When we studied at the UP Cebu for college, everybody who played sports looked up to Jesse Bernad.
In an article I wrote about him years ago, here’s how I described Jesse whenever we played the Intrams:
“If you saw Troy, he’s Achilles. Our Michael Phelps of the Athens Games. Everybody sweated facing Hulk. As softball pitcher, he threw underhand fastballs that screamed at you like a bullet ambulance. How do I know? I stood meters from him as batter and almost fell off my backside at the zooming softball’s pace. As basketball center, Jessed pulled down rebounds like he were picking mansanitas, deflected shots like one would mosquitoes, and owned the low post like a Tim Duncan.”
Fast forward three decades later, Jesse Bernad is still into sports. But no longer rebounding the basketball or throwing that softball pitch or standing as football goalie and intimidating opponents with his 5-foot-11 frame, he’s into this another workout.
Jesse with Ken Griffey Jr.
“I started running in 2015 when I joined a running club created by Amale Jopson in my previous job at Aboitizland,” said Jesse.
Like all of us, he started running 5Ks. Then, when he experienced that “runner’s high” and wanted to go further, he did 10Ks. Months later and wanting to go for a bigger target, Jesse prepared for a half-marathon.
“With my first 21K, I was nervous but prepared well enough to finish at 2hrs, 20mins,” he said. “Ever since, I’ve been running 21Ks the past 5 years and must have finished 12 races.”
But Jesse had an ultimate goal: To run 42.195 kms.
“I had opportunities to run my first marathon elsewhere but I decided to do it here in my hometown of Cebu, to make it meaningful,” he said. “I saw the Facebook posts of friends Hans Congmon, Bernard Sia and Bryan Tan training. I asked to join their practice runs. This was last September. ‘No excuses this time.’ I told myself, ‘If don’t do it now, I never will.’
His goal: the 2020 Cebu Marathon on Jan. 19.
Jesse continued his 5K runs before increasing his mileage twice a week. He ran 5 to 7 kms. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Ateneo de Cebu oval and Angelicum and long runs on weekends while integrating speed and tempo programs.
“We did our long runs at Cempark, in the hills of Casili and Talamban, and on various city roads every Sunday,” he said. “We trained with the New Balance Running Club. This helped a lot. The program was to run for six straight Sundays, gradually increasing the distance from 15K to 35K. There were about 30 to 35 of us who participated all throughout, and I looked forward to it every weekend.”
Waking up at 3 a.m. every Sunday was challenging.
“It was quite an investment on my time despite my busy work and family schedule especially during the holidays,” he added.
As a result of his training, Jesse lost close to 30 lbs.
Finally, when the new year dawned and the race day drew close, Jesse said he felt “confident and anxious.” He said: “I hardly slept the last two nights before the Cebu Marathon.”
January 19, 2020 arrived and Jesse fulfilled his dream.
“I finished with a time of 5 hours and 13 mins. (my Garmin read 44K total distance),” said Jesse. “The final push I planned did not materialize as I felt a cramp about to happen. The salt sticks I took, given by ultra racer Julian Summers, helped. Overall, I was happy with my time.
“Finishing the race was an exhilarating experience, something I will never forget. Seeing my teammates, especially my childhood buddy Mark Tolentino, whom I coaxed to join me, crossing the line and celebrating made it rewarding for all of us.
“Most of all, having my wife Emma, who did her first 21K, congratulate me at the finish line was the best feeling. I would love to have another opportunity to run another marathon, this time with Emma at my side.”
Jesse and Emma
Jesse shares his tips for all runners:
- Find friends who can do it with you. Create a chat room where you can share ideas. Seeing my teammates working hard helped motivate me. Training alone would be a lonely trip.
- Ask advise from others who’ve done a marathon. My neighbor and running guru Jun Angeles told me his secret of eating camote with its peeling, which I did for 3 months. It helped me gain more energy. Esteemed triathlete Noy Jopson introduced me to “Double Run” – one in the morning and another at night – two weeks before race day to gain more mileage but less pounding on your legs. I was shocked but understood the concept.
- Nutrition is key. After watching “Game Changers” in Netflix, Emma and I learned to eat more complex-carb food: lots of fruits, grains, seeds/nuts and veggies. We avoided fatty food and sweets and became plant-based eaters. Drink lots of water.
- Change your lifestyle. Avoid vices, sleep and wake up early. Sleep is your best friend.
- Train hard. 42K is no walk in the park. Include leg and core strengthening. Coach Allan Choachuy introduced me to his superset of 10 reps: jumping jacks, squats, push-ups and lunges, to be repeated as many times in 4 minutes. This helped me in the latter stage of the race.
- Being busy is no excuse. I continued training despite supervising the opening of our new restaurant – EatsaHabit in Robinsons Galleria – where construction starts at 10pm and ends at 3am. I ran at dawn, at night and in the middle of the day.
- Find a running buddy who has the same pace. Veteran runner Roy Trani was my mentor and pacer to the end. I couldn’t have done it without him.
- It’s a mental game. Train your brain to deflect pain and the urge to stop. Think of happy thoughts. Your mind will bring you to the finish line.
- Age doesn’t matter! It’s never too late to run a marathon. I did mine at age 50. Neither does gender. I came across women who were faster than me.
- If you can afford it, invest in a smartwatch.
- Commit yourself wholeheartedly. What you put in is what you get. There are no shortcuts.
- Lastly, enjoy the whole experience, it’s once-in-a-lifetime.. or so I thought!