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.

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.