Monday, September 28, 2009

After My First Marathon, What's Next?

Some of the 17,000 runners congregating at Nathan Philips Square in downtown Toronto before the start of the 5k, half-marathon and marathon races

Thousands of runners, relatives and friends in front of the twin Toronto City hall buildings

Excitedly confident with 13 minutes to the start gun

Made a last ditch effort to beat to the finish line the bald, fat and shirtless runner in front of me but missed by 2 seconds .

Happy to earn my first marathon finisher medal with wife Jojo and daughter Denise in the picture.

Finally at age 55, a marathoner. What's next?

As I sit down here and think about what to write on this post, my whole body is aching, the most pain that I've had since the all night hazing I received on my initiation night for membership to the Tau Lambda Kappa Fraternity of the UE College of Law more than 2 decades ago. It was even worse yesterday, after the race. I could hardly walk, occasionally had thigh muscle cramps, felt so weak, without any appetite, felt like throwing up and just slept like a log when I got home.

All morning also today, Jojo and I have been watching the Filipino Channel for news about Typhoon Ondoy, the floods in Metro Manila and other areas, the casualties, devastation and the return of Bayanihan spirit among all Filipinos, living in the Philippines and outside. Although in the past weeks, it seemed like the soap opera that is politics in the Philippines was the favorite topic in our homes and in the news, the sad aftermath of Ondoy saw all Pinoys irrespective of different and opposing partisan views and persuasions all come together and help each other in dealing with rescue operations, providing victims with the very basics like food, clothing, drinking water, shelter, and collecting relief goods and donations . There is still a lot of work to be done to rescue people trapped in their homes in flooded areas and making sure relief supplies, food and medicine reach needy people in time. The bad news is, there is another typhoon brewing close to the Philippines that may pass the country in the next few days. May God save us from another strong typhoon.

Below is the story of my first marathon.

Felt strong and confident at the start. Did 5k in 34 minutes, 10k at 1:14; half marathon mark (21k) at 2:42, and then as always slowed down in the second half, reached the 30k mark in 4:01. After passing the 32nd k, I was on unchartered territory. Begun to entertain negative thoughts because of pain on my left toes, left hip joint, quads. Chanted instinctively quietly, Tau ! Lambda! Kappa! to make me oblivious of all the pain. Thought of Rick, Mark (Tanaka), Jerry, Ronnie, Jovie, Jo-Lynn, all ultra runners, and said to myself , 42k is nothing.Passed a middleaged white male runner massaging his right thigh and gave him an e-load capsule (for electrolytes). At 33rd k passed another Asian looking middleaged runner who was limping while walking, offered and gave him an e-load capsule.

Felt weaker and weaker by the 34th k, (ran out of gels ,shotbloks, e-load by this time) and decided to stop by a variety (sari sari) store and bought a Cadburys nuts and raisins chocolate bar which I munched and finished in no time. I was so hungry. Where were Vener's saging na saba or Rico's hopia cubes when you needed them. A kindly resident offered fresh red watermelon on a tray and I picked one, and oh was it ever sweet. At the 35k heard my name being called, and saw my sports doctor, Dr. Natalie Labelle, a marathoner herself cheering on the side with her husband holding a poster with names and pointing at one name - Bong.. Stopped for a few seconds to shake their hands. She told me "you can do it Bong!"

By this time, I think I was walking more than I was running. All the runners who I passed, who passed me or were within my sight were either limping, stopping and stretching or massaging a thigh or leg, puking, walking, trying to move forward in what barely looked like a running motion. Negative thoughts came back and for a second the words quit and rest came to my mind. I prayed.

At the 37th k, just as I was walking and at my lowest low (physically and mentally) in the entire race, I heard a fat runner behind me yelling (what I thought of then as swear words), and ran pass me. The guy was no lighter than 260 lbs, I bet. He was shirtless, with his shirt tied around his big belly. This middle-aged, fat, foul-mouthed (I was mistaken here, I learned later), big bellied guy would never beat me, I told myself then. :)

From then on it became a chasing game between a used-to-be fat 55 year old wannabe marathoner trying to catch up with this shirtless, big bellied, bald guy. :)

With 400 meters to go he was still ahead of me by 100 meters as I tried to pick up speed to catch him. This time, all of a sudden a female spectator came out of the crowd of spectators to hug him (must be the wife) and he stopped for a moment. This gave me the oppurtunity to close the gap between us, and then he started running again. I was about ten feet behind him with 100 meters to the finish line and could hear him yell something like Go! Scott (his name) go! (not swear words that I thought I heard before). Gave it my all to catch and pass him before the finish line but missed by a few feet.

I crossed the finish line 2 seconds behind Scott (thebald, fat shirtless runner) in 5 hours 51 minutes.

So, what's next for me, if I'm asked today. No more marathon! I'd probably take up power walking or concentrate on the shorter distances, the 5k and 10k at the most. Or maybe just be content with walking Yuki in the park.

P.S. My running friend Nette recovered in time from her glutes injury to finish the same race, her first too, in 5 hours 26 minutes. Congrats Nette!


  1. Hi Bong,
    Congrats to both of us! Sorry we could not wait for you because we had to check out from the hotel. So what's next? A spring marathon?
    See you around!

  2. i am so proud of you my friend! congratulations! thank you for sharing your 1st marathon experience, for i've learned so many things that are very essential for me as i prepare for my upcoming marathon.

    again, congratulations!

  3. Bong, congratulations on your first full mary! Not a bad time for a first marathon finish! You can curse the marathon for now but you'll be back at it sooner than you would think. Have a nice recovery!

  4. A very very, very interesting read. Very kind of you to share your e-capsules. Kudos! It really inspire me reading marathon accounts during the last few kilometers.. It boils down to your support-system of family and friends. You failed to catch Scott but you never failed yourself and your support-system. Congratulations Sir!

  5. Hey Bong, congratulations on your marathon - the first of hopefully many more. Nice little story on that contest between you and big, fat guy towards the end. I suppose that Cadbury bar you had tasted as good as hopia. I suppose at that point anything tasted good.

    Savor the pain for now. It's part of the whole wonderful package. With pain comes satisfaction :-)

  6. Congrats Bong. What an amazing accomplishment. Enjoy this moment. You earned it.

  7. Congrats on your first full mary Bong! :) Nice story with the bald fat seemingly foul- mouthed runner :) Guess now with that out of the way you could concentrate on the shorter distances, or even improve your FM time :) Good job!

  8. Congratultins Bong! You are now part of a fraternity that very few people can belong to. You have finished a marathon! And that is classic - stopping in a cnvenience store to buy a candy bar! My running club coach told us that we may want to carry some cash when on marathon - after my first exprience I thought it might be or a cab. Ha ha!

    Once again - congratulations. I was like you - I finished my first marathon in 5:44 and thought I wuld never do it again. But time heals all wounds. I'm about to do my second one next weekend (October 11th). I'm sure the lure of the marathon will once again hook you. Until then, take it easy and have fun!

  9. I enjoyed reading your race report and wanted to congratulate you on finishing your first marathon. The first one is always the hardest, and you might try trail running. They are so much easier on the body :) Keep training and inspiring others. I always enjoy reading your posts. Thanks!

  10. Congratulations Bong! I guess Scott turned out to be a blessing of some sort bec he made you finish haha. Also you're asking "what's next?"--I'm sure you'll run another one or maybe two. Runners always ask this when they've accomplished a distance and end up looking for more. You inspire me.

  11. Now that I'm not hurting anymore Nette, maybe the Ottawa marathon in ay next year or the Niagara 50k in June?

    Hi Jet! Thanks. It's interesting to note that 74 runners failed to finish the race (DNF)and only four of them had a 10k time slower than mine. So,if you've done your training right and run the race smartly, you can bet the word - marathoner would be part of your resume.

  12. Thanks Rene. You are right, now that the pains are gone, I'm back in the groove again. I definitely will run another marathon and when the right time comes maybe a 50k ultra. I continue to follow and enjoy reading your blog.

    Hi Jayson. Thanks for visiting my blog. Next time I'll make sure I have more e-load capsules with me because by giving them away I almost paid for it in the last few ks when i started to have cramps myself and without any e-load capsules left. Experience is the best teacher. You have an interesting and good read blog yourself.

    Hey Rico, Thanks! By being a follower of your blog you've become a great motivator and inspiration to me so that there is no long training run or long race where I had to eat or take something to sustain me without thinking of your hopia cubes or Vener's nilagang saging na saba. It's funny but it is true. :)

  13. Thanks Luis. The truth is, if not for this bald headed fat runner, I would not have finished the race in less than 6 hours or even at the worst would not have finished the race because when he passed me I was in pain and was barely moving forward. He motivated me to catch him in a strange and funny way. :)

    Thanks Glenn! I was always thinking of your advise to run slow and slower during the entire race. You gave the most complete, helpful and smartest tips that I needed to complete my first marathon. Hope you do great on your 2nd marathon race.

    Hey Kelly, your story is one of the most inspiring among the many runner stories I've read and I enjoy reading your posts. I always enjoyed my training runs in the trails round here but have never run a trail race before. I know just from looking at pictures of trail races in ultrarunner's blogs that it is an experience that I'd enjoy doing. Other than your blog I also follow ultrarunner blogs of Rick Gaston, Mark Tanaka and Jo Lynn. Take care.

  14. Thanks Mayi! That was a very busy week for you, Jamike and all your friends giving a helping hand to victims of typhoon Ondoy. Nice to know that we have dedicated, compassionate, kindhearted, socially conscious people in the home country like you guys and gals who go to the frontlines, evacuation centers, disaster areas, while we here just pray, sit and watch on TV the news back home in the comforts of our family rooms. Take care Mayi and God bless to you and the family.

  15. Congratulations, Bong. I have been away for a while, and I was so happy to get updated with the latest about your marathon, and your new dog!

    Dogs are really such delightful creatures. In fact since arriving from UAE over a week ago, I have been staying with my daughter, to help her recover from the trauma of being held up at gun point (did you read my blog post about it, Sept 30 2009 post)... and while this ancestral home is also home to me, I miss my two dogs back in Bacolod City.

    There is nothing like a furry friend to greet you whenever you arrive!

    Well, I was able to read up all the posts I missed, and I hope you will get all the rest you can have.

    As for the devastation in the northern part of our country, I have been rather emotional about it. Kept crying each time I saw the news and the sad plight of our kababayans.

    Many lost everything, and have to rebuild their lives.

    I admire the resilience of the Filipinos.

    Let's keep praying for our nation. I do take heart in the heroism and selflessness that many showed at this difficult hour. Some even died trying to rescue others.

    All for now.


  16. Woohoo, Bong congratulations. Well hopefully by now the worst has passed, of the aches and pains, soreness and fatigue. It will all go away in time and I won't be surprised if your appetite comes back with a vengeance. You dreamt your dream, made the plan and put in the hard work to make it happen. In the end you got it and achieved your goal, truly something to celebrate. Makes me think of my first marathon, running past 1 hour for the first time in my life ever in training and being excited.

    Take it easy for awhile Bong and after a few days of no running you should get out and walk. Time to loosen up those muscles and get some blood flowing into all those sore areas. If you ice bath you should feel better sooner but I understand it's quite painful to sit in freezing water. A massage is great too after the soreness goes away. Don't rush back into running, your friends probably told you this already. This was your first marathon and quite a shock to the system. Enjoy the race, live with it for awhile, there is only one first time. When you are finally able to get out for a light jog don't be surprised if you feel sluggish and out of rhythm. Don't be surprised if you feel tired easily. It will be like this until your body fully recovers and it may take weeks but be rest assured that it will pass. Think of it like being sick with the flu. Even though you are back to work a week later it's another couple of weeks before you feel back to normal before you got sick. Congratulations, enjoy all that comes with your achievement, even the painful parts:)

    So last I heard, the new storm has stalled but gathering strength. It's like they have a gun to their heads back in PI. I'm praying for the best for everyone down there. As Crown of Beauty said though, Filipinos are resilient and this too shall pass.

  17. Congratulations Bong. Cheers for the new marathoner. I'm proud of your feat. I am not surprised if you're eyeing the Niagara 50km. BTW, the saba was Jay's energy booster, not mine. : )

  18. Thanks Techgui, missed to acknowledge you in my last comments, appreciate you thinking my finishing a marathon as "amazing" considering my slow finishing time. Have to work on improving my times on my next races.

    Hi Rick! Nice to hear from you, the first name and face I thought about when these negative thoughts started to play games in my head the last few ks of the race. I think i'm fully recovered now, so I'm getting this crazy idea of doing another marathon or even trying for a 50k ultra in June of next year. And it's all because of you, man! :) . Of course, can't get carried away too much because the niagara ultra has a 7 hours cut off time, so have to work hard on improving my times first.

    My unreachable dream is to be a fast runner like you and Jay, vener. Because the 2 of you ran side by side most of the time in your last marathon race together, I mistook younstead of Jay for the one who relied on saging na saba for sustenance during the race. That was a great race where the 2 of you both finished in very fast times.

  19. Bong:

    Thanks for the kind words! I appreciate them!

    Ottawa? Wish I could join you there! I went there in Summer 2008 after my son was done rowing at St. Catherines's and loved it! Here are my pictures: Ottawa .

    Keep up the good work and remember - one foot in front of the other!

  20. Great moment for a marathon finisher! Congratulations, Bong. So happy for you.

  21. thanks for sharing. :) nakaka-inspire tumakbo.

  22. Bong! You made it! Congratulations! (kiss, kiss)

    I'm still in rehab (details in my blog). Slowly running again pero 5k lang muna.

    Of course, the next logical thing to do is to run another marathon to break PR. Good luck Bong!

    Again, congratulations. I am very happy for you. Take care.

  23. hi bro! Let me introduce my self, I'm also a kappan inducted 9 years ago. we're residing here at albany ny. If you have a facebook account you could look for the tlk's account and add it as a friend. hope to keep in touch with you.