Memoirs of a 50K Awum finisher

Last AWUM finisher. Candice Maque found all the reasons to finish the 50-kilometer All-Women Ultra Marathon (Awum) despite going beyond the cutoff of 10 hours. She made it two minutes short of 12 hours. (Contributed Foto/Think Tank)

SHE'S a mother of three, a kidney donor and a public school teacher. She's 31 years old, 5 foot three, and 250 pounds. She's a finisher of the 50-kilometer All-Women Ultra Marathon (Awum) held in Cebu last weekend.

At 9:50 a.m. of March 8, Candice Maque arrived at the gate of The Family Park in Talamban, Cebu City.

Unlike the runners before her, there were no drum beaters to announce her approach. What she heard were cheers of encouragement and congratulations from a small group of people as she took one slow and painful step after another. They were her teammates in the Talisay City Runners Club (TCRC) and the Awum organizers who believed she would finish the distance no matter the odds.

She realized her dream: to finish Awum. She made it at 9:58 a.m., almost two hours beyond cutoff.

Maque cried. Some of the organizers cried. Some of her teammates cried. Her husband Jerry, a 100K runner, watched her "life event" with pride from the sidelines.

After 12 hours of running slow and walking and trodding the route that began at the Cebu City Hall and brought her to Pardo, Labangon, Banawa, Escario, Lahug, Nivel, Banilad, Maguikay, the Cebu-Mactan Bridge, the Marcelo Fernan Bridge, the Cansaga Bridge, Cabancalan and ended in Talamban, she culminated her quest for the rose medal.

"A lot of people doubted I could finish Awum, but there was no doubt on my part. I know that when I run, people stare at me, unbelieving that someone my size can even run, much more finish a 50K," Maque told Sun.Star Cebu as she was having her post-race breakfast.

"I knew that I was not going to finish it within cutoff. That did not discourage me because I knew the organizers would wait for the last runner to arrive even after cutoff," she said.

Awum, held on the first weekend of the International Women’s Month, is organized by the non-profit Think Tank, a group of ultra runners based in Cebu. The all-women foot race, which gives the ladies the venue to run "beautiful and sexy," is on its fourth year. Average finish time is seven to eight hours.

Maque had every motivation to finish Awum. It was for her four-year-old son with Down Syndrome, for her father who has her one kidney, for two friends who want to get pregnant, for the woman who is helping her in her son's therapy, for her husband who believes in her determination, and for herself.

She did not have all these reasons when she began her Awum journey at the Cebu City Hall grounds. One came at a time--when she had to hurdle Nivel Hills, then another to cross the Cebu-Mactan, then another for the Fernan Bridge, for the Cansaga Bridge, and still another for the last five kilometers.

She finished Awum recalling particular events in her life when she passed by certain sections of the route.
On her Facebook post post-Awum, she said:

"Running is the best life's metaphor. I had this awesome journey during my first Awum. I passed by Asian College of Technology, used to be my boarding place going to Saint Theresa's College. I passed by Parian, where I have worked with the best people in Rafi. I passed by Banawa, JJ's therapy place. I passed by Escario, JJ's first PT and OT therapy center. I passed by UP where I almost gave up during my CCM 42k run. I passed by Aboitiz, my first work outside STC. I passed by Lapu-Lapu old bridge, where Jerry and I walked because we didn't have any fare at all (LOL). I passed by Pajo, where I spent my childhood. I passed by Marcelo Fernan Bridge, where I fondly remember how I slipped in a hole going for a job interview but did not get accepted. All these where in my thoughts during the entire race."

"This is the reason why I was in love with running. I get to go to places on foot that bring a lot of lessons and memories worth keeping. I am a slow runner as they say but I am happy that I am for I have enjoyed every stride, remembering how life had been."

It wasn't like Maque ran Awum without marathon credentials. She ran the Cebu City Marathon 2013 and the Kawasan Marathon 2012 where she was the last finisher.

"I have a son with special needs. I need to be healthy to be able to take care of him," she told Sun.Star Cebu at the finish line. She and Jerry have a daughter, eight, and another son, just a year old.

She knows she is being judged when she runs, but she has learned not to care.

"They don't know my story," Candice Maque, Awum finisher, said.

Her next dream run: 100 kilometers.
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