What I talk About After Reading, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” By Haruki Murakami While Taking TransCebu 105 Ultramarathon The 2nd Time.

As someone who is very much interested in running and writing his thoughts on paper I automatically picked up at the bookstore the book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami. As I began to read a few pages I learned that at his peak at the age of late 40s Murakami normally finishes a full marathon with an average time of three hours and a half – that is the Milo National Marathon Finals Qualifier time for 18-33 years old. By the time he finished his running memoir in 2007 he was 58 years old, still runs an average of 186 miles a week and finishes marathon at four hours.  He was not quite happy about the latter of course. Comparing that with myself, I normally and dismally finish marathons at about six hours and a half. Mind you, these were on good days. Sometimes I hit six hour and forty five to seven when I am with another runner who was probably doing a lot worse than I am. When I managed to finish two five hours and forty minutes at Milo National Marathon and at the event, Yes To Fitness Run it was like an historic moment for me and therefore quite ecstatic with the achievement that I dare not ruin it by incurring a much slower time the next time, so I don’t anymore join the same two race events again. So, what could be my reaction to Murakami’s marathon finish time? Of course, I thought, “Wow! Can you believe this guy?” He’s a very accomplished fiction writer after all.

 

He began his running career when he was thirty three at the same time he began writing novels. The two actually feed each other in Murakami’s case and as a result he is quite accomplished in both.  I am forty six years old, lately I couldn’t barely finish 2 kilometers run a day because I would rather go back to sleep or view posts at FB at the time in the morning I assigned for myself my running time. So, yeah! I cannot see myself in Murakami’s shoes or even graced by his shadow in terms of discipline in trying to attain a certain degree of perfection at this chosen passion called running. I am instead quite satisfied in seeing myself cross the finish arch no matter how long it took me and in what manner of ranking I managed to end up with. As a result of my haphazard approach to training, I took a beating in the form of compiling DNFs just as what happened with me with my second take last July 23-24, 2016 of the Trans Cebu Ultramarathon where I signed up as one of the 71 participants of the 105 kilometers category.

 

If only I stuck to my words or to what I can actually do more comfortably, I wouldn’t bother trying to enlist myself to a race that runs a hundred kilometers or more. So far, I managed not to be tempted to send a letter of intent to Baldrunner to signify my interest to join BDM 102. I also snubbed the 120 kilometers Bonifacio Ultra event by Run Mania that my peers were able to successfully finished. But last year I couldn’t resist trying the 105 kilometers Tarayem Sasanggasot mainly for the reason that I am tracing a line which I hope would include Laoag to Vigan and connect them with the other places in Luzon that I had already run at. It would have been fabulous if I had actually finished the race and not something that had left a bitter taste and a cursed thirst for revenge. Now, I did it again. I was already happy that last year I survived to see the finish banner of one of the most difficult run event in the country, the Trans Cebu Ultramarathon where I signed up under 55 kilometers. I could have moved on and put this experience behind me. After all who wants to relive a nightmare? I got my finisher’s loot that I could view until I reduced them to dust. I could gloat as much as I wanted for the rest of my life for the successful finish which was quite a feat already. But like most of the tragic heroes of the Greek mythology I was fooled by fate or hubris into another adventure which turned out to be actually right through the Strait of Messina between Scylla and Charybdis. I signed up under the 105 kilometer with the confidence I will not go home in shame. I don’t know if it was just a reason I invented for myself or actually real that the true reason I signed up was because a fellow runner wanted to experience Trans Cebu Ultra and I volunteered to accompany him on his epic voyage while I try to make TCU my coming out moment into the 100 and plus kilometers distance run once I conquer the event. What could possibly go wrong with my decision to enlist this year when I already conquered the most difficult portion of the 105 kilometers which happened to be the second half, the same race route of the 55k category that I ran the year before?   It turned out everything. First my companion didn’t sign up for the race. Then upon arriving in Cebu since I was way too early and would therefore not be allowed yet to check in to my hotel accommodation, I tried to waste away the time by walking from Lapu-Lapu City, Mactan going to Cebu City which was about 10 kilometers. Later in the afternoon from the hotel I walked again to Ayala Terraces Mall and wandered about until I tired myself. The following day was more walking since I don’t have other places to go except to wait for the afternoon race briefing. The race briefing was located at Busay Multi-Purpose Hall 3 kilometers of uphill from Lahug Public Market which once again I walked to get to. In short even before the race started later in the evening I was actually beat.

 

I was grateful that the event had less acquaintance of mine running except for Magina and Joe whom I previously met at the events 2nd Puerto Galera Ultra and 3rd Taal Volcano Island 25k Trail Run. It was bit easier for me to make my decision that would only allow me to reach the 62nd kilometer of the race. The race participated by about 13 foreigners in the 105k and 7 in the 55k started at the City Hall of City of Naga, Cebu 23 kilometers from Cebu City at 10:00 pm.  I started out quite well without being bothered by chest compressions I complained in my other runs but just the same I tried to have my pace a bit slow so that I could acclimate my body with the activity. I ran the flat but winding paved road thinking I was at the middle of the pack of runners. However, when my headlamp did not function and I got irked I stopped to have a look at what was wrong with it. It turned out the battery was simply placed at the wrong end of the polarity. By the time I got back to the road I was passing by stationary motorbike riding marshals which got me into thinking there were still indeed other runners behind me. At around the 10th kilometer I learned that I was the 61st runner to have passed the AS. The news came as a shock as I didn’t saw that many runners pass me by but then again when I stopped I couldn’t see the right side of the road which was not lighted well. When I resumed my run I suddenly felt my legs becoming heavier and was having difficulty maintaining running so I resorted to what would have Murakami condemn me in hell for, I walked. It was becoming apparent with me that I was experiencing fatigue at this early juncture of the race. Somewhere at the middle of the 20th kilometer I passed by four runners who were sleeping at the porch of a sari-sari store. I even got to overtake another runner in spite of my pace. I thought I had covered so much already that when I reached an Aid Station located in Toledo City I thought it was the 40th kilometers already. It turned out it was just the 33rd. My spirit dropped and my exhaustion fed my frustration. At that time I was no longer convinced I could finish the first 50 kilometers in 6 and a half hours as distance seem to dragged on. I reached the 49th kilometers in Balamban which double as the drop bag area for the 105k runners and starting area for the 55k which had just gotten out as I was coming in. My time was 8 hours and a half. I learned that one of the foreign participants of the 105k had dropped the race upon reaching Balamban. Another one, a young runner of 18 from Samar had quitted the race at kilometer 33. At this point I was still pretty much hopeful of finishing the race as I saw there were other runners from the 105k that had not left the area yet, while there were those who were just arriving. But as I left Balamban and hit the road I felt the sun was pouring its searing hot rays upon the road like it was angry or something. I have not made it yet to about 500 meters and already I felt tapped out. I tried to quench the fatigue with liquids from the stores along the way but nothing seem to wear the feeling off. I thought to myself I made it out of Mayon 360 without surrendering to the hot temperature surely this heat could also be surmountable. The route was basically rolling. Each uphill I encounter was sapping me out of my precious resolve to go on. Other runners were beginning to appear from behind me. They were actually encouraging me to go on when at some point I mentioned I might not be able to finish the race. Then when I managed to gather the five of them up in a waiting shed I had groupie shot with them with my phone camera. This was my first time to bring along a “selfie stick” to hold my cellular phone so I can take photos with it. My original plan was to document this portion of the race. It turned out that the two photographs and a couple of selfies along the road were my only proof I ran in this event. On the way to Canson X Resort probably the 57th kilometer there was a good Samaritan from the resort who handed out cold water to drink. Another runner from behind me caught up with us. The time at this point was nearing 10:00 in the morning. I remember taking this portion last year at around 7:30 am. This uphill led to another series of uphill which had the view of the sea and Negros Island at the backdrop. This then lead to a DPWH Station that doubled as Aid Station. I was taking this road on an inch by inch pace so, I calculated that even if I managed to push myself to go on beyond this portion I might finish the race beyond the cut-off time of 24 hours. But even this would not be bad. What actually made me accepted my fate that quitting was inevitable was that I know how difficult the remaining route was. I was trying to match the other uphill with what I felt my body was giving at that time and it was a resounding mismatch. At that point I was just trying to get to the DPWH Station so that I can formally retire from the race, have refreshments and get picked up by the organizer. However, upon reaching the Station there were no refreshments left, the only person waiting there was the Station’s keeper and worst, no possible pick up since the organizers couldn’t be contacted with except by sending SMS message. Even quitting was not given to me on a silver platter. I spotted another runner approaching the Station. Together we tried to make it to the 62nd kilometers where another Aid Station awaits. It was the Aid Station at the mouth of a detour that would take runners to the site of the plane crash where President Magsaysay died. The temperature dropped a bit and even threatened to rain. I felt that I was being lured to abandon my desire to quit the race even though I already sent a message that I was quitting and I was at the DPWH Station.  After all if it took me 11 hours to reach the 60 kilometers 13 hours to accomplish the remaining 45 kilometers may still prove to be viable. About 500 meters before reaching the 62nd kilometers rescue came in the guise of a white van. I leaped for joy when I saw it and quickly ran to it leaving behind the other runner. At about 1:00 pm I was at the finish area at Busay Multi-purpose Hall having lunch. The agony of defeat would have been lessen if only I had a chance to leave the venue early but I was not spared of the humiliation of seeing almost everyone finish the race and being seen by them because my baggage was not yet brought back to the finish area until the late afternoon, a sort of adding salt to injury.

 

In spite of my quite a pole away from Murakami’s running accomplishments I still felt a certain kinship with him. I also view running as a metaphor of life. My failures at finishing a race were much similar with how it is with my life. I am not as accomplished as Murakami. I fail a great deal yet I never allow these failures to discourage me from joining another event. The same thing I told the young runner from Samar who quitted ahead of me and whom I road with at the van. He was so angry with his quitting that he said he doesn’t want to run anymore. He is just 18 year old.  A whole life is still ahead of him.   I couldn’t beat Murakami’s finish time even if at the present at his age of 67 if he still does runs he could still make me eat his dust. However, I can still top his probably around 34 marathon finish medals which he earned with his 1 marathon a year. In spite of being slow I currently have 27 marathon finish medals tucked under my belly, I mean belt, which means 27 successful tries. I may not be as good as Murakami but in my own struggles I still do prevail. That I think is the more important aspect of running a marathon. Come the following week I will again attempt to capture a medal in the 40th National Milo Marathon which I tried to avoid joining because of the cut-off time of 6 hours. But if I did it once maybe I can still do it again so that this could assuage my defeat at TCU105 which I was promising I would not return to again.

 

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