I mentioned that one reason I signed up for the Yakult 10-miler run was to see if one can stage a good running event at a low registration fee. I have to say that, in the end, Rudy Biscocho and the Yakult team had proven that you don’t need thousand peso registration fees to come up with a satisfying experience. Runners need not fear that low registration fees mean low quality events.
I arrived at the scene at 4:30 am, one hour before the start time. I like arriving early—it is less stressful and I have more time to warm up, stretch, do the essential biological duties, and relax before the gun fires. And I liked it that there was a dearth of sponsors. There were no booths, no kiosks, no shills handing out pamphlets. Other running events had an entire parking lot devoted to sponsors, but for this Yakult event, the organizers crammed everything in about a hundred meter stretch of road. All I saw was canopies for baggage plus about two or three other spots which turned out to be for hydration and freebies (more on the freebies later).
I liked it that there were no movie or TV personalities. The host was no voice-talent, definitely not some radio show disk jockey. There was no humongous LCD screen. There was no celebrity “athlete” to lead the warm-up. And refreshingly the organizer, Rudy Biscocho, gave a very low-key speech, crediting not himself nor whatever outfit he is connected to, but instead mentioning the Yakult organizers, tipping his hat to two Philippine team athletes who had graced the event, and highlighting the longevity of the Yakult 10-miler run.
The race started at 5:27 am. I was at the back of the pack, so I spent the first few hundreds of meters weaving through groups of runners. I went intonthis event planning for a fast run. I’ve been taking a lot of easy runs for the past few weeks and I wanted to push myself. I wanted to teeter on the brink of total exhaustion, testing my mental fortitude. I figured that I had to run no slower than a 6-minute kilometer pace, maybe even a 5:30 towards the end. If all went according to plan, I should end up besting my previous record of 1:33. The route was geared for a fast pace—99% of the run was along the straight-away of Roxas Boulevard, where I could blank my mind and “zone-out” whatever fatigue I would experience. The one thing I also like about running along Roxas Boulevard is that it also gives good GPS accuracy. There are no tall buildings nor any curves and turns that screw up GPS signals.
But at the 1-kilometer marker, the GPS accuracy was amiss. My Garmin watch registered 1.1 kilometers. That discrepancy slowly increased until it was almost 500 meters off. At around the 3-kilomter mark, my GPS was registering 3.5 kilomters. I grew concerned. According to my GPS watch, my pace was steady, hardly breaking 6-minutes, all according to plan, and I was at that zone where the pace wasn’t too easy nor was it too hard; but it meant that I was actually running slower than my planned pace! So I pushed harder to make it up. It was comforting to know that, somewhere after the 4-kilometer marker, the discrepancy remained steady at 500 meters, which meant that my pace was steady. At the 8-kilometer marker, the halfway point, my Garmin still registered 8.5 kilometers, and my time was 50 minutes, so I was expecting a time of 1:40, which would have been a disappointment for me. Still I was optimistic. I could still crank the speed up a notch.
Now here’s the funny part. Just as I crossed T. M. Kalaw entering the Luneta complex, the marker showed 11 kilometers. My mind screamed “5 kilometers to go” so I picked up the pace. I expected to see the 12-kilometer marker just after the final U-turn, but the next marker showed 13 kilometers. I was puzzled. What happened to the 12-kilometer marker? I looked at my GPS watch. It showed 12.5 kilometers! So suddenly I was running a faster pace! I saw that my time was 1:13, so assuming I maintained a 6-minute pace, I should finish 1:31! Maybe the marker was wrong, I told myself. But when I saw the 14-kilometer marker, I knew that I was enroute to a PR.
My mind went into competitive mode. Suddenly everyone in front of me was a target for the overtaking. I also swore that I would avoid being overtaken. I began to feel the beginnings of a side stitch, which was good because I really wanted to grit my teeth and bear it for the final 2 kilometers. A runner tried matching my pace and we ran side-by-side, stride-by-stride, for a few meters before he gave up and sank behind me. At the final turn, there were two runners ahead of me and I sprinted. Pride probably got into one of them and he refused to be beaten but in the end he also slowed down.
I clicked the stop button on my Garmin when I crossed the finish line. My watch showed 1:28, a new PR. I was elated. I was tired but not exhausted. My legs were heavy but not deathly fatigued. I walked without hobbling. The only caveat here was that my watch showed a distance of 15:4 kilometers, but if was comforting to know that even if I add 3 minutes to my time, it would still be a new PR. The thought that crossed my mind was: can I now break 2 hours at the 21K?
Needless to say I enjoyed this race. I enjoyed this race more than the more expensive Runrio-organized events. There were less distractions in the Yakult event. The atmosphere was focused on running and less on the social aspects and the fanfare. The fact that this was a PATAFA-sanctioned run, graced by the presence of two national team runners, added to the allure that this was a serious run. The only freebies I got was a single Yakult bottle and a T-shirt. Not that I am complaining. I don’t put much weight on the freebies anyway.
And, what’s more important, the organizers have released the results within just a few hours!
No event is perfect. Here were some things I didn’t like with the run:
- Due to the several repairs being undertaken, many portions were not well-paved. It isn’t a big issue for me, and it was fortunate that I decided to try out my new NB Minimus running shoes and not resort to my usual Vibrams Five Fingers. If I had used the latter, I am sure I would have felt all those rough spots! I pity those who had opted to run barefoot.
- There were portions which were cordoned off which I considered to be safety hazards. Also, I spotted hollow blocks on the ground, which would have caused some serious injury if someone tripped over them.
- The hydration stations, though adequate in number, were not adequately manned. As a result, you could see those manning the stations frantically pouring water to fill the cups. I wonder if they ran out of water.
- Because Roxas Boulevard is a major thoroughfare, I could smell the carbon monoxide and the diesel fumes.
- And talking about stench, there was a stretch were I got a whiff of what was probably horse manure.
And, as I mentioned above, this was a run that is skewed less on the “fun” and more on the “run.” The organized truly focused on what was essential in a running event.