That was my finish time for the OctobeRUN 21km race held in BGC last October 9th 2011. The distance for this race was at 20.80km, short by 300 meters for the 21.1km distance. Right after crossing the finish line (and letting the marshals get something from my bib to record my race number), Alvin and I ran the last 300 meters, which ended up where Kabisera Restaurant was for an additional 1 minute 44 seconds.
In reality, my 21.1km time should be 2:24:09 for a pace of 6:50.
But instead it was 2:22:25 with a pace of 6:51. Either one is fine by me. As both are below the time of 2:30, which I did not think was remotely possible in achieving so soon! (Besides which, I usually base my performance on the average pace of my Garmin watch.)
To note, the last time I had a sub-2:30 half marathon was way back in March 2010. That was exactly 18 months ago! And not because I haven’t been running this distance since that time. On the contrary, it was this race distance that I mostly joined due to the enticement of a finisher medal (on my count, there were 15 Half Marathon races that I have joined solely and not including those that I ran with my wife).
But here’s the main difference between this race versus the other ones: I got stronger by training properly.
All this time, I thought it was fine to build mileages by just running the distance and not thinking about the time it would take to finish it. So I would run on a Tuesday night and do another short run on a Thursday night, followed by a Half Marathon Race on Sunday morning. My paces for all three weekly runs were about the same. There was no speed involved. It was just a casual jog as I aim to reach my target distance and burn the calories. It worked in that I didn’t get any cramps from my 21km races and still able to finish them. But I walked in those races. I walked going up the flyovers (or basically any inclined roads). I would take my time at the water stations and stop at EVERY one of them (for fear of getting dehydrated). I would drink so much water/ sports drinks that I would feel bloated and gassy. But I always figured that that way was better than being dehydrated. At least I can still claim to be a finisher. Not a quitter or cheater. And with no cut off time involved, there was NO PRESSURE on my part as a finisher.
But there is a race I’m aiming for that has a cut off time and with what I am doing back then, I will not make it! So I got help from the guy who is used to running so much that it has become a part of his daily routine. And together we would run at BGC, at Ultra Track and at different race venues. And slowly, I got faster and stronger and slowly, he began to change my perceptions about training and running a race. What’s good about his training is that I would still run on a Tuesday, a Thursday and a Sunday. Just three times a week and the same schedule as what I did before.
This race was a big test for me as I usually fizzle out at 15km mark. And I usually get quite frustrated with my performance (there was even one time that I wanted to quit running altogether). My main weakness was really endurance as legs become heavier and more tired and different body pains (shoulders, knees, etc) come out during the long runs. So there is always a fear that it would strike me again.
This race started on time and I took off at an easy pace. I made sure that I was comfortable with my speed and that I wouldn’t burn out too quickly. Inhale… Exhale… Inhale… Exhale…
Alvin came along at 3km mark as he caught up with me in the race.
The first challenge came up in the form of Kalayaan Bridge. It was an uphill climb but I can usually run it especially if it came out early in the race. So that was done and conquered. Then, it was the long stretch of Buendia Avenue with an unexpected turn into Malugay Street, where it started to rain. That was a challenge too but luckily the rain did not worsen and stopped after 15-20 minutes.
The second challenge was returning to Kalayaan Bridge from Buendia Avenue, and that made me especially fearful of it because I had never ran the entire thing. It was just too steep and too hard to do. But that was one thing I aimed to do. Even if I didn’t get a good finish time, this would be my achievement for the day. My mountain to conquer, so to speak!
So I slowed down my pace but still made sure that I was running and not walking it. To make it (a little) easier on myself, I would look at the ground so that I wouldn’t see the steep incline or the other runners, who were mostly walking up the bridge too. I was able to complete the first incline but had to keep on going. There was a second incline before the bridge goes down to BGC, and on this incline, I would always stop to walk on it. But this time was different as I forced myself to keep on running.
Kalayaan Bridge Conquered! Yes! If I fail in anything else, I have this one single thing to be proud of!
We kept on going. I took a GU at 12km mark. The weather was nice as gloomy but not raining again. The water stations were sufficient for me. The Pocari Sweats, bananas and chocolates were a bonus (I just took the drinks and skipped the rest).
As we went near the International Schools, I remembered this route as part of our Tuesday trainings and knew that I had it easier now given I was more than a minute slower. And that gave me the motivation to keep on going at a steady if not faster pace. It was at this time too that I know I would conquer this distance.
The final challenge would come at the 19th KM mark as that was the new road that just opened near St. Luke’s Hospital and featured two hilly climbs. This was hard to do as well especially since my left foot was giving me some grievances. But I didn’t want to stop when I have already exerted a lot of effort for more than 2 hours. I had to keep on going.
Finally, there was a loud sound right in front of me, like a strong thunder, as something fell and hit the ground hard.
And what was it?
Well, that was the sound of me kicking 21.1km’s ass!
“You have been weighed. You have been measured. And you have been found wanting.” - A Knight’s Tale
In the end, I got a nice finisher shirt, a finisher certificate, a loot bag, and a nice finisher medal and realized one thing. Although a medal is significant in itself, it would hold more meaning if it was achieved by giving your all and getting the best time possible for that particular race.
As a comparison, my last 21km race prior to this was Run United 2 21km with a time of 2:58:01, more than 30 minutes slower than what I was able to do this day! Proper training really works!!
2011 PR for 21km!