In all the annual races of Yakult that I joined in the past few years (it is the country's second oldest road race after Milo), the 10-miler (16km) had always been its longest distanced category!
Not anymore for 2017 as for the first time ever, it now has a 21km category! There are also finisher medals given for various race categories and something unique as well: a Yakult pillow awaits as part of the finisher loot!
Of course with all these new things comes a re- adjustment of race registration fees. I still remember days of old when it was just at P250 or P300 for a 16km race. When Alvin and I joined last year, the fee had gone up to P500 (but still a lot cheaper vs other races in the city). Now for the 21km category, the fee had gone up to P850. Still cheaper than other half marathons as rate right now is at a minimum P950 and can go as high as P1,500.
Races aren't as affordable as they were in the past years and runners are more choosy as to which race they want to spend their money on.
In my case, joining Yakult was a last minute decision. I needed to do 29km that weekend and figured that doing an LSD might be more beneficial to me (no pressure, no need to drive car or wake up that early for a race). But I was drawn to Yakult (and more specifically, its pillow)! I wanted that pillow! Badly! Haha!
So after co-ordinating with the organizers (ProActive Management) via facebook (they respond quickly! Another plus), I signed up online, printed out confirmation slip and set out to prepare for race day!
The race start is at CCP where parking was easy but not a lot of good clean toilets available. Good thing I arrived quite early so once I got my race gear, I set out to do some running to add to my mileage for the day.
1km into the warm up jog, I found the toilet I was looking for: via a five star hotel near the race venue! Yahoo!
15 minutes and another 1km later, I was at the starting line, just in time for the 4:30am gun start!
The race will go through Roxas Blvd and make various turns at the back part (which I later realized was where Mall of Asia was). So we had to do the two flyovers along Roxas Blvd as we head southbound to where the casinos and huge hotels are located. I count five U turns from the race map and that is my basis for measuring how close/ far I am from the finish line.
Luckily this time around there were no tightness in my legs when the race started and I was able to run at a comfortable below 7 minute pace during that time.
Struggle were the flyovers but I made sure to run them knowing that the downhill portion will more than make up for the slow ascend. The first U turn was near the half way point and it was around this part that I had my first GU gel.
I felt good all throughout. But kept saying the Lord's prayer every kilometer as a way of remembering God and to give glory to HIM via this race.
At the last few kilometers, I was breathing harder and had a hard time saying the Lord's prayer but I continued. So far pace was quite good at 6:31 average. I wanted to bring it down to below 6:30 as haven't attained that for a while now. So I had to go a little faster and started to
make loud wheezing and coughing sounds (I could be imagining the loudness as nobody was distracted by it. But definitely wheezing!)
It was just 2km to go. Less than 15 minutes. "Let's not waste the first 19km by walking now!," I silently thought to myself.
So I kept going, secretly wishing it was over but at the same time, knowing that the longer distance could improve my average pace as I'm going faster for the last part.
And then it was over! I crossed the finish line, stopped the watch, got the medal, got the pillow (yay!), got drinks and walked quietly and limping to the car!
It was only when I got to the car and fixed my things did I remember to check my finish time (yes, I was too exhausted to care and was more motivated to get the pillow first).
And what a surprise it was! I achieved my last minute goal of sub 6:30 average pace (by a measly second), but in the process got a sub 2:20 finish time.
PRAISE GOD for this! I can't remember the last time I was at this pace/ finish time.
When I got home (which wasn't immediately as I had 5.5km to go! Boo! And quick breakfast at Jolibee due to hunger pangs), I found out that the only times I was faster than this day's race was back in 2009 and in 2010! Yes, 7-8 years ago! Who would have expected that I can go to that speed again! Praise GOD indeed!
This turned out to my 3rd fastest 21km (PR was at 2:14++) but first two happened before I had kids. And for a
race where target was just sub 2:30, that was an awesome surprise!
And then there is the Yakult pillow, cherished by everyone at home including my eldest daughter.
Thank GOD for this amazing experience.
YOU are amazing!