Donna Cruz-Larrazaval

Contributor

MY husband, together with his brother Philip, Dr. Peter Mancao and the Cebu Doctors’ Group, organized The Run for Ondoy to help the victims of typhoon Ondoy. It’s nice to join a race knowing that you are really doing it for a cause. I won first place in the women’s category but only because there were no elite runners who joined. Hahaha!

Running a marathon is one thing, but training for one is another! Doing long runs is the only thing about running that I dread nor do I look forward to it. I love running so much but the thought of road running and all its hazards— dangerously narrow roads, the rude drivers who have no respect for runners, and the street dogs—make it so difficult to train.

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That’s why I prefer joining short distance races.

My first marathon

Yong and I signed up for the Macau Galaxy International Marathon only two and a half months before the event. I was hesitant to register for the full, so I registered my husband first and gave myself another day to make sure I was ready for it.

With a cut-off time of five hours, it became even harder for me to decide. “Am I ready for this physically? Am I mentally prepared for this knowing that I could be running for 5 hours straight? Could my body and mind take it?”

Honestly, I wanted to quit the day before the marathon when I found out that we would pass this 2.2K long bridge four times!!! Running uphill is my weakness on the road. I panicked and freaked out. I cried to Yong because I was so scared and worried that I might not make the cut-off time and would feel really embarrassed if I don’t get to finish it.

I was also scared because I injured my left foot during one of our long runs. It was my first 42k run. I was entitled to feel that way. The pressure was just too much!

Yong, Harthy Satina (running coach and physical therapist) and our friends Arlyne and Clarence Romoff told me not to panic and worry so much about the bridge since they passed by the bridge and it wasn’t that long and steep.

I’m glad my best friend Arlyne was there also. It feels good to have friends who are there when you’ve finished one of the most important events in your life.

That Sunday, I was up early (a lot earlier than Yong), got dressed and finally wore the “Marathon Mom“ headband that I bought in Big Sur, California last April). I was shaky and nervous but excited and ready to go.

When we got to the stadium, we did some stretching and warmed up a bit and soon joined hundreds of other runners. It felt like we were there to represent the Philippines as Yong, Harthy and myself were the only Pinoys.

Soon, the gun fired and we were off!

The Bridge

I started faster than my intended pace, which was not advisable for a first timer. Again, the feeling of overtaking a lot of runners was overwhelming. The weather was great and the course was flat but I was preparing myself for the first bridge passing. When I got near it, I tried to think of things and people that would keep me motivated. “OK marathon mom, you’re doing this for your babies who are waiting for you and really miss you at home. You can do this!” Thinking about my kids helped me pass it with a smile on my face. I was relaxed and my body felt great.

I passed it twice and still managed to run at my pace. I slowed down a bit going up but because I started fast the first half, I was six minutes ahead of my pace. But, unfortunately, passing the bridge the third time at around 28-30 kilometer mark, I started to struggle. The long running uphill part of the bridge was just too much for me to take, so I walked until I used up my extra six minutes! I was starting to panic about passing it one more time. If this third pass was already a struggle then how could I make it to the cut-off time of five hours?

I said to myself, “It’s OK, I can run a bit faster going downhill.” I really didn’t care so much about my time anymore, and I was ready to accept whatever time I would get.

At KM 34, my body was really aching, my legs were feeling tight and I could see the bridge that we had to pass the fourth and last time. I kind of lost my motivation, then the song “Eye of the Tiger” and “Bebot” by Black Eyed Peas—Ito ang tunay na Filipino Filipino Filipino!—played on my Ipod!

I said to myself, “Wow! God is really helping me! He saved the best songs that could really motivate me for the last few kilometers!”

My body wanted me to stop but my heart said I could still do it. I cried and prayed to God for strength and energy to help me finish the race. I had to walk for 30 to 40 minutes on the bridge and saw a lot of fast runners stopping, massaging and stretching their legs. I was not alone.

The last turn on the bridge seemed the toughest for everyone. Even going downhill was getting difficult. It was such a torture just making the cut-off time.

But at KM 40 I felt better because I knew I was going to make it even if the last two kilometers stretched like forever.

As I entered the stadium, I saw Arlyne and Clarence cheering for me. They really helped a lot in making me do it by believing in me. I saw that I came in at 4:49 (4:49:47 at their site), but since I crossed the starting line almost a minute after the race started, my effective or chip time was 4:48:54. I was in a daze as I crossed it but elated that I did it!

I have never been prouder of myself than at 10:49 a.m. on Dec. 6, 2009 in Macau, China’s International Stadium. What made it even more special was that my husband Yong was there to hug, kiss and congratulate me after my crossing the finish line.

My husband and I were able to fulfill one of our greatest dreams there. Mine, being to finish a full marathon before my 33rd birthday and his was to run a sub four-hour marathon.

Cebu City Marathon

I felt that my body was not ready to join the Cebu Marathon since I wasn‘t prepared and had no training for it. It was too soon! After the Macau Marathon, I only did about two 5K relaxed runs and one 10K run. Joining it was really unplanned. But I told myself to consider it as a training run and not be tempted to go fast because I might get injured.

I also wanted to experience being part of one of the most important events in my own country and what would be a great place to do it other than the city which I now call my home—CEBU! I finally decided to join the marathon two days before the race. I’m still glad I did it and was able to finish it, although the pain after was more severe than that from the Macau Marathon. My body ached for almost a week as compared to my first one with only two days of pain.

The Cebu Marathon has made me stronger as a person and a runner. Yung akala mo hindi mo na kaya, but if you have the heart and the will to do it, kakayanin mo. I finished my second marathon in 5 hours and 13 seconds.

I don’t have any plans of doing something like that again. But will I run a full marathon again? YES, OF COURSE! It has become a part of who I am.

To my husband, Yong, thank you for not getting tired of convincing me to try running. I would not be healthier and enjoy my life more with you and our kids. I feel great, energetic, strong and excited every day because of it. Running has changed my life for the better. I am looking forward to joining more races with you. I’m now a marathoner! Call me “Marathon Mom!”

To those who think they can’t do it, those who are making excuses because they just hated doing any form of exercise (exactly how I felt before I started trying), please give it a shot.

If I can do it, you can too. You’ve just got to believe that you can! Look at me now… I am a very happy and healthy Marathon Mom!

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