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The 2001 Guam Marathon
by Saturnino B. Conlu Jr.

I'm a 29-year-old male schoolteacher who will be entering my 2nd marathon event. The first one I did with about one month of little training I completed in about 5 hours and 14 minutes. It was the greatest and also the most painful feeling I've ever felt in my life.

My story starts in July of 2000 when I came down with meningitis. I was the typical "healthy" guy who did not smoke, drink alcohol, or take drugs. What I did not do was exercise regularly, eat well-balanced meals every day, and get good rest. I kind of lived life real laid back with no worries until I got sick.

After coming out of the hospital and having the dreaded spinal tap procedure done, I was so angry. I focused my anger on getting in shape because that was what I remember doing in my teen years that made me feel energetic and good about myself. I was easygoing and certainly not overweight.

I started to walk every day for a week, then started jogging a few times the next, and started to run a few times the following week. I remembered in high school that we had to start of slow then gradually work our way into the running mode. The following month, I decided to enter a 5K run just for the hell of it, which I completed in about 27 minutes.. The last one I did previously was about 11 years ago when I was still in high school. It felt so weird seeing so many energetic people that early in the morning (5:30 a.m. Guam Time). Then I entered about one 5K race a month until January of 2001 when a March 25th marathon peeked my interest. I reasoned that a 5K was 3.1 miles and thus a marathon is about 9 5K's back to back. Entering the marathon seemed interesting to do as many people have made a big deal about completing them. I decided to run every short and long distance race prior to the marathon. I even did a half marathon in February and felt pretty good with my time of 2:07:28. I started preparing and people thought I was crazy to do my first one with only a month or so of training. I told them that I was doing it with a goal of just to finish.

As the marathon drew closer, I really increased my training by putting in more miles right after the half marathon. The week before the BIG ONE I logged my most miles and even ran a 5K the day before the marathon!

I was so excited, scared, and nervous the night before the marathon. With these emotions creeping in, I entertained the thought of not show up and telling everyone that I was injured or that I woke up late. I overcame these negative thoughts and reported to the race site for the pre-race 3:30 meeting. The Guam Marathon started at 4:00 in the morning due to humid and sunny conditions back home.

There were 38 runners that day, although I counted only 30. I guess it was too dark to get an accurate count. The sponsoring running club was awesome, providing us with flashers and zip lock bags that contained tissues and several other items for which I was wondering what purpose they served. I started the marathon by jogging because I knew that it would take me at least five hours to complete it. After about 45 minutes, mother nature called It was so dark in the jungle area that no one noticed that I needed to use the restroom. Thank God for that zip lock bag!

I was dead last for about 90 minutes. Feeling scared, I knew that someone was watching us maybe half a mile down. I continued jogging for about 10 minutes when I finally caught up to one of the runners and began pacing her. I did not feel so lonely and decided to pick up the pace a little. After about two hours of running/jogging in complete darkness, the sun finally rose which was indeed, a cool sight to see. I also knew this was a sign that it was going to heat up and get really humid soon. It then rained for a while and became drenched. I made sure that I drank fluids at every water/Gatorade stop to quench my thirst. I passed the halfway point in about 2 hours and 23 minutes feeling quite tired and asking myself, "I have to do another 13.1 miles?" Mind games came into play, but continued jogging once again. I actually thought I was on a pace to break five hours. It rained hard once again at mile-20 and felt so drained. I think that was the wall for me. I consumed more fluids and energy gels and thankfully felt a little better. During the next mile, I was literally crying to myself with all the pain I was feeling. I just wanted to finish this run without giving up. Although my body was telling me that it could not take it anymore as the mile markers passed, I knew that I was going to do it. It wasn't until the 24th mile that I realized that I wasn't going to break five hours. At that point, I said "Oh well, let's just finish with style". I walked mile-25 will the little energy I had remaining until I noticed one of the other runners coming up behind me. At that point, I said to myself that I was going to gut it out the rest of the way to the finish line.

My time was 5:14:13 and I finished 34th out of 38 runners. Oh man, did I feel so good yet so tired when I finished. I did okay I thought and went to the awards banquet to receive my certificate and shirt. It was an awesome feeling finishing something that most people are unable to do.

I know that I made lots of mistakes that last week before the marathon such putting in miles instead of resting and preparing mentally. I should have listened to experienced runners and followed their advice. Unfortunately, I did not as I felt that my training was adequate. I've learned many lessons from that race. Proper training, diet, and rest are things that I recommend to anyone doing their first marathon.

I now live in Anaheim, CA after leaving Guam Dec 18, 2001. I kept in shape a little and experienced many climate and weather changes, one being seeing snow for the first time in my life. I tried running in 40-degree weather and snow and it certainly feels different.

Last year, I competed in, and finished 50 events including one-mile runs, 5K's, 10K's, half marathons, a biathlon, two triathlons, and also a mini adventure race. The 30th Guam Marathon was my greatest accomplishment both physically and mentally. I learned so much about training properly. It opened the doorway to my getting into sports such as cycling and swimming and competing in a variety of fitness events. At age-28, I finally learned how to swim so that I could compete in multi-sport races. The best part about my marathon experience is that I made lots of friends who value and active and healthy lifestyle.

In just 13 days, I will be achieving another milestone in my life, competing in the Los Angeles Marathon. running with thousands of people from all over the world. I've trained a little better than last year and as a result of the experience I've gained, my goal is to break five hours. If not, the thrill of finishing is rewarding in itself. While the weather conditions and atmosphere of the race will be different from Guam, the feeling of running another 26.2 miles is something I am looking forward to doing once again.

Final thoughts - Remember, running keeps you healthy, enables you meet a ton of people, and makes you feel happy!!!

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