Kaya mo yan, Walang iwanan

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

(2015 Milo Marathon account)

At the marathon starting line, Rico rehashed the game plan with Kazu. "Pare, samahan mo lang ako sa first 5K please. Sasabit ako sa pace mo para hindi ako masyado maiwan. Sa last 5K, hopefully, ako naman ang hahatak sa iyo." Good and considerate person that he is, Kazu agreed.

Like old times, the first 2K was a struggle for Rico who takes an eternity to warm up - like a diesel engine. He and Kazu were supposed to run at 8kph, but Rico was already struggling at 7.5kph, maybe even less. Rico has learned to apply hot muscle rub to speed up the warming process, but this time, his full stomach laden with longganisa rice meal was literally weighing him down. The running crowd was fast slipping by.

Rico and Kazu both has GPS watches, but the former requested the latter to keep track of speed and time. The Galloway run-walk ratio was supposed to be 7:1 at 8kph. Many times, Rico would lag Kazu by a few meters. Kazu would look at this watch, but would patiently wait for Rico to catch up. This game of catch up would occur frequently. It was still a struggle for Rico, but he held on by listening to Kazu's footsteps as if they were a metronome. 

Kazu:  Below target na tayo.
Rico:   First 5k lang pare. After that, you can surge ahead. 
          Mas mabilis ka sa akin.

Rico finally digested his breakfast meal and ran a bit faster. In an hour of running, they covered only 7kms instead of the planned 8kms, but that distance was still better than Rico's solo performance in his last two half-mary's. During training on treadmills, Rico could run 8kph steadily, but stress-related blips in his blood pressure coupled with his weight concerns often subconsciously slow him down during races. Fact is, he hesitates to stay within 140-150 bpm heart rate. Kazu said they were below target, but Rico is already grateful that 7kph is still on track with the 6hrs cut-off time.

Shortly thereafter, Kazu excused himself to grab a bite in Family Mart and take a rest room break. Rico agreed knowing that Kazu could easily catch up with him. Left on his own, Rico settled for a slower 7.5kph pace, but with longer run in between breaks. Slowly, he caught up with other runners. He reached 14kms slightly below 2 hrs, so he was actually gaining speed and was still in the game. 

But Kazu was still nowhere in sight. Rico thought Kazu threw the towel early on account of ITBS or bum stomach. That would have been unfortunate for Kazu who has yet to complete his first marathon, but Rico was still grateful for Kazu's pacing on those first 7kms. That gave the slow Rico a fighting change to meet cut-off time. Thankfully at km16 for Rico, Kazu reappeared from the other side of the road. Kazu looked okay at that point, and the gap between them appeared to be just around a kilometer, so Rico kept with his run steady strategy. Surely, Kazu would overtake him.

Minutes and meters passed, but Kazu was still nowhere near Rico. From km 16 to 21, Rico would repeatedly pause and look back. Again, he was worried that Kazu was having trouble. Cramps possibly, maybe ebbing morale. Early in the race Rico reminded Kazu not to worry about lagging behind other runners, for the real race begins at km21. Rico was all pumped up at that time but his running partner was nowhere in sight. Rico was ecstatic that his 3-year quest to break through 3 hrs for a half-marathon (his personal best made in 2010 is 2:28) seemed within reach, but his moral compass nagged him to wait for the guy that actually made this possible through a faster, externally paced, start. After repeated pauses and crowd-searching, Rico decided to stop at 21km, reached it in 3:02 which was still minutes better than his last half, and waited. 

Rico would remember that in their Mt. Pulag run last March, Kazu and Mark waited for and paced with him during the first 2kms. Despite layers of clothing, the slow-to-warm up Rico was still having chills and had difficulty adjusting to the thin, cold air. He contemplated on stopping and giving up his dream of reaching the Pulag summit, but thanks to friends Kazu and Mark, he didn't. For accompanying him to the summit, Rico would forever be grateful to these two.

Three hours and 4 minutes into the marathon, the running partners finally reunited. Finishing within 6 hours was still a possibility. The two went back to the run-walk Galloway strategy. While they were running at 7.5-8kph with Kazu dictating pace and Rico coping with it, their running period shortened. The walk and rest periods became more frequent. More experienced Rico could still maintain the pace, but muscle fatigue was getting into the less experienced Kazu.

They reached km28 several minutes past 4 hours. The pauses for muscle stretching slowed them down. Making it within cut-off time of 6 hours was becoming remote. Rico encouraged Kazu to at least finish the distance, no matter how long it took. It would still be an accomplishment, especially for Kazu. But if they could do it in less than 7hrs, that would still be an improvement from Rico's 2015 Condura run. It would not be a personal best (his was 5:16 in 2009 Milo), but it would be a 3-year PR. Pumped with the prospect of giving Rico a short-term PR, Kazu surged on his run and the two gained mileage.  Rico knew his friend enough, that the latter could readily make personal sacrifices if those meant advancing the interest of others. Tara, habulin natin ang PR na yan, Kazu muttered.

Eventually, the motivation to help the other reach his goal was overtaken by physical pain. At km 34, Kazu could no longer run. Many runners were giving up at this point, and a number already rode the Milo bus, but Rico prevailed on his friend to at least finish the distance, even if that meant more than an hour of walking. It was actually physically and mentally harder for Rico to walk, but he decided hours ago that he would finish this with his friend. The good first half was enough reward for him. This second half was for Kazu. He may not appreciate it at that moment of exhaustion, but Rico was firm on his belief that Kazu would eventually find meaning to completing still the distance. For Kazu, this whole running thing was simply for maintaining health. By sticking around and walking till the finish, Rico hoped his friend would see the marathon the way he sees it - a metaphor for life.

The two running buddies were eventually joined by a young man from Bicol named Kim, a marathon virgin. In the heat of the sun and on now empty roads, the three patiently walked, shared drinks and food, and light banter toward the cherish goal. Three minutes before 7 hrs, they all crossed the finish line. There was no more funfare, no more crowds, no timers nor medals. But in their hearts, in their minds, only one thing mattered. They finished despite the odds.

Running buddies Mark, Kazu and Rico

P.S.  Congratulations to Kazu and Kim for going the distance. Kudos too to Mark who did his first 21K and who patiently waited for us with another friend Hanna.


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