KM 50 Aide Station. Upon reaching Toledo City, I’ll be running 15 Kms more before reaching KM50 Aide station, and rest as planned. I have good memory of the race route as I have been driving along these roads for almost five years now. But while running those 15 Kms, I felt mentally spent and unable to run even at a comfortable pace. Was it because I ran the first 35 Kms at a pace faster than what I trained for? I checked out my checklist: running form; fuel; hydration; electrolytes; pace? Yes, pace… I did not paced my self to run 105Km! A mistake veteran runners always tell as a warning to ultrarunning neophytes like me. At 35 Kms I’m already spent. I encouraged myself, 15 Kms more and you’ll have your much needed rest. And so at KM50, I stripped off my shirt and took much time resting, hoping to recover and be able to run the more difficult half of the course.
KM 72 Aide Station. Test of Physical Strength. Before reaching this Aide Station you have to climb the dreaded Cansomoroy climb, around 800 meters gain in elevation in as short as 3 kms. And for the equally punishing climb to Mt. Manunggal, one of the highlights of this race, a visit to the crash site of the late President Ramon Magsaysay in 1957 aboard a Douglas C-47 Army plane (this is where the route for TCU 105 got its inspiration, and I hope TCU will retain this route in its future races). I have slowed down to a very slow hike upon reaching KM 72. My left calf muscles was already cramped and hardened despite my occasional rest and massage. I have reached this far. I played the remaining 33 Kms route on my head and dreaded If I could still muster enough strength to finish this race. While seated and contemplating at KM 72, RD Blue passed by checking out Aide Stations, he asked if I’m alright, and with a forced smile I gave him a thumb up. Words of encouragement, I learned in this sports of human endurance, are very powerful and effective in pushing a runner to go beyond his/her breaking points. I was already broken at KM 72, standing up on my feet was already a struggle how much more to cover the remaining distance. But with those kind words of encouragement from other runners, support crews, and organizers, I forced one step ahead of the other and found my self managing a hike and a jog looking forward not for the finish line but for the next Aide Station at KM 82.
KM 82 Aide Station. Test of Spirit. Slumping on a monobloc chair provided by kind volunteers at the Aide Station, my left leg was already in too much pain and my spirit was already broken. I can’t see this race to its end. I’m done. I’m about to throw in the towel and declare DNF. I took my drop bag, drank my comfort drink and took a bite from an energy bar. It took me awhile to notice my ultra-running neighbor Ms. Cora. She volunteered to assist for this race. She has been present and awake all the time from the pre-race briefing to the starting line, Aide Station KM 50, and there she was again at Aide Station KM 82. I remembered her encouraging me to move on. But my mind was refusing. I brought out my phone and dialed my father, who was then staying at my brothers house at Mactan waiting for me and my kids to spend a dinner before he goes back home to Baguio the following day after more than a month stay here in Cebu. My father was a veteran marathoner with a 3:15 marathon time in his mid forties. He is sidelined in running now because of a hip injury he suffered around five years ago. As a disciplined athlete, he still goes out for a regular walk. I am hopeful to see my father run again someday. He answered. I could have told him that I’m already quitting the race, that I’m already done and cant move anymore further because of injury. I know he would understand, he is a runner himself. Looking at Ms. Cora, an accomplished runner who have finished her own 100km ultra; hearing my father on the phone waiting for what I was going to say; and after sighing a short prayer to my God, I told my father I’m not yet done with the race. I checked the time on my phone and it was just around noon time and cut off time for this race will be at 9:00PM. I’m going to make it, I told my father that I’ll be on the road for 5 – 6 hours more to finish the race. I took off the Aide Station, not with renewed strength nor with a revived spirit, these were already broken, but with the still flickering desire to accomplish this race. I was praying hard that my God will honor this desire and allow me to finish.
KM 92 Aide Station. A step into the world of Ultramarathon. After I took those steps from KM 82 Aide Station, I can say, each step after it were entirely new to me. It was and is the world of ultramarathon! An experience every long distance runners revisits in ultra distances. I heard and read of these experiences from veteran ultra runners. These are points in long distance races where even when you are cramped, exhausted, even injured, or with a broken spirit, you can still dig so deep within for those unknown and untapped energy source that would enable an ultra runner not just to finish but even to pick up a faster pace to win a race. Towards KM 92, I was already digging and praying. An answer to my prayer, perhaps to other runners too, was a short refreshing cold down pour of rain. I had to don my disposable raincoat though because my body was not warm enough due to lack of movement to ward off the chilling rain. I reached KM 92, now more determined to finish this race.
KM 100 Aid Station. Test of the heart. In any sports or in real life, finishing what you have started is of great import. I experienced a number of times in my early life quitting from something that I started. Specially when I am faced with difficulties, I gave up. I tried learning from those experiences and built my self to be more committed to the things I do. I tried to erase the word “quitting” from my vocabulary and I was successful to some extent. Not until a few hours ago that the word “quitting” came to my conscious mind giving all possible justifications for me to give up this race. But that was 18 long kilometers ago. I have reached KM 100 and my heart was telling me that I am bound to accomplish this, no quitting. KM 100 Aid Station was Team Lingam’s Aide station, and Prince was there. An avid race organizer and supporter of this sport, and by just his presence at the last 5 Kms was enough encouragement specially to runners who knew him. I could add, every word and every gesture I’ve heard, seen and experienced all through out the race were given to encourage. Amazing! I hope that more people could see our life to be like an utra distance race, where we experience hardships and difficulties forcing us to quit along the way, but there would be people encouraging us, caring for us, helping us up back to our feet and start moving again.
KM 105 Finish Line. Glory time. Yes, I like the trophy, the medal and the bracelet. These would be displayed as tangible testaments of how great my God is in my life as, now, a certified ultramarathoner! This glory belongs to Him!