Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Shortest Distance

“The marathon is a charismatic event. It has everything. It has drama. It has competition. It has camaraderie. It has heroism. Every jogger can’t dream of being an Olympic champion, but he can dream of finishing a marathon.” – Fred Lebow

I finished the Cebu City Marathon in 5:11:13 (official time) or 36 minutes faster than my first marathon time of 5:47set last October at the QCIM.

This was enough to land me in 17th place in a field of 31 women and 191st overall out of 394 runners male and female.

With Coach Precing Capangpangan

Giving up my humba and other porky stuff, switching to vegetarian food, being ten pounds lighter (from 132 lbs. at QCIM to 121 lbs. at CCM) and swimming at least a kilometer every other day really did pay off. Plus, I'm beginning to master the negative split, which Coach Precing and I have been working on for the last three months.

But my biggest story of marathon triumph is about one of the last four guys who crossed the finish line that day – my husband Eugene.

Eugene and I are hardly ever together in the same place. We’ve been married for a little over three years now, but if we count the number of days we’ve been together it won’t reach 365.

It is not true what the cliché says about distance making the heart grow fonder. Instead, time and distance can erode affection and the lack of shared experience can make strangers of two people, more so when you have little in common to begin with. We were in trouble and just about ready to give up.

Eugene has no love for running. To him, running means covering two miles or 3.2 kilometers of ground space in 18 minutes, which is the minimum requirement in the military’s physical fitness test.

So it was a big surprise when after dragging him to Coach Jim Saret’s lecture at the CCM running clinic, he registered for the 42K instead of the original plan of running only 5K while I do my second marathon.

On the day we registered, my training was peaking while Eugene only had 3K runs to speak of.

MF: It’s just a month and a half away. There’s not enough time for training.

Eugene : I can do this. There’s no cut-off.

MF: 42K isn’t 2 miles.

Eugene : Kaya yan.

MF: You could die you know.

Eugene : I’ve done a 5-hour foot march carrying a 30-pound backpack. I can do this.

MF: Why do you want to do the full marathon? You never liked running.

Eugene : Because I want to understand you. I’m doing this for you.

I continued to train in Cebu while Eugene ran inside his military camp in Samar. I finished three 32k's, his longest run was only one 21K. I knew it was folly but he would not listen.

We agreed to run the race, but at different paces. The plan was for me to come back for him at the Fuente Osmena circle and escort him in the final six kilometers -- almost like running an ultra. Eugene's general race day plan was to run right behind Twinkle Ignacio. It is Sinulog after all and surely, the race officials will wait for the only runner carrying the image of the Sto. Nino.

On race day I put money in his pocket in case of a DNF and he would need a ride home. At the starting line we met Raffy Osumo who is a sports columnist for The Freeman and the resident running consultant at Runnr Cebu. Raffy injured his back three weeks before race day and he needed to run slow. Raffy and Eugene became fast friends and paced each other.

I was on pace throughout the race and crossed the finishline strong after sprinting the last 200 meters. But the seven hills and one flyover in the last seven (7) kilometers of the 42K route took whatever I had left in the tank and could no longer run back for Eugene. I decided to wait and figured, Eugene will probably finish between 6:00 to 6:30.

I met my best friend Mary and her husband John at the finishline. They both ran the 5K race and decided to wait with me. The clock kept ticking - 6:00, 6:15, 6:25. Twinkle already crossed the finishline still there was no sign of Eugene and Raffy.

As the last of the 6-hour marathoners crossed the finishline, I became worried sick. I kept thinking, why did I let him run the race severely under trained? How could I have forgotten to write my contact numbers in case of emergency at the back of his bib? Why didn't I let him bring a cellphone? People have died in the marathon sparing not even the best trained of elite runners (think: Ryan Shay).

The wait seemed interminable and as the timer ticked 7:00, I was real scared and crying at the finishline. Coach Rio's team was already dismantling the chip timing device. Members of the CERC like Raffy Uytiepo, Jasmin and John Pages, Perl and Jacs Jacalan, Judge Gabby Ingles, Annie Neric and Nica, Andrew and Jane Ong, were all there waiting for the last man to arrive and were worried for Raffy Osumo who was running with an injured back.

At 7:05, Joel Juarez, the lead motorcycle marshall appeared and told us the last four runners were at JY Square. "Did you find my husband? Puti iyang singlet, kuyog sila Raffy?" Joel said Yes.

I cried again, only this time, from sheer and utter relief. The clearest thought that was running through my head was that if Eugene died that day running a marathon for me, I would be totally heartbroken and would never recover. You know what they say, 'you don't know what you got till it's gone'.

Soon, Raffy and Eugene appeared running hand in hand at the last 300 meters. Everyone was clapping. As I stood there waiting for Eugene to cross the finishline it was as if a cloud had lifted and I was seeing him clearly for the first time.

Raffy and Eugene crossed the finishline together at 7:10:15 (official time). Eugene had cramps as early as KM 14 and again at KM 18. They ran and walked the rest of the way where they met rookie runners Cliff Abraham and Rex Wagas who were hobbling because they were wearing new shoes on race day! Eugene and Raffy found their second wind at KM 35, but refused to leave behind Cliff and Rex, who were the last two to cross at 7:20:59.

Eugene and I ran and conquered the longest route at the Cebu City Marathon. Although we ran at different paces and for different reasons, we never dreamed that the Mt. Everest of running, would turn out to be the shortest distance in finding our way back home.

All those 26.2 miles became the shortest distance between Eugene's heart and mine. Everything else was forgiven.

Eugene and I are a work in progress, and we realize that we need to work harder than most. The words commitment, perseverance and sacrifice best describe not just what it takes to train for the marathon, but also what it takes to keep any relationship going.

His first marathon experience made him appreciate the hardwork invested by runners for training, and so Eugene vows to be better prepared (listen to the wife more) and shave at least two hours from his current personal record. We agreed that although we will be training separately for our next race -- the Real Berlin Marathon in September, we will do this together.

My practice continues to keep me bound here in Cebu and Eugene's obligation to God and country will continue to keep him away from home. As for time and distance, it will hopefully be nothing more than a reading on a GPS watch.

With Raffy Osumo, Mary and John Lood

Photo credits: Crestina Boholst, Marlen Del Mar-Limpag, Michael Enriquez, Mary Valero-Lood


run unlimited said...

Great story, one of a kind. Yours was a perfect story of what running and marathoning bring to each individual and affect lives. Truly inspirational, congratulations.

Vener - run unltd.

Anonymous said...

Hi Haids, what a great story you wrote. I was so touched when you talked about your husband. How worried you were about him running his first 42K. Honestly, it made me cry. Keep up the good work & good luck to you both. This is one of the bonds that can make your marriage stronger.


Marathon Foodie said...

Thank you Vener!

This post was very difficult to write and share, but it's a story that needs telling.


Raymund Reel Bontol said...

Really Nice Haids.... Inspirational. COngratulations to both of you...

tapots said...

awwwww. this post left me teary eyed...

Anonymous said...


The CCM was truly a successful event. I'm so proud to be a Cebuano and finished my first 21K in this race.

Congrats on your 2nd Marathon, but most of all congrats for winning back your marriage.

Thanks for being so candid and open in your blog even on the personal stuff. I hope your readers who are in the same situation will learn.

Keep on running!


Jane-Jane Ong said...

Congratulations to you Haids and to Eugene! :-) I was very touched seeing you last Sunday waiting for your husband and crying, it made me cry too...Reading your blog now made me cry again...I really admire your perseverance, I know you worked hard to be where you are and I know you will finish with a very good time in the Berlin marathon! Esp since it is a fast course :-)

abby said...

haids, that is one touching story. i'm so happy that running not only made you strong physically but also fixed or mended your relationship. what a great guy you have to have literally walked/ran 42.195 kms to understand you. and what a lucky man he is to have someone waiting and proud for him at the finish line regardless of time. the pictures says it all! now, this one is not a review of the marathon but rather a heartfelt confession of one's love story no matter how flawed it is. i so love your honesty. good luck on your running and your marriage!

Ling said...

Very sweet post!

Anonymous said...

hi haide,

i can see eugene saying this bit in actual conversation - haha : "running means covering two miles or 3.2 kilometers of ground space in 18 minutes."

nice blog by the way! i found your blog while looking for images of kim castro (long story... but clean)

there is a good chance i am in berlin around the time of the Berlin Marathon. kita tayo! lets recharge your running batteries with those german 1-liter beer drinks...


Anonymous said...

What a great story it has been..

Congratulations to you and to your husband!

Long Live the Runners!!!♫♪♫


michelle said...

congratulations on finishing your 2nd marathon! i am so touched by this post on running and marriage. one can run away from a problem or run with perseverance to finish the race set before us - be it in training for a marathon or in keeping our relationships running and in good condition.
keep on keeping on! God bless

Anonymous said...

running a marathon, for that matter running is like living your own fairy tale.it can't all be smooth.you'll have to deal with the demons-wicked stepmothers and wicked stepsisters and big,bad wolves.such is the pain and agony that you'll have to go through before you reach your redemption.

and like in any fairy tale,your jan 10 experience is what they call a happy ending.in the world where we run on and as we know it,we call it the finish line.

hardcore that i am, i am still a sucker for a melodramatic ending like this.

in the end, i hope that your knight in shining armor will share the same passion for running as you do.

what can i say, tissue please?


Anonymous said...

touching story, i hope my wife will run with me soon. congrats mam foodie.

vard said...

nice post, very different from your usual race reviews, but so cheeezy :-) marathon can do wonders

Bro J said...

Congratulations to both of you! Love can really conquer any distance! I salute Eugene! It's a show of how much he really loves you! May the Lord continue to bless your marriage. Keep on running and inspire couples to run together! God bless!

Anonymous said...

Hello Marathon Foodie,

Congratulations to you and Eugene! He literally went "through the extra mile/s" for you

See you on the road!


gerard said...

very inspiring read. it really got me teary eyed.

Ran the marathon too and I think we were beside each other up until entering SRP!

it was a great run indeed.

blurryanthem said...

awww...really touching, teary-eyed ko ng.basa cz nakarelate pud ko ani coz i finished way ahead sa ako bf leaving him behind w/ an injured right knee..

after i finished my 42k in 5:49:45, i waited for my bf to finish coz na.overtekan pud nako xa after 18k pa lang he was already walking and can't run coz injured na iya right knee.. found ma'am foodie there and asked asa na iya husband, and iya tubag was "wala pa lagi ems, na.worry nako " ... i feel the same actually pud dat time for my bf , may nlng by 6:21 niabot pud akong bf ngtakiang.. gitagbo nko sa finish line for a picture told him to run para lang sa picture..nibalibad, di na jd daw kaya mao iya finish picture kay mura ra ng.tindog

congrats again ma'am foodie and sir eugene... ur both stregthened more bec of ur marathon experience , at least now u both have a common passion to share which is running ...Goodluck sa next marathon

alaskarunner said...

Congrats foodie and eugene, love the drama...Take Care

Anonymous said...

Congratulationson on the PR! As my wife would say...Awwww How sweet! with matching tears.

Regards Mark & Tiffin

Anonymous said...

i used to run and loved it, but totally stopped when i had to work in the BPO industry working night shifts. (that was 6 years ago)

i have never run more than 400 meters since then, and i don't actively look for running related articles anymore to read them;

until i chanced upon and read the print version of this blog in yesterdays Sun Star Daily.

i have to tell you, it nearly brought me to tears (and i'm a guy who almost don't cry at all).

your article also inspired me so much that i have decided to take up running once again.

thank you so much for sharing this, however difficult it must have been to write.

nobody said...

Drama...Really.. How I wish my wife will also do this to me...kidding

Anonymous said...

Because I want to understand you. I’m doing this for you. Cheesy line but it works haha. All I see in running is PAIN and PRIDE.

Julius Flores said...

Congratulations to you both! Definitely an impressive accomplishment. The fact that you both found a common bond in the challenges of running makes it doubly sweeter. More power to you both in all your future events - I'm pretty sure there will be more of them featuring your "team". Keep those miles and those smiles coming...

Denise said...

That was a very inspiring post. It brought me to tears.... Running, I think, is my favorite bonding time with my guy.

I hope things work out great in the end for you two.

Leland Pasion said...

Such a beautiful, powerful post! Congratulations to you both!