Sunday, March 09, 2008

Fast(?) enough for a top 10 finish

I am not fast, only half-fast as another runner describes himself in his blog. Considering that and the age range covered by that special age category in the 5k event of the Araw Ng Dabaw Run -40 and above- I wasn't really expecting a podium finish.

Younger and faster runners were there at the assembly area at Rizal Park early this morning. They checked in and lined up with me at the starting line. I have trained, yes, but they have, too. Perhaps even harder than I did. But podium finish or not, I have decided I would run this race the best I can.

I started fast. 5k is a short distance. I knew that if I am to finish good, I needed to start fast, hold the pace, and finish off with a kick if you still have one. Even before I hit the first kilometer, my upper arms were starting to burn. My lack of upper body exercise was showing, and it is slowly killing me. I wanted to pump my arms faster. I knew my legs can still go faster, but I needed my arms to do that... and they didn't seem to be up to the task. Still, I pressed on, hoping the burning sensation would soon subside.

I passed runners and runners passed me. A bunch of Army guys in their running fatigues were up ahead. One of them was in my age group. Seeing them only a few meters ahead made me pick up the pace. Then, the sound of the siren approached. We were nearing the 5k turnaround, and the leading runner was on his way back to Rizal Park.

I passed the Army guy in my age category going towards the curve leading to the turnaround point in front of Gaisano Mall. On the other side of the road, running their way back to the finish, were familiar faces - the faster guys in my 50-59 age bracket. If this was a race that's strictly in that age bracket, I would be running 4th or 5th going to the turnaround. Well, reality is it was not.

By the time I started my way back to Rizal Park, the burning sensation in my upper arms has subsided. I was feeling more comfortable with my pace. Three runners who I surmise were in my category were ahead of me. I picked up my pace again and was soon abreast with the last runner in loose neon green shorts. I passed him. In a matter of seconds, he passed me right back. I had a race in my hands.

Mr. Neon Green Shorts was tough. I would be abreast of him, then he would pick up his pace and get ahead of me again. If I passed him, he would pass me right back. As we made the turn to San Pedro St. and the straightaway to the finish, he was ahead of me by about three or four strides. I held my pace, but in my head, I was contemplating on taking another surge and try passing him for good.

I started picking up the pace again. I was abreast of Mr. Neon Green Shorts for a few seconds and was leaving him behind not long after. I held the pace. The race banner was growing larger in my sight. Ahead, I saw the two other guys in my category trying to outrun each other to the finish. I was about a 100 meters behind and knew I wouldn't reach them. I had to be content with finishing behind them.

I crossed the finish line in 22 minutes 25.98 seconds. A few minutes after, I went to the organizers' table and checked on my results. I was 37th overall and 10th among the 40 and above runners.

Cash prizes were given to the top three category finishers. There were no medals or certificates for the rest of us in the top 10. Still, I couldn't be happier. A 10th place finish in my first race for the year isn't bad. Not at all.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Finally, a chance to run a race again

Two races have already passed me by.

The first Milo Marathon Regional Elimination race for Mindanao was held in General Santos February 24. I was planning to run it and the Davao City elimination race. If I cannot run all Milo Mindanao elimination races, then at least I can do the two races closest to my home city of Kidapawan. But as early as two weeks before the race, I was told that there was to be a baptism in the family, and I would stand as godfather to my nephew. My General Santos Milo elimination race went up in smoke.

Two days before the General Santos Milo elims, a friend from PATAFA Mindanao sent me a text message. There will be a 10k and 5k in Davao City on February 25. I was not prepared for that. And while it was a holiday, I was scheduled to join a provincial government medical-dental outreach in the town of Alamada, an hour and a half travel from Kidapawan. It was official duty against racing. No contest. I was not prepared to disappoint my boss.

Then on Monday, March 3, another text message came from my friend. Registration was ongoing for the Araw ng Dabaw run. Finally, this is something I can do! No baptisms, no medical-dental outreach, just a Sunday set for racing.

So which one do I run? The open 21k, open 10k, open 5k, or the 40-and-above 5k? I am not fast - half-fast perhaps - and I am not as good at running shorter distances than I am at doing longer ones. But, hey, that 40-and-above 5k is something worth considering.