My Way of Living + training

The Condura Diary Of A Gingerbread Marathon Virgin

"To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who's never run it is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind."- Hal Higdon, running coach

As of this writing, I am still recovering from the effects, both physical and emotional, of my first-ever marathon. Yes, my very first full mary. The big V word. Surprised? Yes, your fun Gingerbread scribe was a veritable newbie at the Condura Skyway Marathon. Although not a stranger to the distance having completed a 50k ultramarathon eons ago (okay maybe it was just last year), this was my first stab at racing a 42k. So how did it go? Let's do a quick backgrounder first.

Always the running event of the year

"The will to win means nothing if you haven't the will to prepare." - Juma Ikangaa, 1989 NYC Marathon winner

Having never actually "trained" for anything before and content to do mindless Gingerbread jagging with more emphasis on pacute than pakondisyon , I had planned for Condura to be my debut marathon as early as October. Using a program concocted by buddy/masochist/monster Edward Kho of Conquer Corregidor fame (he threw down a scintillating 3:27 by the way) , I proceeded to immerse myself in the so-called science of the sport. Tempo runs. Intervals. Ladders. Hill Work. Yasso 800's. Things that had sounded absolutely Greek to me became staples of my everyday routine.

Much to my surprise,the effects of the program were immediate and remarkably consistent. Each race seemed to incredibly usher in the advent of a new personal best. By the time that Condura beckoned, I had chopped 6 minutes off my 10k time and about 37 minutes from my 21k. Brimming with confidence, I had high hopes for my debut marathon. Feeling as good as I've felt in years, this Gingerbread newbie was ready to conquer that breezy, mid-morning party in the southern sky.

Newbies have it hard.

"The marathon can and will humble you. " - Bill Rodgers , four-time Boston Marathon winner

I really had no idea what to expect. Certain "scientific" calculations had me primed for a highly aspirational time based off my 10k and 21k results. But I had my doubts. While my speed work was fine, I had been remiss on my Sunday long runs - a byproduct of increasing family and work demands. The longest runs I had put in were two 30k dingers, and even if I felt in my gut that this was lacking, my innate stubbornness was telling me that my training and heart would somehow bring me home. Misguided naievity? But then again, this mindset has somehow paid dividends in the past. Let's see how the whole thing unravels with my retro race diary,I'll even put in a time stamp so it's like we're actually there.

Retro Race Diary?

2:30 : I wake up in a dazed, zombie-like state, the anxious effects of having roughly three hours and 37 seconds worth of sleep written all over my face. As with most newbies, I could barely sleep the night before. Tossed, turned, then eventually settled on watching an illicit copy of Spirit Of The Marathon. Thank God for YouTube. Much to my chagrin though, I didn't cry. Sob.

3:30 : With no traffic to contend with, I had an unexpectedly easy time parking. Hydrobelt? Check. Ipod? Check. Condura 2009 "street cred" spare shirt?Check. Wallet and license? Um, er, gulp. I'm screwed.

3:45 : After spending about 10 minutes getting lost looking for the starting corral, I finally saw my running buddies. Admittedly, I'm tense. Tight even. Too many thoughts going on in my head. Strategies. Nutrition. Pace. That Yeng Constantino song that's always on Love Radio. Fudge, I give up. I have come to the realization that I have absolutely no idea what I'm getting myself into. P.S- I got some grief for showing up in white shorts. UGH.

Yeng Constantino Fanboy?

4:00 : Well-modulated (and perhaps well-paid) host leads a fun countdown that seemed half a second behind. He must have been sleepy. It's funny how he prods people that "we have a wonderful surprise for you ", when it's so obvious that he's referring to a fireworks display to open the race. Anticlimactic to a certain extent, but made room for some unintentional comedy.

Host : 3, 2, 1... .. and now here's your surprise!

(eerie silence)

Host: Here! Game! Now na! Now! Now!

Fireworks are always fun though, awesome start to any race.

I love fireworks.
4:15 : For some insane reason, I thought I could hang with the big boys on this. I started with a pace group that included Junrox, Totoy, Chris and Wilnar, all certified monsters. Why the uncalled for bravado? Once again, I have to reiterate that I have no idea how to approach this. I'm a serial positive splitter in the short to middle distances. So I guess I was sticking close to home for this. Also, the idea was to maintain a 5:00- 5:10 minute pace for the first 21k, something not completely unattainable based from my previous results.

Note to self : Every time I'm with Wilnar in a pace group, something crazy happens. For instance, this 10k race in BF the plan was to open with a 4:30 min/km pace. Race begins. Less than 5 minutes later I can't breathe. Glance to watch - 3:45. Yeah!
So here , less than 3k into the race, I was straining. Not so much, but noticeable. Glance to watch - 4:30! 4:30!!! Whatever happened to 5:10? Wilnar has done it again! With a rabid fear of bottoming out later on, I motioned to the speedsters that I would be falling back.

And with labored b reathing defining my every step, I was all alone once more.
4:51 : 51 minute 10k. 3 minutes slower than usual. I think am doing good. I feel the pressure. I feel.. like I'm fading. What? No way! This early? As I go down to Buendia coming from Kalayaan, people are starting to catch up with me. What is going on? Seems the ol' mental makeup is shaky today. Team Hardcore Ultraman/Frontrunner Magazine progenitor Jonel "Bugobugo" Mendoza caught up with me, and it was a tremendous blessing that he was there. The pleasant conversation towed me through the near-entirety of Buendia, and for awhile things seemed... okay.

5:15 : Entering the Skyway. Being a 10k runner last year, this was my first time. And it sure was awesome. Well, until the part that I couldn't breathe anymore. Gasp. What to do what to do. Not good. Hey, my first and only time to be on the Skyway for free! Yipee! Gasp.

Conquering... . is easier said than done
5:30: Ominous statement of the day from some random guy who kept on talking to me on the road - "You're going too fast, you're going too fast! We have to take it slow or we burn out right away". Sounds like my ex-girlfriend on our first date. Smirk.

Let's take it slow? 5:39: They say that too much thinking can kill a man. And it's true. I fussed so much about my strategy that I ended up doing things I never really do. I walked all water stations, ostensibly to save on energy. But each time, the person I was running with was so far off that I couldn't catch up anymore. I felt my heart rate plummet every time I stopped. Something was going to go awry. I could feel it. Jonel disappeared from the horizon. So did buddy Kampugers (don't judge me, it's a term of endearment) when I took a break. Panic was setting in. I was going nowhere real fast.

5:59 : Halfway mark. 1:59. In the vernacular, tipid na tipid? At nine minutes off my regular time, the prevailing mindset here is that the energy I'm conserving will get me through. Celebrity sighting : Jaymie/TBR. She looks awful strong out there. I could have sworn she was running with white compression shorts model/Runnr guru OJ. Gave a lame, token attempt to run with them, and poof! I eat dust. Note to self : Buy white compression shorts.

Classic OJ here.
6:30 : Pain (p

n) - An unpleasant sensation occurring in varying degrees of severity as a consequence of injury, disease, or emotional disorder.
Pain. Yeah. At roughly the 25k mark, I was in a lot of it. The pressure, over-analyzation, and a glaring lack of long runs most probably caused a way premature case of cramps and wall-bonking. Really odd. At Baldie Rizal Day 32k, at around the same point I felt I could have gone all day. Here, I was spent. As runner after runner passed me, the prospect of a strong finish was slowly slipping away.

What was really happening at 25k

7:00 : Getting hot. Am starting to slip into a dazed, zombie-like mode. Oftentimes, I'd try to latch on to people I know, casual conversation helps take your mind off the pain. Oftentimes I'd stop. Mentally, I'm in shambles. I thought I prepared well enough for this.

7:15 : I just realized for the first time that hey, it's nice here in the Skyway. Awesome even. I was so engrossed with all this competitive running-related crap that I'm starting to forget the little joys of our sport.

Find the joy in it GBM!
7:25 : Badly fading toward the latter stretch, I saw Condura boss Pat Concepcion along with his pseudo entourage. In a terrible daze, I willed myself to run with their group if only to get towed a kilometer or two.With the cameras rolling, he must have been wondering who was this weird character running behind him, posing for pictures even with a weird smile. Aaah the joys of Gingerbread anonymity.

It pays to be part of the Patcon entourage7:30 : Sound bite from Milo National finalist Vener/Run Unlimited nearing 32k - "Musta newbie? Tara let's go konti na lang! Mag 6mpk tayo!" As much as I wanted to, my legs had already gone to some Carribean island sipping ice tea on the beach while I had to drag their useless carasses around. Hmph.

7:50 : Oh thank God for the aid station! Having manned this in the past, I was never really able to fully grasp the value of this altruistic initiative until I was on the receiving end. While experiencing a level of pain somewhere in between "roasting over hot coals" and "multiple astral projections", there's no better salve than warm smiles from supportive friends with a side helping of healthy encouragement. I was so warped by this point that when I ran into moody buddy/podium regular Zinnia on her bike, I have reason to believe this following conversation actually took place :

Z : Just a couple more meters to the aid station! We have stuff for you there!
GBM : Grunt. Uuuuuuh.
Z: Hoooooooy!! Are you okaaay?
GBM : Uuuuuuuuuh

Z : Anyway, just go there! Zombie!
I was so overjoyed to have recovering speedster Mac and an unknown, muscular man we shall just call "Manong" massage my weary legs. I guess it's the only time I'll ever thoroughly enjoy a massage given by two , er, men. Que handed me a banana, and Sir Amado's snapped up some pictures. All these served as a welcome respite, and I felt like I was on a rejuvenated high entering the homestretch.

Manong's steady hands did the trick8:20 : Kalayaan Flyover redux beckons. Been a worthy adversary on so many occassions. I think I've solved it though. But... . not... . on... .. this... . dang I gotta walk. Kalayaan Flyover 7, GBM 6.

8:30 : So near yet so far. Nearing collapse, I am dazed, confused, and running completely on empty.

8:40: This seems to be the longest 3km stretch of my life.Oh my god. You have got to be kidding me. When is it going to end? Just as I am about to sprawl on the pavement, I run into running bloggers Vicky (incredibly running a marathon on a whim! Awesome!) and hot bod Rodel/Argonaut. We are all pretty much in the same boat, literally crawling. Peace by inches. Have... . to... .. gut.. this... out.

8:45: Trying to fartlek my way home, I almost collapse into Argow, "Kristo" -style. I have absoulely nothing left to give.

8:55 : One last stab at glory, no way I'm finishing this like a cripple. Months of training leads to one last tempo run. One last burst of speed to bring it home. Don't give up now!

Last shot at glory... 8:56: And it's DONE! Yeah!!!!! Was never happier to see a finish line. The most agonizing 42.195 kms of my life done in 4:56:03. I wanted to cry... but the tears wouldn't come. Must have been the dehydration. The marathon has chewed me up, spit me in pieces and brought me to my knees. Friends say I am pale, and a massive headache follows. I can barely walk straight.

I missed my goal in a bad way.

But you know what they say about marathons? When you cross the finish line, no matter how slow or fast, it will change your life forever. And I firmly believe that. As all of this was starting to sink in, a stark realization suddenly dawned upon me. I'm... I'm a marathoner now! A real one! I'm now officially part of the .1 of 1% of the world's population to have finished one! The time doesn't even matter. What matters is I crossed that line in one piece in spite of the overwhelming urge to just flat out quit. I felt like I have left my blood, guts, and soul out there.
And at that exact moment, at that time and place, in spite of the terrible physical beating I took...

I was at peace. And overwhelmingly happy.

Guess that's the spirit of the marathon for you right there.

p.s. I can't wait to get back out there again :P

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The Condura Diary Of A Gingerbread Marathon Virgin + training