Thursday, March 19, 2015

Running in Baguio




A bit before 5 in the morning, I woke up, went through my usual pre-run routine, slipped my feet into my old, trusty pair of Nike Free 3.0 , and laced up.

My roommate for the seminar, who was also getting ready for his own run, looked at me in surprise and asked me: "You're running in that? In Baguio's cold morning air?"

I was in my usual get-up of blue short shorts and white singlet. I just smiled.

I went outside and immediately felt the chill. I thought maybe my roommate was right. Maybe I should have put on a dri-fit t-shirt instead. I shrugged off the thought just as immediately as the chill hit me the first time. I started off on a slow grind.

Baguio City is higher, much higher than the places I run in most often. It is situated at an altitude of approximately 1,540 meters (5,050 feet) above sea level. Kidapawan, which I call home, has an elevation of  279 meters (915 feet) while Cotabato City, which is my main workplace, is a mere 7 meters (22 feet) above sea level. I expected running here to be more difficult and challenging, and indeed, after a few meters, I felt the burn in my lungs. I was going downhill but I felt I was gasping for air. Blame that on the altitude, I told myself, and on the ageing lungs, too.

It didn't take long though for the body to do what it does best, adapt. I was soon running more comfortably, carrying on with the usual breathing pattern that matched my stride - two steps, inhale; two steps, exhale. I felt energized, eager to just follow the road and run, but also wary of the fact that I was not familiar with this place and getting lost was the least of what I wanted to happen to me.

After seeing 25 minutes on my wristwatch chronograph, I decided to turn back. The route I took was mostly downhill so I braced myself for a long climb. It was indeed long, but a gradual one, and the suffering I was anticipating my legs and lungs to experience didn't really happen.

Going back up, I noticed I was meeting more runners. I also noticed that almost everyone of them was  in cold weather gear - running tights, long sleeve dri-fit top. I felt like a weird, crazy guy in my short shorts and singlet. That I wasn't sweating that much didn't really come as a surprise. I was expecting that in Baguio's chilly air.

The night before, I asked that van driver who took us from Manila to Baguio, where one ascending section of a fork in the road (the other went downhill) was going. Camp John Hay, he said. I decided to run on along that road.

It was in John Hay that I finally felt the burn. Going up on Sheridan Drive was a challenge after having gone through several climbs at high altitude earlier. I was taking short, fast steps and breathing heavily, thankful when I reached the point where I decided to make my turnaround.

It was much easier after that.

Running also felt much easier the next morning. I had more confidence. I also had on my orange dri-fit shirt as I ran from Iggy's Inn on South Drive to John Hay, Wright Park, back up South Drive, to Panagbenga Park, and finally back to Iggy's Inn. I sweated more as well.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Looking forward to a Baguio run

As we were driving to the seminar venue, I noticed that the road we were taking was only going one way - up.

I've been here a couple of times before. I don't remember doing any run in either. Tomorrow I plan to do one, finally have a feel of running in Baguio City's altitude, terrain, and chill. And if things go well, maybe I'll do another one the next day, and still another the day after that.

Running is a good way to go around and get to know a place. I always take my running shoes on out-of-town trips and do a run or two if time permits. I've done it in Vigan, on Calle Crisologo, around Plaza Salcedo, and all those other streets the names of which I don't remember. I've done it in Tagbilaran and in Cebu, in Malaybalay and in Ozamis, in Cagayan de Oro in the rain, and twice in Tagaytay while enjoying the view of Lake Taal and the volcano island. There were other places.

I tried running in the the high altitude of Llallagua in Bolivia, around the snow covered plaza infront of the church. I only managed a few rounds. I was in running tights and sweats but I hardly sweat in the cold winter air. It was entirely the opposite of my experience in Brunei's Bandar Seri Begawan. I had a lot more luck working up a sweat in its clean, tree-lined streets around the hotel where we stayed.

Tomorrow morning would be getting-to-know-Baguio-streets time. I hope it would be a fine first experience.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

See Abdul run

Running has always been my go to activity when I need to think of something to write about.

Studies have shown that increased blood flow to the brain enhances the cognitive process, as what happens when you engage in cardiovascular activities like running. A recent report on www.bbcnews.com cites a U.S. study as saying "activities that maintain cardio fitness - such as running, swimming and cycling - led to better thinking skills and memory 20 years on."

Running helps clear the mind and allows the flow of ideas. It works for me.

Running early on a cold Wednesday morning, I recall seeing on social media posts about a major running event in Manila being dedicated to the "Fallen 44," the members of the elite Philippine National Police Special Action Force who were killed in an encounter with Moro fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The run gathered together, according to reports, some 15,000 runners who "saluted the SAF commandos carrying the portraits and the names of their fallen comrades at the first few meters from the starting line."

It indeed would have been a spectacle to see, and a memorable moment one would cherish to be part of.

And running on alone on fluorescent-lit streets on that cold Wednesday morning, my thoughts shifted to the other victims of that tragic incident in Mamasapano -- 1,986 children, according to data gathered by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team, displaced from their homes, deprived of the opportunity to learn because their schools had to be closed.

I remembered hearing a participant of the People's Fact-Finding Mission in Mamasapano share some of their findings during the tow-day data-gathering activity.

"In Linantangan Elementary School in Tukanalipao, only 200 of the 600 children have returned to their classes. Of the 12 teachers in this school, only 7 have had the courage to resume teaching."

That was as of Wednesday last week, February 11.

Children run primarily as play. But on that early morning of February 25, those children of Mamasapano, along with their parents, ran for their lives, to safety. A few of them were not so lucky. One got hit by a bullet while trying to go back home to check on their carabao. He was lucky to have survived. Sarah Panangulon died from her gunshot wounds. She was only eight.

As I ran, I thought how easy this is for me. I run for leisure, for fitness, at my own unforced pace. Many of those who ran that big event in Manila run for the same reasons I do. Running for your life, running as bullets zoom past, running as explosions wrack your nerves, running carrying whatever possessions you can take with you away from danger and destruction, that is an entirely different story. If it is difficult and traumatic for adults, how much more for children?

For quite a long while, children in this oft-disturbed land have ran primarily for play, just as they should, thanks to a ceasefire agreement resulting from peace negotiations between government and Moro rebels.

As I ran, I prayed that day will come, soon, when these children will no longer run because of fear of being caught in the crossfire.