Wave G started to march toward the starting line at the skyway tunnel along Alabang-Zapote Road in Filinvest City. The midnight was windy and cold. The moon was concealing itself behind dark clouds and the firmament was peppered with few blinking stars wishing us a good luck. My star was nowhere in sight.
On my right, Joseph, a new found buddy and a first time marathon challenger like me, has been laying out his plans for the race. We were listening to each other and I was drawn closer to his strong, yet humble spirit. Two of us would be joining the 15,536 runners in conquering the skyway. Seventy-five percent (75%) of which were running the half and full marathon making this the largest half and full marathon event in the Philippines. In the midst of the crowd, the excitement was very high and any feeling of doubts or fears were hidden behind the runners’ smiles.
Past the starting line, emotions were building up as 44 army soldiers in camouflage uniform stood in line at the left side of the course. Each was holding a portrait of the so-called 44 Fallen Heroes, the officers of the elite PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) who were recently killed in a bloody clash against the members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Runners paid a unique tribute by assuming a long salute as they ran along the line up. I did the same, but I contained my emotions because I would be needing it toward the latter part of the race.
We hit the road slowly and our plan was to maintain a 7-8 pace. Others ran past us and it was very tempting to run along, but we held on to our plan to conserve our energy so we can have something to use up later in the critical parts of the race. We matched each other’s pace and from time to time his tracker sent feedback on our current pace. The entire skyway was so quiet that you could hear nothing but the resonating sound of breathing, racing heartbeat, and determined soles striking on the ground. When we need to overtake other runners, Joseph guided the way; sometimes I did. Hydration stations had always been a relief. There were adequate supply of cold water and Gatorade that replenished our lost body liquids, although I did not perspire that profusely due to the cold weather.
We were still running strong after passing the 10th kilometer marker. It was our first marathon so we wanted to enjoy and finish it without suffering from serious injuries. Joseph was keen with his calculations – matching and comparing the distance, pace, and time that was necessary for us to reach the finish line in 6 hours or less. I just helped him out when he forgets about his multiplications and divisions. We shared running stories and laughed at how we both messed up our individual trainings. But we made it here and took the courage to step up to the challenge of this journey.
I started to feel the pain in my lower extremities after the 21st kilometer. My knees and toes were smarting every time I land on my feet. I knew then that my body did not fully adjust to the higher mileage. Running on Saturday afternoons and Monday mornings plus swimming in between did not suffice. Joseph fell silent as we ran, a hint that he was experiencing the same. We took advantage of the downward slopes of the skyway as gravity worked its way to pull us down. Then, we jogged lightly as the courses went up. I tried to switch from heel to mid-foot strikes, which helped.
Long-distance running was indeed a challenging test of patience. Each U-turn became farther and every remaining kilometer seemed to stretch longer, but we kept motivating and supporting each other. We knew that the only thing that would block our vision of the finish line is when we let our mind yield to the weakening flesh…when we listen to our inner voice that wants to quit.
As I fixed my eyes on a speck of light in a distance, I reminded myself of the true reason why I was running. It is beyond the personal record that you can brag to everyone. It is not just about the finisher shirts or medals that you can proudly wear to show the world how great you are, nor the awesome running photographs that define your value with huge number of likes. It is about a cause, a personal and social responsibility that can create a ripple of effect to impact the society for good, when the system falls short in the exercise of its duty. Joseph, I, and the rest of the pack were running for a HERO!
The nobility of purpose, I thought, is what defines a true runner.
I reached my second wind after the 35th kilometer. We continued running, then walking or stretching for a minute to release the muscle tensions. We surpassed several runners who were now walking. Then, the atmosphere suddenly changed as everyone picked up pace. We saw fireworks shattering into chromatic pieces that enlivened the mourning sky. We heard the loud cheer of spectators from afar.
When we turned on a bend in the road, we saw the two words that mark the victory for every runner – FINISH LINE!
Did you run in the Condura Skyway Marathon 2015? I’d love to hear from you! Please share your experience in the comments section below or tweet to me @jaysonsnts.