Sunday, December 07, 2008

One sweet victory, one sad ending


Okay, this is a running blog. But after what happened for 8 rounds inside the ring at MGM Grand in Las Vegas today, I can't help it.

Manny Pacquiao was just marvelous. Oscar dela Hoya was taller and bigger indeed, and for that a lot of American fight analysts gave the fight to him, some even saying that it would be a KO win for the legendary Golden Boy. It seems the luster has faded, the legend has gone somewhere else.

The smaller Filipino fighter was just the better, no, the best man and he did win.

Manny Pacquiao dominated the fight against dela Hoya from the 1st round, keeping himself busy with combination punches and steady movements to avoid dela Hoya's punches.

Pacquiao showed he can stand up to the bigger dela Hoya, using his speed and agility to effectively overcome the size advantage of the Golden Boy.

All the way to the 8th round, dela Hoya still can't seem to find an answer to the Pacman's barrage of punches to his head and body. Dela Hoya looked like an old man in the ring being pummeled to submission by a more aggressive and hungrier fighter in Manny Pacquiao.

The legend that is the Golden Boy just seemed to be slowly disappearing. He appeared tired, and battered by the punching machine that is Pacman.

After the 8th round, dela Hoya did what perhaps was unthinkable for a 10-time world professional boxing champion to do, give up the fight. It was a TKO victory for Pacquiao who consolidated his position as professional boxing's best pound-for-pound fighter.

What a way for one of the world's best fighters to go.

Dela Hoya chose to fight a smaller man perhaps thinking his height and size advantage would work to his favor. Sadly, it did not. The Pacman was just too fast, too strong, and too good for a fading Golden Boy.

In the end it was sweet victory for Manny, and a sad closing episode to a once brilliant fighting career for Oscar.

To those who didn't believe Manny will win, it's about time you learn about Filipino guts, heart, and faith in God.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Butchoy and me


Browsing through some pictures in a CD given to me by a friend and co-worker, I saw this picture of Butchoy and me on the way to the finish of a duathlon in Cotabato City a couple of years ago.

We were a study in contrast, Butchoy and me, in that picture.

The first time I used it as my profile picture in my Friendster account - yes, I have one - it became talk among friends. We were the figure "81" together, even "01" some said.

Butchoy was fat boy in the flesh. I was his exact opposite.

But Butchoy was not your run-of-the-mill, regular fat boy. He climbs mountains and has conquered Mt. Apo, the Philippines' highest, several times. He goes spelunking and scuba diving. He rides a mountain bike and has finished a duathlon.

Doing that duathlon was quite an experience for me. It was my first. But I believe it was more memorable for Butchoy than it was for me.

Starting late at 9:00 on a humid June morning, the first 5K run leg which tackled a couple of long climbs was definitely not easy for my lungs and legs which were newly reacquainted with running after almost two years of cycling. I would suppose it was a nightmare for Butchoy.

Running another 3K after a 20K mountain bike leg which included riding through narrow fishpond dikes wasn't that easy either, and I found myself trailing a lot of younger competitors in my Veterans (31 and above)Category going into the finish at the new Cotabato City Hall grounds.

Butchoy was still on the road, doing the bike leg when I hit the finish line. I was already relaxing when he came into the transition area and set off for the final run leg.

I decided to go with him for support on my mountain bike and monitor the rest of the field as they came in as well.

Butchoy shuffled slowly and walked from time to time. He was obviously tired but he looked good, catching up with another guy who was almost as big as he was. They did the route back to the City Hall grounds together.

I don't quite remember if Butchoy went ahead of this other guy or if he was left behind. The only vivid memory I have, thanks to the photo, is of the two of us approaching the line - Butchoy shuffling and me on my mountain bike.

Finishing that duathlon was truly an achievement for Butchoy. He came in 5th in the Touring (29 and below) Category.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Finding motivation


Where do i find the motivation to run?

Many have asked me this question. And the truth is the answer escapes me.

Running is definitely not easy. Being a weight-bearing activity, it puts a lot of stress on your lower extremities. For most people my age, with lower backs and knees rendered a bit rusty and somewhat rickety by father time, walking would be a much better and is an oft-preferred option.

Sometimes I feel little aches and pains. But every single running day, I wake up early, put on my attire,lace up my running shoes, and hit the road. The little aches and pains disappear after a kilometer or two, and by my third kilometer, I feel like a kid running carelessly at play.

No, I'm not a walking man. I am a runner.

Running defines who I am. It sets me apart from the rest. I find meaning, satisfaction, and happiness in doing it.

I do get tired but I always find the energy somehow, somewhere in this aging body, to run.

I love running. That's why I do it. That's motivation and reason enough for me.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Olympics: watching the games unfold, live


I had a video tape of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics that I used to watch over and over until the thinned tape got caught in the player mechanism and broke. I just spliced it back again so I can relive the legendary battle between decathletes Daley Thompson of Great Britain and Jurgen Hingsen of Germany which ended with Thompson recording an Olympic best 8847 points earning him the gold.

Not much less did I enjoy watching over and over Joan Benoit run into the history books by winning the first ever women’s Olympic marathon, and how Carlos Lopez of Portugal, at 42, defied age, the searing heat, and the competition in winning the gold in the men’s marathon.

That was a long time ago.

Today, thanks to satellite technology and cable TV, I can watch the games unfold, live, in my living room. The more techno-savvy ones enjoy the games on their PCs, laptops, and 3G mobile phones.

The athletics competition has started at the Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest. The battle for Olympic gold in the 100 meters between the world’s best sprinters from Jamaica, the United States, and Canada has begun to unravel. Maria Mutola’s attempt, at age 35, to win a second 800 meter gold for Mozambique eight years after her first in Sydney in 2000 has also commenced.

For runners, running enthusiasts and running fans, this is where the story is.

Our own Henry Dagmil and Marestela Torres will try their luck in the long jump. Both will definitely be facing great odds, and improving on their record best jumps would be achievements enough.

We should be proud of them even for just standing up to the overwhelming competition.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Runners all

Video cams were rolling and photographers were clicking away as the runners who signed up for the 32nd Milo Marathon Regional Elimination Race in Davao City lined up in front of Rizal Park last Sunday. One of the reporters called out to a petite short-haired female runner who was standing at the side with several other runners to take her place up front, obviously for the cameras.

"Mura man ka'g dili record holder (It's as if you're not a record holder), " the lady reporter said with a wide smile. She was talking to Jho-An Banayag who chose to qualify for this year's Milo Marathon National Finals on home ground. Jho-An, a Management graduate at the University of Mindanao, holds the women's national marathon record of 2:48:58.

If being a record holder clothes one with a certain air of arrogance, it is something you won't see in Jho-An Banayag. In the number of Davao City races that I caught a glimpse of her at the starting line, all I saw was a simple little lady who seemingly chose to be unnoticed at one corner. You wouldn't think she was the country's top female long distance runner if you didn't know she was Jho-An Banayag.

But wait till she runs, and she'll show you what she can do.

******

Towering above the other runners at the starting line, one cannot help but notice the lanky male Caucasian in the green and yellow race singlet of the 32nd Milo Marathon.

I surmised that he did not really know anybody else at the starting line as he stood there mostly by his lonesome since the 21k runners were called to gather at the starting area as early as 4:30 in the morning. Still, he had that ready smile and willing response that led to small conversations with a number of local runners.

We stood side by side at the starting line, and in the few minutes that we had before the race was fired off, I learned that he was from Norway. He said that he came to the Philippines five weeks prior to the race and that this was his second time to run in the country.

I never saw him again after the starting gun was fired, but I was sure he finished way ahead of me. For several minutes, though, when we stood together at the starting line, we were equals despite our physical differences - runners with a passion for the sport, hoping for a good race.

******

A reporter and a cameraman made their way through the crowd of 21k runners who stood waiting for the starting gun that would kick off the race. They obviously recognized the man with the Labrador retriever and wanted an interview with him.

Pastor Emata is undoubtedly already a celebrity following his conquest of Mt. Everest as part of the first group of Filipinos to successfully summit the world's highest peak. But he is still pretty much the Pastor Emata of old, a mountaineer whose passion for adventure and the great outdoors was already legend among his peers here in Mindanao long before he made it to the top of the world.

He pretty much loves his Labrador retriever, too. It was in fact because of the dog that he joined the race, he explained as we sat at adjacent tables at Chowking Bolton minutes after the awarding ceremonies ended at Rizal Park. He spoke proudly of the dog's achievement, running the entire 21k distance in a little more than two hours on limited training.

He had one regret, though, he said. Unlike him, the retriever was not issued a race number. That would have made the run more memorable for mountaineer, trail runner, adventurer, and dog lover Pastor Emata and his beloved Labrador retriever.

******

They ran the race together, father and daughter, side by side and stride for stride.

Cris has always been a model for his children. They have been with him to races, imbibing his love for the sport, and following in his steps as a competitive runner.

For two of the elder children, Nichiren and KR, running has become a source of recognition and achievement in their elementary and high school days, and now it is helping them make their way through college. Both are on scholarship as members of the running teams of their schools.

Even before we lined up at the start, Cris had told me that he would be running in support to Nichiren. He felt that she had a chance for a third place finish which would earn her a slot in the female division of the Milo Marathon National Finals. Sadly, Nichiren's efforts fell short and there wasn't much Cris could do.

Cris understood his daughter's predicament. As a third year student already loaded with major subjects, she had to balance training and meeting the demands of her course. Nichiren loved running, but she also had a college degree to earn. It is not easy.

For Cris, there was consolation in the fact that his daughter was not only a good runner, finishing fourth in the women's race, but also a conscientious student. Add to that KR's 7th place finish in his first ever 21k and you have one happy father.

Monday, August 04, 2008

There is more to a race than a personal best

When I started preparing for the Davao City Regional Elimination Race of the 32nd National Milo Marathon some 15 weeks ago, I was gunning for a better time at the 21k distance. I had recorded a 1:42:42 at the Merco 61st Anniversary 21k in October last year. Maybe I could do a 1:40 this time.

My race yesterday did not turn out as I wanted. I wilted in the final kilometers and crossed the finish line at Rizal Park in 1:49:45. It was more than 7 minutes slower than my previous best.

I was frustrated, naturally. At the finish, I was mulling over reasons for the slower time. Maybe it was the 6 A.M. start, a full hour later than the start of the Merco race. The sun was bearing down on us on the run back to the finish. I could feel the heat searing the back of my neck. I was never good at running in the heat.

But it was far from a bad race for me.

The tinge of pain that still lingers in my thighs and the blisters under my big toes are testaments to the effort I put into the race. I ran abreast with other runners in three different groups going into the halfway point, leaving each one behind after a kilometer or two, until there were only two of us going into the turnaround.

For the first time in a race, I had my fellow age-grouper Cris, a runner several times faster than me, in my eyesight. Pacing his daughter Nicherene, his familiar figure in white singlet and tangerine shorts some 300 meters ahead of me provided me motivation to hold my pace despite the discomfort of the heat and pass several other younger runners in much of the second half of the race. It was a pity my little engine sputtered going into the final three kilometers and I totally lost sight of Cris and Nicherene who eventually finished fourth in the women's race.

I haven't run in any Milo Marathon elimination race for quite a long while. The last time I registered for one was in 2006. I find no pride in having the event's t-shirt and race bib, though. I wasn't able to run the race. I missed out on the registration for last year's race which was closed early because of overwhelming participation especially in the side events. This year's race was a comeback of sorts for me to this series which is without doubt the most esteemed running event in the country. This time, I have a race singlet, a marked bib, and a finisher’s certificate I can once again be proud of.

No, I don't think it was a bad race for me at all, though it could have been better (chuckle).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The bond that unites us (Virtual Run 6)

The Virtual Run - Runners separated by geography do a training run "together" wherever they may be in the world. We set a distance (more or less) and meet at a specific time, so 6:00pm US East Coast time makes it 6:00am the following day in Manila.

It was 15 minutes to 6 when I got out of the house this morning and started walking to the starting point of my run. The sun was hiding behind rain clouds. The air was a bit chilly. It has been raining in my part of the world these past few afternoons and evenings. I consider it a blessing that it doesn't rain early in the morning when I usually do my runs.

"It's a good day to run," I thought to myself with pretty good reason. This is runner's weather, and today is Isra Wal Miraj, a Muslim holiday, which in these parts means you don't report for work. There's no pressure to cut a run short or to put in so much kilometers into so little time. This day is just suited for that nice and easy 10k, my version of Virtual Run 6.

I arrived at the starting point of my run after a brisk 5-minute walk. Across the street, a familiar looking lady was walking towards the direction of the town center. We smiled at each other. Maybe she was feeling good about her walk as I was about this run ahead of me.

I started my run at a very easy pace. Halfway to my first kilometer, I glanced again across the street and noticed a couple of familiar figures, fellow runner Carling and his nephew, apparently in the closing laps of their training run for this Sunday's Milo Marathon Regional Elimination Race. We smiled and waved as we passed each other running in opposite directions. No words were necessary. The gestures were enough to say that we wished each other a good day and a good run.

I got on into my second kilometer, turned around and headed back towards the plaza. There was still a group of women doing their regular aerobics workout at the paved walk fronting the plaza. They usually dispersed before 6, but this was not one of those regular mornings.

I started doing my 1-kilometer loops around the plaza, passing several walkers and a few joggers along the way. On my second loop, I caught up with and passed a pair of teenagers running in baggy shorts. I reminded myself that this was supposed to be an easy run, and I slowed down a bit. Feeling good on a run just has a way of pushing you to go a bit faster than usual, even try to race somebody sometimes.

I finished my 1-kilometer loops to log 6 kilometers ran so far, and started heading back to the starting point of my run. My ninth kilometer was a long uphill, and heading towards the kilometer marker, I would have seen Mt. Apo rising above the lower mountains in the horizon. Thick clouds hid its majestic peak today, but the knowledge that it was there looking down at me as it would on a clear day sort of energized me.

Finishing off my final kilometer, I saw Cris, one of the fastest runners in my age group, crossing the street and heading towards me. He asked me if I had already registered for this Sunday's race, I smiled and answered yes. He smiled back and said okay. We didn't stop, we just passed each other going in opposite directions to finish our runs.

No long conversations are necessary between us runners, I suppose. We pass each other and smile and understand that we mean well for each other. There is that bond that unites us, our common love for the sport. It is the same bond that brings us together despite the distances between us, that unites us wherever we are or wherever we run, however fast or slow we are, in a virtual run such as this.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Searching for the tiger in the cat

It's three more weeks before the Milo Marathon regional elimination race in Davao City. Preparing for the race has been the main focus of my running life these past couple of months. My goal is to improve on my last 21k time of 1:42:42.

I did my longest run so far of 25 kilometers last Sunday. I have pushed my lungs to bursting during intervals. I have worked my heart to near maximum during hard tempo runs. I have held a pace I never thought I can in my hilly city where I can hardly find a flat course to run, burning uphills and flying downhills to the best my mere mortal capacities allow.

Still, there is that tinge of doubt. Will all these really translate into a better finishing time for a 21k come race day?

I guess self doubt is something that we can never truly dispel. I am confident that I can run a 21k. The 25k long run has proven that I have the required endurance. An earlier 22k long run up a course that climbs for an entire 10 kilometers is proof I have the strength. Running the distance faster is of course another thing. That is what brings in the questions.

I have never seen myself as a fast runner. I have always dreamed, nay, fantasized I was one. More than once, I hear loud cheers in my mind as I race toward the finish line tape, breaking it in victory. More than once, I wake up to the reality that some runners in my age category finish races way ahead of me on very minimal training. While I believe that I was born to run, others are just born to run faster than me.

I have three more weeks of hard work ahead of me. More intervals, more tempo runs, more workouts to burn my lungs and make my heart pump faster. Maybe somewhere in those runs I will finally find the confidence I need about my ability to run fast. That one feel-good run that will tell me that there is a tiger in this cat.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Inspiration from a would-be runner

I didn't expect the question - is it okay to run and then go to a gym for a workout? Then, as we continued exchanging messages through Yahoo! Messenger, she tells me of her plan to buy a new pair of running shoes because she wasn't able to bring the old pair she used while she was still here in the Philippines.

Something told me this girl was quite serious about getting into running. You don't invest in a new pair of running shoes if you're not, right?

There was a track oval close to the building where they stayed, she said. That was where she planned to run. More questions from her followed, more tips and information came from me, until finally I offer to share a run/walk routine for beginners from one of my many ageing references. I told her that I would guide her through the run/walk routine until she can run for 30 minutes straight, hopefully in a month's time.

She has gone through 2 days of the routine, keeping me posted through email about how she managed with the workouts.

No, I don't consider myself an expert on this. Well, I actually have this crazy dream of coaching but I know I don't have the skills for something like that. But I think I can share a thing or two from my two-cents worth of running experience to help a friend who wants to get into running.

The best thing is it has gotten me more inspired to keep on running.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Fast(?) enough for a top 10 finish

I am not fast, only half-fast as another runner describes himself in his blog. Considering that and the age range covered by that special age category in the 5k event of the Araw Ng Dabaw Run -40 and above- I wasn't really expecting a podium finish.

Younger and faster runners were there at the assembly area at Rizal Park early this morning. They checked in and lined up with me at the starting line. I have trained, yes, but they have, too. Perhaps even harder than I did. But podium finish or not, I have decided I would run this race the best I can.

I started fast. 5k is a short distance. I knew that if I am to finish good, I needed to start fast, hold the pace, and finish off with a kick if you still have one. Even before I hit the first kilometer, my upper arms were starting to burn. My lack of upper body exercise was showing, and it is slowly killing me. I wanted to pump my arms faster. I knew my legs can still go faster, but I needed my arms to do that... and they didn't seem to be up to the task. Still, I pressed on, hoping the burning sensation would soon subside.

I passed runners and runners passed me. A bunch of Army guys in their running fatigues were up ahead. One of them was in my age group. Seeing them only a few meters ahead made me pick up the pace. Then, the sound of the siren approached. We were nearing the 5k turnaround, and the leading runner was on his way back to Rizal Park.

I passed the Army guy in my age category going towards the curve leading to the turnaround point in front of Gaisano Mall. On the other side of the road, running their way back to the finish, were familiar faces - the faster guys in my 50-59 age bracket. If this was a race that's strictly in that age bracket, I would be running 4th or 5th going to the turnaround. Well, reality is it was not.

By the time I started my way back to Rizal Park, the burning sensation in my upper arms has subsided. I was feeling more comfortable with my pace. Three runners who I surmise were in my category were ahead of me. I picked up my pace again and was soon abreast with the last runner in loose neon green shorts. I passed him. In a matter of seconds, he passed me right back. I had a race in my hands.

Mr. Neon Green Shorts was tough. I would be abreast of him, then he would pick up his pace and get ahead of me again. If I passed him, he would pass me right back. As we made the turn to San Pedro St. and the straightaway to the finish, he was ahead of me by about three or four strides. I held my pace, but in my head, I was contemplating on taking another surge and try passing him for good.

I started picking up the pace again. I was abreast of Mr. Neon Green Shorts for a few seconds and was leaving him behind not long after. I held the pace. The race banner was growing larger in my sight. Ahead, I saw the two other guys in my category trying to outrun each other to the finish. I was about a 100 meters behind and knew I wouldn't reach them. I had to be content with finishing behind them.

I crossed the finish line in 22 minutes 25.98 seconds. A few minutes after, I went to the organizers' table and checked on my results. I was 37th overall and 10th among the 40 and above runners.

Cash prizes were given to the top three category finishers. There were no medals or certificates for the rest of us in the top 10. Still, I couldn't be happier. A 10th place finish in my first race for the year isn't bad. Not at all.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Finally, a chance to run a race again

Two races have already passed me by.

The first Milo Marathon Regional Elimination race for Mindanao was held in General Santos February 24. I was planning to run it and the Davao City elimination race. If I cannot run all Milo Mindanao elimination races, then at least I can do the two races closest to my home city of Kidapawan. But as early as two weeks before the race, I was told that there was to be a baptism in the family, and I would stand as godfather to my nephew. My General Santos Milo elimination race went up in smoke.

Two days before the General Santos Milo elims, a friend from PATAFA Mindanao sent me a text message. There will be a 10k and 5k in Davao City on February 25. I was not prepared for that. And while it was a holiday, I was scheduled to join a provincial government medical-dental outreach in the town of Alamada, an hour and a half travel from Kidapawan. It was official duty against racing. No contest. I was not prepared to disappoint my boss.

Then on Monday, March 3, another text message came from my friend. Registration was ongoing for the Araw ng Dabaw run. Finally, this is something I can do! No baptisms, no medical-dental outreach, just a Sunday set for racing.

So which one do I run? The open 21k, open 10k, open 5k, or the 40-and-above 5k? I am not fast - half-fast perhaps - and I am not as good at running shorter distances than I am at doing longer ones. But, hey, that 40-and-above 5k is something worth considering.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Racing time again

Unlike runners in the temperate zone, those of us in the tropical areas get to run and race practically all year round. That's why runners in those areas envy us.

In the Philippines, racing for 2008 started as early as January with big name races like the Subic and Clark Marathons coming a week after the other. Other shorter distance races have likewise been held like the Philippine Stock Exchange Bull Run recently. A lot more have been lined up including the famed Milo Marathon regional elimination races which a great number of local runners are raring to take on.

"Twenty-six legs will make up the 32nd season of the National Milo Marathon," goes the lead of a recent news article. Races have been scheduled in Batangas City on Feb. 3, Puerto Princesa City in Palawan on Feb. 10, Clark Freeport in Pampanga on Feb. 17 and General Santos City on Feb. 24.

A four-month break follows the General Santos race after which the series resumes June 22 with the Dumaguete leg. This will be followed by qualifying races in Bacolod City (June 29), Iloilo City (July 6), Roxas City (July 13), Legazpi City (Aug. 10), Naga City (Aug. 17), San Pablo City (Aug. 24), Tacloban City (Aug 31), Tagbilaran City (Sept. 7), San Fernando City (Sept. 14), Laoag City (Sept. 21), Santiago City (Sept. 28), Baguio City (Oct. 5), Dipolog City (Oct. 12), Iligan City (Oct. 19), Cagayan de Oro City (Oct. 26) and Butuan City (Nov. 9).

The holding of simultaneous races in Cebu City, Davao City, Tarlac City and Metro Manila on Aug. 3 will serve as the season highlight. Organizers are expecting up to 60,000 runners in the four legs which will be held simultaneously.

Except in Metro Manila which is a full marathon, the elimination races are disputed in the 21-kilometer distance where the top three male and female finishers qualify for the National Finals scheduled in Manila on Nov. 30.

A 5K fun run and a 3K race for kids are also slated as side events.

Right now, runners are already talking about planning their training to peak right in time for the races scheduled in their own areas.

Me? I'm thinking of something sort of crazy - running all 6 Mindanao elimination races!

Wishful thinking?