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 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.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The girl who runs in black

She is one of those numerous runners out there, not much known for their regular road pounding just because they are not so vocal about it like others are. She has no pictures of her runs. She has no posts about her times or the kilometers she had put in on any social networking site. But she runs, as often as she can, at night after office hours.

She has been running for almost two years now, has been through two pairs of running shoes, and is starting off on her third. She started when she moved to the city after college to work in a telecommunications company.

"To stay sexy," she told me with a hearty laugh once when I asked her why she ran, but added in a more serious tone that running helped release all the negative energies from her body. It has become a very effective stress reliever for her, has been a way for her to relax from the daily worries of work and life as a whole.

That is primarily why she has kept running. There have been times when she stopped for a while, but she always came back, finding joy in her exhaustion.

I asked her if she was ever planning to join one of those fun runs that have started to become a fixture in the city. She says she's not so keen about it, adding that her running is far from the running being done by those who join fun runs. I don't see much difference though. She said she wasn't much into running in a crowd, that it made her lose focus, disrupted her running in a way.  She was more the lone wolf, who found happiness in running alone.

A few weeks back, she ran non-stop for an hour, and she was ecstatic about it. There are those of us who take great pride in our accomplishments that would perhaps smirk at that, silently saying it is not really much, but for this girl who runs in black running shorts and a matching black dri-fit shirt, who has maybe not even considered running as something she was born to do, it was  definitely an achievement.

I for one find inspiration in stories like this, in the simple achievements of unheralded and unknown runners, mostly not even considering themselves as such. They constantly remind me to find happiness and satisfaction in every single run. It may not be a personal best, nor faster or longer than the last, but being able to do it is a blessing, a gift that is more than enough to be thankful for.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Memories and mementos

Not a few memories are etched in my mind of the many experiences I have had while living out my passion for the run.

Falling at the start of a race and still finishing first in my age group, being hit by a hurtling motorbike that figured in a road spill, being caught in a thunderstorm in the middle of God-knows-where far from home, these are but just a few of things that stand out in my mind. I have "died" on the road while doing a race, found my second wind in more than a dozen runs and my runner's high in a few long ones. I saw this motivational poster that says "I ran out of love and hate and anger and joy" and I thought to myself, "Me too.

For most of these experiences, there are only my words saying they happened. In a few, there are the mementos to show they indeed were real.

There is the finisher's certificate of the first marathon I completed, the "Shell to Shell" 2nd Midnight Marathon organized by the Davao Sunday Runners' Club on March 3, 1996. Fired off at 12 midnight along with more the other runners, it took me more than 4 hours and a half  to finish the race, throwing up twice along the way and walking much of the second half. I was 41.

There is that photograph of me - one of a very few pictures of me in a race - crossing the line at the 27th Davao Finishers' Marathon on December 5, 2010. It was my comeback marathon, my first in 13 years, and 14 years after my first 42k finish in 1996. I finished it in 4:23:16, still walking part of the final 10 kilometers. I was 55.

There is the age category top finisher's medal I won at the Araw ng Dabaw Phonenix Run 21K on March 13, 2011. It was the first age group top finish I had in a major road race, clocking at 1:41:31. I actually got my medal a week or two later due to some organizational hitches, but that doesn't really change anything. Not for me anyway. I still got to go up the stage to be recognized for the achievement.

Finally, there is this picture of me, race face and all, at the finish of the 28th Davao Finishers' Marathon on December 4, 2011. It was the first marathon where I ran all 42.195 kilometers. I crossed the line in an official time of 3:52:21, good for 10th place.

Looking back at all these, I would say that they were among the best moments of my life, among the ones that defined me, that showed me what I am and who I am.