10K at the 41st Milo Marathon in Manila

Originally, I did not want to join a race during the rainy season because I knew that I would have a difficult time training outdoors. However, because of a surprising turn of events, I found myself randomly registering a month ago for the 41st Milo Marathon in Manila today.

It all started when I couldn’t close the buttons of my top after eating a heavy lunch in the office last month. I told my colleagues about it and we all laughed and teased myself because we knew that I wasn’t physically fit anymore. Interestingly, that same day, I received an email about the online registration for the Milo run. I took it as a sign for me to get back to shape. So, I prayed about it and asked God to make it clear to me that day, if I should join the race today.

The only requirements for the registration are the fee and an empty bag of Milo powder, specifically the bag that weighs 300 grams. The registration closest to me was located near our office and near a grocery store. I told God that if He really wanted me to join this, He would provide a 300g bag of Milo powder that night. It’s funny because as soon as I entered the grocery store and saw the section where Milo was kept, there were numerous bags of Milo that weighed 220g, 390g, and 600g. However, there was only ONE bag of Milo that weighed 300g! It was as if it and I were destined for each other. Hahaha.

So, that same night, I had peace in my heart about running at the event today despite my worries of not being able to adequately train. I only had a month left to train and half of that month either had rainy nights or stormy early mornings. As expected, I was only able to train six times outdoors before the race day. (During my first 10K run, I had eleven trainings before the run.)

Slowly, I felt the worries creep in me, especially last night. It was hours before the race and I barely had sleep. I also knew that I didn’t have the best trainings before the run. In fact, my average pace was 12 min/km. (The goal was to run faster than 9 min/km in order to achieve the cutoff time of 1 hour and 30 mins. for 10K runners.

But, by God’s grace, He surrounded me with supportive family and friends and they helped me remember God’s strength in my weakness. (Special shoutout to: My family, Tina A., Hiro, Zeke, Zee, Ira, Juds, and my other colleagues — for the encouragement before the race.).

During my first 10K run a few months ago, my only goal was to finish the run. But, this time, I was faced with a different kind of pressure as I needed to meet the cutoff time in order to finish well with a medal. Here are some of the highlights from today’s race:

GOD’S GRACE

From waking up earlier than my alarms to being at the venue two hours before the call time to having perfect weather to persevering throughout the race and finishing well. God’s grace was very evident today and I can only give Him the glory for this accomplishment.

IMPORTANCE OF REST

As much as possible, I didn’t want to stop running because I was afraid of not being able to make it to the cutoff time. But, before the race started, the hosts reminded us of how crucial it is to hydrate every time we pass by the water stations even if we don’t feel thirsty. This will help the body endure better. Also, whenever I felt like my body was already going to give up, I replaced running with 30-second briskwalking every now and then. If I didn’t rest, I probably would not have survived the race.

THOUGHT-LIFE

I guess what I mean is that our thoughts greatly affect our behavior and response. When I was entertaining thoughts of defeat (not being able to achieve the medal) during the first few kilometers, I saw how my body started to slow down and feel heavier. But, every time I prayed and encouraged myself to run a little further, I end up having the strength to endure. For ten times, I almost wanted to give up during the race. Also, when my body couldn’t take it anymore, I even remember saying “I never want to do this again!” Hahaha. By God’s grace, despite my thoughts, He still allowed me to finish the race at a good pace.

INSPIRATION

The hosts of the event emphasized at the start of the program that this run was specifically designed to inspire and influence others to take home life lessons from running. They mentioned about discipline, hardwork, patience, endurance, teamwork, encouragement, and many more. I almost got teary-eyed during the event because I knew that along with my other fellow runners, I am also learning valuable lessons and am giving myself an opportunity to develop certain characteristics through this. (Bonus na lang yung medal!)

After updating one of my friends about the race, he said: I’m sure this activity will encourage you many times in your life!” …and I do agree with his statement. Somehow, God uses these moments in life to remind us of who He is. In those times when we feel like giving up and losing hope, He helps us to focus on Him and endure further.

During my last kilometer, Chris Brown’s song “Crawl” was playing on my phone where it had the ff lyrics: “So we’ll crawl til we can walk again. Then we’ll run until we’re strong enough to jump. Then we’ll fly until there is no wind, so let’s crawl back to love.”

While I was listening to that song, it reminded me of this verse:

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬

With only two minutes left on the clock, I was able to make it to the finish line on time (with a pace of 8 mins/km!!!) Woohoo! As we speak, I am still very weak and sleepy, I have sore legs, I am feeling light-headed, and I am exhausted. But, despite these, my heart feels very much alive and peaceful now and I thank God for the privilege of experiencing Him in new ways.

Thank You, Lord, for my first medal! This one’s for You!

Ready, Set, Go! My First 10K at Nat Geo Run 2017

“Again, Nicole. Why are you doing this? Hahaha.” I said this to myself many times while I was struggling through my training a few weeks ago. I was a beginner runner who recently accepted the challenge of running 10 kilometers for the first time in my life. Although signing up for the Nat Geo Run at the Mall of Asia this year was very exciting, I did not have any clue about the proper way to run, the best kind of diet for runners, or how to comfortably breathe while running. Nonetheless, one of the valuable lessons I’ve learned throughout this experience is the importance of finishing well no matter how difficult, heartbreaking, or tiring the process is.

After going through eleven 30 to 60-minute interval trainings in a span of six weeks, quick mentoring conversations with seasoned runners, various articles online about preparing for a run, fasting from Starbucks frappuccinos, and riding an emotional rollercoaster this month, by God’s grace, I was able to finish running (and occasionally briskwalking) 10 kilometers around Pasay city. For someone who enjoys working out by following instructors in workout videos, running a long distance race outside was a challenging yet refreshing treat. But, without a doubt, I will be joining the succeeding marathons in the coming years.

Until now, I still have a hangover from the recent running event. Even my body clock’s still pretty messed up too, since I needed to wake up at 2 am on the day of the run. However, because it was a memorable experience, I’ll be sharing some of the highlights for me as I prepared and ran in this year’s Nat Geo Run. Hopefully, this will encourage you to willingly welcome challenges and faith-stretching moments not only in marathons, but in life as well.

 

BEFORE THE RACE:

1. Interval Trainings

For beginner runners, it is advisable to train at least once a week for 5K and at least three times a week for 10K. In my case, I used an app called “Running” which suggests a training plan recommended for a specific distance that I’m training for. The plan I used for six weeks started with 30-minute interval trainings which then progressed to 40-minute, 50-minute, and 60-minute trainings. The interval training I did consisted of both running and briskwalking.

2. Healthier Diet

I have to admit that I wasn’t strict in maintaining a healthy diet throughout the 6-week training. However, I did let go of one major unnecessary drink which eventually helped me jog and run better. Yes, I gave up my Kryptonite, Starbucks Frappuccinos. Surprisingly, after removing this from my diet, I didn’t crave for it anymore even until today. It does help to lessen calories and sugar especially if it won’t be beneficial to the body. I also was intentional in adding more fruits and vegetables to my meals and in taking in more than 2 liters of water everyday.

3. Support System

It also encouraged me to be surrounded by family and friends who cheered me on from the start of my training up until the race day itself. At first, I was already satisfied with running for 5 kilometers, but, one of my closest friends challenged me to do 10K instead. Also, my very supportive sisters woke me up at 2am on the day of the race to make sure that I wouldn’t be late.

 

DURING THE RACE:

1. Minding my Own Pace

I could sense how eager everyone was when we started to run. A bunch of happy and motivated 10K runners were determined to finish the race. However, after 10 minutes, I began to notice changes in the crowd. Some were slowing down, some were sprinting, others were lining up in the portable restrooms along the way, while others maintained their original speed. There were times when others would run faster than me and I would notice my legs running more quickly. Other times, when I would run beside runners who breathed heavily and were obviously very tired, I would somehow feel weighed down too. It was very interesting to see how quickly I accelerated or slowed down when I focused on the pace of other runners. But, when I decided to look ahead and run at a pace that worked for me, it freed me from feeling pressured and anxious.

2. Finding Strength in Weakness

Two weeks before the race day, I wasn’t doing well. Because of a number of difficult personal concerns that I needed to deal with, I wasn’t able to continue my training. As a result, I didn’t even have the appetite to eat for two weeks and my mind wandered off a couple of times in a day because of my distress. However, a few days before the marathon, God reminded me of the weeks of training that I did before and how I shouldn’t give up on it. He also showed me how it is still possible to run 10K despite having a weak body and spirit – by His strength which is magnified in my weakness. Not because of my ability to run, but because of His grace for me. I did show up that day and I did my best to finish the race.

Interestingly, while I was halfway through the race, I saw a man who was briskwalking while holding two walking sticks. I wasn’t sure if he was blind, but I was very much inspired by his determination to finish the race in spite of having a physical disability. God used that moment to encourage me to continue persevering even during difficult moments in life. There’s really no room for excuses. It just boils down to making a choice, either to give in to our weakness or to persevere as we trust in God who is able to help us finish well despite our weakness.

3. Stopping Over

There were about four water and Gatorade stations all throughout the 10K route. Those stations were my second favorite part of the race. My first favorite part is of course, the finish line. Haha. I still remember how I felt every time I saw the water station from afar. Just a small cup of cold water or Gatorade reenergizes and gives you an extra boost to go farther. I probably would not have finished well if I did not drink every 2 or 3 kilometers. (Thank you, sponsors: Summit and Gatorade. Although, for the next events, the event organizers may want to add more waste bins.)

4. Documenting Progress

Another thing that helped me persevere was being reminded of my progress along the way. The app that I was using, Running, was updating me every time I reached a kilometer. For me, I needed it because it gave me a bigger picture of the progress I’ve made so far. It also served as a slow countdown for me. I remember struggling through the first 3-4 kilometers, but when I saw the sign that showed “5K”, I started to feel more motivated. Then, I struggled again during the 6-7K run, but when I heard from the app that I already reached 8 and 9 kilometers, it didn’t seem that difficult anymore.

5. Encouraging Others

I already ran 9 kilometers by the time a random runner was sprinting ahead of us. He caught my attention because as he was sprinting, he joyfully exclaimed “Konti na lang!! Kaya natin ito!!”. In English, he said: “Just a few more meters!! We can do this!!”. The runners near me and I started to smile and laugh when we heard him say those words. But, looking back, it was really an encouraging moment for all of us. Even though the man was surrounded by strangers, that didn’t stop him from encouraging others to finish well with him. What a nice picture of our last few moments in the race. Before we knew it, we were already at the finish line! How I hope to encourage others to finish well too.

After the marathon, I spent time walking around to cool myself down and I expressed my gratitude to the Lord for a fun and meaningful experience for me. It was then that I realized how He graciously allowed me to enjoy preparing for and joining the race.

I arrived at the assembly line three minutes before the gunstart time.

I was able to witness interesting moments during the race.

I was able to feel the familiar pains and joys while I was running as I remembered all those nights of training.

I was even given the privilege of having a nice photo taken by one of the photographers at the event. (Thank you, Mr. Photographer, for capturing that one second of me giving two thumbs up while I was running in front of you. Awesome shutter speed and skills. Haha)

I was also able to enjoy freebies after the run, including a baby cup of Starbucks Frappuccino (how ironic!).

What a lovely first run! If it isn’t obvious yet, I really enjoyed it. Somehow, I feel that God really wanted me to still run and finish the race even though I wasn’t feeling well (in many aspects) a few days before the event. I’m glad I decided to push through because I would have missed out on His blessings and the many things I shared with you if I didn’t go. It is only by His grace that I was able to get out of bed at 2 in the morning and go through the activity that day. Now, I am even more encouraged to keep on persevering and trusting that even in my weakness, God can still help me start and finish the things that He wants me to accomplish, for His glory.

The verse that encouraged me to press on during the race:

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 3:13-14

As long as you’re still breathing, it’s not too late to try. It’s not too late to trust God as you grow through challenges and finish well. You just have to choose to do it.

Well…

Ready, set, go!