ROTARun 21K @ McKinley Hill/ 5:30 AM 20 September 2009
Last Friday, I found out that the Berlin Marathon will be staged on the day that ROTARun will be held. What is significant about the Berlin Marathon is that this is where Haile Gebrselaisse broke the world’s record finish time in a Marathon Race in 2:03:59 hours last year. It is expected that he is going to improve his record in this race. This is also the first Marathon Race for the World’s Marathon Majors (Berlin, London, Chicago, New York, & Boston) for the year 2009-2010.
For my apparel for this race, I prepared my Red Adidas Running Shorts and my first time to use an Adidas Running Shoes since I started running and combined/matched it with the nice dark-blue ROTARun singlet that goes with the cheap registration fee of P 200.00. I was thinking that I could run well in this race after doing much of my tempo runs at the ULTRA Oval Track and hill training runs in Antipolo for the past days since the Eco Dash 21K Run. I was doing “double” runs (morning & evening runs) in preparation for this race to build-up more endurance and strength to my legs in anticipation to the dreaded uphill climbs at McKinley Hill.
In my meetings prior to the race with my Elite Team Bald Runner, I’ve always emphasized to them to study the route of the race and position our support staff on areas where assistance would be needed by the runners. The race strategy was to attack the hills and run faster on the downhill and plain areas. However, I was already apprehensive on the distance of the said route. I was thinking that the distance might not reach the desired 21K. The other thing that bothered on my mind was the expected traffic of runners for the lesser-distance events, which I call “side-events”, along the route as the 21K runners would run along the Lawton Avenue. I was thinking that Lawton Avenue will be filled again with the 10K & 15K runners as the 21K runners will be running towars the last 1-2 kilometers to the finish line. The last thing that bothered me was the length of the water stations to be fielded along the route.
I was not supposed to be bothered with the exact distance of the race, the length of water stations, and the traffic of runners along the route but being a runner, race organizer and director, I could see that there was something wrong as weeks before the conduct of the said race, the original race/event organizer withdrew (?) from the said event and the takbo.ph people led by Jinoe aka Manokan Express came to the rescue with Ian Alacar, a runner-friend, as the Race Director. With Ian Alacar at the helm of the event and the technical support of the PATAFA people, I was confident that this race will be a success. More updates about the race were posted at takbo.ph in order to guide the runners about parking areas and the final schedule of races and warning for runners to arrive in the assembly area earlier before the race starts.
My team and I arrived at the McKinley Hill area at 4:50 AM but there was a long line of vehicles entering the multi-level parking building as most of the free parking slots had been taken by other vehicles and the other streets were restricted for parking by other vehicles. It appeared that all the vehicles were forced and led to the said building to pay a parking fee! I directed my staff not to proceed to the parking area and instead look for a space for temporary parking near the assembly area and later transfer to the Bayani Road area once the 21K runners had left the Starting Area.
I had to immediately leave my staff after my race bib was pinned on my race singlet and proceeded to the starting area. After a brief warm-up jog and stretching exercises, I immediately positioned myself behind my elite team runners as the Program before the race started was going on. I noticed that I forgot my Oakley glasses in the car but I was glad I was able to instruct my staff/photographer to have it given to me at the Bayani Road. As I was shaking my legs and my arms to prepare for the start of the race, the starting gun went off and I went with the flow of the lead pack, trying to maintain a slower pace before slowly increasing it up to my race pace.
I was smiling while I was running my first kilometer because most of the runners were sprinting and passing on my sides. At the uphill portion going to the British Embassy, these “sprinters” started to slow down and I was still smiling as I passed them one by one. My mind was fixed on “attacking the hills” and trying to get faster on the downhill and plain areas. Most of the runners tried to keep up with my pace on the uphill portion from the McDonalds up to Lawton Avenue but I left them for good and slowly made my pace faster. I was prepared to run an average pace of 4:45 up to 4:55 mins per km, a slightly faster pace than the Eco Dash 21K pace of 5:00 mins per km, for this race as I knew this course as a fast one due to my familiarity of the route.
While I was running along the Lawton Avenue as I proceeded towards Gate 3 (Philippine Marines Area), all I knew was that I was running with a registered runner in the person of Major Eddie Radaza of the Philippine Army who is also a fast & competitive runner but in the end, he was my Pacer during the run. Aside from a constant sound of coughing on my back from another runner, I thought I was with only two runners—Major Radaza on my side and the “coughing” runner on my back! However, after I saw the pictures of me taken during the run, I was surprised to see that I was surrounded with 4-5 runners with no other runner/s trailing on our backs! I said, this is the same scenario that I saw last Sunday afternoon when I saw the LIVE Internet Telecast of the 2009 Berlin Marathon with Haile being surrounded with his Pacers from Km 1 to Km 30+, I felt like I was really “The Haile” being surrounded by Pacers and trying to break my PR for the 21K race! However, in the end, it turned out the other way around…I was their Pacer!
As I checked my GF 305 regularly, I would reached an average pace of 4:35 mpk and my slowest would be 5:12 mpk. Along Lawton Avenue, I maintained a pace of 4:38 mpk to 4:45 mpk and I was confident that I could improve my time for the 21K run. Running along Bayani Road and inside the Heritage Park was uneventful as I tried to increase my pace and give cheers to other runner-friends whom I met along the course. I really did not mind if I did not see any kilometer markings along the route as I was focused on maintaining my average pace.
As I was about to reach the crossing of Bayani Road and the new Gate 3 of Ft Bonifacio at the vicinity of St Michael’s Chapel, I glanced at my GF 305 and it registered a time of 1: 14+ minutes and I was surprised to see also that the distance I’ve covered was only 15+ kilometers. At this point, I knew already that the distance was short by so many kilometers and not meters! I really don’t know but I slowed down at this point even if I was already on the level/plain portion of Bayani Road going back to Lawton Avenue. My GF 305 registered my slowest average pace at 5:15 mpk at this point! But with the presence of my Pacers, I tried to increase the pace until we reached Lawton Avenue. As predicted, I had to weave around the slower 10K & 15K runners who filled almost the reserve lane for the runners as I ran along Lawton Avenue towards to the Finish Line. From here, everything was “cruise control” until we reached the entry to McKinley Hill where I dashed downhill and then towards the Finish Line.
My last 2 kilometers of the race was like Haile running his last 5 kilometers in the Berlin Marathon when he was running alone without his Pacers and his feeling that he could not break his world record after he realized that he was running too fast up to Km 30 where he broke the record by 11 seconds. Haile won the 2009 Berlin Marathon in 2:06:08 hours and his fourth straight win in a row. He won 50,000 Euros being the Champion and another 30,000 Euros for the time bonus for breaking the 30K World Record Time. I did not win any prize for the ROTARun but I felt I was “Haile” wearing his brand-sponsor Adidas (shorts & running shoes); aided by Pacers; and was trying to break my record PR for the 21K race…but…
My GF 305 registered a finish time of 1:27:58 hours with a distance of 17.85 kilometers. An average pace of 4:55 mpk, faster than my average pace of 5:00 mpk in the Eco Dash 21K, could have produced a better finish time for me for the distance. The course was short by 3K+ and I consider this as a “Mortal Sin” in road racing. I knew I could improve my average pace down to 4:45 mpk if only the race distance was accurate and I was sure of this because I was still strong after I reached the Finish Line! My speed & tempo runs as my preparations for this race were put to waste as I really prepared for this race.
Well, aside from the short distance of the race as compared to what had been published, I have the following observations:
1) The Water Aid Station tables were still short in length—I was amazed with how long was the length of each of the Water Station seen during the Berlin Marathon last Sunday afternoon.
2) Long Period of Time to Award The Winners—I think it does not take so much time to get the results of the Top 10 runners in each Distance Race. I had to wait until the members of the Elite Team Bald Runner had been awarded and it took us up to almost 10:00 AM to leave the place. This is one of the reasons why I hate “side events” in a Road Race. If a race calls for a Marathon Race (42K), then don’t add a Half-Marathon, 15K, 10K, 5K or 3K in the same Race Event with the same route. Due to traffic of runners and the use of more water consumption, the awarding of winners will be longer also! Personally, I don’t mind if this is the decision of the Sponsors or the Race Event Manager and Race Organizer but as for me, this is a sign of “maximizing” the number of runners which is being translated to being “greedy” for more proceeds from the race and from the running community.
3) Nice Singlet & Cheap Registration Fees—I like the singlet that goes with the cheap registration fee of P 200.00. This is one of the few road races that I chose to wear the singlet that goes free with the registration fee. Surprisingly, the singlet did not give me any “chafing” problems on my upper arms, armpits, and nipples. I know the Race Organizer had to seek for Sponsors and Friends to finance the other needs for the race. As per experience as Race Organizer, the registration fee was enough to pay for the singlet and race bib and other minimal incidental expenses. The payment for the PR group, technical support (timer/clock & operators), marshals, support staff, permits, and medical support were not covered from the registration fees paid by the runners. I believe that the payment of such services had been shouldered by the members of the Rotary and their Sponsor-friends. What is important here was that the Race Organizers tried their best to pursue this event despite their limited time of “fine-tuning” the basics in road racing.
4) Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse—Would you believe that for a small and limited races like the BDM 102 and the 1st MASTERS 15K Run, I have to subject myself to actually measure the route of the race by conducting “test runs” and rehearsals with my staff on the conduct of the race, weeks and days before D-Day? Personal meetings/conferences, exchange of e-mails & SMS, and telephone calls are not enough to produce a perfect race. You need to bring all the people involved in a “walk-through” along the course and rehearsing what they are supposed to do during D-Day. It is easy to say and answer, “Yes” or “I’ll/We’ll Do It” or “I’ll inform him” or “I’ll Take Care Of It” or other words of assurance but what is important is to see how your staff and volunteers do their jobs during rehearsals. Proper rehearsals and repetitive actions of what to do will make an event to “near” Perfection.
5) Awards, Prizes, and “Freebies”—My Elite Team appreciates the prompt awarding of Awards and Cash Prizes during the Awarding Ceremony. At least, the winners were not made to wait for another day or report to the office of the Sponsors to claim their Prizes. I really appreciate the Finisher’s Medal given to all the 21K finishers.
6) Thieves, Again?—I have read a post of one of the runner-bloggers about incidents of theft on vehicles parked as the race was going-on. It really pisses me off to hear such incidents in road races. Despite the presence of security guards and policemen in paid-parking areas, there are still cases of thefts being reported. With this incident, I think the deployment of more security personnel to guard our parked cars will not completely solve this problem because we know and have proven that the thieves are also runners like us! So, let’s go back again why I hate “side-events” in road racing. These thieves pose as runners in the lesser distance events like 3K or 5K and after they finished their event/s they proceed to the parking areas as legit runners and then “target” the cars of the runners still running on the road. So, it is up for the Race Organizer to weigh the consequences of his race— more “side-events” with more “profit” but with bad reputation or no “side-events” with “break-even” or less profit but with good reputation.
7) Contingency Plan—Just like us as runners who have race strategy and contingency plans to survive up to the finish line and meet our objective for the road race, the Race Organizer/Race Director must have also a contingency plan in order to adjust to any problem or eventuality that arises on race day. Ian Alacar and Doc Lyndon of takbo.ph approached me during the time when the Awards were given to the Winners and they explained to me what went wrong few hours before the race started. They found out that the Heritage Park authorities did not allow them to use some of the roads which were intended for the race course, thereby resulting in the lack of distance of more than 3 kilometers. I did not understand the reason why the Heritage people would not allow the race to extend further to their farthest roads since in the past road races held inside the Park, runners would be allowed to run in these areas. The contingency plan should had been to extend the road race up to NAIA 3 Airport/ Camp Villamor even if the runners would fight it out with the traffic of vehicles outside the Camp. I think the road from Lawton Avenue to NAIA 3 Airport does not need any permit for the Race Organizer to extend the race along this road. Or maybe, let the runners run two loops along Bayani Road before proceeding to the Finish Line.
Lastly, I still salute and commend Jinoe; Doc Lyndon & takpo.ph members and Ian Alacar for having the courage to accept the responsibility of conducting this race despite their limited time to adjust to some problems & concerns on the conduct of the race after the original Race Organizer left the said Project. I suggest that in your next project(s), feel free to send SMS, call, e-mail or invite me in your planning/”brainstorming” sessions and “test runs”/rehearsals so that I can input some of my suggestions. Don’t worry, my services is FREE!
To The Race Organizers, Good luck and Best Wishes on your future races!
P.S. Don’t forget to get your license and register your group with the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) as Race/Event Organizer.