Today was a big race day in the Metro--Unilab's Run for Wellness was held at the Fort, Run Against the Elements at Ateneo, and of course, the Bataan Death March Ultramarathon for the hardcore runners. I chose to run The Amazing Kidney Race (TAKR) at UP, primarily because it's not often that I get to run where I train, and because the P350 registration fee doesn't break the bank. So, how did it the race fare compared to the larger, more expensive events?
TAKR was not without hiccups. Yesterday, an update was posted online informing runners that an extra hundred slots have been opened for on-site registration from 4:00 AM to 5:15 AM. Good news for my uncle, who wanted to join the race but was unable to sign up before the February 28 deadline. At 4:15 AM, my cousin, his dad and I were at the starting line where all we found aside from a truck with a generator parked close to six portalets were people still setting up booths. There were plenty of young volunteers at the area whom we asked to point us to the right direction but they were just as clueless about the on-site registration as we were. At 5 AM, someone taped a piece of paper with the word "REGISTRATION" printed on it to one of the booths, quickly prompting people to line up in two lanes: one for those claiming their race packets, and another for on-site registration. At this point, people were already being vocal about their displeasure. This was exacerbated by an announcement saying the starting gun time has been moved from 5:45 AM to 6:15 AM. Obviously, the way things were going, there was no way the race could have started in time. "Anyway, it's shaded here in UP" the announcer continued; as if that would appease people who have been waiting there since 4 AM. I can only imagine how frazzled the organizers were, having to deal with issues which should not even have existed such as having no safety pins for the bibs (this was resolved later on).
The sun was already out by the time the hosts got up on stage for the pre-race niceties, punctuated with a speech from one of the doctors who thanked everyone from the organizers to her kumares. I told my cousin not to worry, and that once the race starts everyone will forget about all these issues. In lieu of a gun shot or a horn, a countdown was initiated by the hosts to mark the start of the 15K Eliminator and Relay Race.
KM 0 - KM 7.5
My cousin and I have spent weeks training in UP prior to the race and ran the race route (in the way we interpreted it) a few times. We've been able to make the 45-minute cut off at the 7.5-kilometer mark during our training runs, so we were quite confident about our approach. Running up University Avenue, it soon became evident that the roads were not closed for the race and instead of race cones and traffic policemen, there were two young volunteers directing traffic at the intersection. It comes as no surprise that some motorists chose to ignore their traffic directions, resulting to runners playing real-life Frogger.
I was running at a 5:30 clip and wanted to maintain a sub-6 pace for at least the first half in order to make it to the halfway point in 45 minutes or less. Entering the university oval, I saw the first water station, manned by one young lady who either just got there, or thought it best to fill the cups with water only when a runner comes up to the water station. The water wasn't cold, but hey, it's water. It's better than running with a parched throat.
On the right turn to Katipunan I spotted Bards of BananaRunning and had a brief chat with her about her run with Haile recently. She said she remembers me from my blog, which I think is pretty cool. I bid her goodbye, and ran up C.P. Garcia road to chuck a u-ey (that's 'Strayan for "Make a U-turn") at a point which turned out to be closer than the one we've been running to during training. Fine with me. On my way back I saw my cousin Alvin followed by his dad about a couple hundred meters back, both still looking strong.
Entering UP, I took a look at my watch and saw I'm in a comfortable position to reach the 7.5K marker in less than 45 minutes. I made it there in 41.
KM 7.5 - 15
I find that one of the difficulties of running a loop race is the mental drain of thinking that you have to do that same loop for X more laps to finish the race. While the familiarity may be beneficial, exhaustion causes your brain to turn into a nagging whinger. Fortunately, I was somehow able to avert this scenario by focusing on the road ahead. Nothing changed except it seemed that more people have been falling back, and that I was catching up to some runners who were ahead of me at the first lap. Cups full of water were now ready on the water stations; something I was very thankful for as the sun has was making its presence felt.
With the lack of cones and minimal kilometer markers, combined with the usual throng of runners on a Sunday at UP, it felt as if I was on a training run if not for the bib pinned to my shirt and the turnaround bands on my wrist. Good thing the volunteers at the turn points have now become more vocal, cheering us on and throwing encouragement our way. Making my second U-turn at C.P. Garcia I paused for a couple of seconds to drink, then quickly made my way back up Katipunan, seeing my cousin who was about three minutes behind me. Rounding my final turn, one of the volunteers was yelling "You can do it!" but not in the classic Rob Schneider tone. I asked her for a high five and she happily obliged.
There's a downward slope on the right turn to the university oval which did wonders for recovery. At the final couple hundred meters, I ran past two runners--one of them a mere 20 meters from the finish whom I chose to run after anyway. I crossed the line ahead of him only to find out he couldn't be officially clocked in because he had no turnaround bands with him (there were about five through the entire race). The mad sprint to the finish made me forget about stopping my watch, which displayed my unofficial 15K race time as 1:23:36; a time I'm quite happy with.
After a quick drink and a sampling of a power bar, I went back up the road to look for my cousin Alvin. I ran with him along the final stretch and watched him sprint up the finish to cross the line at 1:33. We did the same for his dad, who ran his own pace and looked strong at the finish, which he crossed at around 2:05. This is my cousin's first race, and while the start leaves much to be desired, at the end of it he was all smiles at his achievement.
Congratulations to everyone who joined The Amazing Kidney Race!