My road to a Milo qualifier began years back but 2 years ago when I knew that a 4:10 Marathon finish was not feasible along Pasay and Manila’s chaotic streets, I started setting my sights via a 21K race. The aim was to finish 1:55 or less, which at hindsight seems doable since I’ve done two finishes within such time. So in 2014, when I crossed the Milo Marathon thrashed and crawling, I knew my next chance to run the Milo Finals was the Milo Lipa eliminations which was happening a few weeks later.
It was during this period when we engaged in some mean speed training at the UP oval via the Payasso class of Jon Las Bruce’s group (Milo Apex classes have finished by July). So we were quite confident with our footfalls and pacing when the gun exploded at Lipa that rainy 4:30 morning. Unfortunately the race was hounded by brownouts, lashing rain and surprise uphills into the final kilometers. I had some cramping issues as well leading to the finish line which I crossed at 2:01. So it’s back to the drawing board.
Last year, I had another devastating finish at the Milo Marathon courtesy of some twisting cramp periods going to the finish line so I plunged into a summarized 21K training program under the guidance of Coach Alfred Delos Reyes. The program is a healthy mix of strength training, speeds and long runs. It shook my system (t’was my first foray into speed running) but I was confident as hell when I showed up at the starting line of the Milo Lucena after travelling for more than 5 hours. The race travelled around the city’s rolling streets as I bounced with confidence and a qualifying finish dancing in my head.
The last 8 kilometers included my favorite downhills so I was flying until my major adversary reared its ugly head. I was dragging my cramping self into the finish line but when I saw the clock at 1:55, I lost all hope and just forced a 1:56:05 finish. Had I put on some extra strength and slashed 6 seconds, I would have finished at 1:55:59 and get qualified. Oh well.
On October 1, 2015, I turned 50 and extended by Milo qualifying time to 2 hours.
Early this year, I was able to finish a 21K road race at 1:57 in New Zealand so when I paced for the RU2 32K race, I knew I was going to bring our runners to the finish at my designated 3:15 assignment. This never happened of course. I ended up stopping and reviving myself back in the final 10 kilometers c/o of my good old buddy, Mr. Cramps. It was a wake call for me.
So even before I could recover, I was back in training mode with 5 weeks into the Milo Dagupan 21K Eliminations. It’s the same ole program from Coach Alfred but this time our strength workout was the dreaded 45-minute Insanity program, as Van had devised, coupled by a 4K jog after. Speeds were with the guys of Coach Al’s Functional Gym led by veteran runner & friend Bon at the Marikina Oval and one time along a steep hill. Short runs were done in an adjacent rolling village while Sunday long runs took place at the UP oval.
My final long run tipped at 19 kilometers (2:01) but I was thrashed the last 2 kilometers so I was questioning my race readiness. The last week was more relaxed but preparations like booking for a room, road mapping and nutrition took up most our time.
And so Van and I showed up at the starting line 30 minutes before the 4:30 am start. Even if sleep was short and shallow, I was feeling quite relaxed and excited to test all the preparations and training we’ve done for the last 5 weeks. And we were off, starting to a slow but steadily accelerating pace. Soon we were hitting 4:45 so I had to temper it to 5:15 -5:30. The route was technically flat save for more some minor bridges and one major one. In the early part, we had the road to ourselves but soon, we were relegated to the border of the road.
The going was steady with water stops every 2 kilometers. I was struggling a bit in the turn around but just kept going. 10.5 kilometers was reached at 57 minutes (averaging 5:31) so I was calculating, we have an extra 6 minutes into 2 hours if we could maintain the same speed in the second half.
That was wishful thinking, of course. By this time, my struggle wasn’t muscular but more on the breathing so it was time to turn on the music and move to the beat. Pace would dip into 5:45 and even once into 6:00 but when the second and third winds came, I tried to rack it up to 5:15s just to even out the slow periods. Van played the perfect pacer, mostly just shadowing me when I was in the zone and running by my front when I was losing steam. His quick foot exchange kept me chugging along.
The return journey was mired by walking and blocking 10K joggers we had to dodge. Van worked double time to clear my path as signs of an impending cramping started to show up. In the final 2 kilometers, cramping worsened but I’ve somehow learned to manage it – slowing a bit and varying my steps. I was a bit shaken but I knew I had this damn race in the bag and true enough when we reached the finish line, my clock read 1:57:50! There were no cameras to capture that instant which was two years in the making. But that moment signaled a turning point in my running career – after 7 years of running, I’m finally a Milo Marathon Qualifier. Cheers!
Here’s my music list for the last 10 kilometers: New Song (Howard Jones), Can’t Hold Us (Macklemore), Modern Love (David Bowie), Hey Soul Sister (Train), Super Bass (Nicki Minaj), Running Down a Dream (Tom Petty & the Heartbeakers), Master & Servant (Depeche Mode), Telephone (Lady Gaga), She Bangs (Ricky Martin), Let My Love Open the Door (Pete Townsend), Fancy (Iggy Azalea)
Postcript: Two weeks after (July 31, 2016), Van & I ran the 40th Milo Marathon which took the old 2014 route passing (almost) the whole stretch of Roxas Boulevard, going to Buendia and BGC and back. It was a relaxed pace for us, maintaining the 6:00 min/km. On the way to BGC, I started slowing down but bursts of 2nd winds got me moving again. Along the return trip in Buendia, I started taking walk breaks, urging Van to go ahead but he kept pushing me and played pacer up to the last meter.
Signs of cramping developed during the last 5 kilometers with me my modifying steps and taking walk breaks. The little devil never intensified but fatigue had apparently already set in so the jogging got slower but my very patient and encouraging pacer kept nudging me on, reminding me that we’re almost at the end of the road. Finally in the final 200 meters, I tried to preen and look great running as photographers from everywhere started appearing. Maybe it was a combination of mental fatigue, fear of a full cramping episode and thrashing I was experiencing that I managed to just strut a normal jog (It was hard to feign normalcy when all sort of discomfort are emerging all over one’s body). I told myself, at least, I wasn’t crawling the pavement like some wandering octupus. 4:53:15 was our final clock and yes, it was one marathon we both enjoyed. Cheers!
Btw, this 40th edition featured many trained and mean runners missing their qualifying times. Maybe it was the humidity at the start. Some veteran runners were just gunning to make it to the cut-off time with a few missing it. Now this is reminiscent of the 2010 edition, really. Here’s how my Milo Marathon stack up:
Milo 2010 5:49
Milo 2011 4:52
Milo 2012 4:24
Milo 2013 DNS due to dengue
Milo 2014 4:36
Milo 2015 4:30
Milo 2016 4:53
Photography by RuN AnD ShooT, Pinoy Fitness and The Running Photographers