Breaking Thirty

YFC Run For Youth 5k  03/20/11

I am a slave to my impulses. I was not supposed to run this race but there I was warming up under an overcast sky at 4 am. This was not part of the plan. At the end of February, I had come to the conclusion that I had burned out. A sore left foot kept me from jogging for days. March was supposedly meant for baseline training. The plan was to upgrade my three days a week training to four days. Moreover, I had planned to work on my form. I had not achieved the plan yet, it was still about two weeks in to March. It wasn’t pretty. The moment I saw the registration booth, I had signed in a blink of an eye. Needless to say I’m not proud of myself for it.

The organizers failed to invest in a portapotty. I started the race with my belly full of fluids and my bladder halfway full. Just over 30 minutes was my PR for 5k so I thought I could hold it in for that amount of time. Thoughts of bladder control fell away after the first 400 meters. I used my forefoot strike to keep up with the fast crowd at least until some of them gave up and walked to catch their breath. They did. I avoided the clogging traffic of runners turned walkers and went with my usual form. I had congratulated myself for my quick thinking but it was arbitrary. A steady incline slowed my progress enabling a runner to easily pass me. Curiously, he stayed just five steps ahead. For awhile, I admired his running form. It was not a fluid but it radiated power and stubbornness with each step; a pale comparison to my weakened stride. As I arrived somewhere around the second kilometer, the local elite runners had started heading back. A motorcyclist noisily heralded their victory. I imagined a lot of hearts dropped at the sight but the runner in front of me cheered them on. Seconds later, one of elites surged to catch up with the lead pack. A taxi rudely cruised behind him. This infuriated the runner. He raised his fist and shouted something. I was breathing too heavily to hear a thing. The issue was passing though. The runner had gone back to leading me by five steps at least until the halfway point. The descent started at the turn. The runner before me had started to increase his lead. I was too tired to take full advantage of the downward momentum. I just let it carry me not bothering to pick up the pace as well. A lot of people had started walking at the points where I struggled but kept on running. It emboldened me. The runner that had led me before had disappeared into the steadily growing crowd of walkers. Dodging them was an arduous task and by the last kilometer I ran on reserves. An unusual pain occurred in my belly as I caught sight of the finish line. Increased the intensity of the pain brought about by surging broke my momentum so I waited until I got a straight route to the finish line to deliver my final kick.

It was a great kick. My body moved with singular purpose, the pain forgotten. As I crossed the finish line, I forgot to stop my watch counter as well. My annoyance at the blunder was short lived. I managed a PR and it was over 40 seconds from my past record. The feeling of success was also short lived. I had to relieve myself. Fortunately, the comfort rooms had opened. As I did the deed, I began to doubt my time. Maybe the route was shorter. It was a common error among organizers after all. I endured the long awarding ceremony of the 5k winners to take note of the top finishing times. It was just as I thought. The usual 17 minute 5k runners got 16 minute times. Maybe I was overanalyzing it. Maybe it was a fast course, especially the descending second half. Maybe I just tried harder this time as evidenced by the side stitches. No. I didn’t really feel successful at all. I just couldn’t believe it. 30:05.64

Citirun 2011 5k  03/27/11

I’m late! My mind raced as the gun start echoed loudly among the din of drizzling rain and shuffling feet. Thankfully, it was the start of the 21k. I tied and doubled tied my shoes as quickly as I could. My hands trembled at the cold and the excitement. Dynamic stretches followed. I drew stares from many people, possibly from joggers and walkers. The elite runners paid me no heed. Most of them were done with their warm-up.  Bang! The second gun start had me alternately running and walking in small loops. I noticed my feet unconsciously adopting a forefoot strike. The growing 5k crowd on the starting line alarmed me enough to make my way to the starting line. I was with the front crowd again. I think I might have mastered this skill. The amusing thought lightened my mood. A small creeping worry stuck with me though. I hoped that I had warmed-up enou…. Bang!

What if? I posed this questioned like a mantra. Pessimistic realism has been hardwired into my nature. I knew my limits pretty well. I also know that we can never rely on chances to favor us. However, a question presented itself. What if? I ran the start with forefoot strike but I knew that I could do so for a couple of minutes only or risk injury. What if? I finally got into my normal foot strike but my stride felt weird. It felt new and it felt great. It wasn’t my normal stride though. The blaring pain in my right leg ordered me to slow down. What if? At the second half, I encountered a hill. I don’t like hills. What if? I encountered marker that said 1 km just as I was slowing down. What if? The runner before me built up a 50 meter lead just as I was about to kick. I did not know if I could catch up especially when I was having side stitches. There was a speed bump on the road. It could prove disastrous if I tripped on it while sprinting. What if?

29 minutes. I could not wipe the smile off my face. I broke through the 30 minute barrier just by answering the question. What if?The question enabled me to do so much. When logic kept me from pushing the boundaries of my forefoot striking technique, the question raised an alternative result. A sudden occurrence of a strange new pain could derail anyone’s strategy but the question proposed the liberating idea that this pain, like all else, is passing. Even hills and oxygen debt were no match for the question. Moreover, the question got me doing my best kick yet. Only one runner came between me and the finish line. I was determined to do the kick but held no illusion that I would outrun that particular runner. Then I ask the question. What if? I sprinted as fast as I could. As my foot stepped on the speed bump, I thought that this will probably slow me down significantly. It didn’t. As I stepped off, my turnover increased. I don’t how I did it but there I was zooming into the finish line with the other guy a couple of seconds behind me. The timer even struggled to hastily convey to me my finish time but I barely noticed him. I was too busy savoring the moment at the finish with a pained and jubilant expression on me, which reminded me that all races that resulted with a PR end with me either in a daze or in pain. 29:43.30

Best Race of the Month: Citirun 2011

There were some elite runners from other provinces in this race. The fastest time recorded for the 21k was about 1:13, which was over a minute faster than the second fastest runner. Makes me wonder how many faster Filipinos are out there.

Best Performance of the Month: Citirun 2011

I broke the 30th minute. Enough said.

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