My palms and feet were cold and sweaty as we looked for a parking space around the Mall of Asia grounds. It was the onset of another anxiety attack. Last Sunday was the (dreaded) National Geographic Earth Day Run. What was even more dreadful was the distance I signed up for—the 10K.
After I had the epiphany to enter a triathlon race, I planned out (well, sort of) my program to get back to physical fitness. I should join fun runs, bike around the hilly Sagay and take more swimming lessons until I perfect my freestyle. I was off to a good start with running, clocking 31 to 33 minutes for 5-km runs so when I saw that this year’s Earth Day Run would fit in my field break schedule, I decided to give it a go. And to motivate me to train even harder, I signed up for the 10K distance.
Then, three weeks to the race, came these CoQ10 supplements. After opening a bottle by mistake, rather than asking around and giving it away to someone who might need it, I took it; anyway it was known to improve heart health. Two days later, I started to feel my body’s “healing reaction” to these meds. Side effects, in other words. I had palpitations and experienced dizziness and nausea after every run. Not only did these symptoms hamper my training, it also triggered my anxiety and panic attacks. So off to the doctor I went and after showing her my latest ECG, I was told not to worry about cardiac problems just yet. Instead, she had my thyroid hormones tested. I was also told something I wasn’t quite ready to hear. I had to avoid strenuous activities in the meantime until we’re sure what was causing these symptoms.
When the test results came in, I was relieved that it was my thyroid’s doing and I was cleared to go back to training. I still had two weeks before the race, two weeks to catch up on my training but I had already given up on myself. My anxiety and panic attacks had become so frequent and severe just the thought of running scared me. My boss’ Viber messages to keep training kept popping in and out of my head, too. A week to the race, I started feeling the pressure, the weight of failing my boss and myself even more. I thought I was in trouble and it triggered more attacks.
The Fellowship on Skype
I opened up about my recent panic attacks and my then-lessened quiet and prayer times to my online discipleship group. We assessed what could be wrong with the situation. My workload was increased when our student trainees arrived at the project site. Plus the race, the monthly report and my health concerns (aside from panic/anxiety attacks, I had diarrhea, flu scare and a terrible migraine all in the same week) and I got the perfect concoction for a panic attack.
As in any relationship, a relationship with God requires a conscious effort from us. And in most cases it is our relationship with the Lord that often gets neglected when we are swamped with work, financial woes, and all sorts of problems. We grumble, cease to worship Him and, in worst cases, blame Him. We tend to forget that relationships work both ways and overlook our shortcomings when things get difficult.
I had been failing my God. I had been giving in to so much of life’s stresses that I failed to recognize, even shrug off, His offers of help and rest. And that Wednesday evening my d-group reminded me of that. And we prayed about it.
For the next few days up to the race, I prayed to God to renew my faith and to help me discern if I should run the race or not, if this race would do me more harm than good.
The Eve of the Race
On the night before the race, my boss, my roommate, our company driver and I feasted on fast-food pizza and pasta to load up on carbs. By this time my boss already knew that I would run-walk the course and was expecting a 1:30 finish. A month ago, he said he would run with me because he only needed slow runs that week in preparation for his half-marathon on May 2. But he warned, “Ayaw ko ng masyadong mabagal.” I kept that in mind, took it to heart and eventually became one of my anxiety attack triggers.
Earlier in the day, I called up two cardiologists in Makati Medical Center for an appointment. I wanted to get clearance from a cardiologist since I was still experiencing occasional, out-of-the-blue palpitations and mini-anxiety attacks (I know, I was being really makulit). But none of them was available for consultation. My mind was about to launch yet another train of negative thoughts but I quickly dismissed it by doing the laundry. Again, I prayed and took it as a hint from God that I should rest assured He was not out to lead me to a death trap. I should not fret.
Oh No, It’s Race Day!
My nerves calmed a bit after doing warm-up runs on our way to the start line. My boss offered to do a 10-1 (10-minute run, 1-minute walk) or a 4-1 (4-min run, 1-min walk) so we could run the course together and to maintain a steady pace to the finish line. The 10-1 interval sounded pretty doable so I agreed to it. It seemed like my boss really wanted to have a running buddy. Or babysit me.
As we waited for the gun start, I prayed to shake off my worries (menstrual cramps, dizziness, vomiting and collapsing during or after the race), for improved times and injury-free finishes for me and my three other teammates. Of course, I dedicated this run to the Lord.
At exactly 5:30, the first wave of runners started off. A minute or two later, my boss and I crossed the start line.
The first 5 kilometers was already draining my energy. My boss, who was running alongside me, followed my pace, told me when to run, when to walk, how far we had covered, how many meters more to the finish, bashed posers, I mean, other runners, and regularly reminded me to hydrate. Many times I insisted that he run ahead of me so he could have a better finish time and I could start my walk to the finish line. His reply was the same for the entire 10-kilometer distance, “Sige lang.”
My pace started to go really slow on the 7th kilometer and worsened on the 9th. I shifted to 4-1 from 10-1 in the final kilometer but even with that interval I couldn’t continue running for 4 minutes straight. The sun had come up and the heat was starting to get to me. The last kilometer to the finish was agonizing, or maybe it was just my mind playing tricks on me, because it felt like I was going to throw up after two sips of water from the drinking station.
My boss (and now running coach) was running ahead of me by about 5 meters by this time and when he noticed I was too far behind, walking, he slowed down and waited for me to catch up. Then he said, 300 meters na lang, ‘Day. So I pushed myself, thought that should I pass out, there were lots of ambulances/medics at the finish line ready to attend to me. I finished the race running, though not as strong. I didn’t vomit (like in my last 10K in 2011) nor felt dizzy. This time, my heart was pounding with joy and relief and not with anxiety. And I was more than thankful to the Lord for that.
All I needed was to trust God. Not one of the symptoms I was worried about surfaced during the race, even the gas pain that had been bothering me since Tuesday was surprisingly gone. The best and the sweetest thing about the race was my boss staying by my side all throughout the race, through walking, slow running and very slow running, through 10-1 and 4-1 intervals. Whether his purpose was to really have a [very] easy run or he was concerned that something might happen to me, I cannot tell. To me, it was God’s way of assuring me that He was with me as I ran, that I should not fear nor quit. By God’s grace, through my boss, I finished the race way faster than my expected time, worse than my personal record but absolutely better than what I thought I could deliver.
Official chip times:
- Me – 01:18:11
- JRRT – 01:18:10