My alarm went off at 4am and I woke straight up – adrenaline already pumping. After 4 months of training, the day of the race had finally arrived. I was about to run my second marathon, though it was my first in Singapore. I had been eyeing this race from the moment I arrived on the island a year before. Its known as being one of the biggest running events in Asia with over 50,000participants.
Unlike all the other races, I wasn’t running this one all for myself. Since the race fell just before Christmas, I decided to run to raise money to bless the NingNing community. I asked friends and family to pledge a kilo(gram) of rice for every kilo(meter) I completed. If I finished all 42 kilometers, a person’s pledge would be 42 kilos of rice – more than a months worth for one person!
I ate my usual breakfast of oatmeal and bananas. Some say you “shouldn’t eat this…” or “shouldn’t eat that…” But if I’ve learned anything in my years of long distance running, its to stick to your own plan. Whatever it is, stick to it and don’t be swayed by what others are doing, or not doing.
I arrived at the starting line to a sea of runners. People were everywhere – a variant of ages, races, and stages of fitness. I worked my way to the middle of the pack. I always say I am running “just for fun” but once I reach that starting line, my competitive juices always kick in. I began to stretch, hop around and pray for strength and endurance. I even called my mom for one last word of encouragement.
Finally, the gun sounded -still in the dark, just before sun rise – and my body kicked into gear. This was moment I had been training for. I was excited, eager and ready to conquer this race. The pitter-patter of thousands of feet in the quiet of the early dawn was music to my ears.
My goal was really to just enjoy the race and finish strong. Perhaps it was redemption of sorts from my first marathon I ran in Manila, when I became severely dehydrated and ended up in an ambulance! This time, I was determined to do it right – eating and drinking along the way and most importantly, keeping my own pace!
The course took us through Singapore’s squeaky clean streets lined with perfectly trimmed trees and neatly manicured lawns. One of my favorite things about these long races is that you really get to see different parts of a city. Travelling on foot makes you slow down from the fast-paced life and take in the beautiful landscape. In Singapore’s case, its a unique mix of east meets west, urban meets jungle, modern meets traditions of the past.
With each kilometer marker, I whispered a ‘thank you’ under my breathe, directed at the divine strength I knew was carrying me. As I reached kilometer 31…32…33… I expected to hit the much dreaded “wall,” or the point of complete and utter fatigue. It happened to me in my first marathon with about 10 kilometers still to go. So this time I was ready.
But to my amazement, it didn’t come. My legs, though numb, held out! I hadn’t even finished the race, but I had already achieved my goal: I was genuinely enjoying the race. Taken by my surroundings and lost in my own thoughts, I was consumed in the race, but the race was not consuming me.
The last 5 kilometers I experienced a sudden burst of energy, strength and stamina. I even picked up my speed, finding myself weaving in and out of people – determined, fearless and focused on the beautiful little girls for whom I was running. They became my motivation. They became my strength as I pushed through the final stretch. I whispered prayers for each one of them, which helped to ease the pain of every aching step.
As I rounded the last corner, I heard two loud voices coming from the sea of people, “Go Ali! Almost there.. you can do it!!” It was my two dear friends – Kate and Kelsey – who stuck out like sore thumbs in an Asian crowd with their bright blond hair, blue eyes and over 6-feet stature. Their smiling faces were enough to literally propel me to the finish line. I did it!
Tears welled up in my eyes as I crossed the finish line. I was overjoyed at my own achievement of finishing the race, but more than that, it meant more than 2,000 US dollars worth of food and gifts would be sent to the NingNing community of girls and their families in the Philippines. The thought of them having an extra special Christmas this year made my heart smile.
Running a marathon is never easy. But when the rewards go beyond yourself it makes it all worth while. And those rewards wouldn’t have come if it weren’t for the support from YOU – friends and supporters of NingNing PEF. Thank you so much for your pledges for this race and your continued support, encouragement and prayers. It means so much to me and the community we are seeking to help.
God Bless your 2010 and stay tuned for more updates!