The Bull Runner Dream Marathon will forever and always be special to me.
It was on Saturday, the day before the marathon when Darius drove Jehan, Pinky, and I to Nuvali to check out the race course. The three of us felt a cocktail of emotions: excitement, happiness, and fear. It was different to see the race course in broad daylight as compared to when we previously ran it at the crack of dawn. As for me, I was terrified. The terrible asthma attack I had three weeks before the race set me back in my training and made a huge dent in my confidence. I knew the difficulty of running a marathon having run the same race the previous year. But there was no turning back.
Sunday 1 a.m. We arrived in Nuvali and “Ready for Anything” was playing in full blast. “Yes, I’m ready,” I psyched myself. I was thankful that my siblings and Pinky’s parents came to watch and cheer. We said a prayer and then the three of us toed the line of the biggest race of our lives this year.
The gun fired at 2 a.m. It was a great start. The energy was contagious. Jehan and I ran together but we separated after the 21-km mark. I should have stayed with her because running alone was difficult! I took my gels like clockwork and hydrated efficiently but at 24 km, I knew I hit the wall. “Too early!” So I told myself, “Keep doing what you’re doing. One foot in front of the other. Just another 4 kilometers and you’ll reach the guardhouse.” But the landmark seemed to take an eternity to appear.
I was fading badly especially on the steep ascent before the 28th km. My left foot hurt like crazy and I knew that I lost a toenail. On my way up to Miriam, I met Joseph, a dream chaser, who was running down the hill. Was I ever glad to see him. “Is that you, JN? Please help me.” And he replied, “Pagbalik.”
I saw Jehan and Pinky before the 30th kilometer U-turn. We high-fived each other.
I made it back to the 3rd support tent. Maricar and Joseph assisted me. After that
Joseph ran the downhill with me. I told him, “After this, I’m hanging my running shoes.” With that he replied, “You have low blood sugar. Eat your sandwich. What will you say to your sons? That you gave up? Hang your medal and not your shoes.” He made sense.
I regained my composure and when we reached the the bottom of the hill, Joseph said, “Nine to go. You can do it. See that guy in the white shirt? Overtake him.” I thanked him and ran by myself again. And I did overtake that guy in the white shirt.
I put a bit of pressure on myself to run faster than my previous finish time but when I reached the rotunda, I felt a little sad because by then I knew that I wouldn’t be beating my PR. I spent so much mental energy on a running the last kilometers.
I remembered what Craig Logan said before the race, “If it get’s tough out there, look up.” I started reciting Psalm 121-“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” I tried hard not to lose focus. Every now and then I’d check my form and breathing. I told myself, “Just finish.” It was a biggest battle between my body and my mind.
I passed the familiar landmarks: the guardhouse, the bridge, and the big acacia tree. The Abrio loop felt like death march, I saw some runners who looked like they were dying. I was on the last turn to the finish line when Michelle ran beside me. She said, “I’ll run with you to the finish. Good, good! Keep running strong.” Never had I been so relieved to see the finish line but it was blurred by tears.
As we neared it, I saw my sister Joy cheering from the sideline and then Michelle peeled away. I crossed the finish line, reached for the tape and with much effort raised it above my head. A matador placed the medal around my neck, a lady in a costume handed me an ice-cold face towel, and I covered my face with it. The tears kept falling. It may not be the faster finish but it was definitely sweeter because never had I had to dig so deep in a run as I did that day.
I finally took the towel off my face and I saw Ton of Gatorade giving me an amused look. I must have looked silly crying there by myself. Jun Cruz shook my hand, Mike and Macel congratulated me, and Jaymie said, “Nakaya mo!” My family finally reached me and they were all very happy.
We went back to the hotel and Jehan and Pinky took a dip in the pool while I went straight up to my bed and cried again (by now it’s obvious to you that I’m a cry baby!). To say that I was not disappointed with my time would be a lie. Who wouldn’t be? I’ve been training for this for months! I guess it was natural to want to beat your PR. But that was not the reason why I cried. I cried because at one point I actually stopped believing that I would make it. It was so not me.
At the end of the day I can say that my marathon story is still a good one. I did it. No regrets. I did not get the desired results but I got a valuable lesson in character building throughout the entire journey. I will still cherish this day even though it was heartbreaking.
It’s been more than a week since the marathon and it’s only now that I started writing my story. But as I sit and type, I can actually feel the desire and determination building up inside me again.
A quote from Ziad K. Abdelnour says, “One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder.”
I will try harder.
I guess I won’t be hanging my running shoes just yet.
I want to run another marathon!
Photos by: Darius, JN-Tbr, Photo-Ops, and J-Cip.