DNF. Those had been the three letters that were constantly floating in my mind days leading to my Nat Geo full marathon. And why not? I had all the reasons to believe so. And by the way for the non-initiated, DNF stands for Did Not Finish, like enrolling in college and not finishing. Well like me – like the theme of my life which I am nauseatingly trying to wash off my system, my identity. Drama! But Ultra Princess Blue dissuaded me with an admonition that a fabulous diva runner finishes what she started – without riding!
I have to admit, unwillingly, that this is just my second full marathon after my first at TBR two years back! Lately I had been covering up my insecurity in this aspect among running friends and contemporaries, by telling them I have had countless. After all almost all of them have leveled up to ultra-status. In short, I was left behind. I swore to myself after I won a shoelace bling with 42K engraved last Pinoy Fitness Christmas party that I will run the distance once again. Talk about trying to psyche myself into submission to the inevitable.
My preparation and training time, unfortunately, was only less than 2 months. To make the matters worse, prior to Holy Week, I got a flu bug and had not touched concrete for 2 weeks. Thus I crammed the mileage 1 to 2 weeks prior during the Lenten vacation. Aside from the Visita Iglesia on the eve of Holy Wednesday of 16K out of what should be a 23K church hopping station of the cross run (Even this I need to cut short due to a work, or “raket”, engagement), I also did my “ultimate” lsd of 4 hours on Glorious Saturday. I was not able to track the total mileage since I forgot to charge my Soleus Go Fit watch. I hope that I reached somewhere around the 30K mark. The following day, I did a 10k recovery run which took me 1:30.
Due to this undue haste, my old knee condition resurfaced albeit in a lessened intensity. I was not totally sure if this was something to be thankful for or what. I can feel some pain even while walking in a particular manner. Usually if this occurs while I am running, I just vary my foot strike – from heel to mid foot and vice versa, to provide immediate relief. However, this time around, this technique was ineffective. The pain would simply stay put and not abate. This was another issue that was bothering me and increasing my fears. How can I manage the distance when even walking would be tricky? As what I did or used to lessen my injury during my newbie days, I did again – using my knee and calf compression support sleeves during the run. Once again, it proved very helpful.
I stood by, or rather danced due to the lilting beat if the samba drums by the starting area at around 11:30 PM as the host tried his very best to get sleepy and uneasy marathoners to respond to the beat. At precisely 12 AM, we were set off to run 2 loops of the 21K route to a communal countdown. Everyone was flying at gunstart, all except me! Oh gosh my legs felt heavy and my knees, every step I was wary they might act up. I did not let myself be dragged into a much faster pace than I can muster. With sound of Madonna blearing in my ears, I kept to my super conservative pace and myself. Even FRD Red and Edrick left me in a heart beat. I am readying myself for 7 hours of mashing the pavement of BGC heading to Kalayaan and partly the Buendia Ave. before heading for the Heritage area and back to the start area for our first half.
The constant ringing of Blue’s encouragement of never, ever get DNF-ed and instead power walk my way throughout in case I felt unable to push further in my mind kept me going. In fact I chose not to wear my FRD shirt for fear of not being up to par with the ultra-marathoners who so wore them with pride before the very finish line. So sorry for letting you down Blue, Mary Joanne, Bhe2 Cleo and Gen in not having the confidence at the start and fearing censure from peers and the rest of the running community at having to drop off the race. It was so stupid and cowardly of me to think that way.
By the time I was almost done with my first round, I felt feeble and dizzy. I do not know if it was from lack of sleep or a panicky mind but I was already preparing myself to throw in the towel by then. However, seeing some few friends joining the 21K along the sidewalk near the start/finish area and a slice of banana which I immediately consumed around the turf area, I felt some energy surge that I decided to add in some more Ks and see from there. At this point, Sir Rene “Jazz Runner” Villarta caught up with me. His presence brought a jolt of confidence to me that all thoughts of giving up dissipated immediately. Run walk run walk I did at my own convenience till once again I reached the Kalayaan flyover. Here some more fast 21K running friends like Neil Mac and Clark Castro went flying past me with some few words of encouragement that I felt not so concerned anymore of not being able to finish. My knees are likewise cooperating! But more than anything else, it was this singular factor that set in at the right moment and saw me through the rest of the distance – the endorphin-induced second wind.
It helped really much that there were many hydration stations with ice cold Pocari Sweat, my sports drink of choice, and water! I did not have problems hydrating myself and keeping my body temperature in check. Moreover, they were situated in such an alternately perfect manner! The marshals were also very helpful and did their best to cheer us on despite their sleepiness. I just refilled my handheld hydration bottle in every other Pocari station and I am good to go. After 25K it was two cups of very cold and even ice filled (at certain times) water for me, one to drink and one to drench over my head. It was not hot as the sun was still not up yet but the sting of cod water was a jolt of energy and assurance that I will not overheat.
The medic stations with ambulances were not to be outdone in number and eager personnel to help as well. They were equipped with lots and lots of spray liniment to ease tired and cramping muscles. And they not only sprayed, they massaged too! Big races such as this usually have a good number of newbie runners leveling up their distances for the first time. And lots of muscles were, consequently, rebelling from this new distance strain overload that they needed all the assistance they can get to delay lactic acid build up. I myself availed of this soothing balm in one situated after the Kalayaan flyover Calvary (so not yet over the Holy Week penitence!). It was indeed heaven sent! Usually I hesitated this service despite the need due to the filing up of runners. However, this one had none and a medic at the farthest end without a “patient” as I arrived was just perfect! She even massaged my calf muscle telling me to relax it while doing so. I told her I was relaxed as it is! Hahaha…. Off I flew after that!
Running friendship Jen Sinsay and I ran together the stretch of Lawton to Heritage as she caught up with me there almost crawling. (She was doing her 21K recovery run from Mayon 360 which was an 80K run! Kalowka much.) She tried her best to make me stay on with her but past the turning point near C5 I told her not to bear with me anymore and off she went in a snap. Poor Jen, it must have been more painful for her trying to crawl with me as she would rather run! Hahaha….
I took my sweet time walking more and running much much less the remainder of the distance inside the BGC before the finish line. I wanted to reserve something for the last few meter dash where I was sure lots of friends who by this time had long been done with their respective runs were lingering along. I was correct. A hundred meters or so I can wearily and blurrily make out the time readouts saying 5:55. I can still make it to sub6! I encouraged myself to make a dash for these few meters while waving and smiling cheek to cheek to friends calling out my name. After several years running, I have already mastered this art of faking energy and speed in front of cameras and audience, hehehe.
I was so glad I took on this challenge and not chickened out. However, I would never recommend to anyone this madness of limited mileage going into the run. Respect the distance is still a good mantra to live by as a runner. But sometimes we needed some daring move such as this to jolt us into upward mobility and not cuddle up in the comfort of the usual short distance runs. Just make sure that you approach everything very conservatively. In fact, in hindsight I think I overdid in this aspect. For one, I think it was too cowardly for me to consider DNF-ing even before the gun start fired, or even during half the total distance after that. In fact I may not be worthy of wearing ever my FRD shirt because of this. It will hurt me deep down inside big time but I will make up for this moment of weakness. I will train and be FABULOUS in my next full marathon. That I will make sure as July is fast approaching. I am getting ready, getting ready. Oh gurl what a day it is going to be.!