28 seconds too late for a new personal best in Brussels-A A +A
Monday, October 21, 2013
Dr. Potenciano Larrazabal III
INSTEAD of resting, we took a tour of the nearby medieval town of Brugge. We walked around the beautiful town and took a boat cruise on its famed canal. I knew I would pay for it (weaker legs) the next day during the marathon. We arrived back in Brussels around 7 p.m. and the couple brought me to the iconic “Manneken Pis” fountain at the city center before having our pasta dinner just beside the hotel.
During dinner, Ken told me he decided that he would downgrade to half from full marathon and explained that if he would beat the cut off time of 5 hours, he would have a hard time touring the City of Amsterdam the next day with his wife. I then checked in at the hotel and requested for a late check out since I would probably finish the race at 1 p.m., way after the usual check out time of European hotels of between 11 a.m. and noon. The night manager, who obviously knew about the marathon, granted me a 5 p.m. checkout free of charge. Hooray to the Hotel Grand Du Sablon! I wish more hotels would be more sympathetic to runners.
I got a good seven hours of sleep as the marathon would start at 9 a.m. Weather was perfect at 14 degrees Celsius with cloudy skies. It was initially predicted to rain but it did not happen (I thank God for that!). I did not have much expectations as far as time was concerned since numerous reviews mentioned an insane route with killer hills. After my PR breaking, third-place finish Totem Run in Haida Gwaii two months earlier, I only managed to join two road races—UR8 and Milo-- because of my busy clinic schedule and eye laser surgeries. The rest of my training was on the treadmill at home.
We arrived at the starting line a good 30 minutes before race time. What greeted me was the spectacular view of the Triumphal Arch in the Jubelpark which was even more amazing as we crossed it. Since the half-marathon would start later, Ken was able to take a great shot of me with the Arc as background. I started slow and enjoyed the route as we passed by beautiful landmarks which was I mentioned earlier. Upon reaching the halfway mark, I checked my time, it read 1:47, just around the same time as the Totem2Totem marathon halfway mark two months earlier where I got my personal best.
I said to myself, another excellent time in the making? Before heading to the lake, I could already see the lead pack going through a near two-kilometer uphill climb that past runners have dreaded at the 30-kilometer mark. I saved my energy for this, conditioned my mind, played the song “Paradise City” by Slash of Guns and Roses featuring Fergie and Cypress Hill on my mp3 player. Played it twice and told myself paradise was just beyond the hill and this pushed me to finish the two kilometer uphill stretch in less than 10 minutes.
We merged with thousands of half-marathoners at the 36K mark. Instead of panicking and weaving through them (which happened to me in the Singapore Marathon 2010), experience guided me in running fast alongside them. The last kilometer was downhill so I flew and sprinted like there was no tomorrow but mind you, it was on cobblestones. Since I was not used to running on stones, I was running and making sure I would not hit any runners as the half and full marathoners were already merged at this point. At the same time, I was watching the ground so I would not trip on the stones. I finished my 34th marathon at the atmospheric and festive Grand Place with an official time of 3 hours 40 minutes and 14 seconds. Just a mere 28 seconds from my previous personal best two months ago. So many “what ifs” crossed my mind like what if I skipped the Brugge Town Tour a day before? Could a 3:33 time be possible then? But such is life, full of what ifs, the only answer to it is contentment and to challenge yourself with your next trial.
Nonetheless, I was ecstatic still with runners’ high when I was met and congratulated by Ken and Wyl.
But instead of celebrating, I had to take a quick shower, check out, grab my 150-year-old Belgian clock and rush to the central station for my Thalys 4:52 train ride back to Amsterdam. I promised them a celebration the day after.
Next day, after the convention and visiting the Ann Frank House in Amsterdam, we celebrated at the Steak House just beside the red light district (hehehe). I will still see you on the road!
(The author is a veteran marathoner who also organizes running events. His next event is the Run for Bohol, a charity race for the victims of the recent earthquake.)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 21, 2013.