“Run fast Vicky, you can still do a sub-5!” says Gab, my friend from Takbo.ph, who was already walking off his legs after crossing the finish line minutes before I would do the same.
“How far am I from the finish line?” I asked while doing a slow run and silently bearing the pain shooting through what felt like heavily-blistered feet.
“Just 200 meters. Run!”
That was all I needed to hear to push myself one last time and make a mad dash for the finish line just before the race clock chimed 5 hours. I concluded my maiden foray into the world of competitive long-distance running at the recently-concluded Condura Run for the Dolphins marathon in 4 hours, 56 minutes, and 32 seconds.
Wow, I am officially a marathoner. I am still in awe of the fact that I made it: I have conquered the Skyway and traversed all 42 kilometers on foot in less than 5 hours with absolutely NO proper training and preparation. All I had going for me was my heart and unwavering determination to prove them naysayers wrong.
Now let me tell you my Condura story.
On the days leading up to (the) zero hour, I was shuttling to and fro various states of excitement, trepidation, anticipation and, to a certain extent, pessimism. What if I don’t make it? What if I succumb to pain mid-way and find myself unable to run the remaining half of the race? Or what if I finish it but at a totally unacceptable time even for a first time marathoner like myself? These thoughts kept me up most nights before the race. I’m a very proud woman, you see, and the last thing I would want to be perceived as, is a failure.
The night before the big race, I didn’t get to sleep at all. I was too excited I couldn’t even keep my eyes closed for 10 seconds! I was all geared up and munching on a chocolate bar, by the time my friend picked me up at 2:30 in the morning. Upon reaching The Fort, we were met by some of our Takbo.ph friends who were just as excited for the race to begin. A few of them were first time marathoners just like me. While the rest were simply doing it as preparation for the upcoming Bataan Death March.
At gunstart, close to 600 42km runners took to the road and coming from the middle of the pack, I kept to my pace and tried not to let the runners sprinting ahead bother me. Normally, I get royally pissed when people overtake me in races but now that I have come to accept my speed limitations, I am more tolerant.
Though weakened by lack of food and sleep, I was feeling pretty good about myself and my running condition at the beginning of the race. I was wearing my new pair of Zoots Ultra and running at a very comfortable pace and my ears were being made love to with sharp and sensual precision by the songs on my trusty iPod.
It was still very dark when we left The Fort and the others who I was going to run with were soon lost in the sea of runners. I found myself running alone, except for that brief moment going to McKinley when Condura’s Patrick Concepcion would run by my side and advise me to run steady before he would run off and leave me to my relaxed pace. It was awe-inspiring as it got lighter to see the hundreds of runners along the road like a big long snake in front of me and behind me for as far as we could see.
After a few kilometers, we were confronted by the signs and arrows pointing to the Skyway. It was exhilarating! Though not exactly trained to run on steep inclines, I was, at that point, still feeling very confident that I can make it all the way to Bicutan where it ends, and back again to Buendia.
And then my feet started to feel blistered. I knew I should have worn a thicker pair of socks but I thought the ample amount of petroleum jelly I applied on my feet would be enough to ease the discomfort of friction. But still, I soldiered on. All the way to the 30km mark, after which I was almost ready to take off my Zoots, slump on the pavement, bawl my eyes out and just declare myself a loser. Clearly, I overestimated my strength and underestimated the distance before me. At this point, I was already questioning my purpose for doing full marathon when I have only been running (and not actively at that) for 10 months and did not at all prepare for the race. Kinda like being stuck in a relationship you know from the get-go is very wrong for you yet you continue to keep to your side of the bargain because you’re in love with the person? That is exactly how I would describe my relationship with (long-distance) running, except that running represents everything good for me, and it makes me look better each time it hurts me. After all, it helped a lot in getting me this body, among other things.
I did a Galloway as my Takbo friends advised me. After crossing the 30km mark, I no longer felt shame in taking walk breaks. It was time. I was in no condition to continue running with my feet feeling blistered and all. My legs, thighs and even my core, were likewise starting to feel the brunt of the race. My fresh tattoo was likewise throbbing because of the copious amount of sweat watering it down
The last 12 kilometers were tough. And the final 5 kilometers even tougher. But again, thanks to friends whose constant cheering inspired me to conquer the last few kilometers. In Buendia, on our way back to The Fort for the finish, another friend paced me. He told me to keep running as we still have a chance to do a sub-5. In my head, I was willing and ready to abandon my quest for a sub-5 record. At that point, I no longer have the confidence I had an excessive amount of at the beginning of the race. I thought I was done for.
It was already a few minutes past 8:00am and I was starting to feel the heat of the morning sun. But thanks to Condura’s impeccably-organized race, I was in no danger of getting dehydrated because of the numerous (and strategically-located) water stations which I totally made use of. 100 Plus has never tasted so good!
And so it came to be that I was able to conquer my Mt. Everest. And did I mention that I ranked 336 out of 595 marathoners?
10 Life Lessons from My First Marathon:
1. You need NOT be a waif-like, gazelle-type Kenyan to run a marathon. Before Condura, I was very much in doubt of my capabilities to finish all 42 kilometers thinking I was heavy and ill-prepared. But look, I did it! Age, likewise, does not matter. Young, old, large, small, thin, wide, you name it, they were all running a marathon and a lot of them passed me even at my fastest pace.
2. Train. Seriously. I didn’t train at all for my first marathon and even though I finished respectably, I know I would have done so much better if I trained well for it.
3. A podium finish doesn’t matter. Finishing greatly does. Everyone that crosses the finish line in a marathon is already a winner.
4. Don’t stop. Sometimes we have a tremendous urge to quit, to give up, to throw in the towel so to speak. Having the ability to overcome those urges and keep going makes all the difference in life. I lost count of the times I wanted to succumb to exhaustion and physical pain during the race but still I soldiered on – and finished with grace.
5. Cheering helps, A LOT. I have been to some sporting events and yelled and cheered for my team. I never thought it helped much until I was on the receiving end during my first marathon. It was amazing how much it increased my energy and drive when people were cheering me on.
6. Have a coach. I consider myself a fairly smart person and can figure out a lot of things on my own. But looking back at my first marathon, I can imagine the results would’ve been a lot more favorable if I had someone coaching me on my run.
7. Mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation. As much as we like to think that success in sports simply requires having a perfectly tuned and trained body, it is much more than that because after all the physical preparation, much of your success has to do with what goes on in your head. I tell you, after the first 30 kilometers, it can get real ugly.
8. Marathon is not a sprint. People who have gotten so used to running short distances tend to start off running at a quick pace. Big mistake. Giving it all you’ve got at the beginiing of the race will leave you running completely out of gas even before the first three kilometers is up. Pace yourself.
9. Mile markers are essential. In life, as well as during a marathon, we need mile markers. Condura, unfortunately, didn’t have enough mile markers but those that I saw coming up from quite a distance away have helped my mental conditioning. If you thought about the finish line, it was so far away and seemed impossible to reach. But if you thought about just making it to the next mile marker, that seemed doable. So the immediate goal was always to just make it to the next mile marker.
10. Let others inspire you. I had set a goal last year to run a marathon. In fact, I signed up for the Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon last December but bailed out at the last minute on account of injuries sustained months before (shin splints, stress fracture, and sprained ankle). When I some photos of my friends who went ahead and finished the Singapore race, I was completely amazed and inspired and decided right then that I would do it. And I did – at Condura. And I will do it again in July at the Milo National Eliminations…and again in December in Singapore.