22 March 2009

Condura Run 10K at The Fort / Kalayaan Flyover (Mar 22)

It was a good day, a halcyon day.

Arrived at the NBC Tent by 5:30 am. By that time, the race venue was jam-packed with runners milling about or standing at the Start area waiting for the run to commence. The 21K runners had already left, and I was excited for them, as this was the first time ever that the Skyway would be a part of a race route.

The sun was already rising as a massive 4,000-strong crowd of 3K, 5K and 10K runners cheered at the sound of the gun start. And I was thinking to myself, oh no, the sun's up, and it's going to be one hot run. Literally.

The first 2 kilometers were relaxing, and since I hadn't run since last Wednesday, my muscles were well-rested. The 10K group first covered the perimeter of the NBC Tent/High Street area before reaching 32nd Street, the street leading to the Kalayaan/Buendia Flyover.

And then I saw it: a throng of 10K runners before me pushing up the dreaded flyover, with some people raising their arms excitedly. My face broke into a huge smile, and all thoughts of getting injured or experiencing exhaustion were momentarily pushed to the back of my mind as I climbed up that long stretch of road, which for at least 2 hours, was completely closed to motorists.

The flyover was solely for us runners at that time, and it was funny to see how vehicles on the other roads would slow down so that the curious people inside the cars could look at us. A few friendly motorists even rolled down their windows to wave. I was smiling like a kid during this first stretch and I think the happy feeling helped a lot in distracting me from the weeks-old soreness in my ankles and right knee/shin area.

By the time I had gone down the flyover and onto Buendia Avenue, I had reached the 4K mark, and amazingly, what came into my mind was "Wow, I'm at 4K already! It went by so fast!" and not "Shit, I'm still at 4K." I had prayed for this feeling--to be able to reach a certain distance and not feel tired and spent but raring to go further.

It was surreal running on Buendia. People stood on the sidewalks, gawking at us, and there were slight traffic build-ups on the Paseo de Roxas and Makati Avenue intersections because, of course, that part of Buendia was for us runners alone, and cars weren't allowed to cross Buendia at all. A big thumbs up to the Concepcion brothers and the other organizers of this event for ensuring good traffic marshalling and the safety of the runners.

When I reached the U-turn at Reposo (the Mapua Institute of Technology at the corner of Buendia and Nicanor Garcia), I wanted to laugh because I could see my office building from that distance; just a few more minutes, I would have reached RCBC Plaza. I was beginning to realize how far we actually ran--from NBC Tent at the Fort up to Buendia/Reposo. And to think that we were just in the halfway mark. Masochists!!

The toughest stretch was running back up the flyover. There was always that big urge to stop running and just walk, but I couldn't bear the humiliation of walking. Even if I wasn't running fast, I was still running, and that mattered a lot in terms of self-confidence. My right knee and shin were throbbing a little as I went up that cruel flyover incline, but I kept saying to myself, "It's not that hard. It's really not that hard, Gina." That thought kinda cheered me up and kept me moving. The mind is an amazing thing, really.

Some TV crew in their vehicles were allowed to go up and cover us as we ran back on the flyover. I managed to smile and wave a little at the cameras, haha. That's how happy I was. Harsh route, but I was so, so, very thankful that I was running injury-free. In fact, when we were running again on the flyover back to the Fort, I encountered the most peaceful part of my own run: The sun was shining, U2's "Yahweh" was playing on my iPod, and as corny as it may sound, I felt so alive and thankful that God was letting me run without so much pain.

Somewhere on the last 2K stretch at The Fort, I encountered two brass bands playing at different points to entertain and encourage the runners, and again, I had to smile. What a feel-good run! How can one not get drawn into the festive atmosphere of the event when there are brass bands playing?

Of course, the large Finish signage was the most beautiful sight to behold, haha. I mustered a little energy to sprint to the finish line, and glanced at the clock above. I clocked in at 1:11:49. Still not a super fast record, but hopefully I'll be faster in the next months or so. Besides, 1:11:49 is my best 10K record so far, and that means I'm improving slowly but surely. Will work harder to reach a 6 to 6.5 km/min average pace in the coming weeks. Hope it can be done within that period.

The best part after the run, aside from the water stations? A huge Manila Water tank parked at the finish area with a giant hose spraying water on the runners! No second thoughts for me: I went and allowed myself a little bath. It was great! I felt like a kid today, all smiles and happy greetings to friends who were at the race as well.

Overall, the Condura Run is one of the best races I've encountered in my short history of running. Great route, lots of water stations, photo walls, food stalls, freebies like back issues of Men's Health Magazine, and even a Nike booth that was offering up to 70% discount on selected products. Congratulations to the organizers and to everyone who ran--especially the 21K runners! They deserved the medals that were placed around their necks at the finish line. (It got me thinking, gosh, when can I run 21K? Getting a medal must be amazing.)

Now that Condura Run's over, what's the next run for me? =)

P.S. Saw Mr. Fernando Zobel de Ayala, who was also running 10K, somewhere in the Buendia/Makati Avenue part of the route. He looked very fit and barely sweating. When I reach that age, I'd want to be in that great a shape too.


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