I was actually witnessing the Marathon finals!

Bloggers galore. Finally the cops allowed me to enter Gil Puyat and see the rest of the marathoners. I was trying to look for Vener (run unlimited) whom I know was running his 3rd marathon, but it was still dark and Vener has the built of most elite runners out there. He can be anyone among them. Then I saw a tall white man. Go Philip!!!! I shouted from my rolled down window. I hope you heard me - it is not often that I shout out to people. I remember reading your intention to run the marathon just last night. Mate, you were doing well at that Gil Puyat stretch before SLEX - halimaw you was probably just 5-7 minutes behind Buenavista if my eyes and calculation did not fail me. Then I saw other familiar faces; I thought they belong to the Hardcore group of Bald Runner. True enough, BR was there looking strong. There was also this guy I saw last week after the Animo run still doing rounds in MOA hours after the running the 10K. I thought he was crazy running in that hot sun, until I realized I was also biking in the same hot sun after my own 10K. So that's the level of training/craziness required for a marathon. Well, I am crazy myself.

20,000 runners. I heard the announcer say this as I looked for a place to park. Luneta park, Roxas Boulevard and Quirino grandstand were pulsating with life. You can taste the energy in the air. The atmosphere was so festive you couldn't help but be excited yourself. Here's a shot from my camera phone, the sole shot I managed to take (Note to self: If you are going to run with a phone, make sure it's fully charged.)

This was just half of the 10K crowd; the 3K/5K crowd was more!

Into this crowd I slipped myself. There was no space to warm up nor stretch but I never complained. I was so high just like the rest. Alfredo Lim gave the race signal and the 10K crowd marched on excitedly. People all around me were joking and hamming for the TV camera. Baduy as it may sound, I also did.
It was a celebratory run, and celebrate I did.

The crowd eventually settled and I found myself daydreaming again for the first 2 kilometers. I was craning my neck towards the bay, where for three years I would spend my weekends (and sometimes weekdays!) with teammates preparing for dragonboat regattas. Sadly I didn't see any boat. Maybe it was still early. Maybe they were also in the race. Most of my mates have assumed higher responsibilities in the sport or moved on to other sports, but I would love to row once more with the few that remain or with the new faces. Pwede bang once-a-week leisure rower na lang ako, Captain?

More familiar faces. As I was in no pressure to beat a PR, I had an easy run and had a blast observing people. White guy with baby in stroller was there again. A lady came with her lab in costume, and finally I kept my promise to greet both the dog and its owner. Zorro the cool tramp was in costume and clad in shoes probably given by Bald Runner. Running Fatboy, I actually saw you and your girlfriend, but as I was in my nostalgic mode, I couldn't remember your name! Blurting out "Fatboy" did not seem nice. Zixednats, I also saw you after your turn and recognize you from your Takbo.ph visor and forum avatar, but I also couldn't remember your name! All I could recall was your forum handle, which was really hard to shout out. There was a familiar Filipina-Chinese girl whose face I probably see in blogs. For a moment I thought it was Janine+ but I was not certain. There was also a Filipino-Chinese guy who I also usually see in races. Maybe next time I should introduce myself.

Smooth roads and flyovers. I really liked the smooth asphalt lanes of Roxas boulevard. I approached the flyover with childlike anticipation. For some reason I like running over flyovers. You get that Superman feeling that you are soaring over the metropolis. There was only one now but I would have my fill in the Yakult race.

How did I fare? For someone looking only to celebrate one's ability to run against pain and rise over his physical imperfection, I actually did well. I have a new 10K PR now at 1:06:58 (ting, ting, ting!). It was still far from my year-end goal of 1:00:00, but it was still better than my 1:07:44 a week ago. The irony in it was that I was not in race mode. My first 2K was a stroll in the park and memory lane. Kilometers 3-5 were easy runs. I actually fought the temptation to race kilometers 6-8. I would repeat the mantra: You would have another time to chase after PR and year-end goal.That day will come in a manner grander than your wanderlust mind can conjure. Today you are here to teach your left foot to run with strength, but without pain.

The temptation got even wilder in the last 2 kilometers. I would hear a motorcycle announcing the passage of a 3rd place marathon contender, and suddenly I would have the urge to ran faster, figuratively draft by him and be pulled by his power till the finish. In the excitement of the impending marathon finish I accidentally glanced at my watch. This watch that I was intentionally avoiding was telling me that I could still hit 1hr dream if I just bolt out and try. Then I would hear my body's mute cry of pain. The tell-tale sign began at the back of the knees. Something felt like it was being pulled very mildly. I might not feel pain in my heels yet because of the shoe cushioning, but I know it could haunt me later. I could ignore the signs and take my shot at glory, but I remembered the mantra: Run strongly without pain.

The inner voice continued: If your really want to run the marathon someday, you have to take this mantra to heart. Remember, the small aches you feel at 10K will be knife stabs at kilometer 35. Listen to your body and run without pain. True marathon victory does not lie in getting a good time and being knocked dead days after . That sad fate belongs only to the original messenger-runner of Marathon, Greece. Glory lies in finishing honorably and living to tell everyone about the great triumph of the human spirit.

As I write this blog I remembered my left foot. Gingerly I reached for the heel and waited for that "Please don't touch me there" yelp. Plantar fasciitis is gone. I have a new PR. God is good.


The foreign runner December 2, 2008 at 6:50 AM  

We are holding our breaths for your sub 1hr as it sweems closer than you think. Maybe one more race. Keep us up to date and God bless

Rico Villanueva December 2, 2008 at 10:55 AM  

Hey, don't hold your breath too long, you may asphyxiate :-) I want it to happen when I least expect it. Sports drinks on me if it happens.

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