Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015 – My first half marathon (21K) experience!
Just a couple of days ago, I, together with two buddies of mine – Victor Basa and Jeff Lo – traveled to the beautiful island of Guam to join the annual Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015.
This was to be my first ever half marathon (21K), so what better way to kick off the next phase of my enthusiasm and passion for running than by joining an international competition and doing it abroad.
About the Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015
For folks who aren’t aware (or for those who want to know more), the Guam Ko’ko’ Road Race was created by the Guam Visitors Bureau to garner increased interest in the island by international athletes but more importantly, to bring attention to the plight of Guam’s territorial bird, the Guam Rail or ko’ko’ bird.
Yup. The ko’ko’ is a flightless bird, endemic to Guam, whose numbers have been sadly decimated to near extinction by the brown tree snake, pesticides and other detractors.
Through the help of the Guam Visitors Bureau and the continued support it gets via the net proceeds of the Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race, the efforts to save the ko’ko’ from extinction are ongoing. In fact, the Guam Rail has been re-released into the wild with successful reproduction back in November 2010 on Cocos Island in Guam.
The days I spent on the island leading up to the Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015 were equally filled with excitement, great food and fun activities, such as off-road driving and skydiving (YES! Skydiving!) – but that’s a whole different experience that I will fondly talk about on a couple of separate blog posts in the near future – so watch out for it.
What immediately stood out for me as I observed the preparations for the Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015 and during the pre-race media conference we attended was how incredibly organized everything was.
Race kits were distributed days before to avoid actual race day frenzies. The Guam police force and firefighters were properly prepped and have given their full support.
Details and procedures were well thought out… But, I guess 10 years of staging an event of this magnitude has greatly helped as well.
It’s worth noting that 2-3 days before the race, I found out that my trusty ol’ pair of running shoes just gave up on me.
Upon wearing them in my hotel room minutes before an early morning practice run, I noticed that my left shoe had a substantial tear. It goes without saying that because of this problem, I missed our scheduled morning practice and needed to get a new pair of running shoes which I’d be forced to break-in during the Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015 itself. Yikes!
With the help of our travel buddy, Ms. Carmel Carpio of the Guam Visitors Bureau, as well as Jeff and Victor, we made a quick stop at Foot Locker inside Micronesia Mall to look for a good replacement for my old worn out shoes.
I ended up getting the Asics Gel-Kayano 21. Just in the nick of time… whew!
Race Day! The Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015 finally arrived! Since, the staging area and the starting line were situated right beside the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa (where we were billeted at), it only took us a couple of minutes walking to the event.
You could feel the electricity in the air as thousands flocked to the Gov. Joseph Flores Memorial Park. It felt absolutely incredible. Everyone was in a festive mood, exchanging pleasantries and a couple of laughs.
The Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015 promptly started at 4:00AM… so, with mixed emotions of anticipation, nervousness (it’s my first half marathon after all!) and excitement, I made my way along the 21Km route.
Given that I only had a small window of time to prepare for a run this extreme, I clearly felt a great deal of difficulty during the 7th-8th kilometer mark. But letting up was never an option. I knew that I just had to press on and wait for my second wind to kick in. And sure enough, it did!
After reaching the halfway mark, it felt so much easier. I was merely counting down the remaining kilometers and exchanging smiles and short pleasantries with runners whom I overtook, not to mention those who passed by me as well.
It was an absolute joy and a huge boost mentally to see huge crowds along the street cheering you on and encouraging you to do your best. It was surreal. This just goes to prove that running a race is 70-80% mental. Your mindset plays a major part in the outcome of any challenge – that includes the Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015, of course.
The view during the Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015 helped, too! Watching the beautiful sunrise as we trod the paved roads of Guam right beside the island’s long stretch of clear blue waters was just a sight to behold. That alone was already worth the run. Amazing, indeed.
I finally reached the finish line with a time of 2:45:09. Not bad for a first half marathon, if I say so myself. I guess you could also consider this my personal best (obviously!)… Hahaha!
It’s worth noting, too, that the finisher medals and shirts given at Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015 are absolutely beautiful.
I cannot even begin to describe the awesome feeling of being able to finish my first half marathon. And to do that abroad while being able to help out a wonderful cause such as saving the ko’ko’ bird from extinction is just pure joy. Nothing comes close to it.
There’s just so much to thank for the opportunity and also for the motivation during the days leading up to the Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015.
So, please allow me to thank them one by one (I hope I don’t leave anyone out)…
First and foremost, I’d like to thank my family especially my wife, Yen, my kids, Ralph and Isabella, as well as my dad for allowing me to travel to Guam and for the constant support all throughout my training and preparation. Those simple “I love yous” over Facetime and Facebook just gave me so much strength and resolve to do this half marathon. I love you beyond words.
I’d like to thank Ms. Carmel Carpio and the beautiful folks of the Guam Visitors Bureau for the incredible opportunity not only to join the Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015 but also for touring me around the awesome island of Guam, showcasing a good number of the island’s amazing attractions and delicious food. I love you, Carmel! You’re a great friend and an amazing company.
Thank you to my “Boys Guam Out” co-half marathon teammates, Victor Basa & Mr. Pinoy Fitness – Jeff Lo, for the motivation and encouragement, not to mention the non-stop kulitan the past few days. Vic, thanks for the energy gels. Those packets really saved my life – and legs – during the run. Hahaha! Jeff, what can I say… you’re Mr. “Pinoy Fitness”, man! I look up to you. Thanks also for helping me out pick a new pair of running shoes during the trip!
Thank you to Globe Telecom for the incredible data roaming service in Guam. Globe’s data roaming has allowed me to access my Spotify playlists during the entire run of the Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015. The motivational music provided by the playlists on Spotify, especially during times when I thought I couldn’t go on any further was very instrumental in bringing me back to a determined state of mind. I love you guys! Alam niyo yun.
I’d like to also thank the wonderful people of Guam for welcoming us with open arms and making us feel right at home from the very moment we landed on the airport. Thank you also to the amazing people who lined the entire 21K stretch of road during the Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015, cheering us on and giving us hydration until we reached the finish line. You guys rock!
Last but certainly not the least, I’d like to thank the LORD for giving me the strength to finish the race – and in good time, too! It wasn’t me on that long stretch of road. It was all HIM. Truly. All HIM.
That’s it I guess. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out. If I did, please forgive me.
The Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015 is truly one for the books. My joy goes beyond these words.
Congratulations to the Guam Visitors Bureau for a highly successful and greatly received Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay 2015! 10 years running, right? May you last a good 10, 30, or even 50 years more! And hopefully in the near future, I may be able to return to beat my “personal best”!
But first allow me to rest my excruciatingly aching feet and legs. It’s time to celebrate this accomplishment. We most certainly earned it. Cheers!