Monday, June 25, 2007

No risk in running? Better think again...

If you think that running is a non-risky sport, better think again.

I've been chased and snapped at by dogs, kissed the pavement and been hit by a hurtling fallen motorcycle while on the run!

Take the other Sunday, for instance. While on my 1-hour back roads run, two dogs chased me for a few meters until their owner called them back. This is a common happening for me on runs like this. Running in the countryside, I pass no less than half a dozen dogs along the route. It's a good thing not all of them give chase, and not all the chasers snap at you.

A nasty snapper narrowly missed me once. I didn't hear him bark. I just felt him running straight for my legs and snapping, missing me by perhaps only an inch. I stopped dead on my tracks and immediately turned to face the snarling "Cujo." It was when I shouted at the dog that its owner called it back into the house. I had to go back and talk seriously to the man about an existing ordinance mandating that dogs should either be caged, chained, or kept within the confines of one's home, and that he would be legally liable for any trouble caused by his dog.

If I had been lucky so far not to have been bitten by a dog yet while on a run, such is not the case with falling on all fours on the pavement. I've kissed the pavement twice on a run.

I was on an early morning run along Mabini in Ermita during one of my occasional visits to Manila when my most recent brush with asphalt happened. I didn't notice the hump on the road, and before I knew it, I had lost my balance and was falling forward towards the pavement. The asphalt was surprisingly warm to the touch of my palms and knees which were soon stinging from the forceful contact. I stood up and continued on my run to the CCP sporting a bloody graze on both knees.

Falling during a race several years back was a much better experience, I suppose. For one, I did not suffer any injury despite falling on the gravelly road shoulder. It was the start of a 10k race organized by the YMCA in Cotabato City. Runners were jockeying for positions, trying to get to the front, jostling and rubbing elbows. Running on the rightmost side of the pavement, a slight nudge was enough to send my right foot over the edge and into the lower road shoulder. I stumbled and found myself rolling on the gravel. I picked myself up and ran after the pack, managing to catch up with the last man in the group after a kilometer. I did not only emerge from that fall unscathed. I finished first in my age group.

The worst that has happened to me was being hit by a hurtling fallen motorcycle. I was on yet another Sunday long run along the tourist road leading to the PNOC geothermal plant site in the foothills of Mt. Apo when this one happened. Two motorcycles going in opposite directions somehow had some accidental contact causing one of the motorcycles to fall. I saw the fallen motorcycle sliding fast towards me as its driver rolled on the pavement behind it. I tried my best to avoid the fast approaching fallen vehicle, moving to the edge of the road shouldering. The motorcycle seemed to follow me, and my next move was obviously effective only in those action movies. The motorcycle hit my left foot even as I jumped to avoid it sending me on all fours. I did not see any blood oozing out of broken skin in my palms and knees when I picked myself up, but there was the obvious pain in my left foot and lower left leg. Finding no bones broken, I just started on my run back home after assuring the crowd that has gathered in the area that I was okay. I also made sure that the driver of the fallen motorcycle was alright. Except for a few bruises, he appeared pretty much fine.

So the next time you run, keep in mind that there is a reason for that waiver you see in road race application forms. Yes, running is a sport that requires your full attention even to the things around you. Enough reason for me to avoid listening to blaring music on the earphones while on the run, except perhaps when I am in the relatively safer confines of a track oval.

By the way, I don't have an iPod. I'd love to have one, but I see no serious need for it really. Anyway, that's another story.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It's beginning to feel easier

It always comes to a point when everything begins to feels easier.

When I began doing this 6k route which starts with a 3k ascent Tuesday, I felt I was in running hell. Even before I reached the 500 meter mark of the first kilometer, I was in oxygen debt. I was literally gasping, and my arms and legs! I was feeling the burn. Lactic acid build-up, no doubt. There could be no other reason.

It was not that I started out fast. I knew the route enough to remember that I should pace myself properly, especially so that I came from running the Run For P.E.A.C.E 5k in Davao over the weekend. The road climbs steadily, and just when you think the next portion is flat if not going down, another slight uphill stares you right in the face as if taunting you.

That keeps on for three kilometers!

But yes, it always comes to a point when everything begins to feel easier.

The human body is resilient. It has that ability to adjust, to adopt, an ability that truly serves the athlete - even the ones who just "feel like" among which I would include myself.

After two days of taking on this "killer hill" of a route, including running it in a drizzle that eventually became a full blown rain Wednesday, it seemed a little less of a "killer" today. It was still a difficult route but a little tamer this time.

There was still a degree of oxygen debt at the early going, but my breathing has become less labored. I can pick up the pace and not feel like dying, and I found it easier to get into a rhythm. My 37-minute total run time for the entire 6k was down to 34 this morning. I still felt fresh after the run, and I'm definitely happy about it.

There's just this one thing, though. I want to tackle that third kilometer going into my designated turnaround point with a lap time lower than the 6:47 I have been recording in my old Timex Ironman Triathlon for the past three days.

Maybe I could do that one of these days. There are more runs ahead of me along this route. And its beginning to feel easier.