Graduation Day!

CCM 2012 Logo

It’s been 6 days already since Jan 8, 2012 Sunday… 6 days already since I imagined myself wearing the toga, the hood and the cap… 6 days already since I visualized myself climbing the stage and receiving my diploma… 6 days already since I pictured myself celebrating and posing for pictures with family and friends after earning a degree… 6 days already since I experienced achieving something after years of hard work and perseverance… well, at least, that’s how I felt when I crossed the finish line after a grueling 42.195 kilometers of running (and walking) in the Cebu City Marathon (CCM) 2012!  My very first full marathon!

Sun.Star Cebu Sports Section Jan 5 2012 issue

Running a marathon distance never came easy for me.  In fact, I never ever thought about it 2 years ago when I was still an overweight guy who could hardly run a mile.  But GOD impressed in me that I should take good care of a priced possession HE entrusted me — my body.  My running journey was really like taking a college degree — I studied running, I woke up very early in the morning, I trained religiously, I spent money (running gears, race registrations, etc.), I gained many friends, I took exams (races), I have my ups (achieving PRs) and downs (succumbing to injuries), I adjusted my style (from running with shoes to minimalist/barefoot running), I even failed at some point (late for gun start resulting into a no-show), among others.  The CCM 2012 was like the final exam I have to pass to earn my degree.  Adding some spice before the “big day” was me and my training partner Sarsi (Cesar Bordalba, Jr.) being mentioned in the Sports Section of Sun.Star Cebu‘s Jan 5 2012 issue!  Both of us promised to pace each other from start to finish on our marathon debut.

And so race day came and I’m so pumped up already, even the night before because I can’t get a decent sleep anymore.  My wife Espie accompanied me to the holding pen 30 minutes before the 4 a.m. gun start, and was joined later on by Sarsi.  Both of us prayed before we took a stride forward.

My enthusiasm arose when fireworks covered the skies.  It’s the start of the race!  I told myself, “This is it!”, and off we ran with more than a thousand others.  Our strategy was to enjoy the race, ran at a comfortable pace, take a minute of walking after every water station, hydrate and eat well, listen to our bodies, always wear a smile, and finish the route, irregardless of time.  We purposely didn’t set any time target because we didn’t know what to expect.  Our longest distance covered so far was 32km during our trainings.  We still have to break the 40km wall.

Sarsi and me at CSCR, around Km 30 (photo by Michael Ocana)

We ran at a “chikka” pace, between 7:00 to 7:30/km, and we were just behind an official 05:30:00 pacer from Gorordo Avenue to Sto. Nino Church.  Upon reaching Plaza Independencia (around 7 km), we decided to take our only “wee-wee” break.  We don’t know if it’s permitted or not, but many followed what we did, haha!

We’ve already ran an hour and covered 8 km when we entered the Cebu South Coastal Road (CSCR) Tunnel.  The thought of finishing in 05:30:00 came into my mind if we can sustain covering 8 km every hour for another 4 hours.  At around Km 11, we came across the lead pack of about 8 Kenyans, I suppose, who were already on their 29th km while we’ve just stepped onto the CSCR!  Man, they’re really fast!

We continued with our comfortable pace leading up to the end of the CSCR in Talisay City.  Along the way, I exchanged high fives and greetings to many of my dailymile friends (too many to mention, hehe!).  Upon reaching the turning point (a little more than 20 km), we already clocked two and a half hours – right on track for a 05:30:00 finish.

Passing thru Cebu Normal University, around Km 34 (photo by Paul Leonard Banzon)

On our way back, we expected our friends to be within the places we requested them to be to provide us with either bananas or energy bars.  We thought the return part would be more difficult and we needed support to get us through it.  And true enough, Tagarskie showed up along Rabaya Road in CSCR, Lordwin waited for us outside the tunnel, Paul took us some great pictures near Cebu Normal University, and Espie stationed herself at McDonald’s – Jones Avenue.

All along we were cruising just fine, and Sarsi even described the marathon distance as “kaya-ble” or doable.  Then we reached 32 km, upon getting out of the CSCR Tunnel.  I thought this was when the real test started because we’ve never trained for more than 32 km.  To make it more challenging, I don’t know if it’s mental, but stiffness and aches and pain and symptoms of cramps were already surfacing.  That is why we requested Lordwin to join us until the finish line, and we’re glad he did!  Time check: 4 hours 12 minutes – still on track for a 05:30:00 finish.

Hitting the dreaded wall, along Gorordo Avenue, Km 41 (photo by Nikki Sy)

We slowed down our running pace between 7:30 to 8:00/km from thereon, and extended our walking breaks when we felt any nagging discomfort.  From Km 33 up to Km 39, I favored my left leg as cramps was creeping in.  After passing by McDonald’s – Escario Street, I thought I hit the dreaded wall.  I told Sarsi I want to lay myself in bed already and rest my feet.  A few seconds later I told Sarsi that we’re gonna walk until the finish line.  I can’t seem to run anymore!  I kissed my 05:30:00 aspirations goodbye as the official pacer slowly disappeared from my sight.  I thought I entertained DNF (did not finish) while slowly walking along Gorordo Avenue (we spent 30 minutes to complete the 40th and 41st km!).  But DNF I never did – thanks to the constant motivation and encouragement from my pace partner.  Besides, I don’t want to disappoint Espie and my youngest sister Mikai, who were both waiting for me at the finish line.

Crossing the finish line! (photo by Paul Leonard Banzon)

Then the laces of both my sandals snapped near JY Square Mall.  We stopped for about 5 minutes to fix it and to get some breather before embarking on the last kilometer.  That short lull revitalized me as I leaned more on GOD’s promise that “I can do all things through CHRIST who gives me strength”.  I stood up and we started to run and run until we’re on the final turn to Asiatown IT Park.  I felt goosebumps as I saw the finish line.  I raised both my hands and thanked GOD for giving me the strength to finish the race.  We crossed the finish line together after 05:59:45 (official chip time)!  It was such an emotional moment for me!  Sarsi and I hugged each other after receiving our finisher’s medal!  Espie gave me a sweet kiss!  The Tsinelas Runner, the man behind my “footwear” KAI Running Sandals, who completed the marathon in 04:23:41, congratulated me!  The pain and struggle was all worth it!  One faith goal achieved!  Thank You LORD!

What a great decision for us to culminate our running exploit during CCM 2012!  Two thumbs up for the organizers for a perfect event!  What could a runner ask for?  Majority of the route was closed to traffic, the route itself (especially on the scenic CSCR) was quintessential, the weather coordinated (it was a mix of cloudy skies and sunny morning), adequate marshals, sufficient water, bananas and Pocari Sweat, entertainment and festive music were present on the road, firetrucks showered cool water on some areas, emergency ambulance on standby, very cool finisher’s medal and shirt, and so much more!  This was how we hoped our very first full marathon experience would turn out!  We may not own a very good finish time for our maiden marathon, but we certainly enjoyed every moment of it and I don’t know what Sarsi’s plans are but it’s affirmative for me, I will do it again next year!

With the master Tsinelas Runner (photo by Jacob Ong)

And yes, we passed the final exam!  Yes, we’ve received our “3-Mangoes” diploma, which I dedicated to my very supportive wife Espie!  Yes, we’ve now earned the degree of Marathoner!  Oh yeah, it’s “Graduation Day” once again!   Congratulations to all the CCM 2012 finishers!

Congrats Marathoner Sarsi! (photo by Paul Leonard Banzon)
With Mikai (photo by Paul Leonard Banzon)
“3-Mangoes” for Espie (photo by Paul Leonard Banzon)