The Run in Paradise: A United Guam Marathon 2017 Experience

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United Airlines Guam Marathon 2017

“Take a good rest and keep it going! You can do it man!”

A young man’s rugged voice as I brisk walked past the four kilometer mark while catching my breath. I looked on my side, wondering where the voice was coming from. And there he was, behind me, running slowly… very slowly, on the same pace as mine.

I nodded to him and for some moment we were in close distance. By and by, he went passed me. I could still see his back until I lost him in the sea of runners of United Airlines Guam Marathon 2017.

United Airlines Guam Marathon 2017
Running in United Airlines Guam Marathon is like running in paradise with the panoramic white sandy beach of Tumon Bay as the backdrop.

The United Airlines Guam Marathon is one of the most anticipated running events in Guam and the entire Micronesia. Now on its fifth year, the marathon has established itself as the island’s premier running event, attracting runners from the region and from all over the world. The event has also played a key role in promoting sports tourism in Guam with the beautiful island as the stage and the panoramic white sandy beach of Tumon Bay as the backdrop.

Organized by Guam Sports Event Inc. with United Airlines, Pacific Islands Club Guam and Guam Visitors Bureau as major sponsors, this year’s event was participated by more than 1,400 runners from 16 countries including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, US mainland, Philippines and Hong Kong, among others. There were four running categories – 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon. Various pre and post-race events were also organized this year such as as the United Marathon Expo and the BBQ Beach Party.

United Airlines Guam Marathon 2017
Pilipinas Represent: Liliane Cobiao of wanderlass.com, Marchie Reyes of Travel Life Magazine, Carmel Carpio of Guam Visitors Bureau Philippines and yours truly. 🙂

By invitation of Guam Visitor’s Bureau and United Airlines, I happened to be one of the handful of runners from the Philippines, albeit I am sure that a lot of Filipinos joined the event bannering Guam as their hometown owing to the fact that more than 30% of the entire Guam population are Filipinos.

It has been a long time dream to finish a marathon but work, travel and blogging wouldn’t let me. Lame excuses, I know. Truth is, running a marathon needs training, dedication and focus. Sadly, I still couldn’t internalize these three and the longest I have finished so far was 10K. It was around five years ago.

So after five year of hiatus, I am back in running! And the United Airlines Guam Marathon marked my return to the field. I wanted to do the half or even full marathon but since I lack proper training and preparation, I ended up registering for 10K.

United Airlines Guam Marathon 2017
United Marathon Expo, setting the mood! 🙂

I could feel the excitement as we arrived in Guam Airport three days prior to the run. All the banners and posters in the arrival area proved how big this running event is and the collaterals helped to hype up my excitement.

Less than 48 hours before gun time, we dropped by the Hafa Adai Expo at Pacific Island Club Guam to pick up our kits. There were booths and programs in the expo, and the vibe was lively and fun! Everyone seemed so excited to run in paradise! Well, who wouldn’t be?

United Airlines Guam Marathon 2017
Ready to run in paradise!

D-day! I woke up past 3AM on a cold morning, still sleepy despite the six hours of sleep. By 4AM, just when the half-marathon runners were released, I went out of my room at Pacific Star Guam and walked to the starting line just a couple of blocks away. Gun time for 10k was at 5AM.

Assembly line was a party with loud sound as if waking up the participants. After the fire dance and the raffle (which was won by a runner from Hong Kong), the gun was shot to mark the release of more than 900 runners for 10k category. I was on the front line.

United Airlines Guam Marathon 2017
All suit up! 🙂

With my energy still high, I sprinted for the first few minutes taking advantage of my adrenaline and momentum. I wanted to finish the run as fast as I could not for a podium finish nor to beat my personal record, I was just aiming to time under an hour. I got the first kilometer in just three minutes but the ascends along Pale San Vitores Road quickly consumed my reserved energy so I slowed down until I reached the hydration area at kilometer two along Marine Corps Drive.

I grabbed a cup of Gatorade and exchanged “Hafa Adai” to the cheerers by the roadside. My pace was slow, slow but steady to the point of just walking as I reached kilometer four.

“Take a good rest and keep it going! You can do it man!”

A young man’s rugged voice as I walked past the four kilometer mark while catching my breath. I looked on my side, wondering where the voice was coming from. And there he was, behind me, running slowly… very slowly, on the same pace as mine.

I nodded to him and for some moment we were in close distance. By and by, he went passed me. I could still see his back though until I lost him in the sea of runners.

His words and the roadside cheering of bystanders, spectators, policemen, marshalls and volunteers sank in and I was motivated. So I kept going on a faster and steady pace while passing forward the same words that the young man instill in my head.

After few minutes, I saw the young man again. He was walking, clearly taking a break. From his back I uttered, “take a good rest and keep it going! We’re almost halfway.”

He looked at me and smiled. Then he kept running on the same pace as mine and for some moment we were side by side.

“You motivated me man!”, his words.

I smiled. I wanted to return the words but we both became busy passing the cheer to other runners.

I lost him again at midpoint, if he went ahead or stopped behind me, I am not sure. I kept on going on a steady pace, with the same enthusiasm and motivation.

United Airlines Guam Marathon 2017
10K runners at the starting line.

I saw the diversity of runners going back – men and women; young and old; Japanese, Korean, Guamanian; some running with kids, while others with baby strollers. Each runner is a face of inspiration and motivation.

The last kilometer was a treat with the downhill slope to the finish line. It started to drizzle as I sprinted at the remaining stretch of the course. The sound and cheerings became louder and wilder, the 5K runners were already in the assembly area, the day was already starting to reveal. Then at exactly 5:55:01AM, I crossed the finish line to complete my comeback run.

I collected my finishers medal, certificate and towel and started walking away from the crowd. I wanted to stay and linger around, and check out the BBQ party at the beach, but the drizzling persisted so I decided to return to my room to rest and take a nap.

As I walked back to my hotel, I saw the young man sprinting in the last few meters of the route. I stopped and glued my eyes to him as he crossed the finish line with his both arms up in the air.

Apparently, we both made it.

United Airlines Guam Marathon 2017
Proud finisher of United Airlines Guam Marathon 2017 – 10K

The scenes during the run played back on my head as I closed my eyes to sleep. Scenes of inspiration, motivation and camaraderie. It was a great comeback with all these memories and with my new personal record for 10K, timing 55:01 and ranking 80th out of almost 1000 runners in my category.

Running in United Airlines Guam Marathon 2017 is such an amazing and memorable experience and I thank United Airlines and Guam Visitors Bureau for it. I am looking forward to another hafa adai running experience next year, half or even full marathon maybe. 🙂

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