Monday, March 26, 2012

A Tokyo Marathoner's Tale

(Note: The following is a contribution by my college mate and good friend, Edesel Guevarra, who may have been one of those who's had a hand in inspiring me to take up running last 2009 until now. During the hey days of Friendster, I chanced upon reading one of his blog posts on taking on the Tokyo Marathon. I was awed by this amazing feat of human endurance and willpower at the time and could never have imagined that I will be tackling the same sport/distance years later. Based in Tokyo, Edesel takes on the mighty 42km journey for the 4th time. Below is a recap of that eventful day last Feb 26th.)

Tokyo Marathon 2012: There were 35,000 runners for this year's marathon

"You will run what?" an officemate told me when she heard I was picked to run the Tokyo Marathon this year. She could not believe it.

Another friend told me, "My boyfriend was wondering how you will be able to run a FULL marathon? (insert laugh track here)

Still, another friend's husband told me, "Really??? You will run a marathon? That's 42 kilometers!" I replied meekly, "Uhm, yeah this is actually my fourth one", to which he said "well, you DON'T LOOK like a runner."

At 38 years old and at least 15 kgs overweight, I cannot blame them for thinking this way. The eye sees what they see and makes the judgment accordingly. They just call it as they see it. I would make the same judgment on myself, but with a dose of maniacal cackling laughter.

This is the year that I have struggled with keeping myself in shape (understatement of the year, I know). I have had a very difficult time eating right. Despite my active lifestyle which includes playing basketball at least once a week, running and hitting the gym at least twice a week, it seems I could not drop my weight. My weekly "appointments" at Midori Sushi, Tenkaipin Ramen shop, and Bangkok Kitchen may have something to do with that.

I also noticed that even though I exercised the same way in previous years and ate the same way, I still gained weight. This is probably the age factor, i.e the metabolism slowing down. I do realize I need to exercise more and eat a balanced diet (hello veggies and fruits, goodbye steaks, pasta and Krispy Kreme!).

Only trouble with this resolution is that today is Tuesday. Tokyo Marathon 2012 was ONE MONTH ago.

So how did an overweight 38 year old food lover, donut and coffee addict, runner/athlete wannabe did in the marathon? Below is a running diary of what happened.

7:00 AM, Shinjuku station.

My sister Maricar and I met with my friends Jun, Alvin, and Elvis. All of them are running their first marathon. Maricar, Jun, and myself have been training for several months now and running together. I tell them to focus. Relax.

"We have trained for this. We are going to be fine," I said. They are laughing and joking. I try to put my game face on and encouraged them to do the same, to no avail. In seconds, I crack a couple of lame jokes, and laughed with them silly. This helps me to relax. I am the Derek Fisher of marathon. The grizzly veteran, guiding the rookies.

The Pinoy smile! Starting the marathon: Maricar, Elvis, Alvin and Jun. The "rookies" of Tokyo Marathon 2012.

9:00 AM

There's about 35,000 people running the marathon this year. The start point is congested and it takes at least 20 minutes to reach the starting line. We belong to the "K block," which is the last block of runners. The elite runners such as Olympians and record holders are in block "A."

Elvis, wearing a bright green windbreaker, sprints out. He seems determined to get a fast time. I also lose sight of Alvin, who is trying to zigzag his way out of the crowd. I look around and I see Jun and Maricar beside me. I tell them to stay close, keep eye contact, and relax. The past few weekends, we ran an average of 20 km together around the Imperial Palace so we pretty much knew what to expect in the first few kilometers. After a few minutes, Jun sees the 2km marker, and he yells out, "40 km more!"

10:20 AM

We are almost near the 10km mark and Maricar tells me that we need to stretch. This was a good plan and I agreed. I tell Jun who is a few meters ahead "STRETCH at 10km mark!" He nods back.

So far so good. No fatigue and my legs seem to be ok. We stretch a bit. I take a couple of bites from my Power Bar and hydrate. The Tokyo Marathon is very well organized with lots of drink stations along the way. Food and water will not be the problem. After a minute, we resume running.

11:34 AM

Jun is running a good rhythm, about 100 meters ahead. Maricar as well seems to be relaxed and has no signs of fatigue at this point (19km). Jun sends me a text message to meet up at 20km. I pass the message to my sister and she nods. She runs a bit faster and is now about 20 meters ahead of me.

I start to feel some tightness on my left calf. Uh oh.

12:10 PM

I am lying on my back on the concrete, trying to stretch. Well, not really. I am starting to feel exhaustion creeping in, with the road like a bed to me. Maricar and Jun are laughing. They know what I am up to. It is the 20 km mark, and they are stretching while I am lying down. We eat our Power Bars and I take a gulp from my water bottle. Jun looks at his watch and says, "Time to go!".

"stretching" at the 20 km mark. I am ready to go to sleep

12:46 PM

I just crossed the 23.5km mark. Call the ambulance! My left leg has completely tightened up and I can no longer run! This is the first time this has happened to me in a full marathon.

I think about quitting and going home. I start to tell myself that I was NOT prepared for the marathon this year and should just text Maricar and Jun that I am out. They are at least 1km ahead of me now. The cutoff time for the 25 km mark is 1:18 PM. I look at my watch, and decide to drag my leg for two more kilometers and see how it goes.

I can walk 1.5 km in 28 minutes, right?

12:50 PM

I get this text message from Maricar: "Retire na daw sina Alvin and Elvis." Looks like Alvin and Elvis have left the race. I find out later that both suffered minor injuries and hit with fatigue as well. I feel bad for those guys.

I look at my left leg helplessly and say out loud to no one in particular, "This is impossible!"

I say a short prayer, asking God to give me strength and mental toughness.

Agony creeping in: I am amazed at my sister's love for photos. She captured my pain.
Haha! Yes, I am just "walking" by this time

1:01 PM

I cross the 25 km mark. I have instructed Jun and Maricar to go ahead and meet up at the 30km mark. I told them that I cramped up and need not wait for me.

I run some calculations in my head. It seems that I can "combine" brisk walking and some semblance of running and finish 1 kilometer within 10 minutes. The cut off time for the 30k mark is 1:56 pm. At that pace of 10 min/km, I can be at the 30 km mark with 5 minutes to spare! Maybe this is POSSIBLE!

Crossing the 25 km mark. Sure I have a minute to pose for a pic!

1:45 PM

The crowd at the Tokyo marathon is great. People cheering you on, offering drinks, chocolates, fruits and even providing Salonpas spray for ailing joints. I smile as I receive encouragement and cheers of "Ganbarre...ganbatte kudasai!" (you can do it, work harder!).

I cross the 30 km mark with 10 mins to spare! Five minutes later, I get a text from Maricar: "At 30km mark, wait for me."

I could not believe it. I thought my sister was ahead of me the whole time. It turns out her knee gave her trouble and she received first aid. We meet up at around the 33km mark, and start to walk together. She too, can barely run. I tell her that if we beat the 35 km mark before 2:37 pm, then we should be fine and able to finish the marathon! All we needed to do was keep the pace of 1km in 10 minutes or less. She nods in agreement.

Meanwhile, we get a text message from Jun: "Where are you? I am at 38km now. Let's go!" I begin to hate that guy. Hahaha...

3:05 PM

We are now at the 37 km mark! My sister and I are having a great time talking while walking. We try to insert a bit of running bursts for like 30 seconds, then start walking again. At this point, we know we can finish the marathon. My left leg feels like its made of concrete, body is aching all over, but I feel great overall.

Jun sends a text message: "I passed 39. Will start to walk."

Jun, my sister Maricar and myself. Running buddies! It was a blessing to run with these guys.

3:55 PM

Me and my sister Maricar cross the finish line (with 5 minutes to spare)! Jun is there to welcome us and cheer us on. He has finished the race at least 30 minutes ahead of us. I feel happy for him as this is his first marathon. Minutes earlier, our friend Emma took our pictures while cheering us on and offering encouragement. I had to yank my sister away and tell her, "Uhm c'mon, lets cross the finish line first, ok?"

We cross the finish line and share huge cheers and high fives. Jun and Maricar are grinning wildly and are ecstatic at finishing their first marathon. I am almost sure this won't be their last. We take pictures and congratulate each other. This is an awesome moment for me since I am able to finish this race with my sister.

This is the toughest marathon I have ever done, having had to walk most of it, but it was also the most special by far. I say a prayer of thanks to God for giving me the strength to finish. I reflect on my run, and my performance. Maybe if I was 5 kg lighter, it would not have been this tough. I take a mental note to cut down on the Krispy Kreme donuts and the sushi. 

Well, maybe just the donuts.

Or maybe just eat less Krispy Kreme.

Just a balanced diet, you know? 

We are the champions: posing with our Tokyo Marathon 2012 Finisher medals.

No comments:

Post a Comment