Saturday, May 09, 2015

The final leg

After running 15 kilometers over rolling terrain, you get tired. I would say it's the same for all runners, newbie or seasoned. Your legs get battered from all the pounding and get exhausted.

If they could talk, your legs, they will tell you to stop. They would complain about the torture you let them go through. They would air their disaprroval of being dragged out of bed in the very early morning when sleeping was the natural and logical thing for a sane person to do. Your lungs would perhaps be joining the chorus too.

After running 15 kilometers, I felt all that. My lungs and legs were not talking, they can't, but they were telling me just what they were telling me. They'd rather not be doing what I had in mind. There were three uphills ahead, an equal number of descents, maybe a couple more. I would do surges through them.

I can feel the exhaustion everytime I picked up the pace. There was no pain, nothing like it, but there was fatigue that made my legs feel heavy. There was no smoothness in the stride. There was labor in each step.

There is nothing easy here. There is nothing to make you feel ecstatic. There is only difficulty and suffering.

But after you have finished that last leg, that last kilometer, with a surge to the end of your run, after you have given your all , after you stand bent at the hips, catching your breath, your two hands resting on both knees, you straighten up and walk slowly, walk tall, proud to have silenced that voice inside that always tells you to stop.

You have conquered. You have won.

p.s. I posted negative splits in those last 5 kilometers of my 20k run and had a faster second half overall. Sweet exhaustion.

Friday, April 03, 2015

One moment in a run

One moment in a run. Life mirrored in a split-second event. You stumble, you fall, you get back up and go on.

It was my 10th straight day of running. I decided to go out on a 10k loop of dirt road and short pavement close to home. I have run there countless times before I moved to another locale because of work some three years ago. It was the first time I was running that loop again.

It starts off with a gradual descent for about three kilometers and then continues into two kilometers of rolling terrain. Along the way, I pass a steel bridge traversing a mountain spring, a babbling brook, and farmlands planted to rubber, fruit trees, and rice. Chirping birds, barking dogs, and crowing roosters add to the rustic mood. All of it gives you a sense of freedom, of oneness with nature, and even reckless abandon.

On the way back, I push myself up the short climb from the bridge, looking forward to the more gradual but definitely much longer ascent back to where I started. I had already run more than six kilometers by then. What happened next happened fast. My right foot hit a stone, I lost balance, and felt myself hurtling towards the rocky limestone dirt road. I was down.

I was stunned for a few seconds, but immediately got back up and resumed running. I felt the sting on my right knee and my left thigh. I glanced down and saw dirt and a little blood. There was dirt too on my sweaty shorts and singlet. And there was even more sting on my elbow and my left arm. There was even more blood there mixing with my sweat.

Moving on, brushing off the dirt from my shorts and singlet once in a while, I thought of the other times I have fallen down while running. It happened to me while running alone on Manila's asphalt roads once. It happened to me while running with a friend up Mt. Batulao. It happened to me on a much earlier race in Cotabato City back in the first half of my running life. I finished the race at the top of my age group.

The day before this run, I watched a replay of the Nagoya Women's Marathon on cable television. One of the top Japanese runners, Sairi Maeda, fell in the early part of the race, coming into contact with another runner as they were grabbing their drinks from a table. She went on to post a strong third-place finish with her time of 2:22:48, the eighth-fastest time by a Japanese woman. If it can happen to the elite, falling can happen to us mere mortals even more.

The important thing is we do not stay down. We instead pick ourselves up and go on, running towards the finish despite the pain of our cuts being soaked in sweat, despite the bruised ego and the self-doubt.

It is life mirrored in a split-second event. You stumble, you fall, you get back up and go on. You continue to pursue your dreams, you continue to live your passion, and in the end, you look back at it and shake your head while smiling.

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.