Tuesday, July 05, 2016

It's not that I hate beaches...

It's not that I hate beaches, it's just that I love trails and mountains more.

Beaches are nice, especially when there are not a lot of noisy, rowdy people. Rowing solo on a kayak on a long stretch of sea close to shore is something I would like to do, even more than scuba diving or even riding the waves on a surfboard. That would perhaps be the most adventurous and happy I would be on water.

Despite the two near-drowning experiences I have had on water , first when I was five or six, the other when I was in first year high-school, I have somehow taught myself to be comfortable in the shallows and swim in the least scientific way. I have also been to beaches and enjoyed a brief swim more than once or twice.

But the satisfaction I get from running back roads or mountain trails, scaling heights on foot, even on hands and knees at times, is different. I would say that it is fuller. I remember most those moments during my treks up and down Mt. Apo, running from Energy Development Corporation's Ma-ag Tinikaran nursery to the peak and back, and more recently my run with a friend in Mt. Batulao. They are etched in my memory and I nurture the desire to do them all again. Perhaps, until I have kayak experience, I won't have as much to cherish in a trip I have had to the beach or the sea.

Maybe it is the feeling of freedom, of being able to run unshackled. We all cherish that, the feeling of being able to roam, go far and go long untethered. They say running is the closest we can be to flying without the aid of a machine or a contraption. And what is flying if not freedom?

Or maybe it is the solitude, being alone but not being lonely, because in my runs in those back roads and mountain trails I find myself in harmony with nature, one with creation, as I was meant to be.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Still trying

For the nth time, I started again this morning. I started a routine that I hope I could do repeatedly at least every other day: run 5 kilometers, hopefully 8 after that, then 10 kilometers again and, maybe later, more.

The past few months have seen my mileage dwindling. 60 kilometers in January, 58 in February, a little more than halfway down from the 118 in January. The highest I have had in the past 12 months was 170 in May last year yet. Mileage had been on a consistent up-and-down trend, mostly on the downside, since then. Work demands, the occasional laziness, I blame these for all that, and then there's age slowly catching up with me.

But I am not one to easily believe that it's time to stop and give up. I have tried and failed several times already to get back to a consistent routine. Still I persist. There is that something inside that tells me it will all come back again. Maybe not the way it was five or six years ago, the best years of my second wind, but close.

And so I haven't grown tired of trying. Not just yet. Not just yet.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Taking the road less travelled

On Sunday, after a very long time, I finally took the road less travelled by many runners.

Kidapawan City's back roads - mostly dirt roads winding through fruit farms - were a regular part of my runs before I moved to Cotabato City some 120 kilometers away. The city's asphalt and concrete roads have been my gym since then and running on dirt roads again had been on my mind for quite a while. Pounding the hard concrete surface especially every single running day puts a lot of stress on old legs, and running on dirt every once in a while provides a welcome break. The slightly softer surface of a dirt road spells less wear and tear on the muscles, bones, and joints.

Matt Fitzgerald of competitor.com cites one more reason to go off-road and hit the dirt.

"Another advantage of running off-road that is less appreciated is that it forces the runner to vary his stride more. Trail running tends to be hillier, to require more directional changes and lateral movement, and to demand more variation in stride length and foot action to avoid obstacles and maintain traction. Some experts in running biomechanics believe that such variations accelerate the process by which the stride becomes more efficient as the brain learns novel ways to engage the muscles," writes Fitzgerald in a July 2014 article on why one should run off-road.

Liza Jhung of Runners' World, in "Why Trail Running Is Good for You," also says running off-road is "good for the brain."

"Trails provide an undeniable escape from what can be an otherwise hectic day. Eliminate the outside environment of cars and other city noises and import sounds of birds and trees rustling in the wind, and you’ve got an entirely different experience."

Gordy Megros, in another Runners' World article - "Less Stress More Bliss" - mentions a 1996 study as showing that "negative ions--invisible air molecules released by trees that are known to increase oxygen flow to the brain--alleviate seasonal depression as effectively as Prozac or Zoloft."

One thing I am sure though is the different kind of high I get on a run through dirt roads. It's not just because of the view, like seeing the sea on one side and having a tree-filled mountainside rising next to you on the other on a run I had while on Samal Island. It also comes from the cacophony of sounds that says you are amidst nature - the harmony of birdcalls mingling with insect sounds, the babbling of a distant mountain stream as it makes its way through rocks and boulders smoothened over the years by the rushing waters - and running with all that, occasionally hopping, skipping, and jumping over mud pools after a night of rain, makes you feel you are in total communion with Mother Earth, born to run amid God's wonderful creation.

My best-ever off-road run experience yet. Mt. Apo, April 2009