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RUNNING: If you want to run New York, do the hills

There is nothing flat in the New York City Marathon route; there is only an eternity of false flats, FIVE bridges that rise and stretch to no end and then you top it all with a small hill through Central Park that turns out to be the longest, quietest last FOUR miles of your run before you call on your remaining vive to sprint the last 200 meters or so through 125 flags of the world into a barrage of lights. camera flashes and thunderous cheer shouting the name emblazoned on your shirt. Thanks for the shirt, Doc Mike Munoz.

Marriz Agbon, Mindanawon, proud finisher, New York City Marathon 2017.

This was my most challenging World Marathon Major to date, after the predominantly flat courses of Berlin, Chicago and Tokyo. For one, it was my comeback marathon after 18 months of hiatus from long runs and only THREE months training. Secondly, I ran it with an MCL on the left knee complicated by osteoarthritis on both knees. Third, I’ve never ran under a continuous drizzle with cold winds the whole time making the entire route wet and my shoes wetter. At some point, i was concerned those arthritic knees would lock. Fourth, it’s the world’s largest marathon with 50,000 runners participating. Fifth, you start with these 50,000 runners on the very intimidating Verrazano-Narrows bridge from Staten Island, trying to shield your legs, your body, your fingers from the cold, biting wind while venturing to go straight through the throng of bodies up ahead, sticking to whatever remained of last year’s blue line (this year’s Blue Line Painting was cancelled for security reasons). You go through THREE more bridges in silence as there are no cheering crowds to push you on and then trudge ever so slowly up the kilometer or so long Queensboro bridge on 59th. You actually “slow down, (you) and don’t move too fast” to paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel.

Fellow WMM runner and 4x NYCM finisher Karinna Manuel, you are right on all counts. I should have acquainted myself with the famed silence of Queensboro Bridge and the last four miles at Central Park. These were the hardest segments of the course for me because they were simply mental.

Getting to the starting line of the New York City Marathon is a marathon by itself –  from upper Manhattan, four hours by Metro, ferry, bus and foot. Getting out of the finish line was another challenge as you shuffled with your knees already wide apart from 72nd Central Park West to 59th at Columbus Circle; then an additional four more blocks to my hotel.

Still and all, it was the most festive of my WMMs by far. New York has truly embraced the marathon in all of its 47 years. The people of the FIVE boroughs turned out in huge numbers along the streets to cheer the runners on. The people of New York rolled out Japanese drums, Scottish bag pipes, plastic horns, blaring loudspeakers, their palms and their voices. They danced with beer in red plastic glasses on hand. They offered paper towels, chocolates, pizza and pretzels. A church choir in their Sunday garb pounded the heavens for safety and courage of the runners. Black lady dancers shook their booties to further pump up the runners. Children proffered their tiny palms to catch high-fives from the street warriors.

After the deafening silence of Queensboro bridge, runners are greeted with the ear-splitting roar of the New York crowd on First Avenue. And then that last little hill begins with a short flat at Engineer’s Gate at 96th. Before I reached Engineer’s Gate, I heard the familiar cries, “Tatay! Tatay!” I hurtled back to get my hug and kiss and managed to simply say, “Meet me at 72nd, please!”

Throughout this run, I once again had my father virtually by my side. During my 10 previous marathons since I turned 53 four years ago, I would have these running (forgive the pun) conversations in my mind with my dad talking about his dogs, childhood days as a young farm boy in Misamis Oriental, fishing the seas with handmade swimming googles, the years of World War II, how he fell in love with my mom, the landlord’s daughter, how he worked his way through college and law school. This time, I also asked my father to massage my legs as they started cramping early at kilometer 15. When he still could (my father is now 86), he could do terrific massages that will really loosen those tired limbs. Before long, the cramps were gone.

4th World Major Marathon in the bag; two to go.

This comeback marathon wouldn’t have been possible without my coaching team: Jeaneth Aro #NutrifitPH #AthleticFuelingSystem for guiding me on my nutrition; Marchell Logronio for patiently working me through the strength and conditioning regimen I needed, Saturnino A. Salazar #titusathletics for drilling me on the track, Pj Rivera #ActiveReleaseTechniquesPhilippines for my pain rehab and Rheysonn Cornilla #MovementPerformanceMNL for teaching my knees to run again. Thank you guys.

As always, my most special thanks to my Head Coach and wife Jasmin for the constant care and support, for giving me the eye when I asked for a pre-marathon wine or wanted to skip my taper runs in the last week in exchange for a sleep-in. To Assistant Coach and daughter Janine for the cheering from across the globe. This time. sis-in-law Joanne accompanied Jasmin in meeting me at miles 18 and 23.

All roads lead to New York City as 50,000 runners from all over the world converged to participate in the annual New York City Marathon, Marriz Agbon of Cotabato City among them. Photo courtesy of JASMIN PALMA GIL AGBON

Congratulations to fellow trackmates and NYCM finishers Doc Mike Munoz and Tin Golez, Team Norman mates Chryse Bautista (who also did a terrific job with PH runners jackets that orders are still coming in), Tates Pecson and Pey Mendoza.

Carolyn, I made it. From spectator to NYCM finisher. Wishes can be reality.

As Jay Z sings in “Empire State of Mind,”

I’m the new Sinatra
And since I made it here

I can make it anywhere.

On to WMM #5!

In the meantime, I sleep.

[Marriz Agbon of Cotabato City, founding executive director of the Mindanao Business Council and currently working with Surya Source Energy, an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for solar utilities and commercial/industrial rooftops, has been running since 2011. In 2013, he started doing marathons and to date has completed 11, four of which are World Marathon Majors – Berlin (2013), Chicago (2014), Tokyo (2016) and just recently, the world’s largest marathon, New York which attracted more than 50,000 runners this year. Two more World Marathon Majors – London and Boston – and Marriz, 57,  will be among the few recipients worldwide of the Six Stars Finishers Medal.
Marriz is a diabetic and has kept his blood sugar level within borders since he started running. In between his marathons, Tito Marriz, as he is called by teammates, has been doing triathlons for two years now. This piece was first posted on his FB page on November 6. The author granted MindaNews permission to share this piece]


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