"Good things come slow - especially in distance running."
Running and finishing a marathon is something you cannot hurry. This I learned from my failed first attempt at the distance.
Two years passed before I decided to go for the distance again. By then I have run a couple of half-marathons in addition to several 10K races, finishing comfortably without having to walk any portion of the runs.
It was at the finish line of my second 21K that I learned about the Davao Midnight Marathon. It was more of a fun race, I was told, one specifically intended for first time marathoners. It also had less of the heat that came with the Davao Finishers' Marathon which usually started at 4 am. A 5-hour marathoner could pretty well be running in the heat of the 8 o'clock sun in the final stretch of the event, not something a first-timer would savor. In contrast, the Midnight Marathon fired off - as the name itself says - at 12 midnight. At 5 a.m., the air is still much cooler and would somehow be a wee bit more forgiving if not comfortable.
Learning from my lack of long runs, I put in several runs of 30-32 kilometers. These became Sunday staples. They always left me tired and sore, but always more comfortable in dealing with distances beyond 20 kilometers. My confidence was also boosted by those long runs.
March 3, 1996. 12 midnight. I stood with other runners at the starting line of the "Shell to Shell" 2nd Midnight Marathon organized by the Davao Sunday Runners' Club. Ahead of us laid 42.195 kilometers of roads, a few going uphill, waiting to test our endurance and determination. I may have prepared myself for this with months of running, but nothing really seems to work against the nervousness that engulfs you as you stand there waiting for the bark of the gun that says the race has begun. Nothing other than, it seems, running itself.
Once we have been released and have settled down, each to his own comfortable pace, the nervousness eased until it was no longer there. What was left was excitement at being able to do this, at being able to run in pursuit of a dream. Not many can do this, I was telling myself, proud that I was here with this select group of people.
I threw up twice along the way, something I blame on taking too much of the free Gatorade (my first time to drink it), and I walked much of the second half. There's no particular shining moment I recall other than me crossing the finish line at about half past 5 in the morning. Many other runners have already changed into dry clothes. I was soaked in sweat, exhausted but fulfilled.
I have taken on the marathon again and survived this time. I was a winner.
Two more marathons followed my first.
On April 19, 1997, I did the "Darkness to Light Run" 3rd Midnight Marathon. Then, on December 7 that same year, I finally took on the dreaded hills of the Davao Diversion Road again in the 14th Davao Finishers' Marathon. I finished it this time.
In total, I run the Davao Finishers' Marathon three times. My most recent two also had a couple of lessons for me. Every major run usually has one.