Big Slow Runner and The Little Race That Could

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

15 March 2009

Run For Their Lives

I was not supposed to join this race. I was still recovering from injury. The doctor said it was muscle strain. For me it is more like DOMS: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. I feel good during a run and suffer after. The lag in pain is just one day actually; what is delayed is recovery from such soreness. I would tend to be sore for days!

Last March 8, my legs felt good enough to do a 15km LSD after two weeks of rest. I was so thankful and relieved I could run again, but my pace was super slow even for an LSD. I chugged along at almost 10min/km or 6kph. Why, I even jogged faster years before when I was just starting. I was not back to square one - I went past zero to go into the negative zone. If I intend to finish the 21K within cut-off time of 3.5 hrs, I must move at least 9:30min/km.

On March 15 I originally intended to do another LSD - probably 12-15kms. I knew there would be a race in Global City, but I thought I should shun the racers or I might get carried away, speed up and aggravate my injury. It was only Friday that I finally decided to register, so at least I would have the moral right to get water when I do my training run, but registration was already closed in Glorietta at noon time. I went to Powerplant night time to register, but all bibs had been reserved. Good thing I hanged around a while; store people called me to say somebody backed out. And so I did manage to register. Good sign. But even then I wasn't confident I could run. It took a remark from a fellow runner/gym rat to finally make up my mind. The conversation went something like this: Are you doing the race this Sunday? Not sure, I am still injured. Just go, bro. It is for charity. Boom it hit me! It was not enough I shelled out the registration fee. I must actually run for their lives.

Run the 10K I did. I arrived during the countdown for the 10K but my Garmin 305 took forever to get satellite reception. On the first race event I deliberately did away with my extraneous digital watch, my Garmin was teasing me. Eventually it found the satellite and I ran after the 3K runners. The 10K runners were already lost in space.

Several instances of being late and bouts of race-end cramps due to overzealous starts taught me well not to run after anyone. So I jogged along with first timers, mom-and-dad in matching cotton jogging pants and shirts, parents with kids in tow, and employees in corporate t-shirts persuaded to join their first run. That time I was not actually apprehensive about catching up. I was worried if I could improve my pace and if the new pair of shoes I bought and tried just the night before could save me, i.e. help me achieve and sustain the target pace.

My starting pace was a pathetic 12min/km. Two hundred meters into the run I improved to about 11min/km. God help me. I needed to be able to run below 9:30min/km. Ironically even at that slow pace I was still overtaking a few newbie runners. One kilometer into the run I finally accelerated to 9min/km. I relaxed a bit and began to enjoy the scenery. One late triathlete zoomed past me. I noticed his foot landing and pronation. It was far from perfect but he was fast just the same. There is hope for imperfect people like me. Two kilometers into the run a father gleefully exclaimed to his tots, Hey kids it's already 2kms. Just a kilometer more. Pose by the km marker so I can get your picture. I also saw a 6 or 7-year old boy running with his father. Boy that kid has excellent running form. Eventually the boy and his father moved out of my sight, while the rest of the 3k runners made their way to the finish line. I trudged ahead towards the handful of 10K runners left behind.

For the first time in many race events, my shins were not hurting in the first 2kms. The new structured cushioning shoes seemed to be doing their magic. I was happy to see my pace hovering around 8:30min/km. Now if only I could sustain this pace. One slow runner at a time, I was overtaking people. I was getting excited. I was more thrilled when I reached Lawton Avenue and saw the fast runners on their way back. I always get exhilirated watching these fast runners. The fast lady runners in pink tutus brought a smile in my face. Thank you Carpo sisters. I was so inspired and amused I didn't realize I was actually in 6-6:30min/km zone. That was my pre-injury pace, something achingly unreachable just a few weeks ago. At km 4.5 I saw this photo of a girl with the caption "Thank You for the Gift of Life". In true Magic 89.9 Boys Night Out fashion, I remarked, No, THANK you. Thank you for giving me back my running life.

Except for my momentary surprise and distraction when the route turned left to McKinley hills instead of the published route further into Lawton avenue, I thoroughly enjoyed the run inside the posh new village. It was my first time to venture and run into some parts of the village, specifically the one passing through the Accenture building. I settled into the 8-8:30/km pace thinking I should not push myself too much at this point. It was enough that I could run fast enough to legitimately finish the Condura 21K. Still, I managed to overtake a few more runners. To avoid aggravating my injury, I slowed down on downhills and landed more heavily on my stronger right leg. I made up for the slower pace by running faster on uphills. However, on the steep uphill way back to Lawton Avenue, I purposedly walked instead of run. I would save time that way I reasoned out. True enough I traversed that uphill faster and even overtook one runner.

The way back to the finish line was simply about testing how much faster I can go while very cautiously preventing myself from straining my legs. The last 2 kms I was so tempted to pick up speed and sprint, but I said there would be better days for that. Just be grateful you could run faster now than your pathetic 10min/km LSD the week before.

Overall I averaged 7:59min/km for that 10km run. My personal time was 1:19:54; official time was 1:21:07. I was ahead of 46 others. A miracle run. Tremendous improvement from last week's dismal performance. The best part was I was not so sore the day after. I guess I would be wearing the new pair of new shoes for Condura Run.

For me the race event was small, quiet event sponsored by well-meaning Rotarians and excellently organized by Extribe, Inc. While I normally like big races with big crowds, every now and then I long for those small, quiet ones with the noblest intention. I was so glad I did run. For their lives, and for mine.

Below are some post-race photos with a few friends
(staying behind in the hope of winning free Oakleys)

Paulo, Cliff and myself

Paulo, Cliff and Ian


Ian March 17, 2009 at 9:09 AM  

Those girls in tutus really worked their magic.. They got your going for a while there.. Hope to see more of them this Sunday or better yet, how about pacers in tutus? hahahaha!

Running Fatboy March 17, 2009 at 5:16 PM  

congrats Rico! Another challenge conquered for you. Take care!

Rico Villanueva March 17, 2009 at 11:08 PM  

Ian, I second the motion to have more lady runners in tutus, or even running skirts. Imagine if those Bb. Pilipinas winners joined the run in tutus. Awesome sight.

Dennis, thanks. I hope my recovery continues para naman makahabol ako sa inyo. Hope your doing well in your marathon training.

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