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.