My only dream was to run 5km on my 50th birthday and that's it. No more. No less.
And so after training for 1 whole year (that's how unfit I was back then), I fulfilled my dream. End of story.
But as my mentor and inspiration Jaymie Pizarro transformed herself from a newbie runner to what she is today (fulfilling her ultimate dream of running the New York Marathon twice and soon-to-be finisher in the much-acclaimed Ironman 70.3 in Cebu), I also found myself being mesmerized and hooked to bigger goals and aspirations.
Knowing Jaymie, I didn't think twice to sign up for the very first TBRDM which transpired last May 22, 2010.
5 days before the Big Day, I met a freak accident and injured my ankle.
The thought of quitting crossed my mind but I couldn't disappoint the people who generously donated for every kilometer that I run for the Down Syndrome Association of the Phils. (DSAPI), the beneficiary of my first marathon.
Thanks to my dream chaser Carlo Dacanay who ran with me all the way from the 11th km to the very end, I was able to finish at 7 hours 38 minutes.
For more than a year, the question "what could be my real time if I ran the marathon without any injury?" kept nagging me.
In order to satisfy my curiosity, I decided to join TBRDM again (I'm still qualified because this would only be my second).
This time around, I vowed to get my revenge.
Or so I thought.
I did not over train nor under train. I could feel in my bones that I could finish in 6 hours or sub 6:30 the very least.
I only had 3 half-marathons before my first marathon. Much have changed since then.
This time, I already conquered 10 half-marathons and two 32km races and of course, 1 marathon.
With my dear friend Anna (the Meek Runner) as pacer, what could possibly go wrong?
Anna and I lodged at El Cielito Inn @3PM last Saturday, March 17,2012.
I drank 1 bottle of beer @6PM to make sure I'll get a good night sleep before the race.
We greeted each other Good Morning before 12AM and @1AM, we were already on our way to Nuvali.
The festive atmosphere greeted us when we arrived at the Dream Village. We just made a quick stop at the ladies room, deposited our bags and headed to the registration station.
The queue was quite long and I had the chance to meet Malou Felix who flew all the way from Naga to join TBRDM. I really admired her determination and spirit!
But what she said to me really warmed my heart and ignited my soul: "Ma'am Nora, you're running again pala!"
I was surprised that she recognized me so she continued: "Nabasa ko po kayo sa TBR so I read your blog. Kayo po ang nag-inspire sa akin to run the marathon."
Thank you, Malou, for those very nice words. You just don't know how elated I was hearing those words from you.
After we got our timing chip and one-of-a-kind wrist band, the usual pre-race program began. We were inspired by Coach Jim, Neville, and of course Jaymie -- the remarkable woman who once dreamed to run a marathon and after doing one, dreamed of helping first-time marathoners attain their dreams.
With me are Malou (the runner from Naga), Jaymie, my lovely pacer Anna, and dear friend Carrie.
After a short prayer led by Craig Logan, we were off at exactly 2AM.
Everything was running smoothly as planned. We started slow, maintaining a 2:1 interval. At 12km, Anna informed me our estimated time is 6 hrs 20 mins. I told her we will be stronger in the second half.
But @km 13, I had to leave Anna because of an unavoidable circumstance. She had to do something that only women do (oh, but I'm already exempted to do it because I'm through with it when I turned 50).
And so I continued without my pacer (who's a 6-time marathoner if I may add). I religiously followed the 2:1 interval but this time, I had to look at my watch every now and then to check if it's time for me to run or to walk.
So far so good. On the way back, at @km 22, I heard "Dancing Queen" being played and couldn't control myself. I recklessly danced to the beat, entertaining the dream chasers and runners alike.
I was in high spirits, only to discover later on that I may have done something terribly wrong.
At km 25, I felt a tremendous pain on my left knee that I just had to stop. I could barely walk and hence, could no longer follow the 2:1 interval because of excruciating pain.
Yes, I have been injured before my first marathon but I have never been injured during any race.
This kind of experience is very new to me. I didn't know what to do. The pain was simply unbearable.
Then I saw Anna from afar, holding 2 cups of Gatorade.
Tears suddenly rolled down my cheeks. I got my towelette and pretended that I was wiping my sweat.
I wanted to give up but how could I tell Anna?
It was a long stretch uphill and when I couldn't take it anymore, I just screamed. Faster than a speeding bullet, Anna asked some ice in a plastic bag and placed it on my knee. I had to sit down and after a while, we continued the painful journey, bringing with me the plastic bag of ice.
Later on the 2:1 interval became 1:1.
But not 1 minute run, 1 minute walk.
1:1 now became 1 minute run, 1 minute stop. We stopped either for ice compress or liniment or spray whichever is available.
Anna asked me to do small steps and we did just that. She gave me chocolates, banana, candy, and along the way there were lots of goodies available.
By God's grace, Din and Carrie passed by us and immediately offered help by lending me a band that Anna secured under my knee. Thank you Din and Carrie! With so many angels supporting me, there's no way I won't make it to the finish line.
Then at km 39 I couldn't believe my eyes when we passed by Jay sitting on his bike.
I haven't seen Jay for ages that's why I was sooooh happy to see him last Sunday.
Only 3kms to go but it felt like 10 more kms at the rate that we're going.
With only 1 more km left, Gio called to ask how I was doing. He told me they are already waiting for me before the finish line.
Then finally, the 42km mark was vividly in front of me. This is the most dramatic part of TBRDM.
The 42km mark is already in front of us but it's not yet the end. We had to pass the 42km mark, then turn right to run the remaining .195 km! While walking to the final right turn point, I was blaming the King of England for this additional distance that runners had to endure.
Seeing the Finish line put a smile on my weary face. More so when I heard my children calling me and urging me to go on.
Anna and I could now see my support team so even though my left knee was still tormenting me, I tried my best to smile. The truth is, at this point I just wanted to scream and cry because of the agonizing pain.
Then just before the finish line, Ate Ella rushed to give us flower bouquets together with Gio, Eia and Sis Mila carrying cheer posters.
Thank you Lord! The sweet proof of all the struggles we went through.
Thank you Gio and Eia for the poster. How sweet!
Thank you, my dear dear Anna who, in spite of her very uncooperative condition, patiently and faithfully pushed me to reach my destination. Without her, I wouldn't be holding these beautiful medal and flowers.
Thank you Ate Ella, Gio, Eia, Anna and Sis Mila. Hope someday we could all run the marathon together!
Thank you Jaymie and the whole TBRDM support team. The Bull Runner Dream Marathon is everything that a newbie marathoner can hope for. I have seen other runners limping their way to reach the finish line but the warm atmosphere of genuine love and support from all the people involved strengthen the runner's desire to reach his goal.
It is Jaymie's dream that every runner who crosses the finish line changes his life forever.
After finishing 2 TBRDMs, I can honestly affirm that Jaymie achieved more than this.
Because running a marathon is not only life-changing.
It changes a person for the better.
Knowing your limits and pushing yourself to exceed them is a painful journey but in the end, the joy of overcoming all obstacles that come your way is beyond compare.
After reaching your 42.195 goal, you forget all the aches and sufferings you went through.
You feel you are ready and ripe to take on anything in life.
So who's gonna join me run 55km next year, when I turn 55?