What’s it like to run under the sun again? It was a welcome respite at the Mizuno Infinity race yesterday after several days of pouring, intermittent rain. Though many of us managed to “swim” our way through our daily runs, i was hoping that the rains would cease for a while (at least to let us start the race with our running gear dry) and give us overcast skies and maybe drizzle just a little after we had all left the starting line. But drizzle it did not and instead, the sun was out an hour after the start of our 15k race.
We arrived early at the Fort and took our usual parking slot at the back of R.O.X. with a guard on duty, thankfully, wary of the string of cars being forced-open and robbed of valuables which have been a regular occurence during races. Running buddies June Santiago and I wanted to improve our 15k times from the RUNEW Race a few months ago while Darryl, who has the fastest time among the three of us, opted to run the 10k since he’s still recovering from a painful shinsplint injury for more than a month now.
The starting area was already bursting with runners when we checked-in, maybe about 2,000 runners for the combined 5k, 10k and 15k events. A huge pack of 15k runners were the first to be fired off, with the elite runners, as expected, blazing through the opening miles. June and i started off cautiously at about 6:30/min pace and found ourselves in the midpack of runners. The course took us to the Kalayaan flyover all the way down to Buendia Avenue, the same route as that of the Condura Skyway run and the Adidas KOTR race, only that this course cuts across Osmena Highway all the way to Filmore, Dian then turns around before reaching Bautista Street. I skipped many water stations as they were either too crowded or they ran out of cups, so with very little water taken, i couldn’t prepare myself for what was coming next.
By the turn-around mark, i was no longer running comfortably. I was struggling with a 6:45/min pace and the next couple of kilometers was a stop to every water station that i could find. I tried to concentrate and keep form (trying to mimic what i’ve learned at the Runnex running clinic). I kept my head up and eyes forward on the horizon and kept my body straight as possible. To my dismay, i was tired and only able to keep form a few minutes at a time. When you’re tired, you’re tired– so it’s so hard to maintain the right form as you just run along the best way you can.
The pace on our way up back to the Buendia flyover were slow for virtually everyone. I had expected this from myself. My legs felt hungover from running in the rain almost everyday starting from the 10k Runnex Anniversary race last May 24 until last Saturday, the day before the race. I had never run for 2 weeks straight and i knew i was getting what i deserved —rubbery legs.
I realized two things as i reached the top of Buendia flyover. From my regular inclusion of hill training, i could now run up the Buendia incline without having to slow down and walk. Unfortunately, there’s still another slight incline at the Kalayaan flyover and there were still three kilometers before the finish. The second thing was that i was being passed by runners both to my left and right which indicated the i was moving slowly. But looking closely at them, i noticed that they were wearing either the blue or red plastic straw until i realized that these runners were running the shorter 5 and 10k runs so were running stronger and fresher than i was.
Runner friend Pojie Marilag, a regular forumer at the Takbo.ph site pulled up to me around km 13. He provided the spark i needed to get moving the last 2 kms. Sure enough at 14k, i felt a surge of strength and made a move to step up the pace. However, instead of turning left to the road towards the finish, the 15k runners were told to run straight instead towards Boni High Street and make a U-turn before going right and straight to the finish. A few meters before reaching the U-turn, what i dreaded the most did happen. As like in my other races towards the finish, my left calf muscle started to cramp and i felt electric-like twinges going up and down the calf muscle. That was my breaking point. As i faltered down, i stopped at the side of the road to massage and stretch my calf as i see runners passing by me but the cramp wouldn’t go away. Digging deep, i tried not to think about the cramp. Instead, i willed my way forward to a jog 200 meters to the finish line.
Inspite of everything, my time of 1:35:33 was good enough to improve my previous 15k PR of 1:39:31 (at RUNEW) on one of my most unremarkable races to date. My friend June, cut-off almost 10 minutes off his previous best of 1:52 to 1:43 while Darryl, inspite of his running injury clocked a respectable 53 minutes, just a shade slower than his 52 mins best 10k time. Congrats, guys!
To sum up the experience, i think bad races do happen occassionally— we win some, we lose some. However, more often than not, we go out there and run to find out something about ourselves– to test our limits, to seek the camaraderie of other runners, the inner challenge and the adventure that goes with it. In our sport of running, sometimes effort and simply saying, “I did it!” take precedence over ticking digits on a plastic watch or the clock board hanging at the finish line. I will train more wisely and hopefully, emerge from all this a better runner.