With only a 5 km easy run at the Nike run clinic in Bonifacio High Street last Tuesday and no runs the previous week, I was itching to run and while I lacked training I more than made up for it with enthusiasm and ran-walked 37 Km of the first ever Quezon City International Marathon. I had earlier registered to run the 42 Km race even as I planned to join the Milo Marathon Finals the week before but even my best laid plans were for naught as I stopped training altogether and failed to join Milo.The night before, I was actually contemplating just running the half-marathon but I really wanted to run inside the La Mesa dam complex even if it meant walking or worse, taking a cab on Commonwealth Avenue to get back to Quezon City Hall.
Excited for the first time in a long time, I managed to wake up at 3 a.m. and arrive at the staging area of the race with time to spare. The pre-race atmosphere was festive and lively as everyone rushed to complete their final preparations for the event. I saw old friends who were running the same race and wondered who I would pace with among them. I had no expectations. I only wanted to enjoy the run and to experience everything the race would offer.
When the gun went off, I found myself with Jaymie and Atty. Raymund. Jaymie was doing a 32 Km long run in preparation for her debut marathon race in Singapore and Atty. Raymund was celebrating his birthday by running his first marathon as well. It was fun catching up with them (both literally and figuratively) as we passed the UP Campus, Commonwealth Avenue, and Batasan Road. It was quiet in UP as it was still before sunrise, but even after the sun rose as we made our way up QC’s busy thoroughfares, the sky was hazy and the weather remained cool which was perfect for running marathons.
I remember reading somwhere that the objective of the QCIM was to showcase Quezon City as the Asian City of the Future. At one pont, I could not help but think how bleak that future was as we passed the Commonwealth Market. On one side was the chaos of the Sunday morning wet market with the accompanying sights of fresh meat hanging from hooks and smells of rotting refuse and on the other the anarchy caused by all manner of vehicles stuck in traffic and looking for ways to escape the gridlock. We would hear the constant complaints of motorists again on the way back.
Confusion turned to calm when we turned into the roads leading to the La Mesa Eco Park. Inside the park, it was a whole new world as entered the 2,700 hectare forest and reserve. The park itself is only 33 hectares but it instilled an appreciation, no! a reverence for the beauty of nature itself and the environment around us. We savored each moment as if we had travelled to a faraway land before our return journey. Here, we made our first pit stop as Jaymie and Atty. Raymund made a bathroom break. After that, we agreed that we would walk the uphill portions to conserve energy and prevent possible injuries.
As we exited the gates of the complex, we ended up on a major highway and I was taken aback at how close the real world was to the doors of the Park. It was a struggle to get back to Commonwealth. Jaymie and I kept as close to the sidewalks as possible to avoid the buses speeding from behind us. There were no water stations allowed inside the La Mesa complex and the water stations just outside had run out of water. As a result of my poor physical condition, I was beginning to tire and worse, I was getting hungry. If not for Ben Chan who offered us Gatorade and bottled water, I may have stopped right there. Atty. Raymund had dropped back and Jaymie and I continued to run-walk.
I counted the number of bakeshops and convenience stores I passed wondering whether I should stop to get something to eat lest it be the last one along the way. Finally, I gave in and told Jaymie to go ahead while I got something to eat at the Ministop beside the St. Peter’s church. While eating, I considered commuting the rest of the way back but seeing the traffic jam outside and Atty. Raymund heading my way made me decide to continue with the race.
I managed to make it to Philcoa before I decided to drop out and make my way to where my car was parked. It was getting late and unfortunately I needed to be somewhere soon. From my car, I could not hear the sounds of the festivities at the finish line but I did not want to venture closer as I had accomplished what I had set out to do from the start anyway which was to start running again.
Thank you to Jaymie, Atty, Raymund, Ben Chan, and all those who I saw along the way who made the journey a happy and memorable one.
Congratulations to Finshline, Runnex, and the Quezon City Government for the inaugural staging of this event which while far from perfect can only get better thru the years.