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I am a Bicolano by birth and choice. By any standards, I am a slow runner but I like it that way. I look at running as a healthy and exciting way to make a difference. Together with my fellow runners from our family, school, office and the community, we use running to give back..

March 8, 2017

2017 TBR DREAM MARATHON: Pacing the Wolf Pack

2012, 2013, 2014, &  2015. These are the years I volunteered as a pacer at  The Bull Runner Dream Marathon. Come the early morning hours of Feb. 19, I was gunning for my 6th deployment as a pacer at the 2017 TBRDM.  Although a graybeard already, I continue to have that high sense of excitement everytime I go on pacer duty.  Perhaps it has something to do with the special opportunity of  paying it forward, in the words of its founder Jaymie Pizzaro.  Most definitely, the idea of helping a fellow runner chase his or her  dreams is very appealing.

As in all the years I have been a pacer, 2017 will see me again pacing my officemates at First Balfour.  And for the 2017 TBRDM, we have 14 First Balfour employees gunning for their first full marathon. Thanks in large part to the evangelical efforts of 2015 TBR alumni Migo Antonio and the steady support from our HR Employee Relations head Anchel Cruz, we have a bumper crop of running recruits in our company.   The solid 14 are:

Renz Javier
Albert Liwanag
Limuel Banaag
Anton Opelario
Kristoff Flores
Ron Liu
Danny Castro
Jane Nardo
Jovi Albao
Gemma Miranda
Aya Villapando
Romy Sison
Arlene Diaz
Jhan Paul Acevedo
The First Balfour dreamers with support crew of pacers and cheerers an hour before the 2am gun start. 
Kaladeiscope of colors, runners edition. 
Time for a groufie before the start. 
These 14 intrepid individuals joined 650+ runners at the starting line of the TBR Dream Marathon in the fields of NUVALI in Sta. Rosa 2 hours after midnight Feb 19 . It was an awesome and inspiring sight to see this sea of humanity all ready to embark in a life changing experience. The booming voice of Coach Jim Lafferty could be heard on the public address system, exhorting the runners to chase their dreams and assuring the dreamers that in a handful of hours, their lives will be different and that they would be worthy of truthfully shouting out the world's biggest boast "I am a Marathoner."

With energy pumped up to the highest possible level, the 2017 batch of the TBRDM were on their way.
First Balfour runners giddy and...

...and gung-ho at the start of the 2017 The Bull Runner Dream Marathon. 
In the first 200 meters, the 14 First Balfour dreamers were bunched up together but they soon broke up into several clusters as they were following different run/walk intervals. As the sole registered pacer shadowing the First Balfour runners, this posed a challenge.  While officially I was registered as a pacer for Ron Liu, my pacing coverage was for  all the 14 runners.

With the 14 dispersed, how do I go about making sure that all 14 First Balfour dreamers finished the full marathon?  Back in the 2015 TBRDM, I wrote a handful of tips on pacing and for this 2017 edition, I found myself adhering  to tip #3 which suggested supporting the slower runner over the faster runner.  In the first 4 kms of the 2017 TBRDM, the slower runner of the 14 was Jovi. Shadowing  her,  I was happy to note that she was disciplined in following Galloway with a 2-1 interval.  While this slowed her down a bit compared to the other runners, she smartly stuck to the interval and this would put her in good stead come the later part of the race.

As we neared the 5km mark, ahead I saw Gemma lining  up for the portalet.  Decided to stay behind for her and let Jovi ran ahead, figuring we could catch up with her and the rest after a handful of kilometers.  Her lining up for the portalet costed Gemma several minutes but I was confident we could easily catch up with the rest as she showed improved endurance when she joined us in the Fat Ass Run (6-hr category) early in January.
Pacing  Gemma at the 5Km mark.
As Gemma and myself neared the 6km mark, we caught up with Romy and Danny. We were now 4 in our running pack.  This was also the part of the route where there is a steady incline for a couple of kilometers.  To negotiate this portion, we decided to do a more disciplined run/walk interval.  But since we did not have a Gymboss interval timer with us, we decided to use the light posts as markers: 4 posts run and 1 post walk.  For the steeper inclines, we went with a more conservative 2 posts run and 2 posts walk.     Using this improvised intervals, our group of 4 caught up with Jovi at the 8km marker.

We were now a group of 5.  We were now getting noisier and more confident. So much so that Jovi took to calling ourselves as the wolf pack. And the pack was on a chase to catch up with a couple of First Balfour runners ahead of us.  We stick to our improvised run walk intervals using the light posts.  By the time we reached the 10km mark, we have caught up with Aya and Kristoff. We had a lot of howling when we caught up. And before the 12km mark, Arlene was in our fold.
The pack of noisy and exuberant  wolves passing by Dream Chasers Tent 3 in the first 21km loop. Left to right:  BP, Gemma, Arlene, Danny, Jovi, Aya and Kristoff.  
We were now a pack of 8 and the running seemed to feel easier with a bigger group as this would mean more laughter and more chance to talk and more howling.  Aaawwoooooooohhhhh.... In fact, at the 13km mark, Kristoff was saying it felt that we just ran 3 kms only.  Talk about bluster in this day and age.   With a bigger group, we were logging km after km in an easy fashion, buoyed by our run walk intervals using the posts.  We were playing around with varying intervals. 5 posts run and 1 posts walk.  8 posts run and 2 posts walk. And a more generous 7 posts run and 3 posts walk if we nailed the 8 posts run. In particular, Kristoff was getting the hand of leading our pack.  In the process of our playful experiments, we noticed we were overtaking many runners.  And no time, we find ourselves reaching the 19km mark in less than 3 hours.  I told the runners that they had a good chance of doing a sub-Joram. This piece of good news had my pack mates in good spirits.

But at the 20km marker, I noticed two runners having difficulty keeping up with the increasing pace of the wolf pack.  I signaled to Kristoff who was at the head of the pack to push thru together with Aya, Gemma, Jovi and Danny.
The 2017 dreamers with TBR alumni of First Balfour as they go for their 2nd 21km loop. 
First Balfour "bodyguards" Kevin and Migo making sure all members of the wolf pack are safe. 
My assignment now was pacing Arlene and Romy for the second half of the marathon at a relaxed walking pace.  The reading of the situation is that Romy was still nursing an injury which occurred a few weeks back while Arlene seemed to have ran out of gas given a fast pace she did in the first 10 kms of the marathon. Doing a quick math, we figured that even if we walk the remaining  22 kms, we will still finish  comfortably before the cut off of 9 hours (11pm).   Any runs we are able to do the rest of the way will be a bonus.
Our pacing trio of Arlene, Romy and the Bicolano Penguin getting some cheering company from Nikki and Iya.  With Richelle taking the photo. 
And many bonuses the pair gave.  Testimony to their grit and will power, Arlene and Romy gave a few sustained runs in the next 20 kilometers.  They simply would not give up and were determined to finish.  Big help was the presence of First Balfour runners who were also alumni of the TBRDM. They were present to cheer us and at times jog a few meters with us. These included Rose & Icar of Batch 2012,  Delsie of Batch 2013, Iya of Batch 2014, Richelle and Migo of Batch 2015.  Nikki of our Multisports team was there too.  Even newbie Kevin who we are fielding for the 2018 TBRDM was there from the start to lend a hand.  It was great to see our burgeoning running community in First Balfour coming together to support in whatever way our newbie marathoners.
A trio of First Balfour TBR alumni cheering on Jane in the last 12 kilometers.
Jovi getting a boost from Delsie. 

Confident smile from Arlene for the last 10 kms to her first full mary. 
So with 2 kilometers remaining in the first full mary of our 2017 dreamers, our pair of Romy and Arlene was joined by Jhan Paul (JP).  It turns out he was further far behind and he was cheered on by Migo and Kevin to catch up with us.  Romy found some reserve energy and he was able to ran ahead in the last couple of kilometers.  Which left us with Arlene and JP who practically finished at the same time.
Arlene and JP at the back  with less than a kilometer to go for their first marathon finish.  
As Arlene and JP crossed their very first marathon finish line, I was emotional and  could not help but looked up to the heavens and say a prayer of thanks as all members of the wolf pack are safe and accounted for. All First Balfour runners finished with more than an hour to spare before the cut off time.
Good job Arlene. 

Congrats Super Lolo Romy.

High Five for the Finish.

Collective smile for a collective accomplishment. 

Life is good for the wolf pack.

P.S.  Thank you to Manny Yak, Jovi Albao, Richelle Hua, Active Pinas and JN Tbr for the photos.


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