This is my contribution to those in the running community who want to finish their first dream marathon. How could I say no to Jaymie, who asked me to share my first marathon experience during the Bull Circle: The Dream Marathon session @ ROX?
I ran my first 42k marathon last July 2007 during the 31st Milo Marathon (even before running became a hit in Manila). It was an exhilarating experience but, at the same time, a bit traumatic. Some people misuse the word "Marathon" to connote running in an organized race of any distance. But we always want to correct that -- you only run a Marathon if it is 42k and not less than that.
I'm planning to run my second Marathon this year. :)
I got into running when Jim Lafferty became the CEO of P&G Philippines. He was able to inspire a lot of employees -- all first-time marathoners -- and make us believe that it is possible to be able to finish it with the proper training, coaching and mental preparation. He shared with us the romance of becoming part of the elite group of 0.1% of the world's population who ever ran a marathon.
One of the things I love about running, especially long-distance marathon, is The Preparation Ritual. All runners have unique, personal ways of preparing for it.
I love the silence of an early morning preparation, where I am only accompanied by my thoughts. I make sure my iPod is charged and ready. After all, it is my running best friend (and I can't imagine running without it when I start joining Triathlons).
I love the process of putting petroleum jelly all over my body and toes, followed by a good amount of sunblock.
I love the planning process behind managing my electrolyte balance throughout the run, taking into account my water, sports drink and energy gels intake.
Getting cramps is one of those things that every runner must face. I learned two things during my training:
First, I learned to run through the pain and train my mind to ignore it;
Second, I learned that the onset of cramps is a result of dehydration, and the only way to prevent it is by keeping your water and electrolyte levels in optimum condition throughout the race. Thus, I never skipped any water station. I've also managed to find ways of cooling myself off and drinking a little bit without breaking my stride.
During training, pain is a given. Almost every runner experiences having multiple dead toenails. It is one of the dangers of the sport -- and having to watch and wait for your toenails to grow over 3 months is a test of patience.
I was actually hospitalized during my first marathon... The run was at 4am and we finished close to noon. It was dangerously hot and I was already sweating salt. When I finished the marathon, I was fine but a bit annoyed by this nagging pain that I couldn't describe. When I arrived home and started to doze off, my hands became numb, which got me concerned since I thought it could be a stroke.
Afterwards, in the hospital, I learned that my potassium levels were low and I had to stabilize them by eating salty stuff and bananas. Looking back, I got LBM in the middle of the run because of an orange I ate (somebody gave it to me during the race). That actually depleted and contributed to the imbalance of electrolytes in my body.
It's now a bit cliche to say, "Running is the New Golf" or "Running is the New Badminton". But I did meet a few running friends when I was training for the marathon. I met Jaymie, who created the Our Awesome Planet logo (with the sun rising in the foreground). I met the now-famous Ben Chan, sports photographer (someday I hope he would shoot my Runner's profile shots :) ). I met Totoy, who continues to be an inspiration because he was chubby before -- and he is now one of the fastest runners in Manila. Finally, I met the Happy Feet group (where I continue to lurk and get a source of running angst).
With proper training, you will be able to finish your first 30k easily. Our training program was just two short runs during the weekday and one long run every weekend, which increased by 1km each week. If you train 6 months before the marathon, 30k won't be a problem for you.
During the marathon, you need to have a mental clock that resets and reconditions you to a mindset that the Marathon really starts after the first 32k training run. The last 10k is really when the race starts -- this is where you'll start to overtake most people who opt to walk already.
The last 5k is a mental game and not a physical challenge anymore. This is where you need all the motivation you can muster. My favorite is fearing to be labeled as a quitter. This actually pushed me to complete the race even when we were walking the last 5k, sweating salt.
Early on, I learned that it does not matter how you start the race. I often see a lot of runners do a fast run at the beginning of the 21k and see them walking after the first 15k. We have this motto of finishing strong and running as fast as we can during the last 1k, and finishing in style with high energy. A good thing to keep in mind during marathons!
If you are running for the first time, make it memorable by running for a cause and dedicating it to your favorite charity or cause-oriented group. This was my letter to OAP readers when I launched my marathon-for-a-cause: Bloggers Run for a Kid's Life. We donated all the proceeds from the 1km pledges to Kythe -- an organization that helps kids with cancer, specifically leukemia.
At that time, Ben Chan, Jaymie and I contributed to this Marathon Run for a Cause. Jaymie was not able to finish her marathon then, so Ben and I donated our proceeds to Kythe. This was the memorable photo of the turnover of funds to Kythe when we visited the kids.
Actually, my goal with running is NOT to finish all the marathons in Manila or to run in the great marathons of the world. What really gets me excited is the idea of finishing a family marathon with Aidan, Joshua, Raphael, and my lovely wife, Rache.
Thanks to Jaymie for giving me this chance to share my story with the Bull Circle group. :) It would be an honor to run with you guys in Nuvali!
Founder and Digital Publisher