Monday, March 19, 2018

And so I run on

I was wheezing as I hit the second ascent in the 10k route I had myself tackle that Saturday. Not that I didn't wheeze when I did this same route years before. I got into oxygen debt just the same back then. But doing the short but quite steep climb felt more difficult and demanding this time. I can only think of age as the most logical explanation. The same explanation I can think of for the added weight and the frustratingly slower times I have been doing my runs.

It was a hilly route, five kilometers out from where I start just a short distance from home and another 5 kilometers back. Along the route are three rivers where the road descends while approaching and goes up again from the bridge that spans each. It's the same both ways.

There isn't very much flat surface to talk about which makes the route quite a challenging one. It gradually climbs from the start to the first kilometer mark before it levels off a bit and then descends to the first bridge and goes up again on the second climb. Whatever momentum you gain on the descent to the bridge is erased by the time you hit the middle of the second climb. There is no denying the labored breathing and the heart's vigorous pumping. It would be comforting no doubt to stop and just walk the rest of the distance to the top of the ascent. Who would mind?

I would. Stubborn old me wouldn't allow this climb, this entire route in fact, to take the best of me and run me down. Not today. My runner's pride won't allow it. I had run this route before, I could run it again, and I would run it again. Period. So I trudge along, taking on one descent and ascent after another, carrying on with the added weight from added years, gulping as much air as I could while negotiating every steep climb to compensate for the oxygen debt, dying at every effort only to be revived and resurrected again every I reach the summit and take the downhill again only to face death yet again in the next uphill.

My boss several decades ago, very familiar with my running back then, told me runners are masochists who find pleasure in the pain. The harder and more difficult the run, the more we love it, the more we find gratification in it. Perhaps there is truth in that. Just as much truth as there is in finding gratification in being able to conquer and discovering how one can fare in the face of adversity, what one can do to overcome challenges, and in that find the gift that has been given and the blessing that has been bestowed.

Not that many my age are as stubborn, or as obsessed, as me in my chosen sport. I look around and I often only see mostly people half my age or even younger doing what I do.  I admit, I find pride in that. I revel in the fact that I am but among a few who can nail a 10k without taking a walking break in between kilometers. But at the same time, I am humbled by that. Humbled that such a gift has been given me. And when you realize that you have been blessed, what better thing is there to do than be grateful and give praise to the giver by utilizing the gift that has been given you?

And so I run on.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Looking back, moving forward

Coming back from my first run for 2017, a slow 8k on Kidapawan's nasty hilly main road, I told myself that I would make this a better running year, not for anything else but myself. I need to.

It read 58 kilos when I weighed myself last night - something must be wrong with that damn scale -  up by 10 from my previous running weight of 48 back in 2015. I don't want all that weight on myself. Some say I look better, but I don't feel better. I wheeze when I go upstairs, I can't bend as much when I tie my running shoes. I curse it every time and I am beginning to curse myself for not being able to run comfortably as much. I don't mind age catching up with me, or the work putting pressure on my running, but not the added weight. Two kilos would I guess be fine with me. But nothing else beyond that, please.

2015 had been a better running year than last. Not that it was bad, it's just that I had more days I didn't run in 2016 than days I did. In 2015, Dailymile had me logging a total of 1,553 kilometers. It had me recording less than half that, 766.43 kilometers, last year, That even included my first run of 8k for 2017. I had 9 months of running beyond 100 kilometers in 2015, but had only one, January, this year. All other monthly totals dipped, the lowest was 40 in May. Outside of January, when I logged 119 kilometers, the only other months that could be considered as having outstanding totals were July with 79 and December with 81.

Why? That is one question I asked myself every time I looked at my stats. I have become more tired, lazier, giving in to the coo of the bed over the call of the road. Perhaps it is because of the pressures of the job. It has always been much more difficult to keep running side by side with having to work early shifts five days of the week. Travelling more than a hundred kilometers by bus on Fridays also make it more of a struggle to get out of bed early, put on running shoes, and hit the road for a long one on Saturdays. And yes, I have to accept that age has somehow started catching up with me.

In my mind, I still see myself crossing the finish line of the Holcim-Sunrun 28th Ultimate Challenge Davao Finishers' Marathon in 10th place, the best marathon finish I have had, 3:52.21, and a surprise to me. The Davao Finishers' Marathon course has always been a killer, with the hills of Ma-a and the Diversion Road, and finishing it running all the way was quite an achievement. I had never finished my previous marathons without a walking segment. That was in December of 2011, perhaps my best running year ever. Earlier in March, I nailed my Araw ng Dabaw Phoenix Run 21K with a 1:41:31 finish for a medal as top finisher in the 55-59 age group. I also finished first in the same age group  with a 1:42:11 at the 35th Milo Marathon Davao City Regional 21K Elimination Race in  November. I had an annual total of 2,400 kilometers. That was five years and a bit ago, I was 56. So much water has passed under the bridge. The metatarsal stress fracture on my right foot, 3 months in a foot cast and the slow return to running again, the work, the transfer, and all those days of mixing earlier morning runs with early morning work hours. I guess it all had to take it's toll, that and age catching up with me.

December 4, 2011. Gasping for breath at the finish of the Holcim-Sunrun 28th Ultimate Challenge Davao Finishers' Marathon. My 3.52.21 was good enough for 10th place, a PB for the marathon. No walks. All pain and exhaustion in the last 5k. But all the ecstasy after. I was 56.

Indeed, in this world, as Heraclitus said, the only constant is change. We can only but adapt to that change if we are to survive and thrive.

If it is any consolation, I see a trend towards better running days in the making, and I am keeping my fingers crossed I am right. Runs I have logged have been on the uptrend in the last two months of 2016. Perhaps that picture of me crossing the finish line of a 42k, one I have ran all the way, would still have a retake, maybe with a different result all together, a different story.

We are never too old to dream, they say, and I do not think I am too old a runner to have a better 2017. All I have to do is keep moving forward.

At the end of my first run for 2017. Looking forward to more.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Lonely road

He was far from alone. There were people on the side of the road and vehicles passing. But he was a solitary soul amidst all that, engrossed in his thoughts as he plodded along.

Somehow he was really by himself. He alone felt his pains - the one that gnaws at his lower back every single day, the one that pinches his knee once in every single while - and he alone suffered through them. People watch and awe at what he's doing. They have no idea he's dying. His breath was labored, his heart was pounding, but his face showed no trace. He has taught himself to hide all the discomfort. He just looked straight ahead, appearing all consumed by what his doing, focused on his business and on not much else.

No one else knew his frustrations in life, in work, with people - being ignored, unappreciated, unnoticed except when something is needed from him. He was dying, he was dying inside and nobody knew, nobody would understand. He kept them all to himself, drowning them in the discomfort he felt. Yes, somehow it was a good discomfort, a helpful one in silencing the doubts inside him.

For why shouldn't it be? Living through all these pains, surviving through all the discomfort, he discovers his toughness, his courage, his strength. He learns he can do more than he thought he could. He finds himself renewed.

So he goes on his way, plodding along, a solitary soul, amidst the people on the side of the road and vehicles passing. All by himself, engrossed in his thoughts, living through his pains, surviving through his discomfort, silencing the doubts inside him.

On that lonely road.