The RotaRUN was the first race that Per and I joined after having a change in status quo. It was memorable that way but instead of being excited, we were fearful for it. The reason behind this fear is that for the past three weeks we have logged in very little or didn’t do any runs at all (me for the former and Per for the latter). There was just no time what with the moving to a new place, travelling, etc. It was hard to insert a 1-hour or more run in our already tight schedule. Our fitness level most certainly dropped and we will have a hard time running again.
But we didn’t expect this when we registered for said race a month ago. I figured there was always time to do a run as it had become a routine for us. So, I eagerly registered for the half marathon race while Per went for the 15km distance race. The come on for me would be the finisher medal at the end of the race (at that time, it was offered to all categories but was subsequently revised to just the 21km race after a switch of organizers).
Now, come race day, we are faced with fears on whether we would burn out from the long endurance and the very intense route that McKinley Hills is known for. Per’s strategy is to complete the first 10km by running it and if she is tired, she will just walk the remaining 5km. My strategy would be a long slow run at a constant pace. No speeding for the two of us and very cautious in the race pace. Our goals would only be to complete the race strong and not “hit the wall”. “Hitting the wall” has happened as often as achieving the runner’s high and that is one thing that we want to avoid.
Upon checking the takbo.ph website the previous day, I found out that the race start was amended to 5:30AM so on race day, I was very much surprised as to WHY the 21km race started 10 minutes before the already amended race time? They shouldn’t have revised the schedule and just stuck with the 5:15am time if they wouldn’t follow it. Better for us to be there early than to be panicking once we heard the race had started! The parking was horrible when we got there with the long line to the entrance. Good thing my sister found a way to leave the car somewhere and run to the starting line. I still didn’t make it on time due to the earlier than expected starting time but at least I was just off by 2 minutes at the most. Who knows how delayed I would be had we stayed at the line heading into the car park.
Luckily, I had my Garmin with me so even with my late start, I can base my finish time on my watch instead of the official time. My legs felt heavy at the beginning of the race especially with the uphill climb but eventually it got used to running and I was going at a constant pace. I made it a point to stop at every water station and get for myself a cup of water or sports drink. I made sure to go at a slow pace and conserved my energy. Even after the 10km mark , I was still conservative in my pace as “hitting the wall” can happen at any time. I saw Per at her 10km mark and she seemed to be doing okay. So far so good!
Nat gave me a pack of GU gel but I kept it as a last resort as figured the sports drink are already helpful for this race. I was thinking of taking the GU at 16km mark and speeding for the final 5km. And that’s when I saw Jay running back towards Heritage Park. It was clear he was over and doing a long run (in preparation for another marathon maybe?). What I didn’t expect was when he shouted that it’s just 17km. What? Did I hear him right? Is he correct? NO WAY! At that point, I was still saving my strength and checking on my breathing and thinking whether I should go out fast given that I was at 16km already. But I was hoping that it wasn’t true. It was really weird to have this large a discrepancy as organized by a very popular Philippine running website. Unfortunately, it was true. Those who didn’t know of the shorter distance would think they got a new (and a fantastic) half marathon PR. Those sporting Garmins, Polar, Timex, Nike+ watches went back to running to complete the 21km or even go longer as part of their marathon programs.
The organizers delivered on their promise for a finisher medal but when I read that it says “21km Finisher”, it felt like I cheated to get this medal as didn’t run even close to that distance, and so I ran another 4km to reach the quota. I was able to run and find Per and help her finish her race (where she got a new 15km PR). For the remaining 2km I had to do, I just ran-walked at McKinley Hills.
This one big factor made it the worst race for me to date and I really, really hope this will not happen again in the future. If the organizers had already known about the shortened distance, they could have at least mentioned it prior to the start of the race or at least included in their amendments that it is just an 18-km distance race… but I guess they couldn’t do that as they have already made their finisher medals. Had they done this, I would have a better measurement of the right pace and not conserved as much as what I did in this race.
For comparison sake on ratio and proportion, it is like training for a full marathon, finishing it at a very good time but finding afterwards that the distance was just 36km. How would you feel? Will you consider yourself a marathoner and wear your finisher medal proudly or will you feel bad that all that training has gone to waste? Will you run an additional 6km just to complete the distance although time for that additional distance was not recorded?
That was exactly what I felt when I crossed the finish line. A very disappointed race indeed…
Per with her finisher certificate
Me with my ummm "21km" finisher medal.