42 is Just a Number


For the past few days, I’ve been thinking of ways to start this entry. This is a lot more special than the daily Project 366 I’ve been posting (last post was January 18 and I owe you 44, goodness!) because this post is about making a statement, pushing the limits, and proving something to myself. At this moment, I’m still reeling in from the events that transpired last week and the only thing I can think of despite the thousands of thoughts in my head right now is this: “I made it”.

I freakin’ made it.

For months I’ve been itching to post this on social media but I decided not to. When you put something on the world wide web it becomes public domain and you allow people to say something about whatever it is that you posted. With that, I decided to post when it’s done because then I won’t have to deal with opinions and expectations from people.

Now we begin.

I think that people who run marathons have a hugot story. Here’s mine:

I ran for love. *cringe* Nope. Haha! I ran because I wanted to prove something to myself. I was born with skin asthma which later on developed into bronchial asthma. My first asthma-related memory involves a long list of food that I should avoid, and another list of medicines that I need to take. I was four and at that early age, I was always singled out whenever my peers played games that involved running, jumping, screaming, and intense dust exposure. In school, there were times when I had to be sent to the clinic because I couldn’t breathe. In college I tried to fight my asthma, only to end up in the hospital with a dextrose and plenty of antibiotics because I prioritized my thesis and forgot to take care of my lungs.


I kind of found my turf when I started to surf. Breathing was not an issue- the ocean breeze was my best friend. I didn’t have to worry about being singled out because hey, we’re all “single” when we’re out in the sea anyway. We chase our own waves and well, ask others to push us when our arms are too tired to paddle.However, the weekly surf trips began to affect my savings so I had to lay low for a while. I then found myself enjoying flag football but I could only run a couple of rounds (when I’m lucky I’d score a touchdown). Anything more than that and I’d be gasping for air already. A lot of people called me a wimp because my lungs weren’t as normal or as strong as theirs and for a long time, I allowed their perspective to limit me.

Last August 2015, the applications for The Bull Runner Dream Marathon 2016 opened and for some reason, I decided to send my application. I fidgeted as I filled in the form. I was crying because I didn’t know if I could do it- the only thing certain at that time was that I want to run. In my heart I knew that I wanted to run and when I found out that I got accepted, I told my mom and my uncle who is a TBR alumnus. Both expressed their concerns but said they will support my decision.

When I told some of my friends about it, most of them laughed and even joked that I might as well crawl all the way to the finish line. Only a few told me that they believe in me and that I can do it. I think when these things happen, you have two options: listen to people who say you can’t, or listen to people who say you can. However, whether it’s a can or a can’t, you have your OWN voice to listen to at the end of the day and whatever that voice says is your reality.

A few days before the marathon, I had to deal with the death of my beagle, Roxy. I was crushed and I wondered if I can still run. I was tempted to drop out but then I also knew that dropping out meant adding another item on my long list of what ifs. So, instead of sulking, I decided to still prepare for the run and dedicate the distance of 42k to Roxy as a way of celebrating her life.

Roxy | (c) Aliya Agbon

The day before the marathon I couldn’t sleep or eat. I was too anxious. I suffered from a migraine, I thought I was about to get sick, and I think I checked my running gear more than ten times to make sure I won’t be forgetting anything. Since the gun start for the marathon was at 2 in the morning at Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, Laguna, my uncle and I left Manila at 12 midnight. I tried to sleep on the way but I couldn’t so I tried to condition myself instead. When I saw the venue, I became even more nervous because oh my goodness what am I doing to myself. What the hell did I get myself into? I was overwhelmed with emotions, everything was a blur, and I just wanted to get it overwith. I then saw my best friend, Chickee, who was with her boyfriend Ty. I asked Chickee to pace me since it was my first time to run a marathon. She assured me that everything will be okay, that I can do it, and that I will cross the finish line. I was jumping up and down during the countdown and I screamed when I heard the gun start.

(c) Marriz Agbon

And so the journey to 42k began.

Chickee and I walked during the first minute not to conserve energy, but to find our space in the sea of marathoners, pacers, and dream chasers. We jogged during the second minute to signal the start of our 1:1 run-walk pace to complete the distance of 42.195 kilometers. I tried to let my mind drift back to the days when I was still training so I can easily ignore 1) the fact that it’ll take a while for me to finish the marathon, 2) words from the naysayers that were ringing in my ears and 3) to have fun. Before we knew it, we were already jogging uphill and we were on our way to hit 5k. Time check, 50 minutes. We were making good time.

The cold Nuvali air made it fun and easy to run. Going uphill was quite exhausting but the grand view of the city lights made the climb worthwhile. After a few more stories and high fives from the dream chasers, we hit the 15k mark. Unfortunately for me, I began to feel pain on both feet so I asked Chickee to help me stretch for a bit. I kept checking my watch because I didn’t want to be disqualified. After some minutes of stretching, Chickee and I decided to power walk all the way to 21k. I was stopped twice because the dream chasers noticed that I was already limping. They massaged my feet and sprayed liniment for relief. Some tried to make me laugh, while some told me that there’s a possibility that I won’t make the cut (when we heard this, Chickee and I screamed: NEVER!).

When we finally reached 21k, Chickee had to rest. She wasn’t allowed to do the whole 42k since she’ll be doing a triathlon the week after. I was finally on my own. The sun was up, I could see that some of my batch mates were almost finished with their second loop and all I could do at that point was pray that I finish the remaining 21k, aching feet and all.

You’d think that at some point I’d complain about my weak lungs but nope, that didn’t happen. My lungs were surprisingly fine! No asthma!

On the way to 21K with Lance, Chickee, and Sir Adel | (c) Active Pinas

When I reached 22k, I sent a text to my mom, my uncle, Chickee, and Aar to let them know that I made it past the dreaded 21k mark. At this point I was already weighing the pros and cons. Will I make the cut? What if I don’t? I was also trying to make mental computations of how fast I should go (yeah right) and at what time I should hit the 30k mark so I can cross the finish line before 11 AM. I was crying because I felt so alone. Bikers and cars would drive past me and say “you can do it!” and the only thing I could give them was a faint smile. I kept thinking about my goal, I kept walking despite the pain, and when I chanced upon Ga, a fellow marathoner, I walked faster so I can ask how he is and talk to him for a bit. Both of us were power walking and both of us were wondering if making the cut is still possible. After a few minutes I decided to go ahead because I wanted to press forward and see how far I can go. At 26k I saw Brian, another marathoner. He asked about my feet because he saw me limping. He gave me some tips, all of which were acknowledged, and then we continued walking. When I reached 30k, I saw my uncle and when I approached him, he asked if I still wanted to continue. I paused for a bit. 30k. I made it this far. I can just give up, right? Right? NO. I told him I’ll finish the marathon.

Station 3 Dream Chasers | (c) Jn Tbr

With that, we stopped by station 3. Some of the dream chasers gave me a massage (thank you, all of you!), and then, I finally allowed myself to break down ( I don’t know if it’s because of exhaustion or pain). At 30k, everything becomes mental. The physical pain is secondary. I zeroed in and focused on my goal. I fought through the pain. I wanted to triumph over the pain. I had no plans of quitting. Nope, not gonna happen.

My uncle walked with me for the last 12k. We talked about a lot of things which was helpful because I managed to take my mind off my aching feet. I’d pause and hold my knees from time to time, to relieve some of the pain. I tried to jog, but since that was too painful, I decided to stick to power walking. At this point, I opened myself to one of the principles of open space technology: whatever happens is the only thing that could.

My uncle gave me pickle juice to fight off the cramps. From time to time, he sprayed cold water on my face. I had twenty minutes to negotiate 2k but at that time, my pace went from 10:1 to 15:1. So near yet so far.

Last few meters to 42K | (c) Active Pinas

The dream chasers cheered when I passed the last station. One of them even screamed “you are my idol!” and that helped a lot. When you’re limping your way to the finish line and when all hope seems lost, cheers and words of encouragement from people you don’t even know will give you that extra push that you need. My uncle, Chickee, Tyron, and some of the dream chasers walked with me as I limped my way to the finish line.

Unofficial time: 9 hours and 17 minutes. Total distance: 42.195 kilometers.

I didn’t make the cut, I don’t have a medal, but I feel like I won first place.

With Jaymie Pizarro! | (c) Marriz Agbon

I just stood there in disbelief. I made it. I made it? I made it. Oh wow I made it! Good thing the photo booth was still there so I had the chance to have my photo taken with the words “I AM A MARATHONER”. We also saw The Bull Runner herself, Jaymie Pizarro, who congratulated me because despite the pain, I still fought and finished the marathon. At this point, I already had to sit down because my feet could no longer carry my weight. After claiming my swag bag and finisher’s shirt, I bid Chickee and Tyron goodbye. It was time to go home.

When in doubt, dimples out! | (c) Active Pinas

A lot of people thought I did it to seek vengeance but that’s not the case. When I signed up for The Dream Marathon 2016, it was clear that I wanted to show myself that I’m not weak. I wanted to prove to myself that I am strong and that I can run a marathon. When people ask me how I did it, all I can say is that I chose to believe in myself and ignore the negative opinions of others. People will always have something to say and that’s fine. At the end of the day, you decide which of those opinions deserve your attention, and which ones should be tossed in the I-don’t-give-a-f*ck-bucket. Besides, I think that people who say you can’t are threatened because you are more courageous than they are.

The first step to accomplishing anything in life is believing in yourself. The whole 42k, I kept telling myself “you can do it” and I believe, that those four words gave me the fuel that I needed to finish.

I just want to give a shout out to my mom and my brother for supporting me all the way and for understanding that I just wanted to prove something to myself, my uncle who paced me and helped me recover, Chickee for believing in me and for pacing me during the first 21k, Tyron for supporting Chickee (and me! Haha!), Aar for supporting me and for monitoring me during the run (I made it! Team strong!), Sir Adel, Lance, Shep Kat, Ate Marie, Ate Kit, Ga, Brian, Dream Chasers, TBR for making all of this possible, and of course, Roxy. 42.195k was no easy feat but you gave me strength. I hope you’re happy in dog heaven. We miss you.

They don’t call me “Aliya” for nothing 😉 | (c) Active Pinas

My name, Aliya, is a Hebrew word which means “to rise up” and that’s exactly what I did last February 21, 2016- the day I became a marathoner.

If you have asthma or if you’ve been told you can’t do things because you have weak lungs, I hope this entry inspires you. For the past 28 years of my life I’ve been told not to move too much because I have asthma and I allowed myself to be limited by the opinions of other people. It has to change at some point.

We have the power to rise and claim our space in this world. Weak lungs and all. 😉


2 thoughts on “42 is Just a Number

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