The 2010 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon took place on a beautiful Sunday of October 3rd. This year was different from the others for the simple reason that, when we started running in 2007, there were only three members in our team: Joelle, Blanchard and I. Joelle had previously completed the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego full marathon. As years went by, the community grew and Team Cameroon could count ten members in his roster. That was awesome! As a result, the team had more fun and we had more friends and family members that came out to cheer for us.
The day before, Jean-Celestin a.k.a JC and I organized how we would drive to San Jose and were we would meet. Coming from the East Bay, were: Joelle, JC, Alain, Blanchard and me. We all agreed to carpool with Blanchard. The other team members: Michela, Patrick, Patrice, Gilles and Carine, lived closer to San Jose than us. Carine’s mom, visiting from Cameroon was present as well as the kids. She was very excited about the event, as she saw all these people coming from all directions, but converging to the same location: the starting line. Other family members would join later; sometimes on Sunday you want to take it easy, so why the rush!
On that day, the weatherman forecasted scattered clouds early in the morning, humidity at around 43%, and a temperature in the mid 70’s Fahrenheit by noon time. Great! We would have finished the race by then, hopefully I said. We met at the designated place, the parking lot of the HP pavilion, on Santa Clara Street, home of the NHL team, the San Jose Sharks. The building has an impressive architecture, as most of the new buildings in downtown San Jose. We easily spotted a good place to park, though it was already half full. Some runners were warming up, others were either tying their shoe laces, or making sure the K tape was holding the knee, the ankle or a muscle that could let them down during the race; not to forget the usual performance iced gels each of us would rub on our muscles, and the nutritional supplements from the various brand that racers were offered on the packet pick up day that started on Friday and ended on Saturday.
The packet pick up days usually set the mood of the race. We were four to meet at the Mc Enery Convention Center in downtown San Jose: Jean-Celestin, Alain, Joelle, and me. The organizers always made sure you receive all the information you will need for your race. The volunteers, the bare bone of the organization, play a vital role because they greet you when you arrive, they direct you where to go pick up your assigned number; and they make sure to answer all the questions you may have. After you picked up your number, you were invited to go to the next location where you will pick up other items needed until finally, you would receive a plastic bag to put all those individual items in, including the official race’s jersey. Now were ready to go.
Another fun thing about the pick up day is the joyful atmosphere; you see people all over the place interacting with one another, even if they don’t know each other. Furthermore, you are courted by vendors to purchase the latest shoes or outfits that supposedly can make you a winner. In addition, rock music carries you all along the aisle while you make your way around the stands. Hence, the opportunity to try on new shoes, new outfits, new gadgets that could enhance your running experience, or simply try some of the nutritional supplements available. The only missing item I noticed this time was the absence of the clinic. The year before, I participated at the race clinic, and it made a difference on race day. The clinic allowed me to be more relaxed during the race, for it provided insight information about the race. For instance, I knew were to expect the first water station, were to expect the first hill if there was any , and also were would the Emergency Medical Responders be located in case, God forbid, something happens. Nevertheless, we had fun at the convention center. On our way out, after an hour spend tasting power bars, drinking energy supplement beverages, and chatting with other attendees, we took some pictures in front of two huge posters. One had the pictures of Elvis Presley on it, and the other the official clock at the finish line, with an enviable time that I would not be able to match, unfortunately.
Finally, Team Cameroon met at the HP pavilion. We walked for about a block, and we saw a huge crowd ready to depart. A rock and roll song was blaring through the speakers, and as we were getting nearer, we could not hear each other. Before we got to our different corrals, we took some team pictures. Some also included family members that came that morning. We made sure that everyone has his bib well attached, the chip on the shoe that registered your time at the beginning of the race as well as when you cross to the next mile.
As we proceeded to the corrals, the organizer invited everyone to pause for the Star Spangled Banner singing. We stood were we were until the end, and then proceeded to corral 8, although mine was nine. We wanted as much as possible to start as a group. We looked around us, greeted few racers and took some pictures for the memory. Soon after, the countdown started and at the gun time, I was 8:00 o’clock. We were on corral 8; meaning thousand of people were ahead of us. So we waited, and waited. Slowly, we started walking in fits and stop, as we were getting closer to the starting line; people started walking faster, then we were jogging, and then five minutes later, we were crossing the starting line. By this time I imagined, whoever would be the winner most have reached the third mile. Well, I had to focus on my race. My goals were two folds: to have fun along the way and to finish it. I ran for around one and a half mile, and then I started walking. With my camera on hands, I started taking pictures of things I liked. First the bands that entertained us, the various cheerleading teams, the Halloween decoration in front of the houses, and some building with an original architecture.
At around mile two, Blanchard called to check on me, for they were ahead by almost a mile. I told him that everything was alright. I was following the pace team that had the 2:45 sign. Although when I registered months before, I had planned to finish my race in 2:20 minutes. This would not hold anymore because three months has separated me from the race day, and I gained few pounds in the process. I continued my race at my own speed.
As I approached the fourth mile, I heard people screaming and clapping hands. I moved toward the left of the street to see what brought the crowd to this sudden state of excitement. Sure enough, across the street from us and coming from the opposite direction, and followed by a police officer on a motorbike, was a sole runner, sprinting toward the finish line as if he was running the 100 meters. I knew then that I would not beat or equal my previous time of 2:20. Last year I saw the winner while at was at mile five; this did not look good at all for me. Nevertheless, I took his picture, I applauded him, and I continued my race.
At mile 8, I spotted Blanchard, and we walked for a while. He told me that Carine, Michela and Patrice were a few miles ahead. I sighted in relief, because at that juncture, we did not want any member of the group behind. I started to feel a ‘funny’ pain under my left foot, and my right ankle was about to give up. I don’t think it’s a good time to stop now Georges, I said. Blanchard needed some massage on his left hamstring. From the distance as we passed mile 9, I saw the EMR vehicle on the let side of the road and pointed it out to Blanchard. He went to the opposite direction were there was another station with young emergency responders, busy providing assistance to runners who showed sign of pains on their faces. Others like Blanchard wanted a quick massage to soften a thigh muscle and continue. Blanchard urged me not to stop and wait for him.
Somewhere before mile 10, I saw a silhouette that resembled Patrice. As I got closer, I noticed the camelback he carried with water in it. I called and there he was. I gave him Blanchard’s position and I encouraged him to keep up. Along the way, people were sitting on their front yards and cheering for us. In some areas it looks like a neighbor half marathon party; the residents had set up a barbecue pit outside and a group of more than ten from my count were passing plates along for the service. I though it was a cool idea, while some were burning calories, those who for a reason or another could run, could get together to watch our efforts, while gulping some hamburgers and bacon. Down the road, a sign in a front yard read “free bacon” to which the crowd reacted with laugh.
Along the way, spectators were very kinds. Each time I could hear “you are doing great,” or the usual “you are almost there.” I could not believe it, for the last three miles looked like the race will never end. It is precisely at mile 12 that Joelle called me to inquire about my position. When she heard twelve, she informed the other team members who had already made it to the finish line that I was at mile 12. I gathered all my thoughts and energy, and I increased my speed. Now the words of encouragements were different, I was hearing “it’s just around the corner” a big sign read: “Smile! You just ran 13 miles.” To me, it was not over yet. I remembered that at the last 1/4 mile, thanks to the race clinic a year ago, I had to turn at least twice before I could see the finish line. As soon as I did, I saw the official time clock and I increased my speed, yet again. As I was getting closer, the crowd was cheering as if I was about to beat the world record. I raised my hands to the sky in a victory sign when I finally crossed the finish line to the applause of the cheering public, and Blanchard family who was standing just left after the finish line. The ordeal was over for me.
I bend over my knees, and grabbed a bottle of water. I don’t how long it took me to empty the container, but I just remembered that it was already in a recycle container, and empty. I stretched my muscles as it is recommended; volunteers were on the side providing massages or iced packs. I reached out for two cold towels that I applied to my legs. It made me feel good. I repeated it once more and I walked away to the next pit stop to receive my medal. Then after, there were several lines before the exit, I wondered what it was, since we had just received the most important item of our effort, the medal. Most people did not know why they were standing in line either, me included, until an announcer with his bullhorn informed us that the lines were for those who wanted an official picture taken. “It’s not mandatory,” he added. I stayed put and when my turn came, I smiled; I held my medal and the cameraman shot the memorable picture.
Finally, I walked out just to see that it was not over yet. Another group of volunteers were handing over bagels, energy drink, bananas, and different flavors of energy bars. I took each item loaded my pockets and joined the other team members. Our family reunion met at the letter N. Omer joined us. He ran the final mile with some team members who had lost steam. What a great team work it was! Alain’s family also came to join, Patrick’s too. We congratulated each other for a job well done. Few minutes after, Blanchard and Patrice arrived and there we were, all ten runners, each with a medal around the neck smiling, and proud to have finishedwere the race. After all, that is why we practiced hard these past months, and that’s why we were at the race to begin with, to finish the race and collect another “piece of hardware.”
As the even started to wind down, we reflected on the best moments with family members and friends who came later while we were still racing. We took pictures and we encouraged others to join us the next time we run. There is no better time to motivate people to join you, after they’ve witness the atmosphere of your efforts. It’s fun, and with family and friends loading you with hugs and kisses, you feel that you’ve accomplish something. You would talk about your experience; you would make fun of yourself if at one point you were about to give up, and you find yourself at the finish line. We agreed to meet next year for another Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon. Feel free to join Team Cameroon if you are around. As we walked back towards the parking lot, some were already looking ahead to the upcoming events: the Half marathon in San Ramon the following Sunday with Jean-Celestin and Patrice, and for the first time, our beloved Ariel, who just turned 10 years old, who will start her first 5k; thanks to her parents who made it happen for her. Also coming up, is the Women Nike Marathon in San Francisco the weekend after. This event is only for women, not all women. It’s for a select group of good runners who have logged in several hundred miles in practices. We do have one in our group though, the one and only Joelle. She will be running that race. Surely, we will bring you all the buzzes. It’s announced that men in tuxedos hand the Tiffany bracelet to finishers at the end of the race. It will be exciting to see that. Carefully, we each drove back as we came early that morning, to our respective homes. For me I had just completed my third half marathon in 2:49. For some it was the first one. To all of us runners, friends and family members, it was a thrill.
Take a look at the photo gallery below, more pictures will be added:
Georges Diboki is runner in training.
15 October 2010| cameroonwebnews.com|
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