My TBR Dream Marathon 2023 Experience

Running alone is definitely a profound endeavor. It reminds me of a hero’s personal battle, like the journey of Hercules (cue in Michael Bolton singing “I will go the distance”) just to prove one’s worth – more to yourself than to anyone else.

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It’s been over a month now since The Bull Runner Garmin Dream Marathon held at Clark, Pampanga. Us finishers recently received our certificate of completion, which we can aptly call our graduation diploma from the TBR Dream Academy. From the application process, to getting accepted, to attending Bull Sessions, and following Coach Jaymie Pizarro’s program, and finishing with a tribe that you find in the middle of training, it really did feel like we went through running university and graduated. I consider this my second marathon attempt, but first official one, since I already did my first marathon alone in 2021. Ostensibly, the training experience all the way to the event itself is different. But I’m here to share how different it is to prepare for one with batchmates and to do it at a well-organized event, finally without pandemic restrictions.

A training plan specific for beginners offered by TBR

It’s easy to get various kinds of training plans off the internet. But TBR’s, I think, is unique since it is designed for beginners who still cannot run for more than two to three minutes straight. I never knew about the possibility of breaking down the whole 42.2km with a planned walk every few minutes. I chose the 9:1 and sometimes 4:1 breakdown, wherein I would run 9 minutes and walk one minute and then towards the end I started running for 4 minutes and then walking for 1 minute. It was amazing because even with those timed walks, I still shaved off 40 minutes from my first marathon attempt. The first time I attempted this on my own, I was not aware of breaking things down. I had limited knowledge about finishing a marathon. I thought that I just had to keep running, even when taking my nutrition. This is not to say that I never walked during my first marathon. In fact, after 30km, my pace became slower, walks became more frequent, but there was no system or program in place that guided me.

Finding a group of people to run with: UP Dreamers

My heart sank when TBR University started, since I could not make it to training runs that were organized all the way in West Gate, Alabang. I had already missed a lot of weeks until my fellow PF runner finally introduced me to the UP Dreamers. It’s a group of at least 120 dreamers who lived in the northern part of Metro Manila, dedicated to making their TBR dream a reality, so they organized their own training days at 4:00 am every Sunday until race day. The vibe of the community was encouraging, to say the least. Every training day, each member brought Gatorade and other hydration, coolers with ice, topical pain relievers anybody could apply on their aching muscles, and other types of nutrition. Even if I joined the group a bit later during the training season, they made me feel so welcome. The chat group was all about running tips, recovery hacks, and a whole lot of jest!

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My experience from 2 marathon attempts previously

I cannot discount my previous marathon attempts during the height of the pandemic. In 2021, I tried to finish one alone two times. I succeeded in one! I think that mistakes and best practices during that journey contributed to the success of my TBR finish this year. I learned that strength and conditioning truly play a big role in making your muscles strong. I also learned how important it is to listen to your body, to give cleaner nutrition, to know when I’m supposed to peak, and more importantly, the slow, recovery runs is where all the magic happens. Don’t push yourself too hard and too soon!

Dream Chasers became the highlight of my run

What made the TBR Garmin Dream Marathon one of the best run events I’ve experienced are the dedicated Dream Chasers! Dream chasers are a group of experienced runners or marathoners who volunteer to cheer the TBR Dreamers. They were placed in strategic points in the run course to encourage, feed, pace for a portion of the course, and basically just cheer up the already tired runners. I am sure that I will never forget the Chasers in T-Rex costumes and ballet outfits offering sliced apples and lugaw to me as I made my way through the 10km course four times. More than once, a Dream Chaser would jog with me for a few meters asking me if I needed them to pace me for a few more kilometres. They would even make the effort of reading our names from our race bibs. “Go, Tasha! You can do it, Tasha.” Passing by the Chaser tent was the highlight of my run, I always looked forward to running by them. And in TBR’s words: “The Dream Marathon is not just about letting first-time or second-time marathoners achieve their marathon dream. It is also about experienced marathoners being given the opportunity to give back to the running community, to give new runners the same support and motivation they received from others. To basically pay it forward.” Thank you for helping us achieve our marathon dream!

Striking a pose for every photographer

Besides the Dream Chasers, having official and unofficial photographers hanging around the run course was also refreshing. It was a time for me to give my biggest smile despite the muscle soreness I started to feel, 3 hours into the run. Even though most of us participants had our own support groups taking photos of us, those people with long, telephoto lenses really gave more umph to one of the most memorable days of my life. Us Dreamers now have profile photos for years to come!

Seeing others execute their own nutrition and coping mechanisms

Most Dreamers ran in groups, like the people they trained with for more than three months. Some ran with registered pacers. I spotted a friend with his wife and he told me that he automatically had to be her pacer. He was not planning on running a marathon, but agreeing to be his wife’s pacer speaks of his love and support for her. What’s more is that he asked his wife’s family and friends to write a short note to her and my friend read each note to her every kilometer.

As I focused on my own breathing and nutrition plan, it was so comforting to see fellow Dreamers do the same thing. Having fellow runners beside you all throughout the course is energizing enough. You know you are experiencing the same pain, the same highs and lows, as you are all running the same route together.

There were also other unregistered supporters along the way. They were there to watch fellow Dreamers too. Some made sure I had enough nutrition; others encouraged me to give it your best until the finish line. I also had my own support: thank you, Gul, for waking up at 12 midnight with me and for cheering me and refilling my hydration for the whole five hours! I can’t believe I didn’t think I needed that kind of support during my first marathon.

Running alone is definitely a profound endeavor. It reminds me of a hero’s personal battle, like the journey of Hercules (cue in Michael Bolton singing “I will go the distance”) just to prove one’s worth – more to yourself than to anyone else. But the TBR Dream experience is unmatchable. Big, well organized races are unmatchable because of the energy and the community. All Dreamers groups from different areas still meet weekly for runs or socials. The TBR Facebook Community grows every time a new batch enters and graduates. I can’t wait for my turn to be a Dream Chaser, to give back, and to hopefully make someone else’s marathon dreams come true.

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