The day before
I arrived at the Adidas shop on the second floor of the Gaisano Mall at about half past five in the afternoon. A table has been set up outside the store to attend to late registrants and those who, like me, were picking up their race packet that afternoon. A runner I suppose was running in my age group was filling up his form. Others stood waiting.
I had called race coordinator Vic Sai earlier advising me to go to the Adidas shop. Apparently, he already had instructions for the guys at the registration table. The one in charge was a guy I saw in almost all races I had run in Davao. He either ran or helped out in race management. I guess I looked familiar to him too. He immediately knew I was the guy from Kidapawan even without me saying so. He asked his assistant to find my race packet from a cardboard box at the foot of the table and give it to me.
After reviewing the race route map that was handed to me by one of the other guys at the table, I went back inside the Adidas shop, race packet in hand, to look around.
No running shorts, and I mean running shorts. Not the loose all purpose shorts that the sales persons almost always give you when you ask for running shorts. Some even give you ones with pockets. This has made me wonder for quite some time now. There seems to be a shortage of running apparel in shops down here in the South. I looked for New Balance running wear at the Athlete's Foot shop here in Davao a couple of years back. They didn't have any. Nike shops also seem to have a shortage of running wear. I got mine during a trip to Tagbilaran, Bohol last year. It was on sale so I bought two pairs. There is a deluge of basketball apparel though. You will go crazy choosing which one to give yourself as a motivational gift.
I decided it was time to leave. I still had to get myself a room at a lodging house nearby. There was still a cue at the registration desk. A 30-ish looking guy had just handed in his registration form, while two younger office ladies were all smiles - excited, I suppose, about doing the race tomorrow. I predict that there would be a big crowd. It is always like that here in Davao. That's why I love running here.
I arrived at the Gaisano Mall for the Adidas King of the Road Davao leg just as they were calling the 10k runners for check in. I lined up with the rest and had my race bib -number 828- marked. I step into the starting area joining the throng of runners that were already there. 700 participants had registered for the race according to race coordinator Vic Sai. I immediately saw familiar faces.
Just in front of me was "Master" with his signature flowing white beard, braided hair locks showing at the back of his bandana-covered head, and barefoot as usual. There was the always jolly bunch of Davao Sunday Runners' Club. A whole company of runners in fatigue-colored shorts and shirt from the Philippine Army were also gathered at the starting area. And I noticed foreigners - a couple of female runners and a teenager with an older companion.
A fellow runner from Kidapawan, Cris Panerio, gave me a warm handshake, happy that I made it to the race. His daughter Nichiren was also there. I had seen this kid grow into the athlete she is now. She used to run along with her father as an elementary grader, later trailing us as we made our usual rounds at the Kidapawan City Plaza. She is now on a running scholarship at the University of Mindanao in Davao City. Two other male kids of Cris were running the 10k and his youngest girl was doing the 3k fun run. Running surely runs in this family.
The gun went off without warning, to the delight of some, and the race was on.
I started fast. I was feeling what I thought could only have been lactate build-up in my upper arms even before the end of the first kilometer. It worried me but it was gone in a couple more minutes and I was getting more comfortable with my pace. I began passing runners who had started off faster than me. I found myself by my lonesome going up the slight ascent towards the Davao Medical Center, about halfway in the first five kilometers of the race. I passed a couple more runners and noticed Nichiren running just ahead of me.
As we passed by the Carmelite Monastery, we saw the lead pack of four fast on the return route paced by eventual winner Jonel Languido of Philippine Air Force. Five minutes later, in front of the Damosa Building, we met up with Stella Mamac Diaz running by her lonesome, stamping her class in the women's race. Soon, it was Cris that I noticed on his was back on the other side of the road. My friend is going to win our 50-and-above age group, I thought to myself.
The turnaround followed shortly. I was still feeling good and passed still a number of other runners including Nichiren on the return route. One other runner was bugging me though. He was a few meters ahead of me running on the other side of the road against the traffic. I can't seem to catch up with him try as I may. Another runner was also catching up behind me. Both were much younger than I am. I crossed over to their side of the road, picking up the pace. By the time we reached the Victoria Plaza area, we were almost running together. I guess this made me a little more confident.
I saw the tall building of Gaisano Mall ahead. It was perhaps 600 or 500 meters ahead. I went faster. I didn't notice the two younger guys go with me. I felt I was running alone going into the curve and finally sprinting into the finish. I glanced at the watch. It read 47:14.45. Not the 45 minutes I had earlier targeted, but as a long unseen friend from Cotabato City who surprisingly was also there at the race said afterwards, nice time for an old man.
I was right about Cris. He did win the 50-and-above age group. His daughter Nichiren was first female in the 13-19 category. I had my own share of luck. Adidas gave out gift certificates for P500 worth of merchandise to the first 100 finishers. I found my name in the list at 97th place.
At a restaurant where I had breakfast with my wife and another companion who have come to pick me up after the race, I noticed a family of three. The chubby young boy was slumped on the table, his father sitting beside him was stroking his back, while his mother looked at him with concern on the other side. Father and son still had their Adidas KOTR race singlets on. I smiled and soon we were in a friendly chat.
It was their first race. They were joggers who heard about the race and decided to try the 3k fun run. The boy was tired, and I guess his father was too, but they sure were proud of what they had accomplished. I didn't think the mother ran the KOTR, but I believe she too would talk proudly to friends about how her husband and son ran their race.
Yes, running is alive and well here in Mindanao, with the likes of Cris Panerio and his running children and that father and his son who did their first race together with a supportive wife and mother behind them.