Running events these days can be classified into two categories, a fun run and a competitive race. For those who just want a good and fun time with friends without the need to worry about being athletic or fast, a fun run is the most popular choice. For fast and elite runners who want to test themselves and compete for prizes, competitive races is the serious choice. A lot of organizers made a good effort to combine both, a running event that can be fun and competitive at the same time. But, none has reached the level of achievement that 7-Eleven Philippines and their partners has done. By creating a race that can still be fun even after you crossed the finish line and entered the activity area. It is the absolute definition of a ‘fun’ run for everyone.
Before I share my opinion about this year’s 7-Eleven Run, I wanna tell the competitive side of the event, the experience of running my 3rd marathon. This is the third time I joined the 7-Eleven Run series and for the first time, I joined the 42k category (I ran the half-marathon categories of the previous events, Run 1500 and Run 2016) to celebrate my first anniversary of running a marathon. My first marathon experience was joining last year’s Condura Skyway Marathon and since CSM is not available this year, 7-Eleven Run got their traditional first weekend of February date. And I’m very thankful for their presence so I can run a marathon handled by a different organizer for a different and better experience (because to be honest, last year’s Condura Marathon was just average at best).
Hours before the event, I was very excited. I have 3 objectives that day, make a new PR, break the Sub-5 hour PR, and come close to Anne Curtis’ New York Marathon PR (which has been an inspiration and motivation for this PR quest). I tried to sleep, but I can’t because my mind kept thinking about the race, what I’ll do, and what could happen. My only focus was the run and I’m so focused that I made a mistake of entering the RFID lane of the toll booth in Filinvest City. The guard/enforcer was about to give me a ticket, but he probably sensed that I’m in a hurry and just let me off with a warning.
I arrived at the event site before 10 pm and had some spare time to walk around and check out the sights and sounds of the activity area.
The race started on time at 11 pm with the Elite Wave leading the pack. There was no warm-up and most runners are ready to rip the road anyway. I’m on Wave B and set for release 5 minutes later. As planned, I initiated the run at a manageable pace, not too fast and not too slow whilst setting up the the music player of my smartphone.
I ran the first 5 kilometers in 29 minutes. It wasn’t slow enough as planned because I was trying to imitate Anne Curtis’ pace at the NYC Marathon which should be 33 minutes, 52 seconds for the first 5k. I probably got carried away and tried to slow down a bit more to conserve my stamina and as a result, I reached the 10k mark in an hour. I didn’t hit Sub-1 for the 10k and that means I’m on the right pace as planned, but still not slow enough to match Anne’s 1 hour, 6 minutes. I slowed down at kilometer 12 to walk a bit more and re-hydrate. At kilometer 13 to 20, I kept the pace within 6-7 minutes per kilometer which is still not slow enough and could affect my running efficiency in the 2nd half of the race. But, I feel fine, I can even run the uphill segments of the Skyway continuously, and just kept going. And that is why I had the opportunity to break my 21k (half-marathon) record. Looking at my GPS watch, there was a possibility to cross 21 kilometers at 2 hours, 10 minutes or lower to break my 2 hour, 13 minutes 21k PR (from 7-Eleven Run 1500) if I speed up. But, I hesitated because I know that I have to be patient and follow the game plan if I want to be successful in breaking the Sub-5 barrier. I decided to keep moving at a manageable pace and enjoy running with the beat of my music player (which helped a lot by distracting me from exhaustion). It’s worth noting that in this year’s race route, the uphill road going to NAIA Terminal 3 was not used because it was under renovation, so the U-turn going back to Makati was extended. Some time between kilometer 25-28, my body started heating up. A bit dizzy and starting to feel like I’m about to have a headache and fever, I slowed down and walked, using the time to eat, re-hydrate, and let my body cool down. Then speed up a bit at kilometer 29, taking advantage of downhills, only to slow down again at kilometer 30 because of exhaustion and the stress of running uphill. From kilometer 30 to 36, my pace dropped to 7-8 minutes per kilometer, with the slowest time close to 9 minutes per kilometer. My body finally started to break down, I managed to avoid calf cramps and blisters, but I feel pain on my thighs, just above the knee when I run uphill and slow down to walk. This prevented me from regaining momentum and the pace I ran earlier, so I had to walk and re-hydrate a lot (though I wasted a lot of Pocari Sweat because I had to take a sip only and not a whole cup to avoid the heavy, bloated feeling). Seeing the ‘Last 2 Kilometers’ sign, I had a renewed vigor (especially after taking a leak for the third time and drinking a cup of cool Del Monte Pineapple juice) and gave little bit of push to cover the distance faster. But, I was so exhausted that the thigh pain comes back and I can only do short bursts. The last 2 kilometers doesn’t feel that short at all, I feel dizzy again, feeling weak, and had to walk.
With less than 800 meters left, I managed to run 300 meters down the Skyway, but slowed down to walk again because the pain on my legs and foot are preventing me to keep up the pace. I want to assure myself that I can cross the finish line safely and knowing that I will accomplish the objectives, I accepted the slow ascend to victory.
With the Finish Line seen just a hundred meters away, I shifted to a slow jogging speed for one final charge to glory. The timer for the 42k doesn’t seem to be displaying properly, I can’t see the time, so I just kept going until my foot hits the finish line. I hit the stop button on my GPS watch and see that my unofficial time is 04 hours, 50 minutes, 46 seconds (42.34 kilometers). And that’s it, not only were the 3 objectives met, the 3rd objective of coming close to Anne Curtis’ PR (4 hours, 56 minutes, 58 seconds) was even better, I actually bested it.
Running a marathon is hard, it’s not fun, it’s painful. But, completing your objectives made it a painful good feeling, crossing the finish line is like having fun with pain without being a masochist. And that is why I have a paradoxical love with running a marathon.
I returned to the activity area (walking another 100+ meters) where a Pocari Sweat booth greeted the finishers with their first taste of re-hydration. I went to the claiming booth to get my medal, finisher shirt, and loot bag (which is heavy and full of nice freebies). I decided to go to the car to rest, relax, and savor the moment. My whole body is in pain, I was having thoughts of just going home and forget about grabbing free stuff at the activity area. But, it won’t be a complete experience if I skipped the ‘grocery run’ part of the 7-Eleven Run series. After 30+ minutes of rest, I got up and prepared myself for the next fun part of the event. Then I realized I made one big mistake, I forgot to bring a grocery bag or any container to use for the free stuff. I went back to the activity area hoping that I can find something I can use to store my groceries. Luckily, the ATC Healthcare Corp. still have enough carton bags and I was able to get one. Roaming around the area, I saw what other people use for their loot, some would use empty stock boxes laying around the booths, others use a garbage bag, and I even saw a baby stroller used as a shopping cart. It’s how people become creative in times of ‘free stuff’ needs.
It was another great event from 7-Eleven Philippines, it’s bigger and better than last year. It’s also the most competitive event as seen in the marathon and half-marathon results, there are new winners with faster finishing times. I think this is the result of some elite runners, regular participants of Condura Marathon, joining the event (the total number of participation in the 42k category doubled).
I once asked my office mates why they don’t join running events and they all have the same reason and that is because they would have to pay just to get tired. I can explain in a lengthy conversation why they should even if they have to pay. But now, all I have to say is two words, “7-Eleven Run.” The 7-Eleven Run series brings both the fun factor and competitiveness of a running event in the highest level. No other run series has come close to what they have achieved. The spirit of competition is felt during the race where runners can do their best to go for the cash prize and the chance to race in an international event (fully sponsored by 7-Eleven Philippines). And even if you don’t win the race, you will still be rewarded in the form of grabbing all the stuff you can at the activity area. Not only do you get more than your money’s worth, you will feel great after knowing that you did your best in the race for a PR and got something extra for your efforts. Whoever said that you can’t have the best of both worlds (fun and competition) in a running event probably never joined a 7-Eleven Run.
- In preparation for the event, my training consists of 3 to 4 minute planks (which includes different variations), burpees, push-ups, 24-27 minutes 5k speed runs once a week (Wednesday or Friday morning), a slow 5-7 kilometer run once a week (Wednesday or Friday), and a long run on Sunday mornings. I also joined training run sessions by AHC Mentor Carly (who joined the 16k category of 7-Eleven Run) and participated in a flip the bottle challenge game at the office with punishments for the loser include clap push-ups, 300 jumping jacks, and push-up burpees. For a tune-up run, I joined Resolution Run 2017‘s 34k category.
- In a strange easter egg-like setting, there are tables along the race route that have a bottle of Booster C (my favorite energy shot) in the middle. I thought it was an advertising gimmick that goes along with the product’s tag line “One Shot Energy” hence the single bottle on the table. No one was grabbing it, so I did while running (I actually dropped it instead of a perfect grab) and found it empty. It was one of my ‘sucker’ moments in recent times.
- Like last year, Bacchus is not the sponsor of the 42k category (had to mention this because the cold Bacchus drink gave me a boost in Run 1500). The honor of the 42k sponsorship still goes to Summit Drinking Water. Also absent this year is Gatorade, last year’s 16k sponsor. This is probably because they have their own running series now and probably don’t like the presence of competitor Powerade (it’s like having DC comics and Marvel Comics in one event). Dole took over the 16k sponsorship this year.
- Celebrities spotted at the event: Robi Domingo, Valerie Concepcion (ran 10k), Gretchen Fullido (ran 16k), Rovilson Fernandez (ran 16k), Bubbles Paraiso.
- The race route was measured and certified by Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA). No wonder both my GPS watch and Nike Run Club app measured it at 42 kilometers with only little discrepancy.
- While going home, I was still having a hang over from the success of making a new PR and the fun of grabbing free stuff, I accidentally entered the wrong lane and ended up taking the Manila bound road. I took a U-turn at the Sucat Exit. So, like drinking and driving, extended runner’s high will mess with your focus on the road.