The first weekend of the month is a long weekend, and under normal circumstances I should be travelling, or making something badass. Only this time around we all visited our white cities to remember our dearly departed. Three days, three towns, three cemeteries and believe it or not I somehow inserted running a 16k race. And wait, I remembered I’m on an exile away from fun-runs and travelling. Too late.
I heard about the Hilongos National Vocational School‘s (HNVS) “A Run for My Alma Mater” Fun Run only the day before the race. I was there at my mom’s hometown in Matalom, Leyte when a cousin informed that there’s a fun run in the neighboring town. So I checked out the details and found out the race was created to raise funds to build a new library for the school. Last March, a fire broke down and reduced to ruins the old library building and it surrounding buildings. Here’s what is left of the devastation:
The sight was heartbreaking as I realized hundreds of books were lost and perhaps decades worth of records destroyed. My God, libraries are one of my favorite places on earth especially in high school because they provide sanctuary and that joy of discovering the wonders inside the Harry Potter books. Libraries means knowledge and information and perfect dating places (ahemm). But I was pretty impressed how strong the school’s alumni organization is as they hosted this noble activity to raise funds for a new one. So I knew spending addition P350 kind of hurts but I know it’s all worth it, besides there’s no other cost for travel in Hilongos unlike running in Tacloban. Take note Hilongos is just a 15minute motorcycle drive from Matalom, and I was actually born in Hilongos. Cool place to run.
I signed up for the 16k category and I made it a point not to race like hell this time. This is no race, this is no RUPM, not even a maddening tempo run w/c I did the day before. This a just an LSD, long slow distant running session and very much still part of the game towards the climax called (42k) Cebu Marathon. The game plan for the fun run is just to identify my marathon pace and see if I can last for 16k or roughly a third of the marathon. Pacing, pacing, pacing.. so help me GPS watch.
I rode my motorbike towards Hilongos from Matalom by 3:30AM and by the time I reached the starting I saw some familiar faces in the crowd, my brothers in arms, the TOES family! Amazing fellows, strong runners and goodlooking ones. Mga IDOL! These guys rode all the way from Tacloban to run here, and passing on the Dalagan Tacloban Leg 1 which was also schedule that same day. And the roar of the gun echoed and off we went to the road, my watch told me it’s still 4:35AM.
The 16k course was generally straight and flat with only two elevated bridges to cross. It’s an easy course. I can sense the thirst for PRs all around me. And as the gun blasted, the beats of the drum sent the air on festival mode, I decided to sprint the first kilometer and settle down to the planned marathon pace the race of the way. I saw the other TOES members blasted off too, I tried to catch up but man they were all strong starters (praktisado gyud), I bet they are in a Need For Speed mode. The course features the chance for visiting runners to see and experience the hospitality of the two towns Hilongos and Hindang, and everything in between their Poblacion are endless views of rice paddies. Both towns are one of the top rice producing towns in the regions, and we all see why. Unlimited fresh air too.
I was satisfied with my performance despite being the last TOES to cross the finish line (which meant missing on the group pictures see below) because I did achieved my goals. I had an LSD and I think I found my marathon pace. For 15kilometers I maintained a steady 6:25-6:35 min./km pace almost without stopping at all. My comfortable pace is somewhere in the 6:00 minute mark so it was sort of a test of patience running in slow and steady pace the rest of the way. My body felt fine with that pace and looked like I can really go a long distance with it. But I’ll try it on a 32k simulation course next weekend if I can really sustain it. But my performance is by all means not a perfect one.
Around the 2k mark, after settlling down my speed from sprinting to marathoning my calf muscles was already screaming and it looked like I’ll be having cramps that early in the race. Shit. I admit I did not stretched and warmed up properly pre-race because this was supposed to be an easy run; but hey I should know better. Short runs or ultra runs, I have to stretch and get properly warmed up and it needs NO reminding. But there I was goddamn lingering and already in trouble so early in the race. And that’s when I heard her whisper…
There’s only one person who calls me that name. I don’t know if I only imagined it or something, but it did something positive in me as I started to recover and the pain subsided to a tolerable level. Hearing her sweet voice again gave me strength to carry on and cleared my mind: Ok buddy you were an idiot earlier, you were over-speeding so take a breather, adjust you hydration belt, lower your stride, stay calm and keep an eye on that Soleus watch! With just one whisper, a disaster was averted.
She used to mean the world to me. But it’s been almost two years since she left. I did not even told her I started running. And all those races and training I’ve done ever since, not a single time I think of her. Running is different. It’s where I willingly inflict pain to my body and soul, perhaps to forget or maybe to feel how good it is to be alive. But this time is different, I think of her the whole course, every stride, every meter because I can feel her presence and I knew she’d be proud of me. Just a whisper, and it made all the difference.
By the time I crossed the finish line, all the TOES were already there celebrating and taking pictures (shit). It’s no surprise the group hoarded most of the awards. I even saw the dynamic Aldas father and son tandem and they were so friendly and game for some chat and pictures (bigyan sila ng visors!). I was not tired of the race and still got some plenty of gas left in the tank. My pacing was good, thanks to the adjustments, and hopefully I can stick with it on longer distances. I think the event was a success, there’s not much runners who came but I hope it generated some revenues for the Library building. I’m definitely going back for next year’s edition. Congratulations to the HNVS alumni and organizers, you should be proud of all your efforts to achieve you noble intention for the school.
And for me, when everything was dried up, and bade my friends my goodbye’s and see you again next weekend, I simply cannot wait to visit her and say thanks. She’s in Maasin City which is another 45-minute motorcycle ride away, God even if I have to run that distance I’ll do it right-away just to see her again. That run was for you my friend. And guys, here’s a picture of my visit. 🙂