That’s right! Despite my lack of running since arriving in Manila (one outdoor run, a few treadmill runs does not “running” make), I decided to sign up for the Brooks Run Happy 5k. For two reasons, really: the 500P (about 12 dollars) registration would give me a free Brooks tech t-shirt AND a medal. You guys know how I like medals (didn’t I run the National Half, just so I can get one last medal before leaving DC?). The tech t-shirt wasn’t even too bad, I like that it’s sleeveless, which I wear a lot more during runs in the heat, but I’m not sure about the VERY BRIGHT color.
There were different options for this race: a 15k (9.3 miles), a 10k, a 5k and a 3k (I guess so you can sprint all out?). I chose the 5k because I’m nowhere adapted to this heat yet, and I know that even in bad conditions I can pull off a 5k, even if slowly.
The kicker? We were supposed to get there at 4am (4 AM PEOPLE!), for a 5:50am race start. I even asked the guys at the registration (since you had to do it in person at the store, there is NO online registration here in Manila), if I could get there a bit later and they said “No, ma’am, 4am.”
After waking up at 3:45am, I didn’t get out of bed for another 15 minutes, because for the first time ever, I actually considered not going for a race I signed up for, as I would rather sleep. But I told myself to do this one, and if it was that miserable, I didn’t have to run one again while I’m here (the horror, right?), and eventually got out of bed, changed, and we made our way to the street to grab a cab to the race start.
We arrived there at 4:45am. There was really no reason to get there at 4am, or even at the time we did. Next time, a 5:30am arrival will do just fine. We weren’t fully awake yet, and we sat and waited for a loooong time…
Quite a few people were already there, but most arrived much later…
This was our first time in Fort Bonifacio/Bonifacio Global City, so we enjoyed seeing all the high rises. This area is even fancier than Makati, where we now live. And there’s soooo much green space here, it would have been perfect for walking Lily! (The one park across the street from us doesn’t allow pets…)
The good thing about the 4am time, was that the weather was actually pleasant at that time. Perfect running weather even. But of course, it didn’t take long for the sun to come out, and the pleasant temperature to change pretty quickly…
It wasn’t even 5:30 am yet, and the place was bright. And it was a lot warmer. I quickly realized that my choice of outfit, the black Cherry Blossom 10 miler race shirt, was a big mistake.
Right away, I noticed something different about the way races are in Manila vs. the US… While in the US most people don’t wear their race shirt to race day (why wear a shirt if you haven’t earned the right yet?), here, the race shirt was EVERYWHERE. I was one of the odds one out by wearing a different outfit.
The other thing? While in the US you see a few people here and there running before the race to warm up, here it was the majority of people, at some point or another would sprint back and forth, or do all sorts of stretching and jumping. I admit that it was at this point that I got very nervous. I told Karl how there’s only serious runners, and I knew I’d have to be slow because of the heat, and I was really afraid of being last. Plus, this is the smallest race I’ve ever been part of, with maybe 1,000 people total, so there were no guarantees there would be people even slower than me.
Finally, the 15k and 10k people were told to line up at the start. The 15k would start at 5:30am, and the 10k would start 10 minutes later and so on.
And they waited. And waited. And waited. While the weather got hotter and hotter and hotter.
I figured this would be the perfect time to go to the porta-potty. While the line wasn’t long at all, with maybe 20 people waiting in each porta-potty (there were a total of four of them, and weirdly enough, they were separated by male and female), for some reason I waited a good 20 minutes in line. I guess when you put all women in the same line, it’s bound to take longer than a bunch of men or a mixed line.
But at least we had signs like the blue one below to keep us laughing:
And the porta-potty? Less spacious inside than in the US (it’s harder not to touch anything), but the toilet looked like a real toilet, with a flush and everything. SO NICE not having to see what other runners did in the bathroom! No more looking at poo volcanoes that go over the toilet seat! Plus, while we were waiting, a cleaning guy actually came along and quickly cleaned the inside of the porta-potties so it wasn’t completely gross either!
Yes, I had to take a picture of the inside. When else do you wait a long time to use it, and it looks like this when you walk in?
Before the race started, I also grabbed a chilled “Pocari Sweat” bottle – a Japanese sports drink. It was surprisingly good.
Finally, half an hour after the race was supposed to start, the gun went off. Shortly afterwards, the 10k people were starting as well.
And then it was at last our turn to go. We lined up and waited for the gun.
And off we went! Within the first quarter mile, I knew I wasn’t going to be last. I was passing people and a ton of people were already stopping to walk. It doesn’t help that we started half an hour later than we were meant to and that on that half hour, the weather got much warmer…
It was really cool running through Bonifacio, as none of us had been there before. It wasn’t flat, but a very gradual uphill followed by a very gradual downhill, so it kept us challenged.
My first goal was “don’t walk” my second was “finish in less than 35 minutes” while my third goal was to attempt an 11 min/mile pace. I’m sad to report that I was only able to meet my first goal… I only quickly walked the water stops because it was so hot that I had to make sure to drink enough, but the water wasn’t refreshing by far: it was HOT! Couldn’t they at least had chilled the thing? It was 85 degrees outside, so the water was just as warm. Ugh.
The route was pretty though, and we loved the palm trees!
Finally, we saw the finish line approaching, and as usual, I took off in a sprint, only to be faced with yet another obstacle once I got closer: there were orange cones starting about 20 feet from the finish line, separating those finishing the 15k/10k/5k/3k, so there was only enough space for one person to get through in each line. So I couldn’t sprint to the finish, because there was no way to pass people. It’s not like I’m competing against people at the finish line (though we all secretly do that too), but I’m also competing against myself, and having to run slower than I’m capable of because the people in front of me haven’t chosen to sprint was a bit of a bummer…
But it was hot, and we finished and I got my worst 5k time ever (for a race I’ve run the whole thing – I ran one 5k slower than that back when I had to run/walk to the finish, years ago). But at the end, I was fine with my SLOW time of 35:32 (11:26 min/mile – yes, the pace is slower than my 10 miler pace a month and a half ago, which was already slower than my paces from last year…).
I survived the heat, while wearing a black shirt, when I also had stupidly chosen to leave my hat and sunglasses at home. I guess a good thing about having such a slow time is that my next 5k in Manila, it better be a guaranteed (Manila) PR!
The medal? It was cute, but the worst medal I’ve gotten so far (it was a thin piece of metal, glued in a wood board).
After the race, we had to wait in line to get our “goody bag” – a small reusable bag with a granola bar, a few fliers, a magazine and a hand sanitizer. While waiting in line, I took one last picture. 20 minutes after crossing the finish line and I’m still super-red!
Despite HATING some parts of this race (super-early start time, HOT water at the water stops, narrow finish line chute), I really enjoyed myself, and will definitely run another race in Manila again – hopefully sooner rather than later (I have to find other runners, because Karl already said he’s not waking up that early on a Sunday again!).