Chicago Marathon 2017: My World Major Debut

THE CHICAGO MARATHON, which celebrated its 40th Anniversary, is one of the six prestigious World Major Marathons. Many recreational runners, including yours truly, had the impression that only elite international athletes can join because of the qualification time, unless if we have huge money to donate to their charity partners for us to join the race.

I understand that many Filipino runners are quite hesitant to join because it’s too expensive. My advice to all my fellow recreational runners who also have the zest of traveling: WHY DON’T YOU GUYS GIVE IT A SHOT? Join the lottery a year before the marathon and let’s see how it goes if we get picked or not.

I signed up at the lottery not just because I’ve been dreaming of having a Six Star medal, also to spend time with my sister Amie, who moved to Chicago in 2010. Luckily, I received an email that I am going to run the Chicago Marathon 2017 and forwarded it to Amie as a surprise.

TRAINING:

It took almost six months for me to train for the marathon. Alongside, I was working overtime, booking flights and such. I even trained during my week-long vacation in Singapore last September. Although, I was still worried about committing the same mistakes again from Osaka Marathon 2016 because, I join marathons just once a year and my offseason is usually prolonged, I’m ready to take the risk.

ARRIVING IN THE U.S.:

I arrived at the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on October 4 where my sister Amie, her husband Kuya Raffy, and their lovely daughter Andi picked me up. It was probably the longest flight I’ve ever had which took approximately 16 hours excluding the five-hour layover at Taoyuan Airport. We ate dinner at IHOP before driving to their home, which is a mere fifteen-minute drive from the airport and a 45-minute drive to Downtown Chicago.

During my first few days, I focused on training, acclimatizing, and bonding with her family. I didn’t worry much about the food because my sister cooked for us and rarely dined out. She prepared eggs, chicken broccoli, tomatoes and rice for me. The only difference though is chicken portions in the States are HUGE! But, I usually slept late at night because of jet lag, which was resolved a few days later.

SHAKE-OUT RUN AND KIT REDEMPTION DAY:

On the morning of October 6, I went back to Downtown Chicago to meet-up my fellow Filipino and a few Filipino-American participants for a shake-out run lead by our good friends Ben Tanner and Stacy Mendez of the FilAmTri Team. We ran along the streets near Millennium Park, where the famous Cloud Gate is located.

Representing the Philippines!

We also passed by at famous landmarks in Chicago such as Willis Tower, the Magnificent Mile, John Shedd Aquarium, and more. We even tried to pass by at the Starting Line of the marathon but the security in-charge politely prevented us to go nearby. We ate our brunch at Yolk South Loop after the five-kilometer shake-out run.

L-R: Nick from New York, Tisha, Erin from Boston, Chloe, and yours truly

After the brunch at Yolk, we claimed our race kits at the nearby McCormick Place. We already knew that the race exhibit is so huge so we didn’t waste time to claim our race kits and checked other stuff within the exhibit. It’s like a party for marathoners but we stayed there for only a few hours. My friends and I needed to go home ASAP and get quality rest before the big day.

DJ Lani Love playing house music!
Photo by Tisha Hidalgo

THE MAIN EVENT

October 8, 6:00 AM— Participants remain their composure while entering the race venue at Grant Park. It took us more almost an hour to enter the starting line due to the volume of runners. While we are waiting for the gun start, we are pumped up by the alternative music played by the marathon’s official radio station.

At exactly 7:30 AM, the gun fired and the competition started. During the first few kilometers, everybody was like running to shatter their records. I expected that because I’m participating in one of the most prestigious marathons in the world. Instead, I just kept my pace slow and enjoy the beauty of the Chicago skyscrapers and the people’s support at the sidewalk during the first few kilometers.

Entering Grant Park via Michigan Avenue entrance

After passing by The Chicago Theater on North Street, I saw my sister and her family cheering for me. I regret that I wasn’t able to go the sidewalk to take some selfies with them because almost everyone in the race route was way too fast and overtaking me. From Mile 5, I started using my tried and tested Jeff Galloway Technique with an interval of 3.5 minutes run and 45 seconds walk with an average pace of 6.5 kilometers per minute. There were a few racers who asked me what running technique I was using.

I also enjoyed looking at those old houses and condominiums surrounded by trees along the Old Town and Park West. There were also comic shops, vintage record stores, artisan barber shops, and third-wave coffee shops.

During the race, I have met several Filipinos and Filipino-American kids who volunteered in the race. Some of the young race volunteers affectionately caught my attention in Tagalog “Kuya, tubig/Gatorade” while offering me hydration. I also had a chance to bump in with Mina at Mile 10 (Kilometer 16) whom I met at the shake our run last Friday. We traded amusing storied while running. In Manila, chatting with our buddies while running is called “chika pace.”

Mina and I “chika pacing” in Chinatown

There were a bunch of musicians nearby playing some great blues and singing praises to the participants found in one of the troubled areas of Chicago. I forgot where exactly it was. But, the highlight of the marathon happened on the streets of the colorful community of Pilsen where the Latino community was having fiesta like Cinco de Mayo.

At around 1:00 PM, the heat starts to build up near the New Comiskey Park. I started to slow down to avoid hitting the wall. The heat was something I can compare to the desert scenes of any action movie. Along Chinatown, the weather became desert-hot and many runners slowed down. Good thing that my pace mate Mina and I took advantage of overtaking them. We took it as an advantage since we are used to training in hot weather. We also saw Stacy (from FilAmTri Team) wearing a cute pink donut costume and gave away donuts to runners. We ate some, of course.

Suddenly, I felt weird on my left knee after passing Mile 23 marker. I became too conscious and slowed down to prevent getting injured. Good thing that the people of Chicago gave their full support for us to finish the race. I pushed my self hard from Mile 24 to the very last mile. All the months of hard work paid off.

Finally, I reached the finish line really strong and achieved my personal best of 5:15:49. Almost twenty minutes better my finish in Osaka a year ago.

We went to a Japanese Fusion restaurant along Michigan Avenue for recovery food and celebration. Arland Macasieb of the Philippine national triathlon team was also there to congratulate and mingle with us.

One Star down, five to go! #sixstarmedalchaser
With Arland Macasieb and Stacy Mendez of FilAmTri team

THE VERDICT:

So far, this is the best marathon I’ve ran not just because my family witnessed it, but also the local people’s all-out support. I’d love to come back and run another Chicago Marathon in the future because Chicago is now like a second home to me.

TBR Dream Marathon 2015: A Retrospective

Today, I am looking back to one of the finest days of my life. Who would have thought that I can finish my first marathon after having a pretty serious knee injury eight months prior?

I was originally part of the TBR Dream Marathon 2014 participants. I was in pretty good shape and training for both marathon and another corporate seven-a-side football league at the same time. However, I had to withdraw just 11 days before the race day because my father was seriously ill. I took a three-week leave of absence from work and training to take care of him. A few of my colleagues who also runs kept on insisting me to let one of them run the marathon on my behalf. I rejected their request simply because I am against bib switching. Apparently, my father passed away from a heart attack caused by pneumonia on February 17, 2014, a day after the TBR Dream Marathon was held.

On June 8 of the same year, I suffered a tear in both meniscus and MCL in my left knee after a tough football game. With a combination of personal tragedy, work-related stress, and an injury, I became really depressed but I didn’t stop there. To overcome those tough times, I took a week-long time off from work and attended physical therapy sessions for over three months.

I became more enthusiastic about my full recovery after being selected to run for the TBR Dream Marathon 2015 in August.

TRAINING:

After being medically cleared, I started training in the first week of October based on the revised 2015 program with modifications such as additional core and weight training after maintenance runs. However, I had to let go of the other sport that I love which is football to further concentrate on my marathon training. I also attended all monthly Bull Sessions (practice runs) and a couple of Bull Circle (seminars).

While training, I met a few fellow participants who became my running buddies Mitzie, Mikael, RJ, Mers, Ed, Rain, and Arlene. It was our first taste to ran at in Nuvali in Santa Rosa, Laguna where the annual TBR Dream Marathon is being held.

For the past five months, I followed a strict regimen according to the training program by sleeping as early as I can, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, eating right, and most of all: NOT over-training. My confidence boosted specially that I was in the best shape of my life.

A day before the race day, I was pretty nervous and I couldn’t get additional sleep. So, I decided to take pictures of my running gear and played a record of my favorite band. I ended up taking an afternoon nap at 5:00 PM and waking up at 9:30 PM. I tipped the scales at 140 lbs even on the race day and left home at exactly 10:45 PM via service bus going to Nuvali.

THE MAIN EVENT:

The stage was set on February  22, 2015. The temperature in Sta. Rosa, Laguna was cool and breezy between 23-25 degrees Celsius.

All of the race participants arrived at the venue nervous and excited at the same time. Mingling and taking pictures of one another really helped to boost our confidence. Mitzie, Mikael, and I met took warmed up with dynamic stretching in approximately twenty minutes.

On the first 10 kilometers, we ran 1 minute and walking 1 minute alternately with a considerably lame pace of 9 minutes/km. From kilometers 11 to 32, we ran 2/1 interval (two-minute run-one-minute walk) with an average pace of not lower than 8 minutes/kilometer. The hydration tents and medical stations were alternately placed every 3 kilometers based on my recollection.

On the final 10 kilometers, we altered our strategy from 3/1 interval to 1.5/30 seconds with an average pace of 6.5 minutes/km. We never expected that cutting the intervals really helped us to achieve negative splits.  Instead of playing music on my mobile phone which I usually do to increase momentum, I kept on trading stories with Mikael and Mitzie.

It’s really fun to meet TBR Dream Marathon finishers from the previous years helping out participants by setting up tents, providing first aid, and offering free food such as fruits, Chippy, and Cloud 9 chocolate. The camaraderie was all around the place. Because of the food, it helped me to keep my energy on a steady level and consumed fewer packs of GU Roctane within the entire race.

THE CLIMAX:

Approaching the 40th kilometer, both my right knee and ankle felt a lot of pressure and experienced mild pain. It’s all because of the knee support on my left knee that contributed to imbalanced blood flow. However, I shrugged off the pain off and kept on chit-chatting with Mitzie whilst running since we were about to achieve our personal milestone. All the pain was gone just less than 800 meters away from the finish line. I started striking funny poses showing sheer confidence in front of the photographers. I just let Mitzie finish ahead of me by 30 seconds.

Finally, I can see the finish line with a horde of people cheering and the race announcers were clearly mentioning my name right before crossing the finish line. It was an emotional moment for me when I raised the finish line ribbon and screaming my late father’s name.

On February 22, 2015, at exactly 7:42 in the morning, I, Arthur Doctolero has become a marathoner with an official chip time of 5:41:59. I swore to join at least one marathons a year and to eventually complete all six World Major Marathons. My running buddies finished strong and injury-free! It was also reported that all of the participants finished the race.

I highly recommend this race especially for those first time marathoners who are based in Mega Manila. I am very confident that you will enjoy the training more than you expected.

TBRfinish04

I did it! 🙂

Osaka Marathon 2016: My International Debut

OSAKA MARATHON is one of the hottest marathons in Japan today. Its theme called “Making a Rainbow Together” featured seven charity themes based on the rainbow colors, including green for a clean environment and navy blue for children’s future. The 2016 edition happened last October 30th.

Back in May, my friend and fellow 2015 TBR Dream Marathon finisher Arlene Cao who kept on encouraging me to join. She knew that I wanted to join marathons overseas at all costs. Heavy workload has been an obstacle for me to join races even just outside Metro Manila. So, I signed up and got accepted. There’s no looking back.

I resumed my marathon training right after receiving my acceptance email. My training consists of short tempo and LSD runs, incorporated with some weight training. It took four months for me to get back in shape and lost around 10 lbs.

ARRIVING JAPAN:

I arrived in the Land of the Rising Sun for the very first time on October 26. Right after landing at the Kansai International Airport, I took a train straight to Tengachaya to drop my luggage where I was staying at. I immediate grabbed some food and enjoyed walking on the streets of Tengachaya. I felt safe there. My first night in Japan was short yet sweet. I needed to sleep early because I had a lot of places to visit the next couple of days.

GOING SOLO ON DAY TWO:

I visited a few heritage parks in Nara, which 1 1/2 hour train away from Osaka. I had fun visiting the Nara National Museum, Todai-ji, and feeding deer at Nara Deer Park. There was a pregnant deer bit my butt after I ran out of deer cookies. Too bad that I was not able to visit other historical landmarks including the famed Kasuga Grand Shrine because of the sunset at 4:00 PM.

Nara, Japan

Before I went back to Osaka, I watched a great street musician named Starduck Tony outside of the Nara Kintetsu Line. I also saw the giant Glicoman LED billboard on Dotonbori by chance while walking towards Shinsaibashi. Gosh, there were lots of cosplayers and tourists around since it was just a few days before Halloween. Before day two ends, I went to the nearest branch of Tower Records to buy CDs of my favorite j-rock artists.

DAY THREE:

Gilbert I met on the third day of my vacation. We went to Kyoto to Fushimi Inari Shrine. Too bad, we didn’t stay that long at the shire due to heavy rain. So, we went to a cat café nearby called Neko Café Time to spend for an hour because we both like cats. Neko Café Time is known for its laidback setup and adorable rescued cats. We enjoyed our time with the resident cats there.

Gilbert and I in Kyoto
Exploring Kyoto
Food and souvenir market in Kyoto
Neko Café Time

When the rain stopped we left Kyoto to meet up with Chaps, Jay, and Pam. Afterward, we went straight to INTEX Osaka to claim our race kits. We are impressed by how organized the staff is. We also bought gear by Mizuno, exclusively made for the Osaka Marathon as souvenir items. I had a pretty long day three.

A DAY BEFORE THE RACE DAY:

We did our practice run along Osakajo Park and saw the Osaka Castle. After running we headed straight to Dotonbori and ate at the world-famous Ichiran Ramen. We also had a chance to see beautiful and talented girls auditioning to become an idol right before heading to our respective hotels on sunset.

The Osaka Castle
Glicoman wishes us strong and injury finish
Gelato at Dotonbori

THE RACE DAY:

My friends and I arrived at Osaka Castle Park at 7:30 AM. I was pretty cold probably, at around 10 degrees Celsius and the sky was clear. We did warm-ups and took pictures whilst walking towards the starting line outside of the Osaka-jo Hall. It was reported that there were more or less than 30,000 runners from different countries joined the marathon.

Prepping my Osaka Marathon race gear

The gun started at 9:00 AM but we waited for 45 minutes before our wave’s turn. My body especially my legs started to shiver from the cold whilst being stuck at the starting line. I paid the price of not wearing full-length compression tights.

Ready to rumble!
Striking a pose before the race starts

At the first 10 kilometers, Gilbert and I started the race slow. But, I started to up the pace after an hour of running and I left Gilbert for me run a bit faster. I also took pictures of runners and race attractions from the opposite lane. What I have noticed was water and sports drink stations were placed strategically every three or four kilometers. Maybe because the race happened on a cooler season to prevent us from overhydrating.

Those faster runners…

The locals were showing full support by cheering and giving away all sorts of stuff from candies, green tea, chocolate, fun-sized takoyaki to Air Salonpas for free. That shows how warm the people of Osaka are. In return, many participants gave them high fives.

Children’s choir outside of the Osaka City Hall

Somewhere along the 16th kilometer, I bumped into a friend Vincent, whom I have met at a rock concert in Hong Kong in May of 2015. We were catching up for several minutes while running before I left him at kilometer 19.

with Vincent Lee from Hong Kong

Suddenly, I felt dizzy and experience bad cramps on my thighs along the 24th kilometer. I was about to hit the dreaded wall TOO EARLY. I was heavily focused on exceeding my goal of 5 hours and 15 minutes that almost took a toll on me. I had no choice but to stop at the nearest medical station to get some treatment. Medics gave me a can of oxygen and thigh massage to recover. That thigh massage was pretty stiff! I hurt like hell, believe me! Yet, it helped me to recover. I started taking Salt Stick capsules given to me by Gilbert to increase my body salts. Recovery is a bit struggle for me since this was my first time to run in the cold. It would have been prevented if I wore full-length tights.

The sun went up and the weather became warm at around 1:00 PM. I began having signs of life from kilometers 27 to 30. While my momentum was increasing, I started having fun at the race after seeing race volunteers wearing costumes of popular anime such as Lupin III and Rose of the Versailles. I suffered some cramps again right before the kilometer 34 marker so, I paused at the sidewalk and stretched it out to fasten my recovery. The hydration stations around that area were too far from one another. I was a little bit worried after almost running out of water in my squeeze bottle.

All-out support by Lady Oscar and her troupe

Finally, I felt strongest from kilometer 37 to the finish. Thanks to a few race spectators who gave out water and green tea to racers. I ran at a consistent pace of one-minute run and 30-second walk pace until I crossed the finish line at INTEX Osaka.

Despite not meeting expectations of finishing at 5 hours ad 15 minutes, I managed to finish strong with well-kempt hair and established a new personal record at 5:34:09.

Mission accomplished!
 What a colorful medal!

I am also happy for my friends who have either broke their respective records or finished injury-free.

AFTERMATH:

After the race, we all went inside the stadium to claim our medals and baggage which were nicely arranged per wave. After the race, my friends and I treated ourselves with sumptuous sashimi and cold beer in Shinsaibashi.

Yummy!

Too bad, I had to fly back to Manila the following night after the race due to work. Good thing, a quick dip in a bathtub full of cold water followed by a nice hot shower helped me to recover easily. I even sprayed almost my entire body of a can of Air Salonpas before sleeping. Good thing recovery was quick enough despite the thigh cramps and slight fever symptoms.

I wish I had stayed a few more days in the Kansai Region to explore more places and do more shopping. Otherwise, finishing the Osaka Marathon has been one of the finest races I have ever joined.

I will be back in Japan for sure!