the race: rock on! (san antonio rock n’ roll marathon)

Posted: November 28, 2008 in marathon, my favorite runs, my trips 2008, running

rock-onGiants behind me, giants ahead me… I find myself right in the middle of the pack, weaving through rows and rows of giants. I look down at the ground and the trail is strewn with clothing. You see them everywhere; In the middle of the road, on the sides, t-shirts, sweatshirts, gloves, beanies. Discarded layers of running gear were lining the streets. I see no dismembered body parts though. This is, after all, not a distorted version of a familiar fairy tale. This is not even a nightmare I’m having. I’m wide awake and running the route of the San Antonio Rock and Roll marathon.

“By the way, everyone, temperatures will be around 35 degrees on Sunday. You should seriously consider layering.” Our guide announces this inside the bus as she is giving us a tour of the route for the marathon.

I still haven’t quite mastered converting Fahrenheit to Celsius in my head but I do know that 35 degrees is close enough to 32 degrees. And I remember that 32 degrees is freezing point.

Vicky, who is sitting on the seat in front of me, turns and says,”That’s too cold, isn’t it?”

I nod. We are going to need more layers. We panic shop and find ourselves extra gear at the expo.

On the morning of the half-marathon, I am wearing three layers of clothing. A sleeveless Nike top, an apple green Brooks long sleeved top layer (my little piece of Brian Sell!), a black Nike windbreaker with hood, a buff headgear covering my head and ears and a full Sugoi compression tights. Vicky is wearing four layers on top, two below. I look at her and tell her, “There could be two people in there running a half marathon!” She grins and replies, “I’m still cold!”  So am I. But I can’t put on more layers. I already feel and look like a sausage.

When I left Manila temperatures were also in the 30s. But we are talking Celsius here. Temperatures were in the hot and humid 30s not the freezing 30s. As if I needed more reminding that I was on the other side of the world!

By the time we start running, temperatures had thankfully risen closer to the 40s. The sun is up but I was still having difficult time breathing. The air is too dry. Someone seriously needs to warm this dry air up before they start assaulting my nostrils! My face was also starting to sting. I had forgotten to put sun block on. It was cold but the sun was just as a merciless on the skin.

The rock n’ roll marathon in San Antonio goes through serpentine thoroughfares that weave in and around downtown. It is one of the most scenic of races I’ve ever run in. You find yourself in a mix of rural and urban surroundings.  In the historic district you go right past the Alamo and the charming riverwalk section of the city. A few miles down and you find yourself in the King William residential neighborhood with its elegant rows of Victorian houses.  The second oldest park in the nation is also part of the route and on the full marathon course you’ll also go past handsome historic mission churches.



The energy of the crowd is simply contagious. I’m not even a kilometer out and already there are cheerers shouting out words of encouragement by the side of the road. Groups of well wishers are waving placards and handmade posters. “Go runners, go!” says one. Another one, held by a man with a mask on cheekily says, “Run for your life!” As we go under a bridge, a man in a bicycle with a music player attached to his bike rides past us. He is playing loud rock music and ringing the bells of his bike. “Rock on! Go, go, go!” He shouts out encouragingly. I oblige and try to go faster. I am weaving through huge block of runners. I know it is not the most efficient way to run a half marathon. But I need to go a little faster to warm myself up a bit more.

The wave Vicky and I are in is made up of a mix of half and full marathon runners. Some runners had their paces attached to their backs. I realized that I am in the middle of the 2:45 to 3:00 hour pack. I wanted to run the half in at least 2 hours. So I needed to speed up a bit. I had no choice but simply to weave through the pack. My only problem was, a number of these guys were, at least, half a head taller than I was! I couldn’t really see much ahead of me except a wall of backs and shoulders. I tried running on the side but the road was sloping downwards towards the gutter. I switched to the middle of the road but then there were groups in costumes running all in one row. A father and daughter tandem had special shirts on. One said, like father, like daughter! The other said, like daughter, like father! There was no way I was going to go in-between them! It makes me think about my father who had just celebrated his 60th birthday a few weeks earlier. And I find myself wondering if I will ever get him to run with me. Not likely. But the great thing about having great days like this is that it makes you believe some miracles are actually possible. I bid the tandem goodbye and I continue to weave, weave, weave through the crowd and do the best I can.

I continue to run like the crazy, giddy, happy woman that I feel like inside of me. I hear rock music and see people singing on the stage. I pump my fist up in the air and join the runners as they hoot and holler and cheer and sing out loud. I don’t know anybody in the crowd and I’m not expecting to see a familiar face but I scan the faces of the crowd anyway. They all seem friendly and in good cheer. So I decide to start waving back at them and pretend they are cheering for me. I liked being Mike and Sarah and JD. I even agreed to be Aunt Suz! Thanks guys!

It was not only rock bands playing on elevated stages out in the streets. There was also a mix of school bands and cheerleaders on the route. All in all, it kept the race route loud, and festive and crazy entertaining fun!

Hello, I’ve waited here for you, EVERLONG…


The night before the half-marathon, Vicky and I had driven down to the riverwalk for dinner. We wanted pasta for dinner so we were set on dining ITALIAN and finding a restaurant with seating inside where it would be warm enough for our south-east asian bones. I actually wanted some burritos and Mexican fare but because we were running the next day and I wasn’t sure how Mexican food would agree with my tummy I decided to play it safe. That night, Vicky and I were also playing this little game. She’d hear some loud music coming out of bars and pubs and she’d ask if that sounded like THE CULT. The Cult would be the band playing at the headliner concert on the evening after the marathon. Vicky had never heard of them. She liked music but wasn’t really into heavy metal rock. “Is that it,” she’d ask whenever we would hear something particularly loud and with a heavy metal feel. After a couple of tries she just started asking whenever we would hear anything. It was getting late in the evening and the music was getting louder.

“How about that?” she asks as we pass by an open store front on our way back to the car.

“Nope, that’s just Coldplay!” I tell her. “Definitely not The Cult. Think a bit more post-punk, psychedelic, acid rock…. Led Zeppelin? AC/DC? ”  ”

“Uh-huh!” Vicky says but she is shaking her head.

“Oh well,” I tell her. “You’ll find out tomorrow night. If it gets too loud, we can always just get more popcorn and beer.”

I’ve always loved music. I grew up in a house filled with music day in and day out. For me music and running simply went together. That’s why running in a rock n’ roll marathon was tops in my list of marathons I would want to take part in in this lifetime.

When I heard the Foo Fighters song EVERLONG playing I started singing along with the band. I actually slowed down and started clapping and hooting for them. And I thought of Vicky too. “Not this one, either!” I tell her in my head. Just then my Garmin beeps. I’ve set it to automatically record my paces per lap and to beep every kilometer. I look at it and I’m surprised when I see the total distance I’ve covered. It didn’t really feel like I’ve been running that fast and that long but at the 10KM mark, my time was at 56:53. The last time I ran a half, I did it in 2:04:00. For this half, I was targeting that same pace. I wasn’t set on a PR. I really wanted to enjoy the route and take part in the entertainment. But 56:43? Maybe, just maybe I could actually run this race a bit faster…

So I bid the band adieu and started speeding up a bit. I hit 15KM at 1:25, 16KMs at 1:30. All this time I’d still be singing out loud whenever we went past a band playing. There was one every mile of the stretch. I thought that was simply awesome.

For most of the 21KM route you had the whole road for running. But there were some parts where the opposing lanes were reserved for the marathon runners who were already on their way back! By the time Vicky and I left the start line, the marathon had been going on for an hour. Thus, when I got to that point where the marathon and half marathon pack were once again converging, I found myself running side by side with some of the elite runners. Side by side for a split second, I mean. Those guys did not seem to be running. They were flying. And they were doing it so quietly! I didn’t even hear the girl’s footfalls when she went past me. I believe she was the 5th placed runner for women. Maybe 4th. I just felt a sort of shhhhwing…and a slight breeze on my right side. And then she was gone. Even before I could shout out Wow!

The guys beside me are now cheering. Soon enough the half marathoner’s lane up ahead also started erupting with cheers and claps for the elite marathon runners passing by us, floating by us, flying by us. They were inspiring to watch.

On the website, they promised a flat route. They didn’t lie but it depends on your definition of flat. There were some rises and inclines. I knew this because we had taken the tour the day before. I was prepared for the first incline. I forgot about the one just before the finish line. Normally when I am running, I avoid looking at my Garmin. I simply give every run my best effort and I avoid looking at my watch because I don’t want the extra pressure of running after time. Yes, I wanted to run it in 2 hours but there ended my ambition. Until I hit the 12 mile marker, that is.…

“Just 1 more mile!” Shouts the cheerers and the volunteers.

I looked at my watch then and that’s when I realized that I could quite possibly even go below my 2:00 hour half marathon target. So I decide then and there to push harder. Forget about the tiring legs and dry throat! I’d been singing out loud too much! I pass on the last water station. I didn’t have time to waste. I take one deep, cold breath and start running as fast as I can. And just as soon as I commit to that goal I hit the descent and the steep ascent! By this time the half marathon lane was already filling up again. If I wanted that sub 2 hour PR I knew I needed to start weaving again. I also needed to go up the incline fast!

“Time to haul ass!” the man beside me announces with a grin. I nod and am about to reply when the lady behind him says, “You guys haul ass, mine’s too damn heavy to haul up this incline! Who the hell said this was flat???” We all laugh out loud and then we go…

I go as fast as I can up the incline. I am terrified of falling or worst tripping other runners up. Finally the man and I reach the top. He slows down, I speed up some more and make that last right turn towards the finish line. I hear loud cheers all around. A loudspeaker is blaring. And then I hear nothing. Nothing. Everything around me is silent. In fact, I see nothing. I see no other runner in front of me, no timing strips, not even stars even though my breathing has become a bit labored. I simply push and sprint and will my legs to go faster. Which explains why my finish line picture shows me ducking under the arms of another lady who has her hands stretched out in triumph. I didn’t realize I had reached the finish line! I really thought I was paying attention. I thought I could see everything, hear everything, sense everything. I was simply in another place altogether. I was giving that last 200 meters my best shot. I was not about to wuzz out at the final stretch.

Set your PR, girl. Give yourself something to remember.


So I did. And when I reached the finish line, I thought I could go for another 21 KM more. That’s why I almost ran into that girl at the finish line. I simply didn’t see her. Sorry, girl! While your hands were stretched out in triumph, my head was already soaring somewhere in PR heaven. That’s why I had kept on running when everyone around me had started to slow down. At that point, all I wanted to do was to keep on running.



  1. prometheuscometh says:

    You go girl! Almost got your head knocked off getting that PR. The Cult is still alive and playing? That was one heck of a race. More please…

  2. Gene says:

    Awesome race and recap! Galeeng!

  3. loonyrunner says:

    congratulations! great race, great recap 😀

  4. myironshoes says:

    Prom, at least it was my head which seems to have been designed to withstand more knocks and beatings than my knees… 😉
    Gene and Joe, thanks. Ganyan talaga kapag sobrang daming pinagkakaabalahan. 🙂

  5. highaltitude says:

    Hi Mesh,

    First of all, it was great to finally see you at ULTRA on last Wednesday 🙂

    I feel like running the race with while reading your recap. Congratulation for new PR. I’m sure you’ll set a new PR again as a result of the speed training of Team BaldRunner that you are participating.

    🙂 Thank you! It was great to finally meet you too! And to watch you zooming around the oval tracks! I’m sure there’ll be more chances now to say hello now that we are taking part in the speed sessions.

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