Running a half-marathon isn’t as simple as it looks specially when you’re in pain during the last kilometers of the race. If it were, there wouldn’t be anything to complain about beyond what novelist and runner, Haruki Murakami wrote in his book, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you start to think, Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The hurt part is unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can’t stand anymore is up to the runner himself.”
Well, this also sums up what i experienced in last Sunday’s Globe-Run For Home 21k race. It was a good, well organized race. But when cramps and spasms dawned on my body in the last 5 kilometers, it spoils all good vibes about the race and ends up like a nightmare while you tend to keep the suffering tolerable, find what’s best under the circumstances and deal with it the best way you can. Never mind that your target time is compromised, all i thought was to get this over with and finish the race as soon as possible.
When you have a race that starts exactly at 5:00am, think about the time you have to rise up, relieve yourself in the bathroom, take a shower and re-check what you have packed in your bag the night before. One thing i forgot to do last Saturday night was to slip in the timing chip on my shoe. The instructions given was a bit too vague. Foregoing it, i instead looped one end of the lace before pinning it to the left lace hole and looped another end going to the right side lace hole. It took me a good 20 minutes to get the chip properly looped so it wouldn’t dangle like a finishers’ medal.
I was running the first five kilometers faster than i should but it was controlled as the pace would vary from 6:30-7:00/km. The Kalayaan flyover to Buendia Avenue was already familiar to many runners but turning left to Ayala Avenue into the heart of the Makati Central Business District presented a new environment for the runners. There were crowds lining along Ayala Avenue with amusement etched in their faces.
The turn-around point near the corner of Ayala and EDSA marked the 8th km of our run. Thirteen kms to go. I was maintaining a pace at about 7:00/km and back to Buendia, i got my first taste of a canned 100 Plus Isotonic drink and opened up a pack of orange sports beans. Found nothing energizing about taking these drinks and energy beans. I’m about to climb up the Buendia flyover and i’m already feeling it. Not a good sign.
I reached the top of Buendia flyover without stopping, as i did my own version of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, like dragging and sliding my two feet forward. I get passed by younger and stronger runners but they turn-out to be 10k runners after they merged with us at their turn-around point somewhere in Buendia. They kept me up on my toes but i was sinking fast.
We were now back at The Fort and we’re lining up for a right turn to 5th Avenue on our way to Lawton Street. I was now starting to feel spasms just below my right ribcage and the pain was excruciating. I stopped to walk and did deep breathing and exhaled as hard as i could and it seemed to work. I started to run back slowly but at the 15th km mark, the inevitable happened. My left calf muscles which i had problems with before after running at every 15 km mark began to cramp and i could feel the spasm traveling up and down my calf and ankle.
I had to pull myself to the side to do some stretching for the calf muscle. I tried to bend over and give it a massage but it only exacerbated the pain so i reverted back to stretching. I slowly got back to a slow jog until i finally reached the turn-around bend at Bayani Road. Running back to Lawton Avenue, the worst nightmare that could probably happen to a runner did happen. My right calf muscle also began to cramp and that was the first time i experienced a cramp on my right leg! At the same time, the left cramp recurred and was having that painful side-stitch again! Now, what the —- is happening?
Finishline, where are you? I’ve been walking briskly for 2 minutes now starting from km 18. It’s a desperate move, one that i hope will conserve what little strength that i have left. I hope i will be able to run the last two kilometers, i tell myself. In my past races, i try to pick-up the pace and evaluate my running form in the closing kilometers which kept me focused to finish strong. Today, however, i thought i have lost all will. I tried to shout-out my frustration. As Murakami san would suggest, suffering would be up to the runner so i tried to mask the pain by thinking of the good memories of my running in the forests, mountains and dirt trails. It probably gave me a shot in the arm as the pain in my legs suddenly felt numb and i was now starting to break out of my walk.
A kilometer before the finish, a Caucasian runner, who seemed to have finished the race, shouts some words of encouragement. “You’re almost there, you can do it!” he yells at us. “Only a few steps ahead, you’re looking good!” I tried to look good, but i was feeling the worst inside, if he only knew.
When i crossed the finish line almost limping, i heaved a sigh of relief. I had run one of my worst race yet and i can only console myself that i finished without any serious injury. I finished the race in 2:25:17, just a few minutes slower from a previous 21k at the Condura Race.
Every long distance runner have and will experience pain. Murakami was right that pain is inevitable and if you hope that the pain will just go away, it probably won’t. Will power, determination and some imagination were the choices i had to do. Two of these are probably inherent to every runner. Imagination was the wild card that did the home run.