Milo Marathon 2011: A Test of Character

Posted: August 2, 2011 in Events, Personal

Elite runners in front of the starting line, photo from Milo's official FB page

Pre-race: Nervous Excitement

Even with the Philippines sandwiched between two raging typhoons, Nestle would not back down. It was all systems go for the 35th Milo Marathon – the longest running and most prestigious race in the country, an event I’ve been dreaming of joining ever since I could remember. By 1:15am on July 31st, I was up and getting ready to hit the road. This is it! Eighteen weeks of a roller coaster training camp for my first full marathon!

At around 3am, my cab arrived at the SM Mall of Asia. The hosts were already asking the 42K runners to assemble at the starting line but the rain was pouring hard. Runners and spectators alike sought shelter at the organizer’s tents by the sidelines. Susan Jemuthai, a Kenyan runner, was huddled beside me between towering boxes of Powerade. We tried to stretch and warm up in that small space as best we could. Everyone was in high spirits as we waited for the 4am gun start. The rain was not letting up. This is going to be a wet and wild race.

Runners soldier on despite the weather, photo from "A Runner's Circle" FB page

The First Half: Inital High and the Excruciating Pain

You know what I discovered? Running in the rain is so much fun! That’s especially true if there’s over a thousand of you all eager to finish 42.195 kilometers. After we’ve made a few turns on the road, I heard someone shout, “0.195K na! 42K na lang!” There was a chorus of laughter. 42K na lang. LANG.

The streets were dark and mostly empty except for us and the marshals. We had to slow down because Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard and Roxas Boulevard were covered with large puddles of water. I started strong but cautious, sticking to a conservative 4:1 run-walk strategy so as not to trigger my knee injury. Unfortunately, the pain began creeping in after 5K. I tried to stretch it off and tighten my knee strap but the pain kept on building. The paracetamol I took after breakfast apparently wasn’t enough. Anticipating this would happen, I brought more painkillers in my pocket. One hour into the race, I took another tablet. Nothing happened and the injury persisted so I thought, “Bah. Ignore the pain!”

(Recurring thought: If I ignore the pain, would that make me an ignoramus? Is this madness?)

Mind over matter worked for a while and then… I couldn’t run anymore. Every time I forced it, I would recoil in pain. I decided to brisk walk while I waited for the medicine to kick in. By the second hour, it was only getting worse. Even walking was excruciating at times that I had to do so with a limp. I was hesitant to take ibuprofen because I heard that it could adversely affect long distance runners, but what the hell, it’s now or never. I already fell behind so bad and was near the tail end of the pack. Approaching a U-turn, I counted just ten 42K runners behind me.

I thought about not finishing the race and knew that it was a distinct possibility. It’s just that I worked so hard and dammit, other than the pain, running in the rain is awesome! Crossing flooded portions of the road? It felt like an obstacle course. I’m like a kid, playing in the street! My right knee was hell but my legs were strong, my lungs could go on for hours, and my heart just wouldn’t let me quit. I checked the time and did some calculations. I could still beat the 21K cut-off time of 3:30. Let’s go!

Runner with raincoat, photo from A Runner's Circle FB page

The Second Half: Back to Life and the Struggle to Finish

It was after I took my last tablet at the 3rd hour that I felt the pain ease up. By this time, I was already at Buendia Avenue and halfway through the race. I could still make it! I was just beginning to pick up the pace while the others were fading away so I was eventually able to catch up.

I was touched with how supportive the marshals, volunteers, and fellow runners were. There I was just about to head to Fort Bonifacio while most of them were already on their way back to MOA, but they cheered me on and gave me high-fives! I got to the McKinley Hill U-turn at 28K tired but still feeling strong. I saw other people limping and doing their best to go on and it was my turn to cheer for them.

The next cut-off time was 5hrs at 32K. I beat the buzzer and avoided the sweepers once again! I was back in Buendia and my feet were hurting with each step. I tried to stretch by holding on to the sidewalk rails and the next thing I knew, a roving race ambulance was there to check if I could go on. “Kaya pa, ate?” I couldn’t show any weakness so I smiled, gave them a thumbs up, and ran again. Satisfied, they left me alone. Whew.

My phone battery died shortly after that so I was running blind. I wasn’t sure about the time or the distance anymore. All I wanted was to get to the finish line. By 38K, I caught up with a bunch of guys who were equally spent back at Roxas Boulevard. Since we were so tired, we walked together for the last few kilometers, keeping each other’s spirits up. This was a big help, no doubt. Simply stepping off of the slightly elevated sidewalk onto road would make us yelp in pain. You know those inclined portions meant for disabled persons in wheelchairs? We would look for those when crossing the street to make it less painful. I’ve never been more appreciative of those things. Thank you to whoever authored that law!

The Finish Line

A hundred meters before reaching the finish line, I spotted my family waiting for me – my dad, mom, and my sister. They waited for hours! I was so happy! The guys and I sprinted for a photo finish. I got there in 6hrs 51mins 42secs. It was way past the 6hr cut-off for the 42K but the organizers had enough heart to give us our finisher’s medal and t-shirt. I will treasure that medal for the rest of my life.

I could no longer walk after that. I had to lean on my dad and I moved like a zombie. When I got home, I discovered that I had huge blisters, a swollen heel, and chaffing at the back of my feet. Getting up and down the stairs was extremely difficult so my mom had to bring me my food upstairs. My lower back, legs and knee still hurt but not as bad as yesterday. Maybe full recovery will come within a week. I wonder how the other guys are doing.

I salute all the 42K runners! We’re a crazy bunch, aren’t we?

Back of the finisher's shirt and medal - hell yeah! ^__^

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Comments
  1. congrats. thanks sa comment bro.

    • Scout says:

      Thanks. Um, I’m a girl po.

      I hope you’ve recovered well, physically and mentally. Be tough. You’re still so much faster than the rest of us. See you at the next races!

  2. ay. shoot. so sorry. sa PF forum kasi i though you’re a guy based sa times mo. Bilis mo for a girl. Galing. Congrats ha! hehe..

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