As the gun went off, hundreds of runners make their way through the starting line for the first quezon city international marathon. Xty and I positioned ourselves at the back since we will be doing a slow start. The program is to maintain a sustained pace for the first 3 kilometers and add speed little by little as we go along. That was a good start. I saw a loose timing chip on the road about 20 meters from the start line and immediately picked it up. I held on to it for a few meters before I decided to clip it on my shoelace, this thing will make itself to the finish line with me, somebody who lost it might have a stressful run ahead if he realize he'll be running without one.
We headed to up diliman for the acad oval loop covering the first 5km of the race. My veteran milo pacemate rod was with us. The place was still eerie at this darkest time and the winds were still cold. I thought it would be perfect if this route was placed at the latter part of the race to give the runners ample breather from the gruelling earlier route. We held on to our slow steady pace until we exited the university avenue towards commonwealth avenue. Rod stepped up on his gas and slowly pulled away from us. It was a delight to see the 8-lane stretch of the avenue exclusively opened for the runners alone. This road is heck the busiest in qc thus, known as the killer highway; accidents are prone in this road particularly at night. Somewhere near km.6 is the start of the up and down terrain that stretches until the end of commonwealth avenue. This would be a killer on the way back, I thought.
At km.7 a cheerful lady shouted "mabuhay ang kababaihan" as xty and I ran past her, she's maybe a fixture of a women empowerment movement. As mentioned by the good senator Pia Cayetano, this race was a beneficiary of the magna carta rule for women wherein all accolades including prizes for the women's category were equalled with that of the men's. A few more meters and we heard the sirens of the police bikes escorting the lead runners of the 21km event, two kenyans throttled past us. I recomposed and shouted "hakuna matata, kenya" and the two waved their arms as if they're returning the compliment to us to have a better day ahead. Toe to toe with each other they were gone in no time, they're strides were choreographed as if they're running with the wind.
As we approached km.10 we reached chito and passed by him after a short greeting. We're just on time, I reminded xty as we entered the batasan road for an out and back course for km.11 to km.14. First gel for xty at 01h05m. Cheers and words of wisdom were exchanged as we met friends and fellow runners who are on their way back to commonwealth avenue. Bards was there as well as the pacers leading the runners. At km.13 we caught the combo of jay, jaymie and raymund, they ran the first 10km faster than us. Jay and Jaymie will be doing a 32km long sunday run and raymund his first full marathon on his natal day. We went ahead as we increased our pace and headed back again to commonwealth avenue.
The litex area was swarmed by throngs of people along the way. It's exciting to see all folks, young and old lining up along the route cheering-on whenever a runner pass them. Clapping and shouting for you were a delight that somehow lessen the fatigue and boredom. There was an instance when a lola suddenly cheered on xty as she passed by her. Drum and bugle corps from different schools were present adding a fiesta atmosphere as the city celebrates its founding anniversary. A teen bystander even told me "kuya, yosi ka muna, pampalakas", "mamaya na lang, pagbalik ko", I replied. It's odd reminiscing this kind of invectives even though you came from that situation one point in your life. If he meant it as a joke, I returned it as well, para malibang naman tayo. These gestures should always be present, exchange high fives, run with the kids, greet the expectators, even the trees around you, believe me, it works.
Excitement looms as we entered the la mesa ecopark, a nature forest reserve in the metropolis, the most anticipated and the most advertised part of the route. At the entrance of the park xty took her second gel at 01h45m before we head on to the undulating, totally uphill course of the park. It's a bliss running here; cool winds, asphalt roads, trees and water surround you, with military guards spread meters apart, we were treated with extreme safety. Certainly we had our day here, we increased our pace and eventually reached our target time for the first half of the race. At the ecopark exit, I took my first gel, xty her third. It was km.22 at 02h15m.
One lesson I realized here is to carry a hydration with you if you'll run or pace with someone. I don't carry a water bottle on my runs but a valuable dream is with me during this race, that's why I took the initiative. Oh boy, that was a difficult task carrying that thing for more than 4hours, but I didn't mind until I let go of it at the last bend to the finish line. I refilled my water bottle at every station because it's difficult to rely on water stations alone like the stretch of the ecopark wherein drinking water was scarce.
Three hours earlier we arrived at the starting line, and chatted with friends and fellow runners. The atmosphere was festive and the area well lit, the booming sound of music reverberated as far as a kilometer away. The whole of qc circle was closed exclusively for the event. Our pre-race strategies were laid out weeks ahead, so we just made ourselves cool and relaxed during the wait of the gun start. I took xty on a 15min warm-up jog before we headed on our pre-race stretches. She was loose all the time as I wanted her to be. Hakuna matata; no more worries, we left the past behind and looked forward to a brighter day. After a short while we were off.
As we exited the ecopark, monster noise and thick smog billowed upon us. Xty and I braced for another rendezvous with this buses and jeepneys that ply this route of quirino avenue. T'was the first time too that we ate a boiled saba courtesy of fairview running club member. I felt xty went fast at this downhill part, she's doing a 5:30mpk at this juncture, as I kept on reminding her to slow down. Ben snapped us somewhere here. A group of female runners infront of sm city fairview cheered us and told xty, you're the eleventh female runner, lalo pa siyang bumilis nung marinig 'yun. We caught up willie at this point, limping his way through but still in running mode. He told us he's okay and whispered us to go ahead.
I met willie guevarra during the milo 2008 finals, a veteran of 70 marathons with 17 boston qualifications under his belt. He's now retired but still practice active participation in running. He's open to conduct public speaking, guesting or conduct training for running enthusiasts on how to run a marathon and/or qualify to the prestigious boston marathon.
Up ahead we saw the 04h30m pacers, jonel and lester, with their balloons swaying up above them. We're just in time I reminded xty. It was a downhill as we exit mindanao avenue and headed to don mariano marcos avenue, an uphill course that link to commonwealth avenue. At the water station by km.26 xty took her fourth gel, 02h45m. We caught up on jonel somewhere at km.28 and have a short run with him. He handed me a gatorade drink from their tko vehicle and bid us good luck as we moved ahead. Heading back to commonwealth market I feel my quads are going down my knee level. This is reminiscent during my first full marathon run at the philippine international marathon in 2008, I was lacking energy gels I suppose. My supplies were reserved for xty's use. I just kept on dousing them with iced water from noel of frc to let them cool, parang kotse na gustong mag overheat.
I kept on thinking who was the lost soul who dropped his timing chip earlier as we go along. Maybe he already finished the race or otherwise, still lingering behind us, I never know.
We walked break at every water station to give us fresh legs in the long run ahead and made sure that my bottle is always full. Walk breaks are proven effective during marathons. My strategy of mark, trail and pass a runner was still effective as we overtake each runner ahead of us. These strategies, I relayed to xty as we continue to run and exchange talks. "How's your legs, how's your breathing, how's your back" are my constant and repetitive questions to her. "Everything's good" she nodded. "Great! We're gonna be fine." She took her fifth gel somewhere near sandigan 30 minutes later. We were surprised to see miss kim in one of the hydration station handing us water cups.
As we walked break at the 03h15m mark, I saw her stare became blank, probably dehydration took place. She hadn't been hydrating properly for quite sometime as she contented herself to just sips of water. Staying cool, I talked to her as we walk and wrapped my arm around her for support (just in case she fall). I told her to stay sharp, focus her eyes on the horizon, while she takes her sixth gel and drink water. I immediately poured water to cool her down. Support should be by your side at this distance. I clearly remembered a fellow runner who collapsed during the condura race. I could see him staring at me point blank as I attended to him while he laid down flat on the sidewalk. He ended up in the hospital after that.
After a while we were back on the course, with the qc monument on sight, there's the end of the line. Mesh of t2 running was up ahead with ray who handed us frozen gatorades, ala ice candies, the coldest so far. Before entering the qc circle a male runner said "number 11 ka sa local female runners", na inspire na naman at gusto na namang magpabilis.
This last 4kms had been the longest stretch of the route as we struggled to cover this distance, but was one of our strongest run. We overtook runner after runner from different categories, there were still some doing a 10km and 21km finish. We spotted on fellow newbie sylvia running strong and alone on her way back. Xty was still willing although I can feel that our strides are slipping down, I guided her at this pace because I know she'll finish strong with this. We ran with dingdong from trinoma en route to the finish line until he moved past ahead of us, new york is within sight for you doc. What surprised us a lot was when we saw jaymie still running at this point. She had been on a 32km long run earlier but decided to finish the course, one tough woman too. Running really makes a difference.
After our last walk break, we regained our rhythm and ran our way through the finish line. With the loud cheering and clapping we made it to the mat. Not just the two of us, but with my guest timing chip included. Exhausted but stronger in the end, she did her first full marathon. Her dream is now a reality.
For some other photos click here.
Thanks to junrox and marivic for some pictures.