Sleepless in Manila: Completing the Run United Trilogy

The “Afroman” distance of 32K was the highlight of last leg of the Run United Trilogy, and to buy time for some leisure runners of this event, the race was held very early at 3AM!  It’s so early that it was a “no-sleep” race for me.

Since I didn’t sleep I was able to leave home pretty early.  The problem was there’s no public transport to Bonifacio Global City from Guadalupe that early.  Since I didn’t want to wait for something that may not come before the race starts, the walk from Guadalupe to BGC was my warm-up.

I thought I’d be able to get some rest upon arriving at Bonifacio High Street, but after the long walk and changing into my running gear, it was just a little over half an hour before gun start, and I still have to deposit my bag!  After all that’s done, I made my way into the starting coral and was able to have a seat in a pocket of space in the area for a while.  It was one of the earliest race “check-in” I’ve ever done.

Noticeably, the starting line crowd was more “timid” than the usual—it could either be the nervousness of the 32K race in front of them, the drizzle that’s slowly gaining strength, or the unusually unpretentious starting line missing the usual LCD screen.  Or it could also be the lack of sleep!  Whatever it was, it’s anything but your usual enthusiastic crowd!

Not before long, the race started.  Since I was earlier than my usual, I was able to be near the front of the crowd so it wasn’t long until the crowd I was with thinned out.  I really don’t like it crowded, except of course if they’re the same pace as me (like what I experienced in Singapore back in 2009) that’s why I was enjoying my overall placement with the race at that early point.

As the race progressed, I noticed the lack of kilometer markers.  I’m pretty much dependent on these markers as I no longer use any GPS watches when I run—just my iPod Nano to monitor the time elapsed and it’s pedometer to approximate the distance covered.  It was only as we were leaving BGC that I was able to spot the first kilometer marker: 10KWas it the winds knocking down these markers that led to their disappearance?

This race was one of the most difficult races I’ve ever done, not because of the route or the weather, but because I lacked mileage.  Between this race and Run United 2, I was only able to squeeze in a lone 11K+ long easy run.  And between that, I was training my muscles in the gym with fast and intense routines.  As a result, I practically replaced all my slow twitch muscles with fast twitch ones so I got tired very easily.  In simple terms, I traded my endurance with speed.  I know this for a fact as I passed the 10K kilometer marker in a little over 53 minutes without consciously monitoring my pace, but then shortly after I was really burned out!

As I was about to complete the Kalayaan flyover section of the route, I was having some problems.  My right knee was having some pains, and so was my left ankle.  Good thing my ankle’s issue went away after a while, but my knee got worse forcing me to a lot of walk breaks.  Not before long, I was the slowest one in the area as everyone, and I really mean everyone, was overtaking me!  It was such a demoralizing situation to be in that at around 16K into the race, the thought of “ending this nonsense” kept coming into my mind!  Fortunately I didn’t give in to those negative thoughts, and just minded “my own race.”  I didn’t come into this race to beat anyone, or prove anything to anybody.  I didn’t even come to beat my previous time!  I came into the race to run, to finish the trilogy, and to complete my medals.  I’ve never completed the Run United Trilogy for the past two years, and this third year, “I will complete this Trilogy even if I have to crawl to the finish.”

The 32K route

Fortunately, I didn’t have to crawl to the finish, but things got worse before they got better.  It was a bit past 2 hours when I crossed the 20K marker, and my pace was still dropping.  My left thigh was “threatening” me of cramps after running continuously for some distance so I have to walk to shake it off.  And if some people have side stitches, I did too, only that mine is in the middle!  Whenever it attacks I have to walk because it was difficult to breathe, and at times it actually feels like it’s just below my diaphragm.  It was a good thing that this race was organized by RunRio as I had no issues with water and sports drinks (and even bananas) so I can keep replenishing nutrients my fatigued muscles needed.  As the race progressed, I settled for running and walking as dictated by my legs.  One step at a time, eventually I’d get there, I thought.

Since I didn’t see any kilometer marker after the 20K, I didn’t have any clue how long it took me to reach the 30K mark, but I knew that my estimate of a three and a half hours finish was not feasible at my state.  Usually as I reach that final stretch I can still summon enough strength to finish strong, but this time there’s really no strength to draw, and as I attempted to hasten my pace as I was nearing the finish line, my left thigh finally gave in and I got cramps!  (Which explains that lousy finish line picture :D)

At the end of it all I was just so happy to have finished my second 32K.  It was way over my target time (finishing at 3:38:11), and it was one of my slowest races ever (averaging 6:36/km pace), but I’m proud that I was able to finish it despite all the problems I had.  To be honest, it was my fault that I had those issues since I didn’t train enough for the race, and the race was just giving me a dose of my own medicine.

Now that the trilogy is complete, so are the medals.  But of course we know that the 32K is just an assessment if you’re ready to take it a step further—to find out if you’re ready for a full marathon.  If you’re like me who finished the race with a less than stellar performance, I suggest you focus your efforts to training, but if you’re really, really eager to take a bite out of 42.195K, make sure to remember your motivations in doing so, and target a slow but realistic finish time.  As for me, I’m actually okay with skipping the next full marathon that comes my way (as I can settle for the half) or do a full marathon in a paced 6-hour finish.  I admit that I’m starting to hate long distance races as my muscles are no longer adept to them, but my ultramarathoner roots keep calling me back!  But that’s just me.  Completing the trilogy is already quite an achievement—all of us deserve a break (for now).  Congratulations to all the finishers!  You may view the race results here.


As per the race itself, personally I think RU3 was a great race and was organized quite well, but it fell quite short compared with the rest of the trilogy.  There are areas where it was better like in hydration stations and those long trash bins, and there were areas where it was worse like in the kilometer markers.  This race had problems and it’s quite far from RunRio’s best, but nonetheless I think it was good overall.  Thank you Unilab for a great experience with the Run United Trilogy and congratulations as well!

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