It Happened at Km18

Monday, November 17, 2008

(The New Balance Chronicles)

16 November 2008. It was our third year anniversary. Running and I have been together since 2003, but we have only celebrated our anniversary twice - in 2004 and 2005, both of which were disasters. Both times I was late, unprepared and distracted. We had been estranged since then. I tried to woo Running again this August 2008. Admittedly, I did it for selfish reason, but I genuinely fell for her last October.

They say third time is a charm so I intended to celebrate our 3rd anniversary in a big way this November. It had only been three months since we got back together, but I really wanted to profess my love for her in a grand way. With a gulp of courage, shower of prayer and pledge to pull out all the stops, I signed us up both for the New Balance Powerrace in Clark Field, Pampanga. For once I made a training plan - ambitious but not for the faint of heart. I hit the gym as well as the roads. Through a friend, I made reservation for us in the Redwood Villas, a 5-minute jog away from the parade grounds where we intend to renew our vows and profess our love.

I was all-dressed up for the big day. I came in my week-old NB shoes, new pair of NB shorts and socks, a Fuel belt bought a day before. My new shoes had red accents and my hydration belt was fire-engine red -- subconscious testaments to the ardor I was feeling inside. Hundreds came for this mass declaration of love. For the first 12.5 kms, Running and I enjoyed the company of a new friend. Our friend and us declared we shall follow our respective paces, but we ended up in sync all along. At the 12.5km turnaround, I was ecstatic - I reached the point just few minutes over 1.5 hours, with enough energy to spare. I was doing better than expected and even had a chance to beat my best case scenario of sub-3 hours.

After the turn something strange happened. At kilometers 13-14, I found myself alone. In a race of hundreds, there were no people following me and I was not following anyone - 300-400 meters back and front. Where was my friend? Where was this other fellow runner I also trying to pace with from a measured distance? I knew I slowed down to savor my energy GU reward, but was I that slow? Did I celebrate early and unwittingly slackened my pace? How much time did I waste? For the next 4-5 kms I tried to pick up the pace and catch up with my friend and my alternate (albeit involuntary) pacer.

As I steadily picked up pace and overtook some 20 runners, the magic happened again. At kilometer 18. The magic brought me back to that time in my favorite village where I first realized I was in truly love with Running. The warm yet cool embracing feeling was pleasantly familiar. This recent experience was even better. I needed no external stimuli to feel the love. The background mountains were arresting but they pale in comparison to this feeling I have inside. For the first time, I was looking at and being with Running, and nothing else mattered. My eyes were gazing lovingly at her, not because I know that makes her happy, but because I enjoy doing that myself.

It was this love that inspired me to be the best that I can be. To shoot for the 3 hour dream even if the odds are stacked against us. Two hours and 20 minutes has elapsed and I still have a little over 5kms to cover. The dream required that I run at 10kph for the rest of the race, when I only trained to run at an even pace of 8.5kph, with a 10kph sprint at the end. But try I did. For myself. For Running and our mutual love.

It was the best 5 kilometers of my running life. I was conscious of the distance, the hills and the possibility of bonking out, but I steadily accelerated, fueled by love. Every runner I passed seemed to add to my speed and my desire to reach the finish line. The last kilometer was even more glorious. By then I have already overtaken about 34 runners (net) since my 12.5km turnaround. I do not know how fast I was going, but it certainly was faster than my average pace. The best part was that I was not tired nor running out of my breath. I was exhilirated. My quads were smoothly working, my strides were long and I felt like was I born to run.

The last 500 meters was like a movie in my mind. There were still 7-8 runners ahead of me. Can I still improve my time and rank? I have trained for fast 500-meter finish, can I put it to practice this time? Can I give it my all and not hold back? And one by one I go past them. I recalled a triathlon coach egging me to finish strong in a race before. This time, Coach, I finished strong. Thank you. I timed in at 3:07 in my watch but it was the still the best race I have had so far. Big improvement from my 3:32 years ago.

Thank you, New Balance. This time I am legal finisher with a nice medal to boot.

Happy Anniversary, Running.


Anonymous November 24, 2008 at 8:43 PM  

Congratulations Rico!!! Absolutely NO ROOM FOR REGRETS dear! We ran a great race and did our best. We're doing what we love doing which is running. We're one of the lucky ones who have discovered this fantastic sport, where pain is eventually rewarding.

Marathon na tayo! GO GO GO!

TRIATHLON na tayo pala! Bike, Run, EAT! Attaaaack!!!

Rico Villanueva November 25, 2008 at 12:11 AM  

Hey, nabuhay ka. Akala ko super concentrated ka sa Singapore training. I will most likely do marathon next year. Run with me para may ka-pace uli ako. Next time di na kita papalayuin sa aking tingin. Great race time for you, btw.

JavyO November 26, 2008 at 12:10 PM  

Nice race account! I hit the wall at around the same point, and as you always say...sheer will took me across the finish line!

All the best!

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