I was in Ho Chi Minh City backpacking when my friend, Jenilyn, sent me a direct message in Twitter two months ago telling me that she will be running her first full marathon in the coming Cebu City Marathon and she asked me for some tips and advice. After replying to her, I began mulling if I should also sign up for the run.
I have ran and completed a total of 10 full marathons in a span of 3 years from 2010 to 2013 however, they were all done overseas. I have never ran a full marathon in my hometown or home country. I’ve read good things about the Cebu Marathon from other runners and I thought it would be a great experience running a full marathon in my hometown during the Sinulog week. Also, it would be a good preparation for my upcoming Ultra in Hong Kong on March. So I went ahead and registered online.
Fast forward to race day, it was a wet morning and rains were expected throughout the day due to a Low Pressure Area (LPA) affecting the Visayas and Mindanao. Flag off time for the full marathon was scheduled at 3am so I tried to wake up at 12:30am to prepare for the run however, I was feeling so sleepy (blame it on the bed weather) and I didn’t get out of bed until 1am. I hurriedly took a bath and ate four big pieces of pan de sal and a banana.
It was drizzling and cold when I got out of the house. I arrived in IT Park 30 minutes before the scheduled flag off time and there were already a lot of runners gathered around the start area despite the rainy weather. A number of runners were wearing race shirts that indicated the running club or group that they belonged to.
At exactly 3am the marathon started. From IT park we headed to Salinas Drive going in the direction of UP Lahug. I started slowly as I know it’s gonna be a long run ahead but the cool weather provided nice conditions for a run and I started to increase my pace with an average of around 06:30mins pace in the next 10 kilometers.
I was in front of the Cebu Provincial Capitol when the first Kenyan was making his way to Osmeña Blvd. after making the loop in Banawa. At that point of time I was thinking how I was going to fare when I reach the slopes of Banawa. The last time I ran a 10K race in the slopes of Banawa in 2006 during the PBSP Run for the Future I was walking during the uphill part and some bystanders were making fun of me shouting “Sakay na lang ug jeep, ‘day!” (Just ride a jeepney, Miss!) which made me feel embarrassed. Running was not that mainstream in the Philippines during that time then as it is now, that if people see you walking during a run/marathon it was an embarrassment.
It was a traumatic experience that during that time I didn’t feel like registering any runs again. I still continued to run after that but I just ran at the Cebu City Sports Complex oval to keep myself fit. It was not until I moved to Singapore in 2008 to work which changed my outlook in running and rekindled my passion for it. Thankfully things have changed now as more runs/races are being organized almost every week in the country. I believe a lot people here now understand that it’s perfectly okay to take walking breaks during a marathon and running is not only for the elite athletes but for anybody who has the heart and determination. To borrow Bill Bowerman’s words, “The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race; it’s to test the limits of the human heart.”.
Now back to my race report, as I reached the slopes of Banawa, I ran steadily and was feeling pretty okay during the uphills. I felt redeemed that I was able to negotiate the uphill slopes without walking. There were portions that were dark but there was no need to worry as there were plenty of runners as well as marshals. Coach Rio was driving a motorcycle reminding runners to stay on one lane of the road for safety reasons.
I then proceeded to Osmeña Blvd. and made my first stop at one of the aid stations to drink some Gatorade. I have water in my hydration pack so my race plan was just to take sports drink at the aid stations.
I was quite excited when I arrived at the SRP Tunnel as I have never been there since it was opened in 2010. There were dancers dancing to the drumbeat of the Sinulog which made me more pumped up. The tunnel provided temporary shelter from the rain which was something I welcomed. Running in the tunnel reminded me of my experience in Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon but with a party kind of atmosphere with all the dance music and lights.
As I exit out of the of the tunnel it was time to negotiate the uphill roads of SRP (South Road Properties). I amused myself looking at the sea on the left hand side and there was also a live band that kept me entertained along the way. There was a part in SRP that was very dark as there were no lights but there was a marshal which had his motorcycle light turned on which helped me negotiate the downhill portion.
I know this was going to be longest section of the race as we headed to Talisay City and back again so, I mentally broke down the marathon into stages at this point. I focused just getting to the point where the 21K runners U-turn then when I finally got there, I targeted getting into the halfway mark (21K).
My pace was slowing down so I decided at one of the aid stations to make a quick stop to take my GU Gel and drank some Gatorade.
My Suunto Quest indicated I have ran 21Km but the distance marker only says 20Km. I thought it must be a mistake because last time I checked, my watch even recorded a lesser distance compared to the distance marker. The thing about running out-and-back is that when I see runners coming back I would keep wondering how far I am from the U-turn point and it becomes a mental challenge that I need to get over with.
Not too long after I finally reached the U-turn point and I heaved a sigh of relief that this part of the mental challenge is finished now my next target would be getting back to the point where the 21Km runners make a U-turn.
Now that that I was on my way back to IT Park, my adrenaline pumped me up again. I passed by the 25Km distance marker and I thought it came it too early if the previous distance marker was correct. By then the sky was already bright but because of the rain it was still very cooling to run.
Someone called out my name and when I turned back it was Rose from runroo/aktib. I was happy to have met her along the way because I have never seen her personally. I have only interacted with her in Instagram. I also met my good friend, Jenilyn, along the way. It was nice seeing some friends and familiar faces along the way.
I was thinking how long I can hold up running and if I’m gonna hit the wall anytime soon. At 30Km mark I was still feeling okay and running at a slow steady pace. I began to think if I would be able to beat my SCHKM timing and get a PB.
I saw Maritess Bitbit (SEA Gold Medalist for Cycling, Adventure Racer and Ultra Trail Runner) who seem to be pacing two ladies from TAD (they were wearing TAD running shirts) as they overtook me. They were running strong at a very steady pace. I wanted to say hi to her but she doesn’t know me and I thought better not although I have to admit I kinda regretted it as she’s one of the local ultra trail runners I really look up to.
I reached the tunnel again and the beat of the drums injected some life to my tired legs and feet. A runner chit-chatted with me and said “guitara na gyud ni ma’am” (referring to the guitar medal that finishers were gonna get after completing the marathon) as we ran at the Old MCWD office going to the Cebu City Hall. I smiled to him and replied with a positive yes.
The marshal at Cebu City Hall gave encouragement to the runners saying last 6Km. Again, the last few kilometers were mentally tough as the finish line seemed near but far away.
About two kilometers before the finish line somewhere near UP Lahug I finally decided to stop running and walk. I thought pushing myself trying to run the slope may just be too much at this point. I walked until I reached JY Square and then started to run again.
I kept looking at my watch as I was nearing to 05:10 and I was wondering if I can beat my PB of 05:14:35. My legs and feet were very tired from all the pounding and I felt like they were gonna give up anytime soon. I mentally talked to myself and egged myself to do just one last push to get a PR.
As I entered the IT Park area I knew I was getting near to the finish line. My high school classmate and softball teammate, Ingking, who also ran the half-marathon called out my name and cheered me on. I dashed to the finish line and happily collected my guitar finisher’s medal.
I was even more ecstatic when I confirmed the next day that I got a PR for both gun time and chip time. Gun Time was 05:14:18 while Chip Time was 05:13:18. My previous PR was 05:14:56 for Gun Time and 05:14:35 for Chip Time which I got during last year’s Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon after running in a cool weather.
I never expected getting a PR at this year’s Cebu Marathon because I always do very bad at the 2nd half of a full marathon when I run in warm places (Singapore and Kuala Lumpur for example). As the weather becomes more hotter I find myself walking a lot more. Also, I’ve been bothered with a recurring hamstring injury which forced me to DNF the Peak-to-Peak Ultra two weeks before the Cebu City Marathon.
I’m certainly happy with this result and I’m so thankful to God and Sto. Niño for the great weather. I definitely can’t complain. It was the perfect weather for running for me as it wasn’t really a heavy rain and there were no thunder and lightning. I’ve ran a few races with pretty bad weather like the Sundown Marathon 2012, Columbia Trail Masters 2013 Thailand, TMBT (which I think is by far the worst), TNF100 Singapore 2013 and the recent Peak-to-Peak Ultra.
I would like to thank the race organizers for organizing, planning and executing this wonderful race. Also, a big thank you to all the volunteers, race marshals and the police who made this event a success. Without these people I don’t think this event will even be successful. They kept us safe and hydrated all throughout the race. Lastly, congrats to all the runners who participated in the race!