Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Marathon lessons

There have only been five marathons that I remember doing and finishing in my running lifetime until now. Looking at them in retrospect as I start another year of running following my first-ever, and hopefully my only, serious running injury, I remember the lessons that they taught me. 

I would like to share them in these series of posts.

"Respect the distance."
December 1994 - 11th Davao Finishers' Marathon

It was supposed to be my first marathon.

I had run several 5K's and 10K's and felt I was ready to go for the big 42. After all, I thought, I ruled my age group in some of those runs. What would be so difficult about running a marathon other than the longer distance?

I braced myself for the event. I put in as many 5K and 10K days in a week as my work schedule at a local radio station would allow. It meant waking up early so I could squeeze in my run before I went on board for the morning news and public affairs program. On weekends I ran 15 to 20 kilometers. It was a routine that I kept for three months leading up to my first marathon.

On race day, I nervously lined up at the start wearing the event singlet and my race bib. The starting gun barked and I joined the rush of runners out of the Victoria Plaza grounds to the streets of Davao City. It was 4 o'clock in the morning. There was a slight chill in the very early morning air. I felt good and kept a strong steady pace, running with a pack or another solo runner here and there, whichever comes along the route.

I was still feeling okay when we entered Ma-a Road on our way to the Diversion Road. That five kilometer stretch of road just steadily went up. I felt my steps and my breathing getting heavier as I trudged on. The sun was already out by then and I was already bathing in sweat when I hit the Diversion Road. And what would I find there but only more climbs. They were not as long as the one I just went through. They were a lot shorter by comparison, but also much steeper.

The series of climbs going towards Buhangin took its toll on my legs and feet. I went on walking breaks taking in as much water as I can at aid stations. I took some bananas at what could only have been the halfway point of the route. I was hoping all that could reenergize me. Sadly, it did not. Added to that, the sun steadily beat down on me. It felt like a bacon could fry at the back of my neck.

By the time I reached 28 kilometers, I was drained. I was walking empty. The event ambulance later pulled alongside me and the first aid staff asked if I was still okay or if I wanted a ride to the finish line. I don't remember giving any audible answer. Maybe I did, maybe I just nodded from sheer exhaustion. I just remember the ambulance door opening and me getting in for a ride to the finish.

I was not alone on board the ambulance; there were four of us. I tried to find consolation in that, but the frustration of not finishing what should have been my first marathon weighed heavier. It was the first time I ever ran a race and came up short. I was definitely wrong for me to believe that I can tackle the marathon with my limited training, and I had to learn that the hard way with a confidence-shattering DNF experience.


Rosilie said...

Had that feeling with ultra thinking that my marathon would suffice. So, I'm more than worried for my 1st official marathon. I just hope that the ambulance won't be an option.

Caloy Bautista said...


With the kind of training you have been doing and your running experience, I don't think an ambulance ride to the finish will be an option :)

CityGirl said...

Had to pull out of a half in 2012 due to a severe injury that wasn't healing. So tough, after all my training.
But no shame in the ambulance--there are good days and bad days, as veterans and beginners know...
Wishing you a great year of running!

Caloy Bautista said...


Thanks. Wishing you a great year as well.

Kelmer said...

I guess every runner has overestimated their ability and training at one point in their lives. I believe it's a rite of passage for every runner so they'll begin to listen to their body rather than their egos..=))

Caloy Bautista said...


Well said. And I can only agree.

b2bwayne said...

Enjoyed reading your post Caloy! I remember all of my marathons. Respecting the distance is so important. There are definitely no shortcuts in the training either. Take care Caloy and we'll talk soon!