The fastest 10k finisher in the recent 38th Milo Marathon completed the race in 31 minutes, 56 seconds. For perspective, that’s 58 minutes, 4 seconds faster than the prescribed 1 hour 30 minute qualifying time set by Milo for a 10K race. Furthermore, according to Runners’ World, the current record time to finish a 10K race for someone of my age and gender is 29 minutes, 31 seconds.
Be that as it may, I’m nonetheless still reeling with euphoria after achieving a modest Personal Record (PR) by way of my first 10k race. You see I used to average 1 hour, 33 minutes and 34 seconds. At a recent race event in MOA, I surprised even myself by completing my first 10k race in 1 hour, 6 minutes and 41 seconds. It’s not even a sub-par, I know, but I decided to write about it to celebrate it. Here’s why.
Two years ago, I only had a passing interest in this sport. In fact, I only joined an actual racing event early last year to support my son by way of a 3K fun run called TakBluehan with no regard for, much less an understanding of the concept of a qualifying time or a PR. For a time, I was contented with going to the gym thrice a week and when the time would allow it, complementing my thrice-a-week routine with Sunday long runs. Until the influence of print and social media came along that is, most notably, a number of my FB friends who took to running like their life depended on it. Among the most prominent are the NYC marathon finisher and Iron Man Rio Mayuga, the Illinois-based Dipolog Youth Club founding member and newly-minted Iron Man Alvin Ang who’s also my brother in law and triathlete power couple Erick and Karen Perez. It is partly to their credit that I eventually graduated to regarding this sport more seriously. More importantly, thanks to one doctor I met early last year during a routine annual medical exam. Being an accomplished long-distance runner, he advised me, thus: “the Milo marathon is coming soon. You should sign up for that. You’re not a runner if you don’t participate in Milo. Don’t worry about your time. Just go sign up and run.” And so it was that I reached out to a friend who recently turned his back on a corporate career to pursue his first love which was swimming instruction and eventually, triathlon coaching. His name is Nonoy Basa and his school is called Streamline Instruction. The coach he assigned me to was no less than the famous Iron Man and writer Noelle De Guzman also known as the Kikay Runner. I have both of these accomplished athletes and coaches to thank for my recent modest or if you will, baby step achievement.
Before You Begin
In one of our early practice runs, Coach Noelle observed that it’s a good thing my family obviously supported me in terms of my efforts to improve in this sport. More than providing me with the psychological aspect to keep at it though, my family’s now weekly routine of joining me during my coaching sessions as well as my practice runs eventually exercised a positive influence on them as they, too have expressed and shown a budding interest in the sport. In fact, they now jog regularly with me on weekends.
If support from home is critical during my coaching sessions and practice runs, more so, during the actual race. Did I say that the support from home is most critical? My wife Elaine was my cheerleader, motivator and onsite coach all rolled into one the night before the race and after I crossed the finish line.
Other equally important first-hand lessons this beginner’s milestone afforded me before beginning a race are getting a good night’s sleep, watching your nutrition, being early at the venue and doing drills.
The value of getting a good night’s sleep so you’re raring and ready to race during your big day cannot be overemphasized. There is a whale of a difference between running after getting some serious rest and running after staying up late. I’ve experienced both and I did not want to experiment to see if it would turn out otherwise in an actual race. Nutrition and hydration proved to be just as critical as I remembered to carbo-load during lunch the day before and go fibre-heavy for early dinner. Noting Coach Noelle’s insight from her recent blog insights on the 2014 Rexona race, I made sure we were at the venue more than an hour before gun start. This allowed me to do the drills I learned from her which I supplemented with quick jogs and brisk walks.
Voices in My Head
I am grateful for having completed a number of basic running modules offered by Noy’s school prior to my first 10k. The customized lessons they taught via their experience-based talks interspersed with actual demonstrations and drills proved to be of great use to me throughout the 10k route.
Most notably, Noy’s tip of using the 15:10 rule served me in good stead. That the race route happened to cover several loops with state of the art traffic lights equipped with countdowns worked to my advantage. In parts of the route without the said traffic lights, I applied the 15:10 rule by mentally counting from 1001 to 1010 as I sought to complete his recommended 15 paces.
Coach Noelle’s constant reminders kept me on my toes throughout the race. I swear I could almost hear her commanding voice in the course of the race: “Pick up your feet!” “Check your form before you focus on speed.” “Pace yourself but get past the slow runners.” “Trim the forward movement of your arms” “Keep your head up high.” “Put your game face on and your body will follow.” “Speed up in the last 3 kilometers.”
To Compare or Not to Compare
“Papa, I have a question,” my youngest son asked me with a smiling face the night before the race. “What if you’re the last one? What will you do?” I gently reminded him that racing is about focusing on your personal best and not comparing yourself with other runners because if you do, you will only be disappointed. “But Papa,” my son insisted, “I run faster than you do.” Which was partly true because while I would pace myself every time my kids would run with me, my small boys would always break into a sprint and laugh heartily after overtaking me. In any case, I now have a first-hand appreciation for what my running heroes have documented in their respective memoirs. I’m referring here to Haruki Murakami and Dr. George Sheehan who both get positively affected at some point by passing other runners. Conversely, they couldn’t help feeling deflated when other runners do the same to them. This was where the winning insight of Coach John Wooden came to my rescue along with the Nike App that kept me company throughout the race. “Give it your personal best and stop comparing yourself to others,” Coach Wooden would often remind his players. I was just as grateful to the Nike App as it kept my attention glued to the challenge at hand instead of focusing on being passed by other runners. Oh and by the way, I’m happy to report I was not the last one to cross the finish line.
Not that I’m sour-graping but I would dare say that there was a high probability that I could have achieved an even more impressive finishing time had I not stopped thrice to ask the marshals where the next loop was after I completed the first 8km. I studied the route a week before the race and the night before. Based on the route map provided by the organizers, we were supposed to run towards the northern end of MOA, loop back and then run towards the southern side from where we were to loop back and end where we started. What happened was after I completed both, I had to do two more loops of the northern-end segment before I was allowed to cross the finish line. The Nike App I was using reported that the total distance of the supposed 10k race was actually 10k and 700 meters. It’s a good thing one of its features is its built-in capability to provide real-time feedback regarding your average pace and distance covered with practically each kilometer you complete.
I am equally grateful for its playlist feature which provided the racing soundtrack courtesy of all my rock heroes from Don Henley (i.e., “Through Your Hands”) to Tom Petty (ie., “Learning to Fly”), from The Dawn (i.e., “Habulan”) to Rivermaya (i.e., “Posible.”) Songs like the preceding helped me enjoy the race with a healthy dose of “cinematic drama” even as they egged me on to complete the race with my personal best.
The Runner’s High
To deal with the confusion and subsequent temporary loss of momentum towards the last 2 kilometers of the race, I remembered Coach Noelle’s reminder to speed up towards the end of the race. Apply it I did, and before I knew it, there was the finish line in front of me and the actual finisher’s medal being handed to me with a hearty congratulatory greeting. The whole experience seemed surreal to say the least. Buoyed by my modest achievement, I allowed the confusion and delay occasioned by the last 2 kilometers to slide even as I noted that some finishers were complaining about the actual distance of the 10k race. Still others were asking about their official finisher’s time.
There is always a euphoric feeling that awaits you whenever you finish a workout or a practice run. Some sports psychologists refer to this as “the runner’s high.” But it’s more popularly known as endorphins – the chemicals which are released by the human body to serve as “the pay-off for your body’s reward system.” I now have a first-hand appreciation of the fact that the endorphin rush that accompanies my weekly routine pales in comparison to the one I experienced after a real race. I suppose this is the reason why so many runners go through the sacrifice of having to sleep early and wake up at 2am to commute or drive to the racing venue and compete on a Sunday which is when a great percentage of our population would rather sleep and wake up late. No wonder there are practically weekly fun runs and marathons all year round. I initially thought that I would have to wait until 2015 to complete my first 10k race after missing the 38th Milo Marathon because of last-minute changes in my schedule. My thanks to Aqueous for facilitating the Green Hope Fun Run. For this running beginner, despite the confusion towards the end of the race, no other name for a racing event could have been more appropriate. Green is indeed the color of Hope and I really had Fun in this Run.
On to the next race!