Greenfields are made of these

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another finisher's medal within eight months of resuming active running. Let me make a roll-call: (1) New Balance Powerrace 25K, (2) Run for Their Lives 10K, (3) Condura Run 21K, and now this, (4) Greenfields City Run 21K.

I must admit that the come-on for me for this race were the distance, the medal and the location. After the Condura 21K where I had an injured run time of 2:46, I was itching to create a new 21K PR. That a medal would go with a new PR was a real sweetener. Also, I liked the location. The family always passed by the wide expanse that is Greenfields from my mom's hometown of Calamba enroute to Tagaytay. By cultural affinity and sentimental attachment though, I still considered neighboring town of Los Banos - a cultural melting pot, a quaint college town and my birth place - as my hometown despite my family being based in Calamba in recent years.

I was late coming from my adopted city of Paranaque. I planned to leave the city at 4am and woke up early enough, but I was not as excited to race as I was during the Condura Run. Well, Condura was really special. Truth was, I was more excited about the post-race breakfast. Anyhow, I managed to drag myself away from home at 4:30am and was in Paseo de Sta Rosa intersection at exactly 5am. It took me a while (an eternity from where I was seated then) to enter the complex and park.

In classic but not-to-be-proud-of fashion, I started the race late - five minutes lang naman this time. I even took my sweet time passing through the starting line. It was dark and I was the lone runner. More than catching up I was bothered about taking a leak. I should have looked for the rest room first before starting! At about 1.5km, I decided to release water. It was dark and I was alone on the road anyway. Taking a leak by a young acacia tree was liberating. Minutes after my leaky deed, I heard runners - runningpinoy Dennis of and another female runner. I was not so alone after all. But Dennis was fast and breezed through us. I tried to keep up with the female runner. I was still in the sleepy, not-yet-warmed up mode though.

The spa-like music at the entrance of Pramana village was soothing and a good marketing touch (subliminal association) for the village, but it did not help me wake up from my stupor. Maybe I was oscillating between sleepy and meditative that a female marshall loudly blurted: "Kaya pa ba? Kaya pa ba?" Well this comment woke me up. Three kilometers into the run I maybe sleepy but I was far from exhausted. Because I was late and so behind other runners, maybe the girl thought I already lost steam that early. Nevertheless, that remark is NOT encouraging at all. Was she trying to be cute and perky? Maybe, but thing was neither the remark nor its source was cute.

I finally jolted out of my stupor when I saw the lead batch of runners from their first U-turn. As usual, I was so energized by their presence that I found myself running as fast as 5:30min/km. I also got a huge high from greeting fellow runners, especially those I personally know. My plan was to do a positive split on account of projected heat at second half, but the plan was simply a conservative 6:30-7min/km on first half, and 7-7:30min/km on the latter half. Still, for a good 500m running opposite the strong runners, I sped up and finally overtook a few runners. I was a little faster than originally planned but the darkness and cool temperature emboldened me to run a little faster. On hindsight, I thought I could have gotten a better overall time had I been less conservative and milked the positive split strategy for all its worth while the sun was still down.

Eventually I settled into the vicinity of my target pace of 7-7:20min/km. At the entrance of Techo Park Hotel, strains of Beyonce (All the Single Ladies, I think) beckoned and instantaneously I imagined Beyonce doing her signature moves in front of me. Beyonce's gyrations powered me through about 3 minutes of below 6min/km paced run. Once again, I ran faster than planned, but I reasoned out it was still cool anyway. Beyonce may have pumped up my blood a bit, but I was still doing okay. The kilometers that followed passed lazily like summer mornings. True to expectations of a classic Rio race, water was overfollowing, markers were presents, and marshalls were everywhere.

The Color of Greenfields is Yellow

At about km15 I saw a familiar runner in familiar bright colored shorts. Familiar because I struggled to avoid the frog kicks of this same dude during the swim leg of a mini-sprint triathlon. Toward the end of the bike lap I saw the yellow shorts again for the guy was struggling with the gears of his roadie.
Yellow shorts greeted me again when the dude passed by me during the run leg. That yellow was unmistakable.

I thought that was it and I was over with visions of yellow. But no, yellow shorts would appear again in the Speedo aquathlon and yes, on the roads of Greenfields. In the Speedo aquathlon I found dude in yellow running beside me on the Ultra oval for the last 200 meters of the aquathlon. I think he had some difficulty in the swim but he was proving once again that he is a better runner than swimmer. I was so surprised to see someone coming from behind that I could not decide that moment whether to sprint past him or let him go past me. I simply decided to keep my pace and let the guy take his moment. Looking back I think I could have outran him but I didn't bother. Honestly, I would have preferred an impromptu small bet of who could reach the finish line first, or even a simultaneous finish. But there was really no time to discuss finish line scenarios.

When I saw the yellow shorts again on the roads of Greenfields, I decided to pace with him a bit. (I think he was also treating me as some easy and familiar benchmark to overtake hehe). After brief chit-chat I left behind my now familiar friend. I knew yellow shorts was just behind me so I simply did my best to sustain if not improve my pace. In my last turn right to the finish line (less than 100 meters away from endline), my friend re-appeared again - panting a bit but still eager to do better. Had to decide again: would I give in, claim my round this time, or finish together? With no time once more for negotiations, I turned on my accelerator and raced to the finish line. I finished in 2:39:38, about 9 seconds ahead of my friend. My time could have been 5 minutes faster had I come on time. But dude in yellow actually started later than me so in truth he was the faster runner. In all sincerity I think he really is the better runner. But officially for now I am better - 9 seconds better. Haha.

Dude, if by any chance you read this, let me just tell you that next time we can finish together para wala na lang lamangan. Basta maayos lang ang usapan. Or pwede rin take turns na lang tayo sa finish line? Haha. See you in future races.

It's the people, not the perks
Greenfields for me was not about the new race route, the medal nor the new PR. did raise the ante in race organization with a lot of thoughful touches here and there. I particularly commend the fact that certain model houses in Pramana were made open for rest room break and there were portalets along the route (Had I known I should not have watered the young acacia on the dark road). For all its professionalism, however, a race organizer could only think and do so much. A great deal also hinges on the sponsoring body or the group behind the race. Races are good promotional activities, but I hope behind every promoting body there are passionate runners out there willing to go the extra mile to put in the runner's touch. Just like the Concepcion brothers.

The runner's touch is some ex-factor. When a race is done by runners, for runners, it acquires a soul and exudes an aura hard to define but recognizable by every runner at heart. I yearn for these races, and I am optimistic there will be more Condura Runs, Happy Runs and New Balance Powerraces. I hope race-sponsoring companies reach out to us runners where it really matters: our hearts and minds. Give us a race equivalent of poignant McDonald's or Jollibee ads. More than flash and gimmickry, we appreciate honesty and sincerity.

It was the sincerity and generosity of one running family that really made my race day. Verdana-based runner Mhel De Leon, pretty wife Mai, cute kid Cyrus and little baby welcomed into their home for overnight stay one new runner friend they met at the carbo loading party and about half a dozen more runners who except for few online exchanges at forum were essentially still strangers. Mhel and family extended their generosity to other more runners by inviting them for post-race breakfast. About two dozen strangers came for hearty breakfast but everyone went home as running friends. Mhel and family, thank you once again for the invitation. You showed us a level of generosity I could only aspire to have. Yours is a Filipino family at its best - heart-warming and generous. I would like to come back, if only to relive the memories and be reminded of the values that makes us the friendliest nation in the world.

Group photos courtesy of Carlo (Hydraice)

Generous people. Good memories. Greenfields are made of these.


jazzrunner April 22, 2009 at 6:05 PM  

Congratz Rico! 1:39:38? Wow, 15k time ko na yan ah...:-) Sayang, missed this race.

Rico Villanueva April 23, 2009 at 12:25 PM  

Hi Rene. 1:39:38? Haha. I will be jumping for joy already if I do 2:06! Thanks for pointing it out. I was already sleepy when I did this blog entry. I corrected it na - baka meron magalit at sabihing sino ba itong mayabang na ito. Haha. See you in Montalban.

ian April 23, 2009 at 12:39 PM  

hey Rico.. Great run!!! Congrats to your 2nd half marathon! adding this one to condura - nakafull marathon ka na! sayang i missed that event. Would have completed my full as well.. hahaha!
I would have paced with you if i ever did that run... not the 1:39 ha! yung 7-7:20...hehe!

runningpinoy April 23, 2009 at 12:41 PM  

aba special mention pa a hehe... mahirap talaga maging late, laging nagmamadali hehe. seriously it was nice to see you early in the race, i didn't feel so "lonely" anymore hehehe. congrats on bettering your friend!

Bro J April 23, 2009 at 6:17 PM  

Hi rico,
What is important is that we have fun in every run. I enjoy running in a races if there are friendly people like you. Hope to see you in future races!

Rico Villanueva April 23, 2009 at 8:33 PM  

Ian, sana nga pwedeng 1+1 sa full marathon...Hey, good luck nga pala sa Botak 42K mo...would have wanted to join you pero di pa kaya, so see you na lang sa Boston Marathon (haha).

Hey dennis, gulat nga ako meron pa palang ibang tao. Akala ko huli na ako. Bilis mo pa rin kahit late. Idol!

Hi Bro J. True, friendly people make for fun races. Hope to share the fun with you in future races and your sweetheart.

JavyO April 27, 2009 at 8:27 AM  

Nice one Rico :)

Apparently you have a target on your back :P

Rico Villanueva April 27, 2009 at 11:58 PM  

JavyO, I thought only the likes of you have target on their backs. Apparently, even slowpokes like me get targetted too. Haha.

David April 28, 2009 at 1:15 AM  

Nice... well composed, as always...and congrats on your 2nd half mary...Botak 42K na ba susunod? :)

Rico Villanueva April 29, 2009 at 12:12 PM  

Dave, ninu-ninu..pinag-iisipan ko pa.. hehe.. will let you know :-)

LoganFam April 29, 2009 at 1:39 PM  

Rico, great write up with some good humor.:) That's what makes hanging out with you FUN! You keep us all laughing! Someday, sometime, we ARE going to run together, correct. That is, when you make the starting line on time. :) Blessings

Rico Villanueva April 30, 2009 at 2:09 AM  

Craig, thanks for the compliments. Good humor? It's something I wish I have. HaHa. I guess I am accidentally funny when I make those stupid mistakes and gaffes...On running together, that's way up there on my bucket list...I hope to make it on time this Sunday on The Southern Race. :-)

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