May 27, 9ish in the morning.
“Go ahead. Finish it on your own,” Coach Mike Logico said.
I was surrounded by members of Barefoot Running Philippines. I was ten meters away from finishing the race.
I smiled and kept the tears from falling.
“Yes, Coach,” I said.
It was my fault. A week before, I ran my first marathon, traversed a mountain (or a very high hill), and endured the heat of the sun. Everything was fine except my feet and ankles. It’s the classic symptom of too much, too, fast, and too cocky — but that’s fodder for another post. My ankles were a battered mess, I couldn’t walk straight, much less stand for more than a minute without it hurting.
Two days worth of anti inflammatory medicine and Emulgel helped decrease the swelling and the pain. By the third day after the marathon, I was running barefoot with Barefoot Running Philippines.
I should have been content that I could run barefoot after a marathon, but I was too full of myself. During the last kilometer of the Wednesday barefoot session, I pushed myself to run fast. Again, too cocky. I did run fast, at the expense of my ankles stiffening.
Other than my ankles, everything was fine during race day. I thought I will beat my personal record in the half marathon – I was wrong.
As my practice, I started at the back end of the pack. I got my groove on and pace as I reached the first kilometer – 8:20 per kilometer. not bad, I thought. I was running barefoot and maintaining a decent pace.
I maintained my pace and soldiered on until the first turn around marker. Both ankles and feet are a bit stiff at this point.
I was relieved that I found pace and running buddies. My feet (cuboid bone) was hurting and my right ankle was starting to swell by the end of kilometer eleven.
“Mommy Eve, pasabay po ah,” I asked.
“Sure,” Mommy Eve said while she flashed her infectious smile.
The three of us walked until we reached the 12th kilometer mark. After that, we started to run.
Somewhere between kilometer 13 and 15, my right ankle started hurting badly. Again, being too cocky, I didn’t pay attention to it and ran faster. To compensate, I landed on my left foot harder, and cradled my landing on my right which led to my right knee hurting.
“Okay ka lang?” he asked.
“Masakit na. Intay lang.”
He called for Mommy Eve, and checked if I was okay.
“Kaya mo pa tumakbo?”
I ran five steps.
“‘Di pala.” I told Jhoe.
The longest 5 kilometers.
Jhoe Zep and Mommy Eve walked with me from kilometer 16 to 21. At this point, we were beyond the three hour mark.
At kilometer 18, I wanted to DNF (Did not Finish).
“Mommy Eve, una na po kayo. Susunod po ako,” I said
“Hindi, sabay sabay na tayo. Magpahinga ka kung gusto mo, pero sabay na tayo,” she said.
She knew what I was thinking. And she kept me from giving in to my thoughts.
“Kung buhatin ka pa namin eh,” she added as a joke.
Little did she know that they will.
At kilometer 19 or so the two of them had to carry me for a while by my shoulders. The road was sharp and my ankles could not compensate.
Little by little, step by step, the six kilometers dwindled to 1. Members of the Barefoot Running Philippines came back for the three of us to prod us on.
20 meters out, the whole tribe was there, waiting and cheering. Some of them were asking how I was.
“Ankles ko,” was all I could answer.
Last 10 meters.
“Go ahead, finish it on your own.”
I ran the last ten meters of the race. My ankles hurt, my feet were battered, but I ran like it was my last. Ten meters. Every step was excruciating, but I smiled all the way.
My ears were buzzing when I crossed the finish line. Everyone was there. The tribe was complete, my Baliw Team was there, and two topless guys were taking my timing chip and putting on my medal. A lot of photos were taken and a lot of congratulations were said.
When the buzz died down, Coach came to me and held out his hand.
“Congrats,” he said.
“Thank you, po,” I said. Like him, when he finished a full Mary barefoot, all I could think about was, I just accomplished something.
I used to think that I was invincible. I used to think running barefoot would make me an elite in the running community: No more pain, no more discomfort, no more hassle. I was wrong.
I admit I became cocky. I ran a marathon, I must be invincible.
And just when I was about to let my attitude inflate my ego, barefoot running kept me humbled and grounded.
My injury/pain/discomfort or whatever you want to call it is NOT a direct result of running barefoot. It was the result of me not resting and me not practicing proper technique. For all the naysayers of barefoot running, about how it can cause more injuries, it’s all bull. Running barefoot promotes proper form and technique. But then again, like what Coach Mike said, the number one enemy of a barefoot runner is himself.