Somnium I. Veni. Vici.
Five dream countries to run internationally, but not Dubai. Yet, circumstances worked in my favor (see story at https://wanderingjouster.com/2017/01/28/dxb-for-keeps-the-touchdown/), had me setting a goal to achieve and yielded another bragging right which included a new PR (Personal Record) in my fifth marathon.
I, who have privately likened myself to a Phoenix, landed in the Land of Dreams alone. As expected, it was also in solitariness that I guided and found my way to the start area of SCDM (Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon) 2017 in Umm Suquiem Road at 5:15 a.m. of January 20, Friday. It was a new adventure for me. The location of the Grandeur Hotel where I was billeted erased my apprehension of being late for the flag-off.
Taking instructions from my niece Sheena, who was my companion the night before but left ahead of me since she would be on-duty as one of the race marshals for the fourth time, I took a cab and directed the driver as if I were a local. It only took him more or less 15 minutes to drop me near the metrolink which I had to take on foot because the road close to the assembly area was already blocked for the race. Spotting fellow runners who were going to a similar direction, I began my warm-up exercise.
The early morning walk was roughly two kilometers. I took delight and accomplishment from simply sticking to the signage and following other foreign runners. There was no trace at all of my being a poor navigator.
Arriving at the SCDM Village, I located the marathon baggage where I could leave my bag which was provided by the organizer when I collected my race pack. I joined the not-so-long queue and silently observed the different actions taking place in the premises. Catching my attention was a big group of Filipino runners who were having their pre-run body conditioning with a leader who was speaking in our native tongue. It felt like home. 🙂
Once I deposited my bag, I already approached the start area. Runners were greeted by a choir, who was rendering a song in an unidentified language from the stadium. I wondered whether they were a religious group based on their attire. Well, be religious or not, the melody seemed to draw out a positive energy from me when I mingled with the other nationalities.
Six thirty in the morning all the 42.195-k runners were released. The sound of the different strides as each of us began romancing Dubai road was a lullaby to my ears. Body and mind, I have attuned myself to my temporary milieu.
And so, I put into action what I have routinely trained for to the point of suffering from a minor mishap 22 days before my run.
It was again a test of my discipline, determination and perseverance.
My first three hours had to be rated as the best part of my marathon. My pace was faster than the usual. My cardio was in its excellent condition and I was happy with it. Zero muscle strain and zero headache due to lack of sleep. I was thankful. Adding to my good start was the cool temperature. Completing the needed ingredients in cooking my second overseas run were my niece and her husband Jofel, who were on standby mode to cheer me on and document everything when I crossed their assigned spot. It was almost perfect for me.
Firmly, I continued directing my mind to maintain my speed. Backing up my command was my availing of the hydration and energy food which were provided by organizers and volunteers alike. I had not been depending on energy gels for the past two years now, but the struck of hunger at km 22 had me taking in my first High-five. Should I blame the unsatisfactory chicken and vegetable salad and noodle soup which I ate but did not consume all in the hotel? Perhaps. My reverting to an old habit need not be entertained now for my hungry stomach was threatening to affect my running. The first energy gel led to my taking my second, third and even fourth. All of these were in free surplus supply that I partly regretted about purchasing a special box in Meydan. If I had brought with me a plastic container, I could have just collected all flavors of High-five (and even chocolates!) from the kind and generous British, Chinese, Americans and Filipino volunteers. Tee-hee!
Energy food and drink were obviously not a problem in the marathon. Ergo, when my pace slowed down at km 30, there was a different “culprit” who has been waiting to strike me. I felt it at my left lower leg at once.
I halted right away and pressed my foot at the side of the road. I brought out the Deep Heat menthol rub which my husband bought for me and applied the cream on the painful spot. Bringing my own menthol cream in a Ziplock plastic had been my practice when I do long runs. And it had proven to be reliable especially when the Medics would run out of supply.
Rub, rub, rub. Press, press, press. Shake, shake, shake. I did whatever little knowledge I know in counteracting such attack. The painful contraction abated. A signal for me to resume running and shorten the distance to the finish line. With each stride was a prayer that it wouldn’t hit me again. I was not expecting it, but it could be the result of my overtraining.
I progressed with my run. It was at this point that Manuel “JP” Ocampo, one of my grade four pioneer students in the first school where I taught in 1991, caught up with me. SCDM 2017 was a beautiful event to have our reunion after more than two decades! The run was JP’s fourth as he and his other officemates are annually sponsored by Doha Bank, his company. His presence was a very welcome diversion from the muscle spasm that was visiting me intermittently. We exchanged stories and updates as JP, himself, was also undergoing a tug-of-war with his Charley horse. We had to push each other verbally to cross the finish line. I told him that we, teacher and student team, had to finish the race with honor, dignity and beauty. Hahahaha…
Indeed, the use of willpower to overcome any difficulties would always be one of the greatest weapons of a warrior. I am blessed that I was molded to possess this.
As we approached the finish line, JP allowed me to go ahead. Edwin, who had finished his 10-k run earlier, spotted me and ran along side with me while Shane, Jofel and an identified lensman captured the Wandering Jouster’s dramatic finish.
A little “bloody hell” but it was a triumphant landing! 🙂
Making this conquest more delightful was having these very special people with me to celebrate with at the finish line…
… and in the privacy of our room.
Looked like Edwin and I could run another race! Yes, run we did after we had rested our muscles for the night’s agenda with our UAE-based high school batchmates.
Meanwhile, allow me to have this stage and ask …