Sunday, May 23, 2010

When Quitting is NOT an Option (My First Marathon For Children With Down Syndrome)


It took me one solid year of training to run my first 5k race.

I was 49 when I fantasized to run 5k on my 50th birthday. Friends donated for DSAPI (Down Syndrome Assn. of the Phils. Inc.) in lieu of gifts to celebrate my golden year.

Back then, I never dreamed of running the marathon. In fact, I promised myself not to run beyond 5k because of my age and the demands of my multi-roles as an only child and solo parent.

But strange how one Jaymie Pizarro changed everything.

As Jaymie (the bull runner) metamorphosed from an ordinary newbie runner to what she is now (a world-renowned celebrity), my direction in life significantly changed as well since the time I've known her in May 2007.

So when I learned about the TBR Dream Marathon, it took me less than a second to decide not to miss this spectacular event.

Again, I sought donations for DSAPI (pls. refer to my post "My First Marathon For Children With Down Syndrome" on March 14, 2010). This time, not just for a 5k run but for a full marathon! This would be my pre-52nd birthday celebration.

I followed the training program by Coach Jim Lafferty that started Feb. 1, 2010. I attended all the Bull Circles and ran with my fellow TBR Dream Marathoners twice during the long run schedule: 2-hour run in ROX last March 27 and the 3 & 1/2-hour run in Nuvali Last May 2.

Read and reread the 5 issues of TBR mags to keep me well-informed and inspired.

To prepare myself physically and emotionally, I joined three 21k races before May 22:

1.) The Condura Race on Feb. 7, 2010
2.) The Globe Run for Home on March 21, 2010
3.) The Earth Run on April 18, 2010

When everything was running smoothly as planned, I met an accident 5 days before the Grand Event (details in my post "To Run Or Not To Run the TBR Dream Marathon" dated May 17, 2010)

I was almost tempted to quit but when the donation of blogger-runner-friend Bong ( arrived from Canada 2 days before the Dream Marathon, I knew there was no turning back.


And so on May 21, 2010 I went to bed @ 5PM after eating a heaping plate of pansit sotanghon, 1 delicious stick of pork barbecue, 2 pieces of Goldilocks putong puti and 1 banana lakatan.

I tried to get some sleep but just couldn't. Then at 8PM and 10PM, my daughter complained of stomach ache. I gave her CARICA syrup and she dozed off to sleep.

At 11:30 PM, I decided to get up and get ready for the big challenge ahead of me.

I was not yet hungry but forced myself to eat 2 whole wheat pandesal with peanut butter, 1 mug of hot chocolate drink and 1 banana latundan.

Then I cleared my stomach and took a warm shower.

By 1:oo AM, we were already out of Philamlife Village. My mother's driver drove for me, Gio, Eia, and Ate Ella.

All this time, I was wondering if I could really make it.

1) For the past 10 days, I was only able to run for 37.5 minutes.
2) My left foot is still painful because of the accident.
3) I wasn't able to sleep even for just 1 hour!

Jaymie was happy to see me but I knew she was anxious about my condition and so after kissing and hugging each other, she told me that I could just stop whenever I feel the need to do it. I promised her I would.

I was deeply touched when a lot of runners approached me and wished me luck and advised me to just take it easy and I will surely finish it in 8 hours.

After Jim's short message was a short prayer and we were off.

Mark, my therapist-friend was supposed to run with me but couldn't make it due to a high-priority family obligation.

Anna was with her runaholic family.
Kassy was with the 5:1 group.
Baby was with her running buddy Bro J.
Mariel was too fast for me and she had her soulmate and solemate Jun C. pacing her.

I couldn't run with any of them because I wasn't even sure if I could run at all. And I didn't want to burden them with my condition.

As expected, I started very slow and easy, trying to minimize the pain on my left foot.

After crossing the main road, a runner named Liza greeted me. She told me "Di na po sana ako tatakbo ngayon kasi kulang ako sa training. Pero sinabi sa akin ni Angela, dapat makausap mo si Nora para ma-inspire ka. Na-injured siya last Monday pero tatakbo pa rin siya. 52 na siya, ikaw 42 lang."

I asked her if she's been following the training program, attending the bull circles and bull sessions. She told me "not really". Then I found out that her longest race was only 10K. I told her: "You've got lot of guts to join this marathon, Liza. Good luck. Just maintain this pace and you will arrive within 8 hours. Don't forget to apply the run-walk sequence."

Crossing the starting line twice was a celebrity-like feeling for me because of the warm cheers I received when I passed by. There was even a wonderful poster with my name on it, waved by Marga of Thank you so much for the moral support. How I wished I had pictures with everybody who cheered for me.

But in a few moments, I was all alone in the dark.

Then ahead of me there was a guy in red whom I followed until we reached the dirt road going to the Bird Sanctuary. Since I couldn't see where I was going and what I was stepping on, I decided to walk very slowly, very carefully assessing where to put my left and right foot. That's where Joy (My feet feats) passed by and told me she was late for 30 minutes. I told her it's OK since she's a fast runner anyway.

While I was struggling to reach the turn-around point, I was happy to see my runner friends on their way back and they all cheered for me (thank you very much, guys!)

After the turn-around point, I took water and gatorade and headed back to the main road. That's when Carlo, a Piolo Pascual-look-alike Dream Chaser, started to run with me and kept me company for the rest of my long, winding journey.

At some point, I felt pain on my right foot which I thought was caused by the rubbing of the timing chip. A TBR volunteer transferred the chip farther so as not to cause any friction on my foot.

Passing the Second Wind station, I grabbed some apple slices and drank water.
Talking with Hector and his team somehow eased my aching nerves.

Then I saw Coach Rio who ran to me. We exchanged hugs and kisses and went our separate ways.

After the 22km mark, I drank gatorade from my own cooler in the car where my children were resting. Gio asked me how much longer and I told him 20km more.

Then we saw Tessa and said hi and we had our picture taken by photovendo. She then flew and disappeared from my sight.

It was 5:45 AM and the sun was already up. It's as if we were running at a different place because this time, we could see everything around us. We could even hear the sound of water down the brook.

We could now see the stones, mud holes and slippery part of the dirt road going to the Bird Sanctuary. When I asked for water before the turn-around point, the volunteer asked me if I was Nora the golden girl and I was proud to say that yes, I am her. She told me she read my blog and saw Jaymie's comment there. I asked for her name but just couldn't remember it now (hirap talaga ng gurang).

When we reached the main road, I told Carlo we had to find shade so I could transfer my ankle support from my left foot to my right foot which was already killing me. And so when we found one, I took the opportunity to fix my feet.

It was like watching a western movie seeing cows rushing to cross the street (tunay na bull runners hehe . . . )

I called Ate Ella and told her they could ride the dream mobile. I'm near the grassy hill where cows were having breakfast (buti pa sila, kumakain na. I also felt hungry and craved for bananas)

We met Kassy and I asked her if she had bananas. She offered me candies and chocolates and told me bananas will be at the next station. That gave me the boost to run faster.

After eating 1 whole banana and drinking gatorade, I again fixed my shoes to be more comfortable.

Going to the turn-around point was lighter because of the festive sounds that rhyme with the pounding of our feet.

But after that, with only 8 kms to go, I started to feel pain on my hips. Followed by the pain on my thighs. We asked for ice at the next water station but they didn't have any. Fortunately, the ambulance passed by and the attendant gave me an ice pack which I had to give back when we resumed running. That's when I remembered to take my Tramadol.

With 6 kms remaining, my friend Agnes called and told me they are already waiting at the finish line. I was ecstatic to know she was there with her beloved husband Boy.

The pain on my hips and thighs became intense that we had to stop and ask for ice in a plastic bag. I felt I could no longer move on if I didn't apply ice on the painful areas.

I told Carlo everything changes at the 37th km mark. Our legs begin to develop the nasty habit of disobedience. It's as if they have acquired minds of their own. They no longer follow what we want them to do. We still want to run but our legs refuse to do so.

At this point, the 5:1 sequence became 5 minutes walk and 1 minute run (Jim was right!)

The runner (forgot his name too!) with knee support inspired me to go on. He could no longer bend his left knee but left with determination in his heart, he still tried to finish the marathon. If he could do it, I could do it too! I told Carlo this runner ought to have a trophy, together with the medal because of his undying love for running. And when he told me that his greater problem was how to drive his car in going home, I couldn't help but admire this fellow.

Carlo and I noticed that every km that we ran seemed to be longer than the usual 1 km that we run. I told him that from our house to the guard house in our village is 1 km and it's just a short distance. But this time, 1 km seemed 3 kms already!

Then my phone rang. It was Ate Ella, cheering me to go on. Then it was Eia. That gave me the much-needed boost to push myself to the very end.

At the 41st km mark, Carlo blurted out -- "1 km na lang, Ma'am Nora, marathoner ka na. Congratulations!" I thanked him for staying with me all the way, that I couldn't have done it without him.

Then an unexplainable incident happened. When I pressed the latest caller in my cellphone to tell Ate Ella that there's only 1 km left, I heard my mother's voice! I didn't call her but she answered her cellphone because there was an incoming call from me. She asked me how things are and I told her there's only 1 km left to the finish line. She told my father about it and they were both relieved that I was still up and running. I glanced at my watch and it was 9:32AM.

At 9:36 AM, Ate Ella called again and I told her I was about to cross the bridge.

They all ran to the bridge and cheered for me, and I was just too happy that the pains in my body disappeared. Suddenly, I regained momentum and I couldn't believe that it only took me 7 minutes to run the last kilometer!

Eia and Ate Ella ran with me to cross the finish line, where the grand matador was waiting to give me my priceless TBR Dream Marathon medal.

Jaymie was there to congratulate me and told me to get my freebies. She whispered "Ang tigas din pala ng ulo mo, tinapos mo talaga!".

Picture taking followed. Then Brunch at Yellow Cab.

At Yellow Cab, Atty. Raymund introduced me to her better half, Ella who was all smiles in congratulating me. Raymund told me he passed by me. He was in charge of transporting runners who decide to go back. I told him how come I didn't see him and he answered: "Di na kita hinintuan. Alam ko namang tatapusin mo ang marathon." ( I wonder why he thought that way about me) Then he asked if my next target is the Milo Marathon and I immediately said NO! (but now that you mentioned it . . . hmm . . . )

Earlier that morning, Carlo and I were imagining to indulge in baked oysters, kilawin tanguige and ice-cold beer after the marathon.

Well, that didn't happen. At night time I found myself eating saluyot and dulong for dinner (I guess not all dreams come true hah hah . . . )

I dreamed of telling these in public upon receiving my medal:

Thank you, Jaymie, and to the whole TBR Dream Marathon Team, volunteers and sponsors, most especially to Carlo who never left my side. Because of you, my dream has now become a reality.

To my support group: My favorite son Gio, my favorite daughter Eia, my favorite aunt-in-law Ate Ella, my favorite kumare Agnes and darling Boy, and my favorite kumpare/driver Romy. Thank you for waking up early and bearing the heat while waiting for me.

To all who prayed and cheered for me. Thank you very much!

To and fellow runners and bloggers who urged me to go on, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

To everybody who pledged to donate for DSAPI, thank you so much! (you can still donate up to December 2010)

And of course, I owe everything to God. Thank you Lord!

Impossible is nothing.

Defy your limits.

Never settle.

Just do it.

(pictures to follow)