Sunday, November 08, 2009

Finishing the Philippine International Marathon (run for Pasig River)

At 4:30 this morning, I finally stood at the starting line of the Philippine International Marathon at the Luneta Park. There were hundreds of runners around me, including the Kenyans who came to win. My only aim was to finish the marathon, no matter how long it would take. I almost did not make it to the starting line. A day after getting my race packet, I had a sore throat which developed into a cold. So for four days, I tried recover from the cold and bring my fever down. Yesterday, I felt better although I still had a runny nose.
So even without fully recovering from my cold, I ran the marathon. My body felt heavy and sluggish. I ran at an easy, slow pace - mixed with walking (4 minutes run-1 minute walk). The last 8 kilometers was mostly walking with some slow running. All the time, I felt at peace within. I didn't feel any anxiety or tension - even if I was left behind and I knew I was not going to make the cut-off time of 5 hours. I was enjoying the whole experience. With 5 more kilometers to go, I was told by the race marshall to get on the sag vehicle since I was way beyond the cut-off time and they were closing the finish line. The other runners were already aboard the truck, but I insisted in continuing. They told me to run on the side walk along the boulevard. There were still a few runners behind me, two of them were old men in their 70s and a young man. At 10:45 am, over six hours after starting, I finally reached Quirino grandstand. There were only a few people left, the runners, race officials and crowds have gone home. There was no more finish line, no official clock/timer indicating my finish time. I didn't receive any finisher's certificate, nor my name & time recorded as official finisher. Yet I felt I was a winner. I dared to enter the race and finish it. I didn't quit and ride the sag vehicle. I looked at the runners who arrived a few minutes after me and they had the same expression in their faces - satisfaction and pride. We didn't need a finisher's certificate or medal. In the marathon, the first and the last are winners in their own way. The losers are those who quit.
Today, I ran the slowest marathon in my life - over six hours. I could run this distance in three and a half hours when I was younger. Yet I feel more pride and satisfaction crossing an empty finish line than receiving a finisher's medal (for top 200 runners) from President Marcos in Malacanang 27 years ago. Finishing the marathon today is a symbol of my own life. It is about being faithful to my vows and commitment as a priest, enduring all the hardships and difficulties, enjoying the whole experience, achieving peace within and never giving up.
It's been 14 years since I last ran the marathon in Rome. I decided to quit running after that due to a knee injury. I kept attempting to make a comeback but failed due to the recurring injury. Today, I have successfully made a comeback. So that make's me a winner.
I remember the marathoners I used to run with in the 1980s. They could run faster than me. Where are they now? Most of them have stopped running and have grown fat. It happened to me also several years ago. But now as I turn 55, I am running marathons again. That makes me a winner. It is not how fast I can run that matters. It is how long - in terms of years. If I can run in my old age - even up to 85, I will indeed be a winner.
So what's next? I will definitely run a marathon every year. Next time, it will be less than six hours. Today, my weight was 157 lbs that's why I felt sluggish. If I can lose another 25 lbs and train more I think I can still go below 4 hours or even break my personal best of 3:33. But that's not my priority. I just want to enjoy running. My dream is still to run solo from Iligan to Davao - next year or the following year.
Crossing an empty finish line. This is symbolic. We never cross the finish line as long we are still alive. There is no finish line in this life. Life is an ongoing journey - a continuous marathon. We have to keep on running until we reach the "heavenly" finish line. Years from now, hopefully in my old age, after running many marathons and after serving God and the people as a priest faithfully, as I am about to breath my last, I will echo the words of St. Paul: "As for me, the hour has come for me to be sacrificed; the time is here for me to leave this life. I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim 4:5-7)


daytripper1021 said...

great post! congrats on your marathon finish!

Anonymous said...

Welcome back Father! I remember us discussing about your 42K PR and ultra-long bike rides when I went to your parish office to interview you about street children and the DDS. I have since done a full marathon myself -- thanks partly to your words of encouragement.

Rod.Runn3r said...

congratulations father! and welcome back to running!

lyzel said...

congrats dre! you made it! I am so proud of you...

-redemptorist choir member :D