Tell me you’re crazy without telling me you’re crazy: I recently joined an ultramarathon event.
Well, if you think there’s nothing wrong with that, let me add that prior to the event, I’ve never joined any fun run. Not even a 10km, 5km, or 3km category. Running never did occur to me—even back when I was a few years younger and pounds lighter.
Aside from being such a procrastinator, I’ve always believed that my physique was not meant for running. Bluntly speaking, I’m short and fat. HAHA. As someone who always loves to overthink and overcalculate, technically, I know my strides are comparably limited. So, why struggle?
For years, I’ve always settled in fields where I excel. In the back of my mind, it’s always fruitless to go into a battlefield knowing you only have a slim chance of winning. So, board games it is—from grade school to college.
But the pandemic happened.
Unexpected Plot Twists of 2022
With the silent battles faced during the pandemic, food provided the much-needed comfort I needed. Forced to stay at home during the lockdown, I channeled my energy into accepting clients and doubling my side hustles. Working in front of the screen the whole day—sometimes until late at night due to time zone differences—I reached 72kg at the height of the pandemic which resulted in frequent complaints about back pain.
And when the pain became unbearable, everything else changed.
“Galaw-galaw din pag may time,” said the physician who attended to us during the annual physical exam. Like me, most of us in the company had been complaining about our backs—one even suffered from a slipped disc. Added to the weight gained is the kind of lifestyle that we have unknowingly embraced because of the shift to online work.
When travel restrictions eased and outdoor activities were once again permitted, Jet organized a quick hike to Spartan Trail. This happened a month after the Typhoon Odette devastation. After years of not seeing each other, the organized hike turned into a reunion. Despite the technicalities of the trails brought about by Odette’s wrath, the hike became so much fun that we organized another one the week after—and then another one the week after, followed by another one, until it once again became a weekend routine.
Scam #1: Joiner Turned Recruiter
Seeing how fun the hikes were, through social media posting, prompted Chiarra to message us asking to join the next hike, which we happily accommodated—without us knowing that it would forever change the course of our lives. If only we could turn back time and refuse her. HAHA.
Compared to the group, she’s more invested in both trail and road running. As a runner himself, this became common ground between her and Sir Mark. From adulting responsibilities, the discussions eventually skewed towards running events. Coincidentally, Jet has been participating in virtual events, as well, to keep motivated and fit after his angioplasty procedure. (You should read his inspiring story here.)
To make the long story short, we found ourselves registering for Team ADR’s CN100 Ultramarathon in Bogo City—the first non-virtual event in Cebu post-pandemic. But here’s the catch: I didn’t even know what an ultra meant when I joined. All I know is that we’ve got to finish a 50km road run. And that’s it. So, imagine the disbelief of my colleague (a veteran runner who’s been long inviting me for years to join their Basura Run and marathons) when I told her that I’d be joining CN100’s 50km category. “You? Joining? You crazy?”
Of course, she didn’t say that. Despite knowing the possible repercussions, she was beaming with happiness and support for this crazy decision. She was so happy that I’d be finally making another milestone in the field in which I had been declining for years. Sorry, Madam. HEHE.
To make sure that we are on the same page, here’s what Google told me about ultramarathons. An ultramarathon—also called ultra-distance or ultra-running—is a footrace that is longer than the traditional marathon length of 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers. Guess what: I only learned about this after the run. Crazy. Simply put, 42km is a marathon and anything beyond that is categorized as an ultra.
Yes, an ultramarathon for my first run. Told you, it’s crazy.
Scam #2: Chill Hike Turned to Practice Runs
After knowing the stakes (too late to withdraw the registration, HAHA), we began adding mileage to our usual fun day hikes. Several years back, Sir Jodel introduced us to the favorite playgrounds of runners in the city. He even taught us how to become conscious of our time, particularly when taking breaks. But we didn’t take those notes seriously because never in this lifetime did we think we’d be following the roads he’d taken. Now, we’re frequenting the roads from Busay to JY Square—which I kept on complaining about when we went hiking with him years ago. HAHA.
Scam #3: 50km Distance
“Enjoy!” said the veteran who sat beside me while we were waiting for the gun to start. It was ten in the evening—supposedly my bedtime. But there I was, uncertain of what was yet to come. It was only that night that everything started to sink in. Will I ever get to finish this race? Will I not feel sleepy? Can my body really do this?
But before all the negative thoughts consumed me, the comforting words and lively interactions between the elite and neophyte runners awakened every sluggish cell in my body. With the friendly vibes of the running community and food and drinks served in every aid station, the first 25km of the run became bearable. So, this is what a marathon feels like – with all the hype and excitement.
But after the 50km turn – located 26km from the starting line – everything changed. Pain started to make itself known in the lower part of my body. By the last 10 km, the pain went from the back of my knee down to my foot as if screaming: SO, THIS IS WHAT A MARATHON FEELS LIKE!!!—this time, with all the pain, the frustration of not being able to perform the way you expected to, and the pressure of meeting the cutoff time.
I was later told that most events don’t follow the exact mileage of the run. While it’s understandable that it’s ultimately difficult to place the aid station at the exact 10km or 25km spot, an additional 1km means an additional 2km in total when you’re making a turn. That’s 52km in total. HUHU, my knees.
Scam #4: Let’s go back to hiking. I’ll never run ever again.
There was only one thing hovering around my head as we were walking towards the finish line: I’ll never ever run again. Once is enough. The pain is enough. The experience was enough.
But when you’re gifted with such a supportive team — who traveled hours from the city to uplift your anxious soul, who walked with you all the way to the last 10km, who patiently encouraged you to keep going and finish the race, it can truly be life-changing.
For someone who has never participated in fun runs (and was never interested in running), it was a crazy idea to join an ultramarathon. But when you’re backed by people who believe in you more than you could ever do for yourself, all the challenges and pain will eventually become bearable.
It was indeed an experience of a lifetime. And though the muscle pain remains, I did ‘enjoy’ the CN100 as suggested by the veteran runner from Mindanao. Life indeed comes with a lot of plot twists. As creatures of habit and comfort, this can truly be stressful and difficult to navigate. But this does not mean it is not doable.
If there’s one truth that I’ve learned from this pandemic, it is that: you’ll never know what the future holds. Going against the current, denying what’s bound to happen can only feel like defying gravity—difficult, heartbreaking, and needless to say, fruitless. As the adage goes: if you can’t beat them, join them.
The future is uncertain. Let us enjoy whatever the universe has in store for us. We have neglected too many opportunities in life, made ourselves miserable for not accepting our fates (if we find them too ill-fated as they go against our will), and wasted too much time dilly-dallying. To more crazy decisions we go!
To Team ADR, thank you for organizing this event. For the unli-food, drinks, ointment, as well as the words of motivation you have imparted to us in every aid station (Bahalag nahurot nagyud tanang klase sa motivational quotes sa kalibutan). And of course, to the people whom I owe this milestone, Chiarra, Shiela, Sir Mark, Belle, Chabs, Jet, Tuts, Mme. Galon, Uncle, my family, and those who have been silently supporting us, my heart goes to you.
See you on trails? Or in the upcoming race?