ON the halfway point of her 21-kilometer race during the Mindanao eliminations of the Milo Marathon on Nov. 8, 2008, Mary Grace delos Santos blacked out.
The Zamboanga City native lay sprawled and bloodied on one of the roads of Cagayan de Oro City after a motorcycle, sent flying by a rampaging truck, hit her.
"I don't know how long I lay there," delos Santos said, her expression still pained while recalling the point of impact a year later on the tracks of the Cebu City Sports Center. "I blacked out."
She also does not know whether she was between the wheels of the truck or beside them when the vehicle continued to run after the accident.
What she recalls, however, is her fierce determination to finish the race that she was already leading. She got on her feet and started checking her body gingerly for injuries before breaking into a run.
"People were telling me to pull out of the race," delos Santos said in Bisaya, "but I wanted to continue. I wanted to finish the race. I was determined to finish the race."
Delos Santos, instead, asked the race official who was telling her to withdraw to just tail her on a motorcycle as she dashed to the finish line.
When she touched the back of her head, delos Santos found blood in her hand. That wound later required five stitches.
"I told myself, I'm going to die. I'm going to die. But I have to win the race first," she said with a soft laugh.
Minutes later, delos Santos finished first, way ahead of the others. She would probably have been first even if doctors had attended to her and done a quick stitch to close that wound, right on the spot where she met the accident.
The expression on her face as she crossed the finish line was a cross between relief and trepidation. Delos Santos was sure she would die. She later vomited repeatedly in the hours after the race, her trainer Mohsherwin Managil said.
Not only did delos Santos survive the accident that killed the driver of the motorcycle that hit her, she also went on to finish a full marathon-all 42.195 kilometers of it-three weeks later.
On any given Sunday in Cebu, delos Santos would be on the winner's podium claiming yet another medal or trophy and an envelope containing cash for winning yet another road case.
Delos Santos has thoroughly dominated Cebu running that she has won all the races she joined here---all first place finishes.
But when she was first here on the eve of the Run to the Max race in October 2008, delos Santos had nothing but hope, a pair of shoes and enough money to buy only apples for dinner.
She won that race.
Part of the money she won she used to pay for the loan she got to pay for her fare to Cebu. The rest she gave to her parents and spent for incidental expenses.
With no regular races in Zamboanga, delos Santos decided to transfer to Cebu with Managil.
Managil is a fast runner and has won races here. But he stopped racing to concentrate on training delos Santos and a group of newbie runners.
During races, Managil also paces delos Santos, who still fears being hit by vehicles on the road.
The 22-year-old delos Santos said she loves running so much that she plans on doing nothing else but race until she is 30.
To delos Santos, running is a living.
Her race winnings pay for the apartment where she lives, her food and the equipment of her trade-her shoes. She is also supported by running brothers JR and Rovie Aguilon. Managil said he makes sure that they budget part of her winnings to buy a pair of shoes.
Shorn of everything, delos Santos can always make money with her pair of shoes.