Even before Christopher McDougall's book Born to Run was published and made waves in the worldwide running community prompting interest in barefoot running, Manuel Vismanos of Toril, Davao City has been running unshod.
With his flowing white hair and beard, it would be easy to imagine him as the original Pinoy barefoot runner. He took up running in the 60's, inspired by the site of a group of young athletes at a local school, and has never worn running shoes since. In a short write-up accompanying her photo of 'Nong Maning finishing the 27th Davao Finisher's Marathon last December 5, businesswoman and writer-photographer Ms. Joanna Christina Lizares Co, who is a runner herself, said the 63-year old retired policeman "just felt that going with bare feet made him move better and faster. He tried running with shoes but he felt restricted and uncomfortable."
And just how hardcore as a barefoot runner is Manuel Vismanos? Ms. Joanna says 'Nong Maning doesn't consider running in Vibram Five Fingers barefoot running because the VFF's are shoes just the same.
'Nong Maning is a revered icon in the Davao running circle, and I would say more than just because he runs barefoot. Four decades of running is undoubtedly a testament to the man's passion and commitment to the sport, and all the time running barefoot at that. And while he is no spring chicken, there is a lot of strength and power in those calloused feet and sinewy legs.
I recall two occasions of running pace for pace with 'Nong Maning. One was at the 34th Milo Marathon Davao City Regional 21k Elimination Race last August 29. 'Nong Maning and I exchanged paces and leads for several times going into the Sasa turnaround point. That part of the race definitely taxed me.
Again we ran side by side from Matina to Toril in the 27th Davao Finisher's Marathon December 5. We went beyond trading paces and leads that day. Some guys from the Davao Sunday Runners' Club doing the 21k handed 'Nong Maning a bottle of Pocari Sweat. He took a swig, then looked back and handed me the bottle, insisting that I take a drink myself as we are still less than halfway into the race. Further ahead, as we ran side by side, a couple providing support to another group or runners trained their camera on 'Nong Maning for a picture. He swiftly put his arm on my shoulders, told me to smile, and together we made the thumbs up sign as the camera clicked.
'Nong Maning topped the 60-64 age category in the 34th Milo Marathon Davao Elimination Race last August clocking 2:00:49 good for 70th place overall. Sadly, financial constraints kept him from running in the national finals. He finished the 27th Davao Finishers' Marathon in 4:30:04, running into the finish amid the cheers of fellow runners who have no less than awe, admiration and respect for him.
'Nong Maning is not the only one who runs and races barefoot in Davao. His younger brother Bonifacio does the same. Jun Biroy from the island city of Samal who works in Davao as a salesman-marketing agent also runs and races unshod.
Another runner from Toril, Aldo Pecson, is following the footsteps of his friend and idol, and will be joining 'Nong Maning, Boni, and 'Nong Maning's close friend and neighbor Jonifer Bagayo on January 30, 2011 at the Run for Healthy Living, a charity event of Holiday Gym and Spa and the Davao Medical School Foundation. All four of them will go barefoot. Those who want to try barefoot running are welcome to join them and experience running with Davao City's amazing Manuel Vismanos.
Note: Registration for the Run for Healthy Living is ongoing at Holiday Gym and Spa, DMSF and Run Club Davao. A very nice singlet awaits the first 500 registrants.