I ran my first 3k with my friends at work who were then newbie runners just like me. We ran at the NatGeo Earth Run just for fun. I wasn’t really a runner. In fact, I only trained for the 3k race my friends and I participated in about two weeks before the event. I thought 3k was just a short distance. But I was so wrong! It was the longest 3k I’ve ever run! In between running and walking, I kept praying to God to give me the strength to cross the finish line intact. Hardly able to catch my breath, I finished the race in more than 35 minutes. The one who won 3rd place in that race was a lanky 12-year-old girl who clocked in 13 minutes! Wow! I could probably run that fast when I was her age! Just wishful thinking though!
I may have struggled to finish my first 3k race, but that didn’t stop me from running again. In fact, my friends and I signed up for the next race with the firm resolve to train properly this time. True enough, we trained harder and ran more regularly than before. A few more 3k, 5k, and 10k races, we signed up for a 21k (half marathon), about six months from our first 3k.
It was October 28, 4:15 a.m. My friends and I were standing anxiously at the starting line waiting for the gun start at 4:30 a.m. It was a rather cold morning, but I guess everyone was burning with excitement and that was enough to keep us all warm. We were in the middle of the pack along a group of runners who intend to finish the race in 2 hours 30 minutes. We were provided with a pacer to make sure we run within the pace for a 2:30 finish time.
A few minutes after we did our warm-up exercises, the countdown begins. “Five, four, three, two, one! Good luck runners! And off we ran…excitedly but with a steady pace. Me? I just waddled my way through the flat course in the 1st through 7th kilometers, and then comes the flyover! Argh! Am I ready for this? It was just about 2k of uphill and downhill course, but it felt I just ran a 10k! What a relief when we reached the end of the flyover! Time to catch my breath!
A few more kilometers of running on a flat course and then we’re back again on the flyover…Oh no! Here we go again! By this time, we were about 9k away from the finish line, and we were behind by 10 minutes on our target finish time. The confidence I had at the starting line was now replaced by fears. What if I pass out in the middle of the race? What if my legs can’t carry me anymore through the finish line? By this time, I was already alternately walking and running. I may have ran so slow since I couldn’t find our pacer. I was separated from the group. I was running on my own now and I was fighting my mind not to quit. It was this time that I stopped running with my legs and I started running with my heart.
2k away from finish line. Almost there! But it seemed so far away! Runners who finished ahead of me were cheering me and the other runners. Some offered water. Some even ran along with us while encouraging us to keep on running.
500 meters away from the finish line. I could already hear from the loud speaker bib numbers being called out announcing those who crossed the finish line. I could see the finish line now. It looked so near and yet so far! More runners were now cheering us while we approach the finish line. I felt my knees started to wobble. I wanted to stop, but I was so close. Almost there. I wanted to crawl my way through the finish line, but I need to finish strong no matter what so I continued to run though rather slowly now than my initial pace. It was the longest 500 meters I ever ran! Finally, I reached the finish line. Exhausted but happy, I claimed my finisher’s medal. Now, I am a certified runner!
I clocked in 2 hours 34 minutes. Not so bad for a newbie runner on its first half marathon!
Fast forward five years after that race…I have run a couple of 21k’s and longer distances. I ran, stopped running, then back to running again. I could not forget my first half marathon, the joy and pride I felt crossing that finish line. It was all worth the effort of waking up early for a run or going for a run after work and long runs during weekends or on my rest days.
Now, after a hysterectomy and a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) six months ago, I’m ready to conquer the road again. Will I be ready for another 21k? We’ll see.