This race was always on my mind as I was quite undecided on whether to do it or not.
On one hand, the race route looks really interesting! It was something I have never done before in any race but it was nostalgic in a way that this was the area I used to live before and my 3 times a week work out consisted of an hour or so run along this route (from my house to Wilson Road to Greenhills Shopping Center for a certain number of loops and back again). Back then, road races weren’t popular yet and badminton was the entire craze. I used running (back then we call it jogging) to get fit and to build endurance for badminton. In a sadistic way, I would run with no cellphone or cash in my pocket and with only one small bottle of water with me. That way, there was no other way for me to get back home than to run/walk back. And I had a time limit as had to get back quickly enough so that I still had enough time to shower and eat breakfast and NOT be late for work. All the while conserving what little water I had with me! But these workouts served their purposes. Who knew that I would do running on a regular basis! Aside from the route, the promise of a finisher medal for 21km runners was an added benefit (had there been no medals, I wouldn’t have even thought about this race).
But, having a baby changes the family dynamics entirely. There was always a fear if I could finish a half marathon race given the lack of sleep, lack of training and weight gain during that time. A 10km race is usually okay to do. A half marathon isn’t. But with the completion of the Yamaha race, it gave me enough confidence to do another half marathon.
A LOT OF CURVE BALLS
First of all, it started raining and not just the light rain that would make you smile and enjoy the cooler weather. No, it was the strong shirt drenching rain! The kind that made you put your car’s windshield wipers on its maximum level just to see the road ahead. But I still went through it with a small hope that what is happening in Makati City isn’t happening in San Juan City. But it was the same here or there. Strong rains to the point that even the organizers were questioning among themselves on whether to push through with the race or not. We were all sheltered in Xavier’s gym, awaiting the final decision. The 5:00am gun time for 21km runners came and went. And still we waited. It was a good thing I spotted some familiar faces so I wasn’t bored during that time. There were also a lot of booths here (a total of 40) from various sponsors (I’m assuming all from Xavier Alumnus?)
By 5:25am, the decision was made! Rain or shine, the race would push through so we all walked out quickly to the starting line right in front of the school. By this time, the rain had slowed down so that was a good thing too.
By 5:30am, our race had started and I went with the last group of runners. For me, I didn’t want to rush with the fast runners and burn myself out too quickly. Because of the rain too, I opted to leave my Garmin and MP3 in the car and went instead with my GShock watch and activated its stopwatch mode. I felt a little bit helpless as I have gotten used (spoiled!) by the pace and distance measurement of my Garmin. Now, I only have the time. And no songs to distract me too! It was definitely back to basics for this RUNNING FATBOY!
On the race route, there were no kilometer markers so I didn’t know how far I had gone and how much more I needed to go to finish the race. At the beginning of the race, there were no marshals too and if there were, they seemed to be as confused as we were in terms of the directions of the race course. Right immediately after starting the race, we entered one of the Greenhills Villages, only to be met by the fast runners saying they all made a wrong turn. And there were one or two marshals standing there! With this lack of strictness, cheaters did what they did best! And there were A LOT of them!!! At the start, there were a lot of people behind me. In just a span of a few minutes, I was at the very tail end of this race. People were making very early U turns once they saw the fast runners heading their way. It seems nobody wanted to be left behind or be last so basically a lot of them made early U Turns and even laughing the entire time. Then it got worse. At one point, 21km runners were supposed to turn left and enter another Greenhills Village and run inside for 2-3km (by my estimate) while 10km runners were supposed to keep running on the road and skip this village altogether. I, along with some other runners, was surprised as a lot of 21km runners ran with the 10km runners (even though there was a sign, abet small, indicating 21km runners should make the turn). At one point, an older guy made a statement “they are just going straight (in Tagalog of course)”. He was debating whether to follow them or not as there really is a mentality to not be left behind. I simply replied “Honesty system na lang po” and left him to make his decision as I made my turn to enter the village. I looked back a few minutes later and was glad to see the old man being honest. It was really hard to keep going as there were now EVEN fewer of us than at the beginning! Cheaters were really rampant in this race and marshals either didn’t mind it or didn’t see it happening. It was really disheartening to have this feeling. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there were some 10km runners who entered the village and then realizing it wasn’t part of their course. They were debating whether to continue on this route, to turn back, or to quit altogether. These were elite runners so that was harder for them as they were looking to get a top place in their category. In the end, they decided to push through with our route and see where it would take them. As you can imagine, it was chaotic! And all this time, the rain continued pouring!
We ran on Ortigas Avenue, we ran inside two (or was it three) private villages, we ran inside Greenhills Commercial Center, we ran on Wilson Road made some turns and came back to it two more times. We ran on big and small puddles, on the mud, on concrete, on grass. We ran and passed a building where tenants in their sleepwear were standing outside it as fire trucks came to stop the fire on the first floor. We ran on too many hills to count, twisting roads, a lot of U turns, and still no Xavier school in sight. This was indeed an adventure race!
I had hoped to finish this race in less than three hours but by the time I reached the three hour mark, I was still lost in the labyrinths of this city. I didn’t know how far I was from the finish line or how much more distance I had to conquer but I still kept going. I was doing the run-walk routine, and tired and exhausted already but still… no school in sight. Clock kept ticking but I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to get this over with and sit down! The few guys I was running with looked as tired as I was and the steep hills did not help any of us.
Finally, we entered Roosevelt Avenue (in another village) which should lead directly to the school. We passed the clubhouse and I finally saw the school! I can’t wait to get in but why is there still a water station positioned here? Then, I looked at the building again. Yes, it was definitely a school, there’s no questioning that, but it was the wrong one: ICA, the sister school of Xavier! I got disheartened even more. This was really, really crazy. For me, this has turned into a never ending run and you can’t really give up on it because that would make all your efforts a waste! So I kept going, more walking than running, clearly disappointed at my performance.
I somehow felt I was stuck in The Twilight Zone and just didn’t know it yet. It was like we were in a race that had no endings, where we just keep going and going and going… an exaggeration? Maybe but it was just too painful for me. Shoulders and heel were acting up again. Knees were hurting too. But finally, the school appeared! Yes!!! I immediately saw the school gate. A guy in front of me saw it too but its gates were just half opened and people were coming out of it (instead of entering it). The guy stood still observing a bit more. Should he enter? Is this the right way? Then I saw another runner way ahead of us and still running on the road. Dang! This gate isn’t the right one! So I kept on going. The guy came out of his trance and ran with me. We were both too tired to even say a simple hello. We both wanted it to end. Please!
We ran amid the parked cars. We turned a corner and saw more people just chatting away (10km bibs). We were near! And I saw the next school gate which was widely opened and showed the view of the football field. Next to it was a marshal pointing the way inside. Finally!
The finish line was in sight but here lies the final challenge: a very, very wet and muddy football field where we had to make three loops around it to cross the finish line! I didn’t care anymore about my time so I put special attention to my shoes instead and walked the remaining distance, careful at where I was stepping on.
I crossed the finish line and got the medal (Yehey!!) and went immediately to the drinks and banana station where friend Will, who also did the 21km, asked, “How did you feel about the distance? Did it seem long for you?”
I was too tired to think about it. I just gave a shrug and replied “Maybe”.
“Well it was!” Will answered back.
“Really?” thinking it could just be longer by 200 meters or so but not really caring.
“Yes, it was at least 24km! And that’s based on two Garmins!”
"21k" Race Route
After getting home, eating a hearty breakfast, sleeping for 30 minutes or so and getting laughed at by my wife for this unfortunate race, I pondered a bit and realized, “this is the farthest I’ve gone to for more than 17 months! It’s actually a momentous event! And to think this was the only time I decided not to wear my Garmin and the distance is longer by more than 10%! If I had worn it, I would have been discouraged as I passed the Half Marathon mark. I probably would have quit or walked the remaining distance, being furious at this misfortune. But I was unaware of this mistake… thinking the whole time it was just me coming in unprepared for this race. Wow, God must know what’s in my heart and didn’t want to discourage me. He knows my limit isn’t just 21km and made me realize I could do more if I wanted to”.
Then I thought about the finisher medal. If it had the words “Half Marathon” or the numbers “21km” on it, I wouldn’t appreciate it as I knew I did more than that. It would be rubbish for me. I peered at it and saw only the words “Stallion Run”. That was good enough for me!STALLION RUN 24KM – CONQUERED!
Final Surprise: My time was at 3:14:19, super slow for 21km but for a 24km? That translates into a pace of 8:06, faster than my past two half marathon races! Wow!
Isn’t God Amazing?
Post-note: Results are out on their FB page. I finish at 3:15:29 (maybe, based on when they got my tag which WASN'T at the finish line) and rank 167/193 runners for this event. Percentage wise that's 86.5% ..