In The Company Of Pain

SM 2 SM Run 2012  12k  02/12/12

There was no fear or excitement. My last long run occurred 8 days before the race and ended with a precursor of an injury on my left knee. Fear was an acceptable emotion. The last race ended terribly and the memory of it was like a raw wound, which had me craving for redemption. Some degree of excitement was understandable. These two emotions were strangely lacking though as I waited for the announcement for the start of the race. Not that I minded their absence. I often ran fearful and excited towards less productive results.

A steady rain kept the runners’ excitement level at a low level. The presence of rain delighted me though. I had prayed for rain for several races passed. Rain could prove to be an equalizer to runners near my level. Well, that was the hypothesis that I ran with. The half marathon started with a bang. A short fireworks display took some of the dreariness from the participants. I stepped out of the shade to gaze at their fleeting beauty. As the bright lights died down, I jogged for a good spot nearest to the starting line. The early birds were awarded a place beyond the ankle deep puddles. A runner commented on the pointlessness of dodging these puddles. We were all going to be soaking wet anyway.

Oddly enough, this race was quite uneventful for my first rainy day race. Even the 12k fireworks display fizzled at the first bang. Not much happened but I do remember people. I remember a middle aged runner with a pronounced forward lean that had me pondering whether I should inform him of it. My inability to keep up with him stilled my tongue. I recall a woman wearing a sports bra and the sight of her made me feel cold. There was also a running couple that got separated. The man let his woman go ahead because he had to pee.

The route went through a historical park and from there headed to the entrance of SRP. It was just then that I understood that any race that goes through SRP was bound to be breathtaking. Even the bad weather could not dampen the awesomeness of running near the sea. The sight of the endless sea made my heart swell with elation, which reminded me. I had not felt the usual pains that came with running for the first few kilometers. My confidence soared.

The fifth kilometer brought a welcomed sight in the form of the prettiest triathlete (last seen at the Run United Cebu 2011 race) I have personally seen. Her strides were fast and powerful and the way her hair bobbed from left to right was hypnotic. For some reason, she was looking away and not straight ahead as she passed me. Did I make her uneasy by staring too much? Probably yes. I could not help it. As she disappeared from my sight, a pressing matter came to my attention. The knee pain was back and I had not reached the turning point. The initial reaction to the pain fell away quickly. It wasn’t that bad yet and the turning point was in sight. When I did reach six kilometers, I picked up the pace. 40 minutes was long enough for a six kilometer jog. I quickly passed the forward leaning guy and the sports bra lady. Most of the 12k runners were slowing down as I started to make my move.

The first 40 minutes tested my patience but, with the increased pace, I let myself enjoy the rush. Thoughts of competition entered my mind. This was finally a race. I searched for challengers. The fastest runner I could find was a 20 something lady. I tried passing her but she sped up. Even when she stopped for a drink, I could not take the lead. She must have noticed my little challenge since she slowed almost imperceptibly for me to catch up. It might have been a ploy to prolong our little game but I never caught up. The pain on my left knee was worsening. She eventually disappeared from sight leaving me alone in our game of tag. No, not alone. I had plenty of pain for company. Suddenly, my courage was being tested and, based on my long history of defeat, I was going to lose. I don’t know what happened though. Was it the weather or the route? Whatever it was that kept me going, it worked. I did not quit. Walking was quitting. I did not walk. A DNF was never going to happen. I clung to my courage (or was it stubbornness?) like a man overboard would cling to a lifeline. The pain was not as bad as a side stitch but I knew I would not be running for a while. It did not matter at this point. All that mattered was the finish line.

The kick hurt like hell. Every breath out of my lips carried a tune of pain as I went through intervals of limping and running. Near the end, I was hopping with my right leg while dragging my left leg. Passing the finish line granted my left knee the mercy of walking. Someone hung my first ever finisher’s medal around my neck and it felt good wearing it. Now, I understand why people collected these things. For once, I took my time enjoying my postrace meal and the festivities. The journey home was going to be painful so I savored the feeling of accomplishment. 1:18:01.23

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