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.