Milo Marathon, the oldest (since 1974) marathon event in the Philippines and considered by many as our version of the well-known Boston Marathon. This is the annual event where the fastest runners in the country gather and compete to become the very best like no one ever was. Okay, not really to become the very best like no one ever was, to be crowned the Milo Marathon King and Queen. Ever since I got seriously committed in running, I have always wondered what it would be like to run with the fastest, to be in the field of champions, to run on the same route. So, I joined Condura Skyway Marathon for my first marathon. The best of the best and the fastest non-elites in the running community also run that event, but it’s still does not have the same vibe as Milo Marathon. Finally, I had the chance to join a Milo Marathon event, my first one, the Manila eliminations. I prepared for it, trained properly, and even pondered the possibility of finally getting that sub-5 hour marathon PR that I want. I was very excited to run this event and when the day finally came, I was a bit confident and very eager to run.
This is a Rogue Rebel Run, I’m running alone and I did not bring a car to save money (because if I did, it would cost me at least 600 php compared to public transportation expenses of 200 php). I left home before 11 pm, rode a van to Ayala, and then a bus to SM Mall of Asia. It was still more than a couple of hours before the 42k gunstart and to be sure that I won’t get low on energy during the run, I ate a chicken fillet rice meal at the nearby McDonald’s. En route to the activity area, a runner called me and started a conversation. His name is Rick Frias, he told me that he recognized me during my training runs in Batino and Ciudad De Calamba and he was also in the same van I rode. We parted ways as I explore the activity area and took pictures.
It was around 2:30 am when the marshals allowed the runners to approach the starting line. I was reunited with Rick and got separated after the marshal checkpoints (they’re very strict in checking the bibs of the participants). The long stretch of the road was occupied by thousands of marathoners, I positioned myself near the starting line, and the weather was humid, most of us were already sweating before the race even started. A few minutes before gunstart was the usual warm-up exercise as well as a send-off video (from a previous Milo Marathon) shown to motivate runners. Distracted by the video, I was unable to activate my new Soleus GPS One watch and when the race started, it was still searching for a satellite. Good thing I already started my Nike+ Running app as the timer counts down. After 100 meters or so, the watch finally locked on and started tracking, but I already crossed the starting line, so there’s a 100+ meter discrepancy between the watch and the smartphone app.
The plan was to run a 6-7 minute per kilometer pace to conserve energy and starting re-hydrating on each stations after 6 kilometers. It was hard to overtake during the first kilometer because of the cramped space. It was around the CCP Complex area that most of the runners have sufficient space to run their intended pace. This is the same route as the previous Milo Marathons and Run United events, I like the mostly flat road from of Roxas Boulevard all the way to the Luneta U turn (in front of the Rizal statue) because it’s the right time to run fast and relaxed. But, the part going to Baclaran is what I disliked the most. It’s very dark and at one time, some of us hydrated on a water station at the wrong side of the road (it was for the runners heading back) and that prompted a runner to shout “ilawan nyo kasi” (get it properly lit) when the marshals told us to go to the other side. Who could blame him? most of us share the same sentiments because the area was poorly lit. There were also pedestrians crossing the road in the Baclaran area and all you can see of them are silhouettes that blend in the darkness. People could bump each other, some may trip and fall, and worse, the darkness can be the perfect opportunity for pickpockets.
By the time we passed City of Dreams and approaching the next U-Turn near the NAIA road-Coastal Mall intersection, a cool breeze of winds starts to blow by, a sign of the possible storm coming. It was a little worrying, so I sped up my pace a bit. Some time in the 18th kilometer, running in Sen Gil Puyat Avenue, I felt hunger at the worst possible time. I did not bring food with me, not even a small chocolate bar because I thought I ate enough before the race and will rely on just hydration and bananas. Unfortunately, there are no bananas on the hydration stations that I passed by. I slowed down significantly, my stomach aches like I’m having an ulcer attack or something. From that point of the Makati route, I started feeling bad, I feel a bit dizzy, weak, exhausted, and even had thoughts like saying to myself “Bakit ba ako sumali pa dito” (why did I even join this?) and “dapat nasa bahay nalang ako sa oras na ito at natutulog” (I should’ve been at home, sleeping at this time). I was even pondering if I should join another marathon or just stick to half-marathons after the race.
My condition seemed to normalize before going up Kalayaan flyover, I still feel exhausted, but stomach pain was waning. I got a bit of a boost going down the flyover, and then had more walks around BGC to regain stamina. It was still a jogging session with some walking in the Lawton Avenue area. I also poured cold water on my head and grabbed a cold sponge to keep my body cool. Finally, at the next U-Turn, Kilometer 28 at the area near the turn going to Bayani Road, I found the bananas. I consumed it quickly and continued re-hydrating with a cup of Gatorade and water. I feel much better and when Nike+ Running app notified me that I reached the 30th kilometer at 3 hours and 33 minutes, the possibility of getting a sub-5:00 marathon PR is within reach. I ran an average of 7m30s per kilometer from kilometer 32 to 38. There was a time when our pace faltered when the marshals decided to give the full stop to us instead of the motorists and that cost us precious seconds and affected our momentum (it’s hard to regain it when you rest). Returning to Makati, I started to lose speed again, I feel a tightening pain, like cramps, on my right thigh (It can be brushed off by walking properly). I also started feeling pain on my right ankle joint and under my right foot and that forced me to walk a lot, I’m back at a much slower pace of 8-9 minutes per kilometer. That along with the event’s kilometer markers not in sync with my GPS watch and smartphone app (more than a kilometer of discrepancy) was the moment that I decided to just finish the race without hope of the sub-5:00 finish. I still did short bursts of running, I tried to run before traffic lights run red, I still had thoughts of a second wind, but I just don’t have the same enthusiasm as before.
The last 3 kilometers of was the hardest, I walked longer, an re-hydrated too much making me feel bloated. I got myself showered by the fire truck volunteers and the sprinkler near the Mall of Asia area to cool my body.
Walking in the Mall of Asia route in the last kilometer was one of the most unsatisfying feeling I ever had in a race. I’m not ashamed, just a little bit disappointed that things did not turn out the way I want them to be. A group of finishers from the shorter distance passed by and asked us, “42k kayo” (are you 42k runners?), saying yes and seeing their reaction gives you that thought that you’re doing great because you’re doing something a lot of people can’t do or doesn’t have the courage to do (yet).
There were some cheers from the spectators in the last 500 meters. It helped a bit, we did run, using our last burst of energy to smile for the cameras, and seeing the finish line just a few strides away, makes you happy that it’s going to be over.
There comes a time when we want to give our all to get what we want. I did not promise a sub-5:00 marathon PR, but I want it. I don’t care it’s a 04:59:49, as long as it’s a sub 5, that’s all. The 4oth Milo Marathon Manila Elims was not the time to give my all. At the time, I was thinking, if I give this a push, ignore the pain, and give everything I have, who’s got my back after crossing that finish line? No one! I’m alone in this event, I don’t have someone to take care of me or drive me home after the race. I’m going home, riding public transportation and I need to be able to stand and walk. Given Milo Marathon’s track record of serious runner injuries and deaths (I even witnessed one of the fallen runner lying inside an ambulance in the BGC area), I decided to play it safe. With the thought, I finally accepted the fact that I can finish this within the time limit, I won’t be satisfied, but I get to go home without serious injuries and get to fight (I mean, run) another day.
I crossed the finish line with an official gun time of 05:21:54 (chip time 05:21:00), rank 1,004 out of 2,097 marathoners. I like my first Milo Marathon run, I wasn’t able to perform my best, but it was a great learning experience. Before the race I was prepared, I trained properly, and had the excitement of a runner ready to run his first race. After the race, I felt like a runner on his way to marathon retirement. Former U.S.A. President, George W. Bush, said in a Runner’s World interview, “I learned that running can make you feel 10 years younger the day of the race and 10 years older the day after the race.” That quote best described my first Milo Marathon experience.
I was very tired and in pain when I walked to the activity area, I even forgot to stop my GPS watch and Nike+ Running app, only noticed it when I was about to claim my finisher’s kit. I walked around a bit to see what more freebies I can get or what drinks I can get for free. Unfortunately, my favorite, the Milo Nutri Up drinks were served hot, and the regular Milo served cold. Rick found me at the baggage claim area, he told m e he finished at 05:34, not bad for a first time marathoner. He went back to the activity area to take some photos, I told him I will follow after changing clothes, but I also stopped by at a nearby Starbucks to freshen up. Never found him again when I went to the activity area. I will run a marathon again and I will still try to get that Sub-5 PR I always wanted. I’m just gonna take it easy for now and recover.
On a sadder note, my smartphone’s micro SD card got damaged when my phone got wet at the sprinklers area (or maybe from the fire truck), so all the photos at the event are gone, including my favorite photos.
The official Milo Marathon Manila Eliminations 42k results can be seen here: https://www.milo.com.ph/sites/milo_philippines2/files/media/40th%20National%20MILO%20Marathon%20Leg%203%20-%20Manila%20Overall%20Full%20Marathon.pdf