I dreamed, I believed, I prayed, I ran, I conquered, I am a MARATHONER.
I was once told “You will never run a marathon, you won’t survive the distance.” Too bad, my grandpa who raised me said that I can do whatever and be whoever I want to be as long as I believe and work on it. And yes, this one’s for you gramps!
To run a marathon – The Bull Runner-Dream Marathon 2011. It was a frantic morning. I woke up to an SMS from my friend and team-mate Helen Arabia, telling me that the sign-up for the Dream Marathon was already open. I didn’t wait anymore to get to my computer; I accessed the site and signed-up using my mobile phone. I had to get one of those 300 slots.
A week or two after, the list of dreamers were announced. My name was there.
That Long and Winding Road
September 2010, a week after coming back from the CamSur International Marathon where we ran 21K, it was registration week for the Dream Marathon – and I threw the towel in. It was already the last day of registration and I was pretty sure I would not make it, until I got a call from Daddy Bilz and Daie – ordering me to go to BHS where they will meet me. Angels. If it were not for these two dear friends, there would not have been a Dream Marathon for me.
Registered and all, it was now time to train. I knew how I want my first marathon to be. I had a goal. I forgot one thing though; the road to your dreams is not always rosey.
I had to stop training by the 2nd week October, the shin of my left leg was hurting bad following a 22K run at Clark. I can’t even walk without feeling the pain on the medial side of it. Helen’s friend, a sports doctor who we accidentally saw at Ultra while doing our warm-up run checked it and told me to rest for two-weeks – it might be a torn-calf muscle. I was instructed to get a shin support or compression socks to wear when I try running again after two-weeks of full rest. He also said that if after two-weeks it still hurts, then further tests will be done and I might need therapy. I followed the advice. Two weeks later, I tried running again. It was hurting at first, but after a while the pain was gone. I disregarded the lingering thought that maybe the “injury” is not yet healed. I had to train, I am preparing for a marathon.
Unfortunately, the body does have its own way of telling you that it is not in A-Okay condition. After a 6K run by the first–week of November, there was this pain on my left calf that would not go away – even after soaking the leg in a bucket full of ice. Something was definitely wrong. I was losing my mojo and struggling to hold on. And my dearest Helen was keeping a good hold on me, edging to me keep up with my strengthening exercises to keep me in shape. She also gave me another doctor to consult with, Dr. Cory Cabuquit.
November 14 – The PAU 50K Tagaytay to Nasugbu Road
While acting as “support crew” to runner-friendlies, I decided that I will get the left leg checked again – and this time, even get an MRI if needed. I just wanted to know what was wrong. I guess what finally pushed the trigger was the sight of all these runners traversing that road I once ran for training and that has became a favorite of mine.
Helen and I during BRP's T2N long run, 20th June 2010. Photo by Dr. Omar Arabia
November 17. Running Down Memory Lane
As scheduled, I went to the Metropolitan Medical Center (MMC) for a consultation with Dr. Cabuquit. She asked where it was hurting, checked the leg, asked when I first felt the pain, and made me recount CamSur and Clark – my last two long runs. I told her it was during the first 5KM of 21K I ran during at CamSur in September. I was going to land wrong and immediately corrected, then upon landing I felt a sharp pain on the left calf – I said I thought I might’ve pulled something – but the pain went away after some time. Then felt something again during the course – I thought it was cramps so I just sped up. She asked what my pace was during the first 5K, as well as my pace during the mid-part and my average pace during the race. Also if I felt the recurring pain during the run, and asked what I did when there was pain. I answered “yes” to feeling the pain every now and that I sped up when it was hurting since that is how I usually deal with cramps. She then asked what I did when I got to the finish line. I said I ran back to pace my runner-friends to the finish (I promised Daddy Bilz and Daie that I would come back for them). She asked if there wasn’t any pain when I finished and I replied with “I was in pain when I got to the finish, but since I didn’t see any medic who could give me a massage, I decided to just “run-off” the cramps.”
The order. She wrote a left-leg x-ray request and instructed me to bring the film back to her.
November 24. Crest-fallen
I went back to MMC and got my film and took it out from the envelope along with the radiologist’s reading. I felt a shiver run down my spine and my hands turned cold when I read this word on the paper “fracture”. Then I looked at the x-ray film and saw this thick white line running across my bone.
Dr. Cabuquit confirmed it, I sustained a stress fracture on my left leg. The good thing though, she said is that it has started to heal, therefore, no more clinic therapies but I will need to go back to lower distances. She instructed me to do my strengthening exercises, hold off on the running and do walk-runs instead (discussed the program), quit the speed training, forego all races that I signed up for and take my calcium tablets. I asked “Would I still be able to do my marathon on March 20?” She said, “You might need to forget about that too and look for another marathon.” Oh did I feel the world shake when she said those words. I felt my face literally going sad. I said, “Really? Could we not check later again then see how it goes?” I guess it was because she was previously a PBA doctor or I might’ve looked really devastated that she said we can look at the possibility of the March 20 marathon later. She gave me that bit of hope.
From then on, I kept her informed of my “training”. I would inform her by SMS of how my walk-runs went, how long I walked, how long I ran, the pace (I was instructed to run at a pace of 8 to 9 KM/min, no faster), and how my leg felt during and after. I was also ordered to keep training 3x a week to keep the leg conditioned. Her most important instruction: stop when you feel any discomfort or pain.
It was not easy. I had already registered for several races and I had to give away all of them. I did not know what went wrong when I kept to my training and did everything that was told of me to do. I totally lost my mojo.
December 15 – A Candle in the Tunnel
Two-weeks after I went back for my 2nd X-ray. This time, I didn’t bother to look at the film. My hands were clammy and it felt as if my heart were in my throat when I went inside her office. I looked at my hands when she raised the film against the light and looked at it. “Had you been taking your calcium tablets?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied. Then she said, “Your leg is looking good, the fracture did not progress. It is healing well.” I looked at her and asked a surprised “Really?!” And she smiled and said yes, but told me that I still have to keep up with my walk-runs but I can already start adding 1KM per week to my initial 3KM “long-runs”. Speed is still out of the equation. I dared and asked if I can run a 21K for Condura in February 5 next year. She said, she’ll check my leg in January and will decide then, and reminded me to keep to my training. That was another grain of hope.
Gray still. The rope I was holding on was a bit frayed. Every now and then I would slip further down and the climb back up would take the better of me. Faith tested.
January 12 – Cleared for the SkyWay!
I showed up for another consult. No X-rays this time. She checked my leg and asked about my training. Then I asked about the 21K for Condura. She said that I am still not allowed to “run all the way”, that my fastest will have to be 7min/KM, and that I have to do a run-walk. I replied with an “I can do that.” I saw the green light for the skyway.
February 05 – Condura 2011. Running at the SkyWay
This was the run where the run bug bit me. Condura 2010, I did my first 5K run. After that I signed up and started training under the Bald Runner Speed Training Clinic at Ultra for proper training, signed up for races, and yes… got hooked.
I was full of nerves the day before Condura 2011 and I was so worried about the left leg. I was texting messages to Maan telling her how I can feel some pain on my left leg. She would sms me back saying I need to relax and it is just nerves. I spent the night at Gail’s home as I will pace with her, we planned to do a 4:1. I was up super early for race day. Fast forward to race proper, I was a bundle of nerves and excitement – thus, I forgot to start the Garmin, which Maan lent me. Bave, paced with us, she was doing her first 21K. Gail’s ITBS made its presence felt at the 8th KM (?). There were, honestly, times when I just wanted to speed up and stop doing the 4:1. I owe it to Gail and Bave for keeping me in. And yes, I knew Maan would be waiting at the Takbo.ph station (around 17 KM) and she’s timing my run. If I get there any earlier than 2 hrs I’ll get ‘the look’. Yes, friends – they’re not afraid to give what they think and give you a good whack on the head when you’re being stupid.
Jump-shot at the 17th KM with Bave and Gail (L-R). Photo by Maan Catolos
Bave, Gail and I clocked within the range of 2:45-47. Not bad eh?
February 23 – Rainbows and Stars.
Another check on the leg but no X-ray. I reported how I’m going with my training and informed about my next long-run, the 30K run for the Dream Marathon. I still did not have the “go” from my doctor and I need her clearance.
She instructed me to keep training, stick to the run-walk, and still not go faster than 7 min/KM. I informed her that I’m trying to keep my pace at the 7-8 min/KM range.
This time it was her who asked me about the date of my marathon. I glowed inside. I said March 20 and then asked if I can do it. She replied with, “Let’s do an x-ray Wednesday before the event, then we shall decide.” I was good with that.
She wrote me a medical clearance after I told her I needed one as it is required for the Dream Marathon. As she was writing it, I promised that if by March 16 she sees something wrong on my film, I would pull-out from the Dream Marathon without hesitation.
Conditional clearance. I was ecstatic.
Suddenly the rope is not frayed anymore — I wasn’t slipping down, I am able to find a better foothold to push myself up, and I am getting better and stronger grips. The climb is feeling easier.
March 16 – THE D-Day Rocket
Somehow it was like a routine already. I proceeded to the Radiology Department, showed the x-ray order from my doctor, paid the fees, waited for my name to be called. Name called, went to the x-ray room, up on the table, left-leg positioned then ‘click’, change position then ‘click’. Walked out of the room, waited for the film, name called and I dared pull the film out. There was still that line running across my left shin. This time though, it is quite thin, like a scratch. I brought the film up and waited for my doctor. She arrived and called me. Gave the envelope, she opened it and pulled it out. She smiled. “Your x-ray is good. You may run the 42, but take it easy okay? No running fast, do a run-walk, stop if there is any pain. Good luck!”
I was in heaven.