The Running Angel

Just because I don't have wings, doesn't mean I can't fly.

How Running a Marathon Changed My Life

“Something has changed within me, something is not the same, I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game. Too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep, It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap!”

—Defying Gravity, from Wicked the Musical

At the TBR Dream Marathon send-off party last February 11, Coach Jim Lafferty told the runners that we would not be the same once we cross that finish line—the old me would die and a new person would be reborn. He said it again on the day of the race, right before the starting gun was fired at 2:00 am on February 22.

IMG_9111Selfie before the race

It’s true that this whole journey has changed me little by little the moment I signed up for this race back in August. I learned I could still push myself to take risks and do something out of my comfort zone. I started to love running in the morning (whereas in the past I hardly ever woke up before 8 am unless I really had to!). I gained the discipline to stick to a training plan for six months. I prioritized doing long runs on Sundays over lazing around and not doing anything productive.

At first I thought a lot had already changed, and that the race would simply be a graduation of sorts, a culmination of all the training we had done. What I didn’t expect was that I still had a lot to discover about myself on the day of the marathon.

photoMy marathon essentials

As I laid out all my gear the night before, I felt pretty confident. There were nerves, yes, but not more than the usual anxiety I feel before any race. Our family and friends were very supportive and encouraging. We had done the training and I knew we were ready for this.

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Sunrise over Nuvali

The race course was composed of two loops around Nuvali. The first half of the race went by breezily. We had previewed the course in past Bull Sessions and it was just as I remembered it—rolling hills, wide roads, green grass, and trees. The night air was cool and crisp. At one point, we joined Coach Jim’s 2:1 run-walk pace group and his occasional comments kept us entertained (“Men think they run the world, but it’s really women who do!” Right you are, Coach!). At 21-K, hubby and I were right on target, running slowly but surely at less than 10 minutes per kilometer. I remember thinking, Wow, this marathon is so easy!

Boy, was I wrong.

By the 25th kilometer, my legs started to give up on me. The pain crawled from my toes to my ankles up to my calves, knees, quads, and hamstrings. My upper body felt great—my heart strong and steady—but my lower body was screaming, begging for me to stop. I was on the verge of tears. I kept thinking, What did I do wrong? Why were my legs giving up at just 25 kilometers?! I ran 30km three weeks ago and my legs had been sore but I felt like I could still go on. I had stuck to our pace and was diligent in taking my gels, Gatorade, and water. Why was this happening now? Was it because I gained weight, tapered wrong, trained too little?!

By the second loop, the “rolling hills” felt like mighty mountains (UpHELLS, indeed!). I could not keep up our 2:1 pace anymore. As the sun started to rise, I had to walk longer and pray harder. I seriously started to doubt myself. I finally realized why people say that the marathon is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Negative thoughts crept into my head and keeping them at bay was just as hard as putting one foot in front of the other.

IMG_9124Motivational tidbits along the course helped me to keep going (and taking photos was a good excuse to stop and rest)

I was very disappointed because I knew I wasn’t going to reach my goal of finishing the race below seven hours. At that point, it was no longer about the time, but simply about reaching the finish line. Though it was extremely tempting, quitting was not an option. I put on my music to distract myself. I stopped to stretch every few minutes. I sat down to rest whenever I saw a sidewalk, even if it was just for 30 seconds. I forced myself to smile whenever I saw a camera. I took chocolates, rock salt, and Chippy from the Dream Chasers and soaked in their cheers and encouragement. Time crawled ever so slowly. By the 36th kilometer, my watch died. At first I was upset about it, but looking back, maybe it was a blessing because it prevented me from feeling dismayed whenever I would check it and realize that we had only ran-walked a few hundred meters.

IMG_9119My perfect pacer and running buddy

But the most important factor that helped me finish the race was my husband, Roland. He was encouraging without being overbearing, patient without being too lax. He made me run 1 minute, walk 1 minute. And when I couldn’t do that, he let me run from one pole to another and then walk to the next. He literally pushed me while we ran, especially on the uphills (he says this helped him utilize his core more). I kept asking if he was okay, but he’d always say I shouldn’t worry about him and just focus on moving forward. He’s definitely much stronger than me, but he sacrificed a faster time so that we could finish together.

When we reached the “H Loop,” which was frustratingly within sight of the finish line but had us run three more kilometers, I knew we had this. We just had to push a little bit more. We saw our friends, taking our pictures and cheering us on. With the sun burning my skin, it felt like the longest three kilometers of my life.

11006399_10153064408948363_2665074301433638854_n Thank you, Pinoy Fitness, for capturing our finish line moment!

And finally, after seven hours, twenty four minutes, and five seconds, we crossed the finish line hand in hand. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief—we are now marathoners! A familiar face came to congratulate me. It was Coach Lit Onrubia, whom I had worked with in Runner’s World. After reading his articles and hearing all his advice, it was nice to see him there. It’s like he was personally welcoming me into the elite club of marathoners, which includes less than one percent of the population!

Something definitely changed once I crossed that finished line. I learned that I can choose not to quit when the going gets tough. I became grateful for all the little things that helped me finish the race. I appreciated my body for getting me to the finish line and I realized I should take even better care of it. I decided to focus on the positive and learn from my mistakes. I was humbled when I realized that I couldn’t control everything, that there were some things I just had to let go. I’ve heard of couples who fought while running a marathon together, but I loved my husband even more after this race!

Best of all, I proved to myself that I am stronger than all my fears.

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I am very grateful to the Bull Runner founder, Jaymie Pizarro, Coach Jim, Coach Lit, the Dream Chasers, and the whole team who made the Dream Marathon possible. Thank you for giving me and all the other dreamers a chance to become marathoners and for making the experience a truly memorable one. Thank you, Coach Roel Ano, for training me and Roland and helping us prepare for the race. Thank you also to my batchmates, who shared this journey with me. You are all an inspiration to me. #42KALLTHEWAY!

To all the runners who are still dreaming about doing their first marathon, I say go ahead and take that leap! Yes, it’s extremely tough, but once you commit to it, the journey will change you in ways you never expected it to. And it’s all for the better. —A

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The Journey Begins

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About two weeks ago, on September 24, I was driving to the first Bull Circle of The Bull Runner Dream Marathon. On my way to the venue in Fort Bonifacio, I got stuck in heavy traffic due to construction on the corner of C-5 and Pasig Boulevard. I had training early that morning so I was tired, sleepy, and irritable. Several times, I was tempted to just turn around and drive back home. “F*** this!” I voiced out loud to my equally frustrated husband. “I’d rather go home and sleep!”

But somehow, we trudged on until we finally got to the venue an hour late. Just as we sneaked into the back of the room, Coach Jim Lafferty started playing this video about Terry Fox, a Canadian athlete who did a cross-country run that spanned several months to raise awareness for cancer research—and he did it all on one leg.

Of course, I teared up while watching the video, because here I was complaining about traffic, when this guy just did something truly heroic.

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When I started running almost 10 years ago, I never dreamed of doing a full marathon. I always had a lot of excuses: I’m too busy, it’s not really on my bucket list, I’m not at the peak of my fitness, etcetera. But at the heart of it lies all my fear and self-doubt. Can I really run 42 kilometers? Can I commit to the training? Do I have what it takes to go the distance?

By showing Terry’s video, Coach Jim wanted to tell us that if Terry could do it, anybody could do it. But according to Coach Lit Onrubia, we need to answer three questions first:

1. Why are you racing?

Two months ago, I decided I needed to climb out of the rut I was in and to stop living in fear. Running a marathon always seemed like this big, scary monster to me, and I thought it’s high time I conquered it. But more than that, it’s a way to remind myself that I can do whatever I set my mind to and that I am brave enough and strong enough to conquer other big, scary things in the future.

2. How much time do you have to spare?

As my work load decreases in the next few months, I have plenty of time to train. And this time, I’m committing at least three days a week to running. What I love about the TBR Dream program is that it allows you to incorporate running into your lifestyle—and not let it take over your whole life.

3. What are you prepared to sacrifice?

So far, I’ve sacrificed late nights in lieu of sleeping and waking up earlier and started spending significantly less time doing leisurely activities. I know I have to sacrifice sweets and other unhealthy food as well, but I have to admit, that part’s been a real struggle!

Aside from the TBR program and training sessions with my coach, another thing that’s been really helping me prepare for the marathon is The Runner’s World Big Book of Marathon and Half-Marathon Training. The training tips and practical advice are spot on, but what I really love are the inspiring stories of other runners who overcame various obstacles to finish their 42-K.

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I truly believe that the journey is just as, or maybe even more important than the destination. Two months ago, I embarked on this journey by signing up for my first 42—or maybe it began when I first started running back in 2005. I know it won’t be easy, but I’m pretty sure it will be all kinds of awesome.

Other marathoners have said that the journey will change you… that you won’t be the same person you were once you cross that finish line. Who will I be after this journey ends?

I can’t wait to find out! —A

 

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