Home is Where Heart Is

Monday, July 20, 2009

Catching my breath after a strong finish
(photo taken by Pepsi using Argo's cam)
(RUNNR singlet given by Team Logan)

Being with family

It was not the timing chip. I have raced with a timing chip twice already. While I usually like the excitement of big races, I signed up for Run For Home primarily to be with friends. Specifically, to see Neil and Mike, key Milo support group volunteers, run their first half-marathon. I would later learn that other friends were also taking the 21k plunge for the first time – Carina, Vic, among others.

Up to the race start I had no clear race goal.

Do I race for a PR? I could already run short distances 2 weeks after my first marathon but I still had reservation about racing longer distance.

Do I pace a newbie? There are a couple of newbie-friends, but either they already have a pacer or their strategy/running style differs from mine.

Or do I pace with a friend for a relaxed run? Most of my friends happen to be faster than me even when doing a steady run.

Growing within the family

So there I was inside the 21K corral surrounded by friends but not knowing with whom to run. The newbies were already happy in their pace group while the faster ones were always raring to speed up from race start. I guessed I would just run my usual race - run at my steady aerobic pace of 7min/km. Hopefully, I would last long enough to finish the half-marathon at this pace. If I managed to maintain this pace, I might even improve my personal record.

Along the way I would meet acquaintances, chat with a few, and steadily greet or wave at friends. I was doing all these while cruising at my pace. The good things about being with your running family/community were that you were allowed to run on your own, explore the world, meet other people, push your limits if you want to, go for PR if you are up to it.

So run for fun or PR I did. If my recovering muscles would yield me a PR, that would be great. But whatever would happen, I would have fun - watching runners, running on the normally car-choked roads of the Makati business district, enjoying the weather, and rejoicing in the simple fact that I could still run a steady pace and long distance.

Rico happily running for Home (photo by Run Unlimited Vener)

With the exception of the uphill climb over the flyover and the climb back from Bayani road, I pretty much kept within the 7min/km pace despite my planned walk breaks at aid stations and steep inclines. After greeting running friends for most of 18kms and finally seeing the last familiar face come my way, I realized a 2:30 time might be far-fetched but a new PR was still within reach. So I took stock of remaining energy I had left and accelerated. My Garmin record would later tell show me how I accelerated the last few kilometers, and how for the last 500m I was hitting a pace of sub-5min/km! I could recall with fondness that last 500m sprint. It reminded me of my New Balance Powerrace finish in Clark. Your heart and mind leaping with joy in the fact that you were still running strong toward the finish, even overtaking a couple of runners, and of how that rush to the finish line seemed to be an affirmation not only of your love for running, but also the rediscovery of our innate ability to run.

I finished 2:32:51 according to my Garmin, almost 2 minutes of my Greenfields unofficial time of 2:34:27. I was happy with my easy run and my strong finish. I was happier with the thought that a sub2:30 was just a full muscle recovery away.

Waiting for family

Yes I was happy with my new PR but I was happier for the scenes I witnessed and was part of after my race completion. After a quick exchange of greetings at the finish line and a few minutes cool down, I retraced my strides and headed back to the direction of Neil and his pace group/mates. I would see and cheer loudly first-timer Carina looking very strong just a few meters from the finish line, Doc Roy very jolly as always, very pleasant running couple Eric and Ems, and a few hundred meters away there would Neil, Tita Caloy, their pacer Mar and impromptu cheerer Macoy. Neil and his group would actually reach the finish line ahead of me as I was also cooling down myself.

The Gingerbreadman Luis and Super Bong Yu being cheered by the crowds
as they triumphantly return from the Battle of (Half) Marathon
(Photo by Edu Fabian)

I was on my way back to the finish line when I saw Doc Lyndon calmly saying he would just get some oxygen. As he was closely followed by his sister and he looked alright, I figured he would just get an inhaler. Back on the finish line I heard about BongZ about asking about Luis, whom we all saw suffering from injury on the road. I told BongZ injured Luis was actually accompanied by Bong Yu, who patiently paced with him for a good number of kilometers to the finish, but it was still good idea to check on them. Only then did I remember Marvin. When I last saw him at abt km 18 he said he was still ok but it dawned on me just then that he was way behind his pace group and running alone. We asked someone to call Bong Z to also check on Marvin along the way. Doc Topher and I also made our way back to make sure. A few hundred meters before the finish line we saw Luis and Marvin with friends/supporters. It was a good thing Florence was able to go ahead to check on his childhood friend Marvin. Luis and Marvin were greeted by friends like brothers, even heroes, as everyone cheered as they crossed the finish line. Their takbo.ph friends saved them from not only from a possible DNF, but also from greater injury or mishap.

Before Luis, Marvin and company reached the finish line I noticed a familiar figure seated in the ambulance. Doc Lyndon who seemed ok a while back was actually inhaling oxygen from the ambulance and was surrounded by his family. With a history of asthma, lack of rest and minor flu that day, the good doctor registered an elevated heart rate during the race and had to slow down for this heart and breathing to stabilize. On hindsight he said he might have made a mistake doing the run under his physical condition at that time. But no one would have noticed that he was having a difficult run for he valiantly finished his race.

I was reminded of my Botak dehydration experience. I knew I was feeling different and remembered conveying to friends that I wanted to drink and eat something, but my friends would later tell me that they did not know how serious my situation was. Maybe I did not communicate well enough; maybe it was my pride causing me to hesitate to ask for more help. But one lesson I got from that, and all this pacing and being paced experience, is that to ask help is not to inconvenience a friend. It is to seal a bond of friendship.

I am glad to be a part of a community of runners who care. In their midst, one truly feels at home.

The family that runs together, takes photos together (photo by Edu Fabian)


wilson July 20, 2009 at 7:48 PM  

congrats on that new HM PR. yup a sub2:30 is just a full muscle recovery away. i'm sure you'd break the barrier next time around!

Amado L. Castro, Jr. July 20, 2009 at 8:00 PM  

Dear Rico - You sure are in good company! Very nice post with human relationship value.

rachel July 21, 2009 at 7:49 AM  

Hey Mr. V., A Very nice read. I too, felt the atmosphere of Run for Home (I think you commented on Luis' blog) is to bring everyone home. I felt that everyone was willing and eager to support, may it be a pacer or a cheerer, et al.

Another quotable quote from you "..to ask help is not [to] inconvenience a friend. It is to seal a bond a friendship."

Gosh, now I need to hug someone. =) haha!

Rico Villanueva July 21, 2009 at 8:43 AM  

Hello and thank you Wilson. Nice to finally meet you after the race. I had a sense I could beat the 2:30 during the race, but I did not want it at the expense of delaying my recovery. The time will come; I know. The wait just adds up to the excitement :-)

Thank you Sir Amado. Nice to see you on my way back.

Hello Rachel. You got the word right - atmosphere! That's what we had that made the race "homey". As to the quote and its effect, with Neil's permission you can always hug me :-)

SEABISKWIT July 21, 2009 at 9:39 AM  

Hi Idol Rico! Congrats on your PR.. I guess for now, you're built to run long distances..
I'm sure you would be able to work on your speed in no time at all.. like how you prepared for a Full in such a short period...
Just take is easy on feeding me your dust on the coming races...

run unlimited July 22, 2009 at 7:43 AM  

Congrats Rico. You really had fun out there. You really ran home. See you again.

Rico Villanueva July 22, 2009 at 10:19 AM  

Hello Halimaw Ian. Mukhang pang long-distance nga ako kasi mabagal ako. Slowly trying to speed up now, para naman makasabay ako sa inyo kahit training runs lang....Sige, sa coming races sabuyan ko kaya ng alikabok pagkatapos ng turnaround ninyo kapag iniwan ninyo ako ng todo. Hehe.

Hello Idol Vener. Salamat sa picture. Sana balang araw magawa ko rin yung ginagawa mo: pa-picture-picture lang pero mabilis pa rin.

lyndon aka malmonmd July 22, 2009 at 11:08 AM  

Thanks rico for the concern when you saw me at the ambulance. I know i should have quit the race at km7 when my heart rate was abnormally elevated but the will to finish the race prevailed. I am confident to continue after slowing down a little for i know that in every step i make and every turn around point of the course there will always be friends like brothers who i could asked for assistance.

Congrats Rico on your New HM PR. I trust that a sub 2:30 HM is inevitable. Thanks again bro.

Bro J July 22, 2009 at 2:55 PM  

Congrats Rico, as always you have a very detailed account of your races. Congrats to the takbo.ph group. I hope to join you in future carbo loading parties for future races. See you soon!

Nora, the golden girl July 26, 2009 at 10:03 PM  

Congratulations Rico! Tama ka, isang hirit na lang--sub 2:30 na yan. Keep up the faith!

Nice meeting you again last Sunday. Next time, pakilala mo naman ako with our takbo.ph friends. I'd like to know as many as I can.

Rico Villanueva July 27, 2009 at 5:58 PM  

Thanks Nora..Sorry hindi ako masyadong naka-tambay sa finish line because I kept going back to meet the other finishing runners...Dami na rin new faces, some I also have to meet. Next time, I will introduce you to the ones I know, and together let's meet the others :-)

RUNNING DIVA August 4, 2009 at 10:18 AM  

Hi Rico I never knew until I've read this post that other than Luis a good two or three people from takbo.ph suffered just to finish their race. To DocLyndon, I did see you were doing OK during the run. I knew you were alright but after reading this post hope you are a lot better now enough to run for Urbanite. To Bong Yu that was an admirable trait for a runner to run with a fellow runner who was in pain. To DragonBongZ, you are really doing what a "Kuya" to most of them. Lastly, to Marvin, I did see you when you reached the finish line. Sorry Rico for the long comment. But I just wanted to say you guys ROCK!

Rico Villanueva August 4, 2009 at 11:06 AM  

Yes, Roselle, these guys ROCK. We runners rock in our own little ways. :-)

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