IN THE END, I finished the half-marathon on my own. My younger son Bunso, who started the race with me, stayed by my side throughout probably three-fourths of the entire 21 kilometers, which I incidentally finished in two hours and thirty-one minutes. But his knee was bothering him, and it was too much to ask him to run on my pace. By the time I heard the drums and cheers for the finishers, I knew I could finish, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The best I can offer you is my extemporaneous notes and observations on the Cigna Round the Bays half-marathon. I can’t compare it to similar events in my homeland the Philippines as it’s my first such event. [my father insists we ran a Magnolia half-marathon some 20 years ago at the Luneta, but because there are no records to back it up, I might as well have ran a triathlon. 😦 ] Here goes :
New Zealanders don’t care much whether they win 1st place, cash or medals in many sports, as long as they have fun by participating. It sounds like a platitude giving importance to the fun part of sports, but in New Zealand the reward of playing is in the playing. Families, groups, running for charity, all take part for the sake of taking part. I know it sounds too good to be true, but that’s how it is in here. Granted, there were more serious runners in the half-marathon, but get this Precious Reader : the 6.5 km walk/run and 10 km fun run events were SOLD OUT, and enrollees to these events made up most of the 14,000-strong event. For a city with less than 300,000 inhabitants, that kind of participation is truly overwhelming.
The New Zealand spirit of volunteerism is impressive. Everyone chips in with an exuberance of team spirit, and because the Cigna Round The Bays is as big as it gets in a small city like Wellington, everyone, from many age groups, contributed during the event. From manning the cooling stations, marshalling the runners away from the traffic hotspots, to entertaining the finishers at the end of the race, it was a massive, massive event.
Running a new, unfamiliar route may sometimes be better in long distance runs. My training runs were run in practically the same area on the same street. I ran to a certain point and when the mapmyrun app on my phone (free by the way) told me I’d run half the kilometers of my goal that day, I’d turn back. It was effective, but tiring. The Round the Bays route, sea and mountainside scenery, and deceptively elongated trails actually tricked me into thinking I had covered relatively short distance before I realized that the half-marathon was nearly over, although my lower extremities were starting to complain to the high heavens by then.
Running in huge numbers energizes you and your giant complaints seem minor by comparison. When you are in a massed start with around 2000 other runners, the fears, insecurities and uncertainties aren’t that formidable anymore. When everyone around you is focused on a smashing brilliant and scintillating performance, that nagging little pain above your ankle and callus on your other foot becomes no more than an insignificant irritation. Only after the race, when you conquer distance, pain and your own personal demons, does it occur to you that you, with the assistance of several hundred runners with the very same objective, have achieved a remarkable milestone of exceeding your physical limits, in the most encouraging way possible.
Running is a good way to improve yourself (duh). And extending a thought from the last paragraph, you can improve your life mentally, emotionally and physically, but the easiest way to get tangible measurable results is via the latter. You see results almost immediately, and the more improvement you see, the more encouragement you get. Preparing for a marathon organizes and pools your efforts so that every ounce of energy is harnessed towards getting ready for the 21 kilometers. Along the way, you don’t want to detract from your goal of running the marathon because it’s only one day a year. Whatever happens, you have to be game-ready on game-day.
Judging from my results, I think I did OK. Thanks for reading everyone!