The long, long road to Boston
I’ll probably burn in hell for saying this, but training for a marathon can be quite boring, especially when it’s time to load up on the miles as race day approaches. Pounding the road with weekend long runs and weekday speed work, week after week, for up to 20 weeks, can also put a mental and physical strain on the recreational athlete. It is hell.
Luckily, most coaches recommend cross-training in low-impact sports like cycling and swimming, to ease the boredom and minimize the injuries associated with physical overuse and abuse in long-distance running.
Sen. Pia Cayetano, an accomplished marathon runner and triathlete before she plunged into the turbulent sport of politics, once advised me to mix up my marathon training by taking up triathlon, the swim-bike-run multisport event that has become one of the country’s fastest growing sports.
It was written somewhere that some low-impact sports like cycling, swimming and even weightlifting and other gym workouts have their own equivalent in running mileage. True enough, I was able to cut down on my run mileage without guilt and got relief from the most common of all running injuries—plantar fasciitis—when I took up triathlon. So, after being bad in many sports, I became bad in three more.
Pivot to triathlon
Triathlon was where I got stuck for 10 years. It became my main sport and marathons became just part of my training. I became part of an ever-growing triathlon community where I made my mark as one of the most active seniors in a gruelling sport tailor-made for much younger athletes.
Early this year, celebrity triathlete/marathoner Kim Atienza sent me back on the road to my dream marathon destination—Boston—by introducing me to Gilbert Tang, managing director of Chris Sports, exclusive distributor of NordicTrack premium fitness equipment.
NordicTrack, which gained fame as maker of the classic Nordic ski equipment, ellipticals and other low-impact exercise machines, not only offered me a spot in the starting line of the 123rd Boston Marathon; it also came up with the perfect machine on which to cross-train—indoors—for a marathon and triathlon.
Tang manages Chris Sports, a leading sports and gym equipment store with more than 40 branches nationwide. At his headquarters in Kamuning, Quezon City, recently, Tang introduced me to the NordicTrack studio cycle as part of my preparation for Monday’s Boston Marathon.
The NordicTrack (S22i) studio exercise bike raises indoor cycling to a new level. This machine takes the cyclists of all abilities—from beginners to professionals—on a tour of the scenic routes with actual videos, not just computer-generated imagery (CGI) common among cycling apps like Zwift.
With professional trainers and coaches as guide, I tried out an advanced training interval or weight-loss ride in Isfjorden, Norway, a mountain-bike spin in Valparaiso, Chile, a climb to Chamonix in the French Alps, and a nice and easy ride by Lake Geneva in Switzerland.
Most programmed training rides range in duration from 30 to 60 minutes, burning up to 1,000 calories. On a 22-inch interactive touchscreen, trainers control resistance and inclines.
What makes the NordicTrack studio cycle ideal for fitness enthusiasts, from housewives to time-pressed business executives, is that it is fun—“like you are in an actual indoor cycling class in the gym but with the convenience of any time and comfort of your home,” says Tang.
An accomplished triathlete and marathoner runner himself, Tang knows whereof he speaks. He attests to the fact that cross-training with exercise machines indoors reduces the likelihood of accidents and overuse injuries and makes workouts fun and weather-proof.
The scorching hot Alveo Ironman 70.3 in Davao City last week (March 24) was less of a struggle and the Boston Marathon of my dreams will be less daunting because of the studio cycle.
Boston, the granddaddy of all marathons, was within my grasp when I qualified for the race in 1983. But I never got to run it because of work and an injury; and I never got to qualify again because of a horrible car accident that crushed both my knees and my marathon dream. My orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Antonio Rivera, said I should be able to run again in a few months, but I never had the will to run again, until 23 years later.
In late 2006, I happened to be in the right place at right time—at the finish line of the New York City Marathon in Central Park. Watching runners, including the still-to-be- disgraced Lance Armstrong, cross the finish line, I realized that this was where I ran my last marathon. As it turned out, this was where I found the will to run again.
So I hit the road again, returning to New York for my comeback marathon in 2007 and running one major marathon after another. I would go on to run a total of 13 majors—six in New York, five in Chicago and one each in Berlin and Tokyo, some of them while training for a triathlon.
I would also go on to complete three Ironman races and countless half-Ironman and Olympic-distance triathlons. All told, I must have run thousands of miles in training and in competition. All the while, still dreaming about the one that got away (TOTGA)—Boston. That’s what it is, my TOTGA marathon.
It had been a circuitous journey, but when I finally take my first step across the starting line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, on Monday, it will be the final stretch of the long, long road to Boston.
(Editor’s note: Artemio T. Engracia Jr. is the former news editor of the Inquirer)