Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sad reality

Davao's pride, Jho-an Banayag, the country's top female marathon runner, will not be representing the Philippines in the 42.195-kilometer footrace at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.

The move to drop Jho-an from the roster of athletes bound for the 16th Asian Games came after she competed in the CamSur International Marathon last September 24 where she was the top Filipina finisher with a time of 2:58:35.

The Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA) said Jho-an violated a ruling that bars national athletes from joining competitions three months before the Asian Games. PATAFA president Go Teng Kok was quoted by GMA News as saying he talked to Jho-an before the Camsur race and that she gave the assurance she was not going to compete.

Go told GMA News: "All our athletes must follow our rules and regulations."

Rules are rules. Even if Jho-an ran her way to a gold medal in last year's Southeast Asian Games marathon in Laos with a 2:46:34 finish, she is not exempted from these rules. She has to abide by them.

Jho-an's story again brings to the fore the sad reality of the Filpino athlete - insufficient financial allowances, as Pinoymiler's Blog so straightforwardly puts it.

Interviewed by the Joey Villar of the Philippine Star after the CamSur marathon awarding ceremony, Jho-an, who was apparently well aware of the consequences of her action, said: “I’m the breadwinner of my family, I’m here to provide for them. We really need the money that’s why I competed here.”

Her sixth-place finish earned Jho-an P125,000. She receives P15,000 monthly allowance from the Philippine Sports Commission.

In the same interview, Jho-an said she would run in the Milo Marathon finals in December if she doesn’t get a slot in the Asiad. This will give her a crack at the premiere marathon's top purse of P300,000.

Jho-an's story is an oft-repeated one. She is not the only national athlete that has been suspended by the PATAFA for joining unsanctioned races, and neither is she the only athlete that has broken the rules mainly because there was a family to support that needed the money.

Most athletes, especially the ones in track and field, come from poor provincial families. They made their way through high school and college by way of athletic scholarships. They see their athletic abilities as a means to help support their families by landing a slot in the national team or getting a crack at enlistment in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

This very real need to support their families is the primary underlying reason why they run, why they push themselves to their limits to be at the top. This is the main reason why the increasingly lucrative purse in road races like CamSur and Milo is always more inviting, even worth risking one's inclusion in the prestigious list of athletes carrying the country's flag in an international competition, where the chances of a podium finish -and the corresponding financial reward- becomes slimmer as the level goes higher.

Pinoymiler, in his blog, urged the PSC "to review the monthly allowance of our athletes, as some of them are complaining that a major chunk of their allowances are being spent in their vitamins/supplement and training gears." He also suggested looking into the possibility of entering into tie-ups with companies who are manufacturing these kind of products to help our athletes.

Perhaps they can go a step further. They can completely adopt and sponsor our track and field athletes so that they could be given much better means to support their families while carrying the country's colors in international competitions.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Personal Best: My St. Peter Life Run

I had it all in my mind. Take it easy from the gun to the climb up the Dacudao flyover, pick-up the pace and hold it all the way to the turnaround at the diversion road in Buhangin, then go for a faster second half going to the finish at Davao Victoria Plaza. Hopefully, that would be good for a time just a bit faster than my 47:08.38 for the Merco 63rd Anniversary Run 10k a year ago.

I positioned myself well in the front end of the pack assembled at the start line, and pressed the start button on my Timex Ironman at the sound of the gun.

It was a mad dash for most from there, with a number of guys wheezing past me in pursuit of running buddies who were up ahead. I stuck to my pace. I was far from comfortable, my upper arms burned and my lungs were shouting, but it was like that in every race. I knew it would be gone soon. Indeed, by the time I was approaching the Dacudao flyover, the discomfort was gone.

I passed the 3k turnaround point at the top of the flyover and set my sight on the runners ahead. I picked up the pace as I had planned and had soon passed 4 other runners before entering the diversion road at the Buhangin junction. Then I had a race in my hands.

One younger runner I caught up to kept pace with me, asking if he could run alongside me just as long as he can. I just smiled my approval.

He lagged a bit as we climbed the first hill from Buhangin junction, but was soon beside me again. On the downhill, he picked up the pace and surged ahead. I thought of chasing but held back. The hills will be coming back again after the 10k turnaround and I could burn out even before that. I held my pace.

On the hill approaching the Buhangin junction I caught up with him. I kept my pace while he faded. I caught up with still another runner and traded paces with a runner in army fatigue-colored running shorts before finally breaking away going down the flyover.

The recreational 3k and 5k participants were all over the road leading to the finish. I was dodging people as I tried to hold my pace. It wasn't easy at all. The final few meters going into the finishing chutes was less crowded. I headed for the 10k chute and pressed the button on my watch as I crossed the line. My race was over.

My Timex Ironman recorded my finishing time at 47:31.91, more than 23 seconds faster than my Merco time last year. But I can live with that knowing this was a hilly course where PR's are hard to come by compared to the relatively flatter Merco run  course.

John Wooden said "Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." I take that as truth.

I gave this run my best and discovered what I had me. A friend told me once that I was afraid to run fast and was prone to holding myself back. It was true, I guess. I always had this fear of burning out and shaming myself with a bad finish. But in my speed training sessions going into this race, I found that fear fading.

And looking back at this run, I remember Hal Higdon:  "Even when you have gone as far as you can, and everything hurts, and you are staring at the specter of self-doubt, you can find a bit more strength deep inside you, if you look closely enough." 

But I would say this was my best run experience ever not only because of what I gave it but also because of what I got from running it - meeting new friends. There's Joan and her husband from General Santos, NJ who posted a comment on an earlier entry in this blog, his girlfriend who did 5k, Jay of Davao Runners who kept pace with me going towards the Dacudao flyover, and Jette who helped me keep a great pace at the Buhangin diversion road.

They all made this one memorable running experience.

"Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too." 
--Richard O'Brien