Sunday, February 17, 2013

A late arrival and a twice undone shoelace: my 2013 PhilHealth Run story

I was set to run the first ever PhilHealth Nationwide Run in February last year when injury struck and made me a sure candidate for a DNS (did not start).

The metatarsal stress fracture I suffered while on my final speed workout a week before the race had me sidelined for three months, my foot encased in a cast for four straight weeks. The rest of my 2012 became a period for recovery, retraining and delving into some short local races.

When I learned that there would be a repeat of the PhilHealth Run this year, I promised I would make it my first race for this year. I squeezed in whatever high intensity workouts I could eke out of my ageing body in the limited time my early work hours as a news and public affairs anchor allowed. In the last four weeks I ran long (16K-20K) on weekends to prepare my lungs and legs for the 18K challenge. I have run longer distances, yes, but after that injury, my confidence was chipped. I wanted my Phil Health Run to be good. I wanted to be assured that I am indeed back.

I was told by co-workers in our FM station in Koronadal City that some 6,000 participants have registered for the race, a thousand runners more than the quota set by the PhilHealth national office to Phil Health Region XII. I wondered how many would be running 18K. I was sure majority of the participants would be doing the 5K and 10K runs. That would mean that there could be quite a crowd clogging the route just as I would be running closer, hopefully picking up pace as I do, to the finish line. Such a situation could sometimes mean you have to dodge people and break stride. Not so good.

The instructions that came with my race packet said my race would start at 5:00 in the morning. All other races were to be released 15 minutes of each other. I thought leaving at 4:45 for the South Cotabato Sports Complex where the race will start and end was not such a bad idea. After all, it was not that far from our station, Happy FM. where we spent the night. I was wrong.

Just as I got out of our vehicle, I heard the voice on the public address telling 10K runners not to proceed yet to the starting area at the back of the sports complex. A really big crowd of runners occupied the field, apparently doing a group warm-up routine. I asked a race staff where the 18K runners where, and she said they had already left. Boom! Panic!

I asked which route they took and I was shown the path leading to the back gate of the sports complex. I joined another runner who also came late. We were lucky. The 18K runners were still lined at the starting area waiting for the gun start. "One minute to start," I heard on the public address as my race number was being checked. I lined close to the front. My heart was already racing from that sprint to get to the starting area. The gun barked, and we were off.

I ran my usual controlled pace at the start. My plan was to pick up the pace from the turnaround point for a negative split second half. I was able to pass several runners as I made my way to the 9K mark. When we met the lead runners who were already on their way back to the sports complex, I started counting how many runners were ahead of me. I hit the turnaround and noticed the seemingly downward slope on the road ahead of me. It seems we have been running a gradual uphill going to the 9K mark. I glanced at my watch. 45:58. I was within my target finish of 1 hour and 30 minutes. The gradual downhill helped me pick up the pace.

As we made our way back to the sports complex, we met the other runners who were still going towards the turnaround point. One told me I was in 21st place. I smiled at him and looked ahead. I saw a group of runners in a distance. I kept my pace, mentally chanting my mantra every now and then as I moved closer: "Run strong" alternating with "Hail Mary" every four steps. A little prayer for help doesn't hurt. I passed five more runners before I saw the 10K runners heading back to the sports complex.

Getting closer to the city center, I felt my left shoelace loosening. In a minute, they were undone. I was forced to stop and step aside to tie it back. I was soon back on my steady run to the finish with a couple more kilometers or so to go. I hit the turn leading to the finish. The start/finish banner beckoned a couple hundred meters away. I braced myself for a sprint when I again felt my left shoelace loosening. I chose not to stop this time. I ran straight ahead trying to pick up my pace even with my untied shoelaces flying with each step. A few meters before the finish, I felt like my shoe was just about to fly off my left foot. I slowed down. I saw the race clock tick past 1 hour and 30 minutes as I crossed the finish line at a pace slower than I had intended. I pressed the stop button on my stopwatch. It read 1:31:22.

I was handed my finisher's medal and certificate. I asked one of the staff how I ranked. 12th out of 170 runners was the answer I got. That was good enough for me today. My first race for the year was done, and I still have the rest of the year to get better, barring another injury of course.

And that finish line crowd? I didn't notice any disrupting my "aborted" dash to the finish. The PhilHealth Run was one of the most organized and orderly race I've run. The water stations were adequate enough and also well stocked. I have to get used to drinking from cups while running, though.

P.S. I ran the second half of my 18K in 45:24.

My PhilHealth Run race bling

1 comment:

CityGirl said...

excellent--all of it!