35th Annual Milo Marathon


By Jon Verzosa

My sister Angeline and her husband Freddi and I were awake at 2:45 in the morning of Sunday to gear up for the 35thAnnual Milo Marathon which will be held at the Mall of Asia grounds.  It was raining, no, raining very hard, when we having our weighty carbo breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, coffee, and a litter of water apiece and corn-on-a-cob, that we all decided that rain or shine; we will run to our heart’s content.  We registered for a five-kilometre fun run and since we already paid for it and we have claimed ‘equipped’ for the run, we all backpacked our head gears and opened our umbrellas to pounce on Manila’s stubborn monsoon.  To the least, we are supporting Nestle’s 100 years in building a golden prospect to make a good cause even bigger. This year, 10,000 more shoes will be handed out to 100 public schools with 100 running shoes each. With P10 pesos out of each registration fee, every runner contributes to a fund that MILO will double amounting to a total of P4,000,000 to be used for buying shoes for the underprivileged children.  For that reason alone, the three of us will voluntarily run naked.

 

We arrived at Seaside Boulevard in MOA with over 50,000 people drenched and happily cheering on, notwithstanding their sodden selves piling up in line and disposed to their designated sprint as host, Pinoy Biggest Losers’ Chinggay Andrada provided the merriment in a shaded stage by the third wave starting line.  She may have felt sorry for all of us runners, young and old, who were almost looking for soap from all that bathing under the downpour.

“Have a great morning everyone!” she called out, smiling and waving at us, making me want to strangle her for being so dry as my buttocks started eating my already-wet boxer shorts.

“She is soooooo GV!” my sister Angeline noted and waved back at her.

“Yes.  That’s because she is dry as a bone!” I said acrimoniously, wiping the snot and the rainwater off my nose.  I was down with a bad week-long flu a day before the marathon and the morning I was about to run was my first day off antibiotics.  When my mother and my other sisters found out that I will be covering and joining a race, they all laughed and sardonically said that in about 200 meters, I will be carried out on a stretcher.

I’m not a runner like most of my family members.  In fact, I hate exercise.  My one-block walk to my cigarette vendor is my only form of exercise.  The only reason I maintain my lean frame is because I starve myself and can live on coffee alone for days.  Yes, I am obsessed with getting thin only because I want to look like those skeletal models and actors I work with.  Exercise is something strange to me. I’d rather have sex than exercise but even that I don’t get!

And then the sling shot was heard but I barely heard it because of the driving rain and Chinggay Andrada’s unwanted countdown yowling all mixed up together.  “Ay, game na?” I even asked Freddi.

“Yup, game!” he said on top of his ear-splitting I-pod.

And so I ran.  I ran hard.  I ran so hard that I missed the first kilometre water station.  My Nikes were sopping wet as it stomped the asphalt road that was already decorated with mud and plastic cups.  I was oblivious of the fact that I was already running intensely that my shoelaces were already untied and that I can already taste the saltiness of my mucus running down my opened, exhausted, dog-tired mouth.  In my own panic, I shouted inside and deliberately exiled my worries, fears and frustrations.  It may have been my speed or the figurative rain that made my first kilometre run so mentally rhetoric but my muscles collided with joy and I found myself airborne.

By the time I reached Macapagal highway, I was brought down to the realization that I have been running a good three kilometres already and if I didn’t stop, I would probably have a heart attack.  And so I grabbed a plastic cup, sipped water and demoted myself to brisk walking. Like my own life, I tend to govern to fast-track career, love affairs and such to a point of being on the wing but occurrences of velocity reduced me to loss of nerve and sometimes, rationality.  Water, like rain, can also give you the biggest fracture of your life if you are not cautious, therefore, stopping for water and gasping for breath is essential in any run.  I chose safety and somehow, it regained my potency and I began scurrying off once again.

Since there were a thousand runners in my troop, I had to snake my way among people who chose walking from running. It was such an impediment in my competitive, saturated run against my life and by then I was already running like a madman, quite positive I will finish off in 35 minutes.

Ano ba ‘yan! Nakakahapo naman itong ulan!”

“Gosh where is the next water station?!?”

“I wanna quit naaaaaaa!”

“Fourth kilometre naMatatapos na ‘din ‘lang hiya!”

I heard all these sounds reverberating accompanied by my tired senses and my inexistent legs.  In fact, as I swerved past the bushed-out bodies of people, I saw a frail man in his 20s throwing up at the sidewalk and a little boy wailing his damndest because he doesn’t want to run anymore.  I was also wondering where the hell was my sister and her husband as I marked my fourth kilometre at the red and blue detector hump speeding past media cameras and the annoying helicopter dipping down on the runners; to either wipe us all off on the face of the earth or they want to capture everyone’s beaten-out, distorted faces.  It almost felt like ‘that’ time in your life when you are so below par or struggling or caught up in a terrible secret and everyone in your life starts digging up your dirt to which you are concurrently being deafened by logic, time and decision-making.  It was senseless and yet, I was almost by the near-finish and I was excited!

But much more excited towards the addiction of what running can contribute in my life.  I may not be into running but addiction is something that I do very well.  A few days ago, I was seriously reading online articles on running and its benefits.  The following did not just make me smile but also found it similar in temperament to my list of things to accomplish; improving cardiovascular endurance, enriching an ideal sleeping pattern, improving mental health and most importantly, increasing sex drive and slowing down the ageing process.  BIG SMILEY FACE.

A few meters away from the finish line, the big FINISH tarpaulin came into view although I can only read ‘INIS’ because either I was already near-hallucination, the F and the H were blocked by the motorway trees or I was already partly inis with my co-runners who slowed down to a restrained halt to fetter my momentum.   I wanted to swim into the time-consuming sea of clammy bodies when I realized that it was not their fault at all.  At the finish line, Milo people were already handling out certificates to everyone who completed the run.  I wanted to do my ‘all-out dash towards the finish line with my arms outstretched with my mouth open and eyes closed’ like a pro but I figured, “The drama won’t be worth it because it will never happen!” as I looked towards the ocean of heads swarming slowly towards the end queue.

 

And so a few steps away from the finish line, just like everyone else, I walked along with hundreds of finishers, got my wet certificate just like graduation day and headed to Friday’s where my family was waiting.

 

The Writer flashing a ‘Peace’ sign being a self-proclaimed Anti-Runner

 

At 6:15 in the morning, after the Milo marathon, we all saw ourselves wolfing on heavy loads of chicken, rice, fries and soda at KFC for a well-deserved food pampering.  Then after almost exploding from all that food, I lighted my first cigarette of the day and decided to call this article ‘The Wet Run of the Anti-Runner’ knowing that in my life that is full of contradictions, I can cope, outlive its flaws and on the sly, can also run in the rain like a maniac.

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