Perhaps, a lot of people will just shrug it off and say EVERYBODY can RUN. And they would even cite an example; one man with only one leg can even finish a marathon! Wait. True enough, we all can run. But not an ultra marathon. Truth is, an ULTRA RUN is not just an Ultra Run.
The year was 2014, during Masskara Festival, when I realized Ultra running is not just for people with two strong legs.
Gun time was 2AM, Sunday. I went out of the office at 4PM so I can sleep and gather enough strength I need. How much strength? That I cannot accurately answer. The plan was to wake up at 12 midnight. I was so ready for sleep to come. Lights off. AC blasting. Complete silence. Thirty minutes after, I was still awake and alert. I was what the song of John Farnham described, “I toss and turn. Can’t sleep at night. It’s worrying me.” I patiently extended the wait for Sleep to finally arrive but another 30 minutes passed, I was fully aware of how many turns I have made in my bed. So I grabbed the TV remote control and turned on the set. Now Showing: MMK. That hooked me more to alertness. I finished it without difficulty. And yes, I did not sleep before the run. Time check: 12 Midnight. I rolled out of bed and prepared myself for insanity. For the craziest adventure ever!
Start - Capitol lagoon. Oh boy, while my cab was rolling its wheels in the city, envy crept in my body. From my seat, I can see happiness through my window. While for me, soon I will set off on a journey of the unknown. That moment when choosing is too late. No turning back. The cab cannot enter Lacson Street, so I unloaded at the back of Mcdo. I grabbed a cup of brewed coffee. At 1AM, I was the odd in a multitude of people. While they were dressed for a street party, I was in my Black New Balance Shorts, yellow Yonex Shirt, and my Neon Green K Swiss shoes. I almost wanted to hide myself. But as I looked around, I can see the apathy of people, so that help erased the awkwardness.
Time check: 2AM. I pinched my arm. Yes, this is so real. I readied myself, physically. Stretching, jogging in place, and praying. My heart’s beating became erratic when I heard the bang! I ran. Very slow. Slowly. I was in a group in the first 10 kilometers. It made me smile because at 2AM, we have an audience around. And of course, with people’s eyes on you, you run, not walk. Or else, they will have something to say. After the 15th kilometer, the separation of the best, better, good, and not-so-good runners, became obvious. Where do I belong? I am not saying. Ha! Ha!
I did not know, some parts of the road we traversed did not have street lights. And there were no houses around. Only sugarcane in both sides. With nothing to see on the road, I just prayed, I cannot step on shits, sharp objects, and snakes. We arrived in Murcia Public Plaza, still very dark, but sweating profusely. We stopped to catch our breath, and indulged in boiled bananas and water. As much as we wanted to stay longer and fill our tummies, this we know we cannot afford. The finish line was very expensive. The running continued. Until we reached Mambukal. This came in as good news; 30 kilometers conquered. The other side of the equation brought in the no-so-good-news; 20 kilometers to go. Keep the faith. Keep the sanity. Keep running. The day already ushered some light and so we thought of having breakfast. It was timely that we found a decent restaurant which was still closed when we arrived. Time check: 6AM. Their signage says, “WE open at 7AM”. We did not give up. We shouted, “Tagbalay!” And perhaps with the way we look, the owner, with alertness, opened the gate of the restaurant. We gave ourselves the treat our bodies greatly deserved. So we had full breakfast – we ordered fish tinola. Time ticked so fast when we are not on the road. Ha! Ha! The full breakfast took one hour. The walking and running continued while the sun revealed its might fiercely as the day progressed. We reached Kipot bridge and indulged in their famous brewed coffee (made famous because of the socks as filter. Who’s socks? Ha! Ha!).
The elevation was becoming more painful. Although, the prize is, it’s getting colder. You cannot have it all, as they say. We marched and marched the long and winding road of La Carlota. That last 8 kilometer stretch was perhaps the most challenging part of the run. That was the mental and psychological attack. When your body is already very, very tired, the decision to give up becomes as easy as 1,2, 3 or A, B, C. And this separates what ultra runners understand. An Ultra run is not just an Ultra run. When we ask residents along the way, some would say, “Just Continue, You’re Near”. This is good news to our ears. But others would ruin that by saying, “Are you losing your mind? That is way too far.” Some would even insult us by giving us coins so we could ride instead. Now the decision to listen or just shrug it off is in your hands. To finish or not to finish. That is the question. The Chinese proverb is correct when it said, a slow steady action is more important than standing still. We walked. And walked. Even in our power naps, we were walking! We should be moving. Because it is the only way to get to the finish line.