I positioned myself well in the front end of the pack assembled at the start line, and pressed the start button on my Timex Ironman at the sound of the gun.
It was a mad dash for most from there, with a number of guys wheezing past me in pursuit of running buddies who were up ahead. I stuck to my pace. I was far from comfortable, my upper arms burned and my lungs were shouting, but it was like that in every race. I knew it would be gone soon. Indeed, by the time I was approaching the Dacudao flyover, the discomfort was gone.
I passed the 3k turnaround point at the top of the flyover and set my sight on the runners ahead. I picked up the pace as I had planned and had soon passed 4 other runners before entering the diversion road at the Buhangin junction. Then I had a race in my hands.
One younger runner I caught up to kept pace with me, asking if he could run alongside me just as long as he can. I just smiled my approval.
He lagged a bit as we climbed the first hill from Buhangin junction, but was soon beside me again. On the downhill, he picked up the pace and surged ahead. I thought of chasing but held back. The hills will be coming back again after the 10k turnaround and I could burn out even before that. I held my pace.
On the hill approaching the Buhangin junction I caught up with him. I kept my pace while he faded. I caught up with still another runner and traded paces with a runner in army fatigue-colored running shorts before finally breaking away going down the flyover.
The recreational 3k and 5k participants were all over the road leading to the finish. I was dodging people as I tried to hold my pace. It wasn't easy at all. The final few meters going into the finishing chutes was less crowded. I headed for the 10k chute and pressed the button on my watch as I crossed the line. My race was over.
My Timex Ironman recorded my finishing time at 47:31.91, more than 23 seconds faster than my Merco time last year. But I can live with that knowing this was a hilly course where PR's are hard to come by compared to the relatively flatter Merco run course.
John Wooden said "Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." I take that as truth.
I gave this run my best and discovered what I had me. A friend told me once that I was afraid to run fast and was prone to holding myself back. It was true, I guess. I always had this fear of burning out and shaming myself with a bad finish. But in my speed training sessions going into this race, I found that fear fading.
And looking back at this run, I remember Hal Higdon: "Even when you have gone as far as you can, and everything hurts, and you are staring at the specter of self-doubt, you can find a bit more strength deep inside you, if you look closely enough."
But I would say this was my best run experience ever not only because of what I gave it but also because of what I got from running it - meeting new friends. There's Joan and her husband from General Santos, NJ who posted a comment on an earlier entry in this blog, his girlfriend who did 5k, Jay of Davao Runners who kept pace with me going towards the Dacudao flyover, and Jette who helped me keep a great pace at the Buhangin diversion road.
They all made this one memorable running experience.
"Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too."