It was the ninth day of the New Year, and it was my ninth marathon. I’ve heard wonders about the previous Cebu Marathon, so this year I decided to find out for my own and do some “assessment run,” but I got much more than I had expected.
For the most part 2010 was a “slow” year for me as I had no new personal best (nor intended to have any) as for a while I was unable to run physically. This derailed all my plans for the year, and to accommodate full recovery of my injuries I had to pick my races and limit my runs. I thought that 2011 would be a good year to start over, and Cebu Marathon fits perfectly to start the year right. It was just a bit weird for me to spend the first weekend after the New Year outside our home.
So what do I mean exactly when I mentioned “assessment run?” It was a personal gauge to measure how entropy had affected me during my long hiatus from running. In simple terms, “how are the muscles doing?” It was important for me to know exactly where I am currently and what I need to accomplish to get to my goals this year.
It was very early of Saturday (day before the race) when we arrived at Cebu and checked in at our wonderful Inn which was just a few hundred meters away from the Start/Finish line at the Asiatown IT Park. Like with past occasions, it was another reunion with my running friends, sharing stories, food, and of course pictures. I was too lazy though to take my own since there were a bunch of cameras in use.
It was about 3:30AM when we got into the runner’s corral. It was a little strange at first when we were asked to place our bibs on our chest as the timing chips used were stuck on the bibs and the sensors were placed overhead. Nonetheless, but with reluctance, I pinned my bib on my compression shirt (hoping it will not ruin the shirt) just below my chest hoping that it’s high enough for the sensors to pick up.
4AM, right after a nice fireworks display, the race started. Earlier on I was informed that the course would not be easy as it’s generally downhill heading out, meaning it would be uphill going back—just when you’re already tired and the sun is out. Knowing this, I knew that should optimize my pace so as to maximize the absence of the sun and utilize the downhill to my advantage, while at the same time conserving my energy for the uphills on the way back.
Since I’ve already decided that it would be an assessment run, I never looked at my GF405 for anything but distance and time elapsed. This was to keep the pressure off and just “feel” the race. No PR pressure, just enjoy the race. It was like doing a long but easy tempo run.
The route was just amazing. It was picturesque, with good difficulty, and had lots of support all throughout. There were hydration stations serving water and energy drinks, together with some other treats, just about every 2 kilometers. But the most interesting parts for me were passing beside popular Cebu City landmarks like the Cebu Capitol, Fuente Osmeña Circle, Basilica of Sto. Niño, Magellan’s Cross, Cebu City Hall, Fort San Pedro, and of course that long tunnel and viaduct of Cebu South Coastal Road. It was my first time to use my GF405 inside a tunnel so it was trivial for me how it would act up without GPS signals.
Admittedly, the mostly downhill first half propelled me into keeping a surprisingly good pace, finishing my first 10K below an hour, 20K in less than two, and 30K in less than three! Of course it was a different story altogether on the way back. Just as I was entering the tunnel on my way back I was feeling an imminent onset of cramps on my left hamstrings. Fortunately there were volunteers on a station inside (around kilometer 32) with some liniment that gave me back some “fresh legs.” Then starting the 34th kilometer of the race, the uphills began—it was a long climb to the finish! And the effects of the liniments wore off.
Uphills are not my friend, and the long uphills together with the heat of the sun and fatigue forced me to some quick walk breaks. But as I gradually near the finish a realization arrived on me—a new personal record was imminent! Of course it was easier to realize it then than actually doing it as the uphills never seemed to end.
Eventually the uphills eased, and the “1K to the Finish” sign appeared—I was never so happy to see a distance marker! Out of nowhere, with the thought of a new PR, I had my “second wind” and mustered the strength to buy some more time. “Let’s finish this.” But as I did that last turn I felt a strong and sudden “pinch” on my right calf, like a quick and sudden onset of cramps, but it fortunately didn’t ensue.
As I was “sprinting” towards that beloved Finish line, I knew I was in personal record territories. And after I crossed that Finish line and pressed Stop on my GF405, I was in awe to see my time: 4:19:16! It was a huge surprise for me because my target was originally 4:30:00-4:45:00 due to the difficulty of the course and my lack of real training (merely piggybacking on the endurance I gained through numerous ultramarathons). I guess as endurance is not easily earned, it is also not easily lost as well, provided that you maintain some degree of activity to maintain it of course. 2011 started on the right foot, with a new PR to boast!
In the end I could say that the Philippines has another world-class marathon, another “perfect” event for me. Hands down I’ll give Cebu Marathon 2011 a perfect rating of 5/5. It had a wonderful course; hydration stations every 2 kilometers that never ran out of supplies; marshals and volunteers were knowledgeable and were so much more than sufficient; entertainment all throughout key locations; 4 “showers” en route courtesy of fire trucks; timing chips; and an enviable finisher’s medal. Even the official race results were fast and accurate, released just two days after. Coincidentally, my official time was the same as my GF405 finish time, down to the second—is that accurate or what?! Every runner’s dream fulfilled, more than satisfied!
* * * * *
Despite the difficult route many of my friends were still also able to set new personal records! It was indeed a great start for many of us. Personally, it was my first PR in 13 months (since December, 2009), since my last one was set during Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, slashing more than 8 minutes. Congratulations to all finishers!