Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Confessions of a Late Bloomer

On 19th July 2009, St. Theresa’s College Alumnae Association (STAA) hosted a fun run – a first in this convent school’s history.

My alma mater was never known for its sports program. In fact, we only had soccer-baseball, softball and volleyball once a year during intramurals.

Now it makes me wonder why, despite having such a spacious campus in uptown Cebu City, the ICM nuns never thought of having tennis, running or swimming as part of a convent girl’s sports training. This is ironic since STC has through the years taken pride in molding strong Christian women leaders.

A strong sports program would have honed discipline and competitiveness among the convent girls and running would have been a good outlet for those who could not make the cut in the team sports.

I remember how I desperately wanted to be a part of the soccer-baseball team but could not make the cut. Perhaps it was because I was way too thin then and because I was not friends with the girls on the team. Or maybe because I was so T-H as in trying hard, and T-H, in any generation, is never cool in high school.

I tried to ingratiate myself by begging my dad to buy a professional-grade leather soccer ball. I thought maybe they would finally let me in the soccer team with my shiny new Mikasa.

Fat chance.

Despite the new ball, the Marathon Foodie, then a gung-ho wannabe soccer player was to be left out of sports for the rest of her growing-up years at STC.

But fifteen (15) years after high school graduation, the Marathon Foodie (H.S. ’94, Coll. ’98) came back with a vengeance and what a homecoming it was. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

At five in the morning of Sunday, my sister Arlene (H.S. ’95) and best friend Mary Valero (H.S. ‘94, Coll. ’98) car-pooled to the race venue. Like true blue Theresians we complained, in so many words, about the regulation singlets (the way we always complained about the regulation blue and white uniforms in high school and College) and how unflattering and huge it made us all look.

Mary decided to chuck it altogether after she was given the wrong size, while I decided to debut the Marathon Foodie’s new signature race look -- running skirt and matching shirt. Arlene, who never got into any kind of trouble in high school, was the only one who stuck it out with the singlet.

Until the last minute I was undecided whether to run in the 5K open and compete with the pros like Mary Grace Delos Santos or run the 3K category and compete with STC alumnae and the current crop of high school and college Theresians. I decided to run the 3K because there was absolutely no way that the Marathon Foodie could win over Mary Grace Delos Santos and I desperately wanted to win!

Unsure whether I chose the right battle, I surveyed the 3K runners and did not see Millet Chiongbian nor Perl Jacalan. Triathlete Amale Mendezona-Jopson was running in the 5K category so I felt relieved. Then I realized that the biggest threat to my dreams of a podium finish would come from the much younger contenders – girls 16 to 25 years old. Girls who were lighter, faster, healthier and probably have yet to have their hearts broken. I told my BFF Mary that I suddenly felt so old. She then asked -- “Why, did you come here to win?” The Marathon Foodie replied – “Absolutely.”

The starting gun for the 3K run went off and true enough, the younger girls sprinted so fast that they managed to cover 100 meters even with just 5 seconds into the race. As I navigated towards the first of four hills of the 3K route (in front of National Bookstore on Mango Ave.), I saw a dozen girls 200 meters ahead of me and I felt crushed. There was no way I could beat them. But you know what the cliché says – it ain’t over till it’s over.

Madelyn Carter, the back to back champion of the Cebu leg of the Milo 21K, met me at the Caltex Station across Jollibee Mango. The week before, Madz promised to be my pacer at the STC run. She said she needed to do her recovery jog before plunging into serious training the following week. So Madz Carter’s slow jog was my racing pace! Harhar!

For long distance runners, the problem with running a 3K is this – it doesn’t give you the luxury of starting slow and steady. After the first 800 meters, it should be a fast run all the way to the finish if you want to win the race.

Madz and I overtook a runner at Fuente Osmena. It was a good sign. When we reached the public library I could see the bunch of young girls making a right turn at the Capitol towards Escario. To narrow the gap between myself and the bunch of runners ahead of us, Madz and I did maximum bursts of 50 meter sprints and steady runs of 25 meters.

We ran this way until we reached Maxwell Hotel on Escario Street. Then we saw the bunch of girls stopping by the water station across Grand Hotel, we sprinted past them and never looked back. Another three girls were panting their way up the hill across the Camputhaw Brgy. Hall – the 2nd of four inclines in the race. The girls were visibly spent and there was still a mile to go.

One by one we overtook the girls who were either slowing down to a jog or were just walking from sheer exhaustion. Madz and I were still running strong. I was drooling from exertion on both sides of the mouth but I did not even bother to wipe the spit. I had to win this race no matter what.

The 3rd hill, which was the most difficult incline of the 3K route was the one in front of Iglesia Ni Kristo. Although it was just 600 meters from the finish line, this hill prevented us from sprinting to the finish. At last there was no one else in front of me except Elmer Bartolo who was going to be the first male in the 5K category.

Madz and I made our way up the last hill up STC’s Mango gate driveway. I saw the finish line and I couldn’t hear anything else except the race marshal telling me to go to the left shute for the 3K.

I won the race. First place in the 3K STC category. Even if I had decided to run and compete in the 3K open I would have placed second which isn’t bad either. But I wanted to take home the champion’s trophy not the runner’s up.

What did I learn today?

First, it takes more than brute force to win a race. In order to win, it also takes savvy, strategy, technique and an intimate familiarity with your own limitations as a runner – a wisdom that can only be gained from hours and hours spent running on the road.

Second, I learned that it is both lonely and eerily quiet at the front of the pack. Apart from Madelyn’s prompting for me to run faster, there was no other sound. There was no other runner to say hello to and cheer on. A single-minded pursuit to win against a pack of competitors can be a lonely endeavor.

Third, and not least of all, I realized that as a kid I may not have had the chance to play sports even if I desperately wanted to because I did not belong; but as an adult, I have proven that age, health, time and monetary considerations are no barriers to the pursuit of the great sport running. I know I should have started when I was much younger and more limber, but just like in real life, true love can be found sometimes so late in the game.

I could not possibly do a review about the organizers handling of the race logistics and marshaling. One of the true tests of a well organized race is how the organizers deal with the runners and walkers at the end of the pack for they are the usual victims of water stations running out of water or intersection marshals that are missing in action.

From my own perspective, it was a good race. Not only did I win, I also got to spend the morning with my sister Arlene a new convert to running, my BFF Mary and the famous Cattski Espina (Coll. ’97) of the band Cattski.

We were laughing and reminiscing and celebrating our individual victories of finishing yet another race.

Suddenly we were young again, even for just a day.

Photo credit: The photo of Marathon Foodie with Madelyn Carter is by Amper Campana. It appeared in the July 20, 2009 issue of Sun Star Daily Cebu. Thanks to Sun Star Editor and fellow runner Max Limpag for allowing me to grab this photo from FB


Anonymous said...

Congrats Ms. Haids. Mura man ni ug Revenge of the Nerds! Hahaha!

Marathon Foodie said...

Thank you Anon 6:58! Indeed I was a total Geekoid in school. But I had a great time in school nonetheless. =)