I got pictures for as long as sunlight permits me. Once darkness fell onto us, bad things started to happen—and it was anything but supernatural.
The Count of SCTEX
Slowly but surely darkness covered the beautiful sceneries that I sought for with this race, and with that came boredom—yes I got bored! Running practically in a straight line with nothing no see was boring. I never had the habit of listening to music as I want to experience the great outdoors fully when I run. To make matters worse was that there were no lights for most part of SCTEX so you’re virtually running blind! So what can you do to ease the burden? Count kilometers!
Water you looking for?
The organizers promised runners that water stations would be stationed every two and a half kilometers. As I was counting down the meters out of boredom (with the aid of my GF405 of course since there was no distance markers, and if there were it won’t be seen in the dark) I was eagerly waiting for that next water station. Being “the most prestigious marathon in the Philippines,” I decided to bring only a 500mL of my trusted hydration fluid and rely on the water station as my primary source of water (note: I wasn’t demanding any special drinks, just plain water). Slowly but surely water stations started getting farther and farther—not because of my perception due to fatigue, but the distances in between really were getting wider! At first I was telling myself, “Maybe they got the distance wrong, it should be right there, or probably 500 meters further.” But later on it got 1 kilometer, 2, 3 …wait a minute this is absurd! And finally after that long wait what do you get—an empty water station!
During the period between water stations (that had water) I had no choice but to rely on the hydration fluid I brought along. During which of course I had to stick to my plan on when to eat my chewy granola bar (I get really hungry during long runs) and when to take my power gel, which of course is best taken after with water. Because of the wide gaps between these water stations I almost run out of fluid just barely into the first half of the marathon.
The worst feeling during this “prestigious” event was the fear of just collapsing due to dehydration with no one seeing you due to the darkness. For a moment I assessed the situation: I wasn’t even at the 25th kilometer mark, I’m almost out of fluids, I’m slightly dehydrated, I’m not expecting any water up ahead for the rest of the route, I can barely see my self, and I’m running uphill! That was the most frustrating feeling I’ve ever encountered on a long run (and I’ve been through much a more difficult ultramarathon!) and my mind was ready to give up on me. Thoughts of quitting and riding that next ambulance kept playing on my mind. Quitting? NO! Even if I had to walk the entirety of this race I will not quit! For as long as I can drag my feet, for as long as I can hold on, I will not quit! So that was when finally I started walking.
It was like a sad battlefield that night—you see a lot of runners just walking! They probably were encountering the same ordeals that I’m having. Conserving your energy and what’s left of your fluids was the most logical approach to this race if you were planning to finish it—have you ever seen anyone run on a desert? (Even camels don’t)
Support vehicles run free in the darkness of night. At one moment I saw one pull over to give supplies to their group of runners who, like me, were also walking. At that point when I saw them being replenished with their supplies I felt like bursting into tears—here I am walking uphill in the dark, thirsty, with just about a few gulps of fluid, with more than 17 kilometers to go—I felt like I’m all alone in the world. I had no choice but just continue walking and watch how slowly the kilometers go by.
Miracle in the Dark
God is good. Out of nowhere there was this vehicle with water with them. At that time I felt a huge feeling of relief! I gulped down what’s left of my fluids in the bottle and refilled it with water. Suddenly I’m alive again! I stopped eating what’s left of my granola and suspended taking gels because of the water shortage, and now that I’m “charged” I can resume my nutrition plans, although at a more cautions level. Who knows that may be the last water station I see before the finish! 500mL of water for 17 kilometers—it should be interesting.
It turns out all I really needed was water—I was running again just minutes after my “re-charge.” Naturally running would also increase your demand for fluids and water stations remained dry so eventually I had to take another walk-break when I noticed that it was getting steeper and my water supply was again dwindling into the danger zone. It was a steep uphill battle from kilometer 27 until kilometer 34 where it peaked.
Thankfully by the time we entered SBMA there was finally water! I was also able to get the lone boiled egg left at the station so I was at my second “re-charge.” With less than 10 kilometers to go I decided to finish strong—500mL of water plus the relaxing terrain, it’s all green for me. I was even able to set my fastest kilometer of the race between kilometers 36-37 with 4:53 pace! Could this be considered my “third wind?”
The Home Run
I was running full steam ahead when a van carrying my friends from takbo.ph passed me by. It happened too fast as they were heading against me, but when I heard them shouted “Go Dennis!” I knew that the worst has passed (for me at least)—it was all just a matter of time and finally I’ll be done! They were on their way to support fellow members also running the marathon and I’m glad that they were there to support those who needed it more—their presence was enough for me to feel “home.”
I was able to buy a lot of time when I started running from kilometer 36 and was able to pass a lot of runners as there were only a few that remains running at that time (of course the fast ones were probably finished already). When I looked at how long I was running I discovered that I was easily on my way to a new PR! All I needed was to maintain pace—easier said than done but luckily I saw a runner running at a consistent pace of about 5:45 so I decided to tag along (without permission). I knew that if I had done this alone I may take it too easy so even if I sometimes get a little left behind I always strived to keep up—finish strong!
Finally the finish line was just a few hundred meters away. I was so surprised on how it was set up—on an oval track! We entered from a side some 300 meters from the finish line and to be honest, that was my favorite part of the race! I felt like an Olympian! Marathons usually finish in tracks within stadiums during Olympics so I felt just like that—suddenly all that I’ve been through didn’t matter—that was my moment! And I didn’t just finish it—I finished strong with 5:45 pace to the line at a new PR of 4:36:36 (gun time, self timed) shedding 11 minutes off my previous.
I’m proud of finishing this marathon because it was very “difficult” and I had to get though a lot of games that my mind played. This was the most “mental” marathon I’ve had and on the physical side I was still able to better myself despite a lot of walking.
Subic International Marathon, “the most prestigious marathon in the Philippines.” I didn’t realize that running such a “prestigious” event would be this difficult. If this is what “prestige” means in a race, I may just keep signing up for “less-prestigious” races. I love running. I love adventure. But I don’t like it when I’m not prepared. Wait, are we the ones who are not prepared?
Congratulations to all finishers!
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Subic International Marathon 2009: