Monday, March 29, 2010

12k, anyone?

The crowd was a sea of blue. It was a few minutes before the official start of the CitiRun organized by the only 24-hour gym in the queen city of the south, The CitiGym.

A few were warming up cold tendons and ligaments, some slow-jogged, most were just talking with one another excited for the upcoming day’s event.

This was to be my first 12k. The longest I will ever run since I started running in the Year of the Tiger. All those weeks of endless readings and running the flats of the Government Center in Agusan del Sur will now culminate in today’s run.

In the dimness of the morning light, I looked around for familiar faces but found none. So I was gonna run alone today. Good. I was slow anyway, I reasoned.

My wife, my customary photographer in the 2 events I have entered since running, was greeting a lot of friends from work, runners in this event. She doesn’t run (yet) that is why she brought along her laptop to while away the time while waiting for me at the finish line.

The sound blasted to a funky music just as the DJ introduced a fitness instructor to do some warm ups. I was nervous and felt the need to throw up. The first 5 minutes is always like that for me.  My throat feels dry and my bladder seems full even though I just went 2 seconds ago.

Then the Vice Mayor gave some pep talk. It didn’t help. I still wanted to pee.

Then the countdown began. Elite runners lined up in front while I got stuck in the middle of the pack. I kissed my wife goodbye and told her I’ll be back in an hour and a half or earlier, I boasted.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… and the gun went off. Hundreds pounded the pavement of Waterfront Lahug. I ran with the group. Just then I realized this was going to be hard for me. I was carrying 2 Gatorade bottles without the convenience of a hydration belt and it felt heavy. And I still wanted to pee.

Runners zoomed past me while I passed by some who were slow in front. I dreaded the turn going to JY Square because I knew it was going up. Going up I shortened my stride but halfway through I was already out of breath. I checked my watch and was aghast realizing I had just been running for 3 minutes. One fatal mistake—not training on inclines.

So I did the most embarrassing thing I could think of that time—I walked until I rounded JY. I saw not a few smirking faces of by standers watching the run. I didn’t care. Then I ran again but looming in the distance was another incline. Lahug is famous for that. Going to the University of the Philippines is a killer for time. I ran for 5 minutes and walked 1. I ran faster going downhill and slowed down going uphill.

Reaching Escario St going to the Capitol was a much better run. I was already prepared for the uphill. I must have slowed down considerably since a lot of runners were overtaking me at will. I increased my pace until reaching Fuente Osmena.

Water stations were conveniently spaced and plastic glasses were aplenty. And so were the streets littered with it after runners just throw them away.

Running under the skywalk near Metrobank Plaza, it was disheartening to see runners at the opposite end of the road already heading back to Waterfront. I still had a kilometer or so to run before the first turning point. 2 seniors overtook me without effort—and they were talking politcs! I chased them up from the Community Hospital (where I used to work) all the way to the Army camp across Abellana when one of the soldiers manning the gate stood up and saluted both men and they returned the salute. These seniors were military guys after all! No wonder.

The turning point for the 12k run was at the junction of P. Del Rosario St and Osmena Blvd. They handed me my pink lace and I ran again. Time 40 min at the 6k junction more or less. I was off by 5 min of my best time but I attributed that to the highlands that was Lahug.

Going back was a breeze. I had emptied the other half of my Gatorade and was only carrying 1 bottle while The Wild Swans and The Cure blasted on my eardrums.

There was another turning point at Mango Avenue near National Bookstore and I was handed my second lace, blue. I ran all the way to Cebu Doctors’, the Provincial Capitol, Escario and Lahug then again. Photographers were positioned discreetly along these routes so I was careful not to open my mouth too much lest I be caught drooling while trying to finish the 12k.

Runners were now drinking from water pitchers as plastic glasses ran out, never mind Hepatitis A.

I dreaded passing by UP Lahug again. Last 2k. Time 1 hr 9 minutes. I was never going to make 1:15. This was where I was most slow. I walked again for the most part. Just then Lola Twinkle, dressed customarily in red Darna (was it?) attire passed by me. Now here was a grandmother, dressed probably in a 1-kg outfit, outrunning runners half her age. Was she fast? No. But she was consistent—uphill or downhill. I let her past me thinking I could easily overtake granny when the flatlands appeared but the longer I walked, the farther away she was.

Instead I set my sights on a newbie runner to overtake. I already saw this guy earlier in the early part of the race and he was gone before I knew it. Now here he was. This was probably his first 12k, too, I thought. He was bigger than me and he was also consistent like granny, never stopping during uphills, but he was slow.

Summing up all the energy I could get from my evaporating Gatorade, I sprinted past him from Beverly Hills going to JY. One race marshal with a ridiculously lean body frame ran back and forth motivating runners. He told me, “1k na lang bay!” 1k, my foot!

It was probably the longest 1k I ever ran. No one overtook me because I was already sprinting from JY to Waterfront. I prayed my ankles would hold. I sensed someone trying to catch up to me but gave up. I think it was big guy. We sort of had a silent war between us.

Despite my run, granny was already too far away to catch. When I rounded Waterfront’s lagoon area, I chanced a peek. Big guy was nowhere to be found.

The finish line was already packed with mingling runners mostly from the 4 and 6k events and the early finishers of the 12k. Some were busy taking souvenir pictures while some have already changed outfits. Granny was greeted with applause as she crossed the finish line. I crossed mine a few seconds later and looked at the time—1:27:56. I did it! 1 hr 30 minutes was my personal cut-off though I was hoping for a 1:15 finish but nevertheless I felt relieved. Finishing was just enough...for now.

I found my wife, had her took some pictures and related my endless running blabber about the military guys, granny and big guy (who I reckon was still running behind).

In the end, it was a good race nonetheless coming from a runner with less than 3 months running mileage. A humbling experience as I look at awe runners twice my age with stamina half my age. I learned a valuable lesson too about preparation and hard work.

Vowing to do better in my next “fun” run, I laced up my running shoes and face another day.