Yesterday I once again ran one of the greatest marathons in the world. I am often asked what my favorite marathon is and I answer it in the same way I would when asked what my favorite city in the world is- they are all different and memorable in their own way. Every race is special because they give you VIP treatment and close off the road so you can freely run around a beautiful city. The people go out into the streets, line the race course and cheer their hearts out. A major logistical endeavor is carried out just to make sure the race is smooth and safe. They give you free food, drinks, a nice medal, a shirt plus they make sure you are wrapped warmly in a blanket. Plus they take nice action photographs of you. They also mount the best running expos you have ever seen so runners will be like happy kids entering a toy store.
The London Marathon had all these elements, executed flawlessly and beyond expectations, living to it’s official hashtag of #goingtheextramile. First the expo had a lot of interesting activities for runners and their families. Abbott’s brand activation was particularly striking because they created a slow motion video for each of the runners and showed it on the big screen. They also had a Digital World Marathon Majors where they had simulations of each of the six races and you get to run a mile of this course on a treadmill. My heart raced when I saw their world marathon majors tribute board and I was reminded once again that I only had the Boston Marathon left to do. Transportation to the starting area was free and scheduled with clockwork precision. It had a very organized and simple race start at the expansive Royal Greenwich Gardens, where you will find the meridian line. The weather may not have been as sunny as the entire week but I was just happy that it did not rain despite the forecast. The race course was amazing and you see all the quintessential London icons throughout. What was particularly awesome was running across the great Tower Bridge. It is not everyday that you can do that. It was also a gentle and mostly flat course which was lined by cheering crowds from start to finish.
Just like in previous races, what makes the marathon special are learnings that I will remember for life.
There is no place I would rather be.
This was a line from a song performed by a band during the race and it hit the right spot. The choice to run a marathon is yours alone. It is the fruition of a commitment made months or even years ago and this has brought you to this one race so you can perform and show the world what you chose to train hard for. And the moment is magical because it is your own and because you choose to be present as you take it all in, throughout the course.
You do what you came here for.
Each person has his or her own reason for running a marathon. Each one’s journey is unique. For me, it was my first try to do a Boston Qualifier. I finished the race at 3:47, seven minutes more than the 3:40 cut off for my age group. I thought I would be disappointed for not making it on my first try considering how stubborn I am especially once I have set my mind on something. But I guess when you know that you have given your utmost in training and in the race, then you just revel in the experience and decide to just try again. I ran a solid and strong race but I must admit that I faltered on several occasions, at times getting distracted by thoughts of slowing down and also because of actual physical pain and hunger (I have yet to learn to subsist on energy gels and chews alone for more than three hours of racing). But every single time I reminded myself that I had to do what I came here for. Up until the last minute before my BQ cut off time, I felt that I could make it and so I ran despite the cramp rising on my leg. Only when I saw the clock strike 3:40 did I allow myself to slow down a bit, accepting wholeheartedly and without any regrets that I have to try again. It’s all part of the road to Boston.
There is such a thing as physical limitation.
I always believe in mind over matter but yesterday I was reminded that our bodies can be frail and unyielding too. I first felt the first signs of heaviness on my leg past kilometer 25. Then I felt the first signs of a real cramp past kilometer 35, I willed myself to continue running as fast as I could because I was afraid that I would not be able to move anymore if I stopped or even slowed down. The temperature was also dropping and I think this was one of the reasons for the leg muscles to further tighten. Then there was the pain on my left torso, maybe brought about by the fact that I was swinging my arms more to compensate for the diminishing leg strength. At kilometer 40, I felt my toes curling and hardening. My mind was telling me that I still had a chance to make it to cutoff and so I continued to run. Looking at my splits now, it was very clear that I had little chance at making the cutoff past kilometer 35 unless I did sub-5 minutes per kilometer. But I only allowed myself to accept that I won’t make it to cut-off when I saw 3:40 on my watch. So there may be physical limitations but I believe that these boundaries will be expanded or even surmounted with practice and improved training.
If first you don’t succeed, pick yourself up and try again.
As I was nearing the finish line, I was just happy. I expected to be disappointed but was extremely surprised that I wasn’t. I think my husband was worried that I would be frustrated and he asked me whether it was important that I still did a personal best time despite missing the cut-off. I said it mattered but I was looking more at the overall experience of the marathon and not just about doing a BQ or beating a personal record. I was surprised that this was a truly honest answer. I actually crossed the finish line thinking what my next race would be so I can try again. I also remembered something a very dear friend, whose support has been unwavering, wrote:
“Do not be afraid to fail. Failure simply means you had the courage to try. It is only when you finally conquer your fear of failure that you finally gain the greatest freedom of all: the freedom to choose happiness for yourself. “
There is so much to be thankful for.
What makes the London Marathon extra special is that I was reminded once again how kind and generous people are. It was the first time I fund raised for a marathon and I am still overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and family who believed in me. I chose a charity, Scope for Disability, a cause that was close to my heart and was able to exceed the target by raising GBP 1,909. Scope went the extra mile to make sure that their charity runners and their respective families were well cared for after the race. There is also Team Galon who took us in, welcomed and took care of us while in London. Help also came from brands like Superdry Philippines and the Primer Group of Companies who have always backed adventurers like me. I am thankful for an awesome race and an injury-free training as well as for the coaches who never cease to push me beyond limits. Mighty big thanks again to Gabby for his steadfast support and understanding, for always being by my side one marathon at a time. I can never thank everyone enough and I’ll say thank you in the best way I know how- running with all my heart and trying my darnedest even if it hurts.
So what a great race journey it has been and my marathon day horoscope captured it all- There is only this moment. Make it magical.