Sunday, January 09, 2011

Running the Cebu Marathon

Very early this morning I lined up at the starting point of the Cebu Marathon (42 k) at the IT park. There were some 1200 runners who started running at 4 am, along the streets of Cebu, the SRP highway up to Talisay through the 800 meters tunnel.

I ran a very slow pace since my right knee was still a bit painful due to the knee injury I had 4 weeks ago after doing a lot of speed intervals as part of my training. I was aiming for a sub-4:30 marathon originally but due to the injury, I was content to finish the marathon using the run-walk method (4 min run/1 min walk). I reached the midpoint in less than 3 hours but after 30 k my knee became more painful that I just decided to walk the remaining kilometers. I reached the finish line after covering the distance in 7:00:o8. This is my PW (personal worst), the slowest marathon I have ever ran, 3 1/2 hours slower than my personal best of 3:33:15 which I did in 1983. But I was still happy to reach the finish line and receive my finishers' medal. The last finishers medal I received was in 1995 when I ran the Rome Marathon. I didn't get a finishers medal when I ran the Pasig River Marathon in 2009 since I was way behind the cut-off time.

If this happened over 25 years ago, finishing a marathon in 7 hours would have been a source of shame. My first marathon was 4:30, my second was 3:36 and my third was 3:33. After that my goal was to break 3 hours (which I never did due to cramps) but I always finished under 4 hours. So slower than 4 hours was even a big disappointment. But now 25 years later, I would consider a 7 hour marathon a source of pride - a badge of courage. The finishers' medal I received this morning is a symbol of patient endurance in the face of adversity. Last week, I wasn't even sure if I could get to the STARTING line due to my knee injury. I was thinking of backing out - but I already paid P800 registration fee and I was already in Cebu. So even if I have not fully recovered I just ran very, very slowly and my aim was to reach the finish line no matter how long it would take.

At my age, it seems that running a sub 4 hr marathon is a distant possibility. There are things that I could do when I was 30 that I can't do now that I am 56 year old - like running a 3:33 marathon. But there are things that I can do now which I couldn't do when I was 30 years old -like run/walking 400 km across Mindanao in 9 days, and run/walking barefoot 800 km across the French Pyrenees and the North of Spain in 27 days. I am not as fast as I used to be, but I have more endurance. In the long journey to through life what matters most is not how fast I can run/walk but how far I can go and reach my destination. What is most important is not speed but patient endurance - because life is not a 100 meter sprint.

I dream of making the journey of a lifetime - a solo, unsupported run/walk across the Philippines from Davao to Aparri via the Cordilleras (around 2,200 km), averaging 42 km/day in two months, 7-8 hours a day with one rest day per week. When I was 30 years old such a dream would seem to be an impossible dream. But now that I am 56 years old, such a dream appears attainable. But first, I have to allow my knee injury to fully heal and recover. I hope I can do this within one year.

Running the marathon this morning is a fulfillment of a promise I made to myself when I was newly ordained priest 30 years ago - that I would run a marathon every year even when I reach 80 years old and beyond. I failed to keep this promise for 14 years (after I got injured in the Rome marathon and took up biking) but took it up again last year. This time I intend to keep my promise. Maybe when I am too old to run marathons (probably when I reach 90) I will enter the wheelchair division. So it is not how fast, but how long I can run - for a lifetime.
Still, I dream of breaking my 3:33 pr someday - before I turn 60 years old. When I turn 80, I might have a better chance of finishing first in my age division (80 and above). Dream on.


Dennis Hilario said...

inspiring post father.

ksam said...

Heartfelt congratulations! If I ever make a 5 hour one I'll be delighted. And many people actually ever do one at all! Excited to see some of your new inspire me to keep going ... running, caminoing etc. Buen Camino Padre!