Milo medals dominate my medal rack because it’s one annual tradition I couldn’t miss for the world. No typo there, I could not, not I will not. There’s an irresistible kind of high that draws you in, even when early announcements are just being made. It’s a marathon of marathons, wreaking the havoc of a tropical storm, and sending runners from all walks and experiences in life, to pause and remember what it was like in the past editions.
Leading to tomorrow’s 3AM gunstart in just a few hours from now, let me just share what it’s been like for me for the past 6 years of Milo-madness.
Rain or Shine. We could be divided on this, but the more experienced a runner you are, the MORE you would probably prefer the rains, or even a gusty storm, to prevail in the skies – rather than melt like chocolate under the scorching heat of El Nino. The preparation of gear, then, should seriously consider a sunvisor or cap, for whichever weather condition to race in. Back in the years when it rained, I survived blistered soles in wet running shoes by spraying antiperspirant as part of my pre-race ritual. This year could turn out to be the first Milo marathon in atypical sunny weather! My personal fashion goal then (fashion what?) would be to wear my running optics and look chic when the photographers close in.
Get conditioned for Breathing Issues. I’m not referring to respiratory conditions which may cause serious shortness of breath (aka dyspnea). This is more of the feeling of haziness upon inhaling toxic fumes, and the culprit is the polluted route along Roxas Boulevard. Did you know that this part of Manila poses the highest pollution index (labelled “hazardous”) in an Air Quality Report in 2011?
The main contributory factor to this high pollution index came from smoke emissions of buses and trucks, especially during the wee hours of the day when the atmospheric air starts to move to ground level. Now, I’m not about to judge that this is not a good route to begin with, but being forewarned is being forearmed. Maybe it’s partly for this reason that we all try to live healthily; in times when we can’t avoid the germs, our bodies have a defense mechanism that will not let us fall ill right away.
People Everywhere. Unlike other marathons where you can enjoy the peace and tranquility of your solitary run, Milo is an opportunity to be social, especially with a general public that may not necessarily understand why you are sacrificing life and limb for a race. Of course the usual Sunday crowd of from Luneta to CCP can actually make you feel at home – from tempting foods and drinks from vendors to bikers and skaters trying to get a piece of the action. Expect also to see a lot of uniformed men, controlling traffic and earning the ire of motorists for holding the line.
It’s always about Cut-Off and Qualifying Times. Admit it, Milo brings out the competitive spirit in us all. Why we can’t swallow our prides and insist on trying to qualify, despite lack of training, is beyond comprehension, but that’s the idea of running a Milo. Seasoned or newbie, the trying is as important as the doing. But please, know where to draw the line between testing your limits and dying on the course. In 2010, a 21K runner collapsed in the 19th KM and arrived DOA at the nearest hospital. Rumor has it that he was trying to “beat” the cut-off and was not able to heed signs of dehydration during the latter part of the race. Despite some flak from dissenting opinions about the cause of his death, Milo remains rooted as one of the country’s premier race and continues to attract thousands of runners every year.
The last 24 hours before Milo give me a sharp memory of the past but it will also awaken in me a newness, send butterflies in my stomach, and make me eager to put my best foot forward tomorrow. That’s my Milo Olympic-energy spirit! Run safe!