Friday, December 23, 2011

Running with a heart again

As new needs arise in the disaster stricken areas of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, Team Davao Runners has once again scheduled a second run to gather help for the victims of Sendong.

Set on Tuesday, December 27 at 4:30 in the morning, the 12k run will take off from McDonald's Bajada and head south this time towards GSIS Matina and back. Assembly has been set at 4:00 am.

A free run, no registration fee will be required from participants. They are instead asked to bring a gallon of bottled water or a pair of new slippers (men's size 8), items identified as among those very much needed by the affected residents. Participants can give more than one of the items.

TDR's first run for the victims of Sendong last Tuesday, December 20, was able to generate not only donations in kind but cash amounting to P23,600. The amount was used to buy rice, instant noodles and cans of sardines. Donations in kind filled 51 boxes and 15 sacks.

Aside from those brought by the participants of the first run, goods and cash donations were also received at The Ark Veterinary Clinic of Drs. Ken and Cris Lao, both TDR members. Delivery of the goods to Cagayan de Oro was facilitated by Trucker Transpecial Hauling Services and SKMTI.

The first TDR run for Sendong victims gathered 80 runners. Most if not all of them are expected to join the second run on Tueday, even bring along some friends for an even larger number of participants and donors.

Like the first run, Tuesday's event is not a race. No medals or prizes await participants at the end of the run. Neither is it a fun run with the usual water stations, food and finisher's certificate. But the fun will surely be there in the camaraderie on the road borne by a common love for running, and in that elating feeling that you have done your share in keeping the Christmas spirit truly alive by helping fellow Mindanaoans in need.

Time to lace up and run for others once more.

For more information on the TDR Run For A Cause II please visit the Davao Runners Facebook page.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Running with a heart

Running gives you a strong and healthy heart. That is one proven benefit of this sport that we have come to love.

And runners' hearts are not only strong and healthy. They are also big.

Eighty runners from Davao proved this today. Led by members of Team Davao Runners, they tackled 12 kilometers in a run meant to express sympathy and gather support for those who suffered in the wrath of Typhoon Sendong in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.

It was what we call a raw run. No runner support, no water stations, no food. Just the runners, the road, and the common desire to help even in the simplest of ways.

Runners who joined brought whatever they can share for the typhoon victims - canned goods, clothes, shoes, slippers, bottled water, hard-earned cash. What was gathered wasn't really much but it was enough to fill up the back of a pick-up truck, perhaps enough even to fill the hearts of those who will receive the items with a little gladness this Christmas.

There were no medals or certificates at the end of the 12k run. But there undoubtedly was gladness in the heart of every runner who did the run and gave for a fellowman in need. That was reward enough for running with a heart, and a good reward it is.

"A good exercise for the heart is to bend down and help another up." 
(from The Best Giving Quotes on
                                                      (Thanks to Rolly Itallo and Team Davao Runners for the photos.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Running and giving on Christmas

After the devastating flash flood that hit Matina in Davao City earlier this year, Team Davao Runners mobilized its members in a voluntary donation campaign for those  affected by the disaster. The spur-of-the-moment charity campaign facilitated through the Davao Runners page on Facebook was able to gather as much as 5 boxes and 5 large plastic bags of donated goods which included unused or old running singlets and race shirts from TDR members and other kind-hearted runners from all over Davao City.

News of the damage to lives and caused by the flash flood brought by Typhoon Sendong to Cagayan de Oro City has again prompted Team Davao Runners to get up and move beyond running. At 4:30 am tomorrow, December 20,  TDR members and other Davao-based runners are going out on a charity 12k run for the victims of Sendong from McDonald's Bajada to Motolite, Bo. Pampanga and back.

There will be no registration fees for this run. Participants are instead asked to bring whatever they can donate for the Sendong victims of CDO - used clothing, canned food, bottled water and other goods or cash. The usual trimmings of a fun run - hydration stations, food and the like - wouldn't be there. Just the road, the runners, and their hearts that care for those unlucky families in CDO who have to face a gloomy Christmas.

If you are from Davao and you are scheduled to do a run tomorrow, you won't regret being a part of this event. You live your passion and you give life to the real spirit of Christmas through a kind and giving heart.

You can visit the Davao Runners Facebook page here for additional information.

"If you give, you begin to live." — Dave Matthews Band

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

No PR at the Milo Davao 21k race but happy nonetheless

I joined the 35th National Milo Marathon Davao City 21k elimination race hoping to set a new personal record. It was perhaps the most trained I have been for a race. I was preparing for the Davao Finisher's Marathon come December, and have logged a series of 100-kilometer weeks before the Milo race. That much mileage with some pretty decent speed work mixed in will help ensure I can better my 1:41:31 21k best. The only question was will the new, more difficult race route allow it.

It was in 2008 when I first ran a Milo Marathon provincial race again in Davao City after a brief running hiatus which kept me away from racing. I finished the 21k race in 1:49:45 on a relatively flat course from Rizal Park to Sasa and back. I missed out on the 2009 race due to work schedules.

In 2010, a new race route was used for the 34th Milo Marathon elimination race. A moderate climb going to the old airport in Sasa was added making it a bit more difficult than the 2008 route. Finishing at 1:51:27 was frustrating. Not only was it slower than my previous Milo Marathon time two years back,  it was outside the 1 hour and 50 minutes qualifying time set for my age group for the Milo Marathon National Finals. Even if I wouldn't have run in the finals anyway, qualifying would have been some achievement.

With Baguio out of the schedule this year, the Davao City route could easily be considered as this year's toughest. The runners were flagged off at Roxas Avenue, headed on a flat route until the slight incline at the Bajada-Buhangin junction. Past the  10K turning point in front of the Carmelite Church, participants turned left to Damosa where several hundred meters from the corner they were welcomed by a long steady uphill, one which seemed to become a bit more steep as it approached the Diversion Road. A slightly flat portion gave the runners a bit of comfort but it was really nothing less than the calm before a storm. Up ahead were to more hills, one after the other, before the 21k turnaround. The initial long climb saps you; the next two others just bleed you dry.

My race has gone well so far up to that point. My old reliable Timex Ironman Triathlon read 00:49:36 at the 21k turnaround. Ahead of me was my running buddy Cris Panerio who was competing in the age bracket immediately below mine. a former track athlete and a seasoned racer, Cris is a fast runner with a pace I can hardly match unless he runs easy. I haven't been this close to him in a race. In fact, I have caught up with him several times going into the turnaround and again as we headed back towards Damosa. But he always picked up the pace and left me trailing him by several meters.

Trying to keep Cris in my sight and within a distance I could bridge worked well for me. I passed several other runners going into the finish. Cris and I crossed the finish line with only a split second between us. The final results had us both clocking 1:42:04. He was the top finisher in his age group as I was in mine. Topping that, I came in almost 18 minutes under the set age group qualifying time of 2 hours.

There was no PR for me this time. But given the killer route and the way I have raced, I wouldn't call this a bad run. Not in any way.

Running to the finish at the 35th National Milo Marathon  Davao City 21k elimination race

P.S. After going through the 35th National Milo Marathon provincial elimination race results, I found out that  only 19 made the qualifying time for the 55-59 age group in nine out of sixteen races outside Metro Manila. The fastest finishing time recorded was 1:37:35 by Ruth Banzon in Cebu City. Iloilo City had the two next fastest times:  1:38:24 by Demostenes Limbaga and 1:42:01 by Herminieildo Meñosa. In fourth was my 1:42:04.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

100k weeks

6 weeks of running, 5 weeks with totals of 100 to 108 kilometers.

Believe it or not, I find it amazing that I am doing this now that I am much older than when I started running and have moved way up the age group ladder.

I don't remember being in this zone in my past running life. I have done runs beyond 30k while training for the marathons I ran before my second wind, but no 100k weeks. I haven't pushed my body this much until now.

After all those years of running, I guess my body has learned to adapt to the stress better, and could do more than what it once did. This has not diminished the discomfort any bit though. The soles of my feet still burn after continuously hitting the pavement for 20 kilometers on a 30k long run. My lungs still scream for oxygen with every step towards the top of an incline.

I still dread that discomfort. The soft embrace of my bed especially on a Sunday morning is still a more inviting option, yet I undeniably find a sense of achievement in putting in those long runs. They leave me exhausted, but feeling fully alive. And so I think I'll just do the same thing all over again after a day of rest, and try putting another 100k week into my books.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

I am a runner

My lungs burn;
I gasp for air
with every step.
These hills...
They are killers.
I have done four
and there are six more
kilometers to run.
The hardest parts
seem to always come
when you have already run
your legs
to near exhaustion.
I push on-
on legs
becoming as logs
with every step
on the steep
I push on-
as the cold gust
hits my sweat soaked body
chilling me
to the bone.
I push on.
Just six more steps
and I turn...
There are ten more
kilometers to run.

I lean on the fence
I slump on the floor
I am a runner

I run again.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

It's not just about running; it's also about not running

I didn't run today, the second day in this running week that I had more time in bed and less on the road.

On days like this, I feel a bit guilty. Most runners do. We don't want to be missing more than the number of days rest that we have set for ourselves in a week. For me, it's one day off for six days of running.

I did much less when I went started running again in 2006 after a few years off.  What used to be 6 kilometers twice weekly have become 10-16 kilometer runs in five successive days and a weekly long run of 20-28 kilometers.

Running more often and doing longer distances have given me better race times. I post much faster finishes now than I did 2 years ago. And this is perhaps the main reason why I would rather have more and not less running days in a week.

But our bodies do have a way of telling us that we need to take a break. It tells us to go ahead and get more sleep. Our minds tell us to get up, but we can't help but put the alarm clock on snooze several times to catch a few more winks, until we finally just turn that alarm off and stay in bed until our eyes say enough. That's how it is with me.

So as I feel that pinch of guilt and regret when I have more than the usual rest days, I try to look at the benefits I get from those additional rest days. Like what I am doing now.

In the two weeks going into my last race, the Kadayawan Phoenix Run which was a 32K on a very hilly course, I did only 7 days of running. I didn't feel comfortable with going only four days, doing three 10K's and one 16K, with two weeks to go into the race.

I was more concerned when I had to grab more than just a few winks during race week. I did a 10K on Monday, slept it out Tuesday, did another 10K on Wednesday, and missed out again for two days. I squeezed in an easy 8K the day before the race, thinking I need to remind those leg muscles how it is to run as if they really lose their memory that much in two days.

My 2:37:04 official gun time and 14th place finish in the men's race are more than enough to say I had a good race that day. It definitely was a result of my 6-and-1 training regimen. But those "forced" rest days on those last two weeks may just have given me much fresher legs for a much better run.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Preserved memories: My Kadayawan Phoenix Run 32K (in pictures)

Pushing ageing legs and battling gravity on unforgiving climbs, running through the discomfort of blistered soles, being cheered on by friends, and knowing there's a sub-4 hour marathon in you. These make races memorable.

Talking running with Team Davao Runners mates Dino Macavinta and Jerry Miparanum before lining up for the gun start.
The TDR pre-race group pose has by now become a tradition. I missed this one though.
I loitered, talking with other runner friends who I only get to see during races like this.

"There they go!"
We were flagged off at 4:00 in the morning while the rest of Davao was still sleeping.

Nothing beats the joy of having friends giving support and encouragement on the road.
TDR's fastest guy, Merlin Legaspi, reaches the TDR support group at the Diversion Road first.
No doubt he was happy seeing these wacky guys there.

I reached the support group shortly after Merlin. No water or anything for me as I didn't need it.
Hearing the cheers - and this shot - were more than enough.
How good was this TDR support group?
They had to make the pep signs on the spot to greet the rest of the gang with.  LOL.

The TDR support group was there for every single mate, including barefoot Dino.

The ladies' smiles were enough to melt away the discomfort.  And the guys... well, they were wacky ;)
They were there to keep the memories.
And make you try and look as if you were not suffering at all
 even after having already ran 23 kilometers and still doing 9 more.
My feet were aching with the blisters even hours afters I finished, but what the heck!
It was just a few more meters to the finish and I wanted to make sure TDR mate Doc Cris Lao crossed that line and be the winner that she is by conquering her first 32K run. She did, of course. 

More than this medal, my 2:37:05 finishing time is such a big reward.
It's great to know I'm in line for a sub-4 hour marathon in December. 

"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

(My thanks to TDR mates Joanna Lizares-Co, Jay Salvaña and Doc Cris Lao for the pictures.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

No easy run: My Kadayawan Phoenix Run 32K

I was up and about in my hotel room by 2 a.m., having my fill of 2 milk chocolate-covered wafer rolls and a mug of hot chocolate cereal drink. This was breakfast, washed down with a bottle of Gatorade. I was pretty sure it was good enough to keep me energized through 32 kilometers, the distance I was taking on in two hours time at the Kadayawan Phoenix Run.

I checked my downloaded copy of the route map on my laptop the night before. That route over the hilly Diversion Road going all the way to the Davao Crocodile Park will be unforgiving. The series of ascents and descents will take its toll on the legs and knees, and break or make performances. It will be more difficult for the many who will be taking on the distance for the first time.

In an hour, wearing my Team Davao Runners singlet, I was on my way to the starting area at SM Davao just a few hundred meters from where I was staying. There, I meet up with other TDR members who were in their white and blue shirt. There wasn't much ceremony before the race. We were called in to the holding area a few minutes before 4 a.m. and were soon sent off with the usual starting gun to take on the 32-kilometer challenge ahead.

I was feeling good from the start. Perhaps the fewer running days I had going into this race was keeping me fresher and stronger. I tucked myself behind the top four female runners who were running abreast, and kept pace for about two kilometers. Then I went slightly ahead and was soon running by myself. I was still feeling good as I got nearer the turn to the Diversion Road at Ulas, but I was also worried. I might be on my own too early in the race and would be better off having someone to keep pace with. I eye the solo runner ahead of me. I thought it would be good to catch up and try running with him, but he was ahead by quite some distance. There was the danger of burning out early and I definitely didn't want that to happen. I stuck to my pace and my solo run.

Except for the bridges, there seemed to be no flat surface along the entire Diversion Road route. You immediately go up from the time you turn right from McArthur Highway. The number of hills we negotiated escape me, but I particularly remember one - that which crests at the gate of Las Terazzas, one of Davao's plush subdivisions.

While running through the early hills, I had gotten close enough to the solo runner ahead of me to recognize it was my TDR mate Merlin Legaspi. He was already cresting that Las Terazzas hill. A group was cheering him and handing him drinks. A group of TDR members were there with some other people. They had organized themselves into a support group for TDR mates doing the 32K run. They cheered for me too as I crested the hill, and offered me drinks as well. But I really didn't need it. The encouragement and the cheers were enough.

It was a long downhill from there. This would be a tough climb on the run back, I thought to myself. Unforgiving in fact.

Before reaching the turn going to the Crocodile Park, I met the lead runner escorted by motorcycle police. The rest of the local elite soon followed. I counted nine before I made a turn somewhere in the Crocodile Park area. Except for Merlin, who was by now no longer in my sight, I had no idea how many other runners were ahead of me. I passed while heading for the turnaround to pick up my 32K ribbon, and then I was on my way back.

I soon found myself battling gravity on the long climb that would end at Las Terazzas. Keeping the same pace I have been running this race at this far was a struggle. I thought of the 13 to 14 kilometers of climbing I did on my Sunday training runs in my hilly home city of Kidapawan. This is much steeper, but not much longer, I told myself. I did that. I can do this. I maintained my pace to my mantra - "Run tall. Run strong." Up ahead, I caught sight of Merlin again. I knew he was struggling like me, but I knew he was also stronger and younger. At 55, my legs are no longer fresh, and they were not any fresher today after having gone through more than half the race distance. But there was definitely no way I was conceding defeat to this climb.

Cresting the hill and seeing the TDR support group cheering me on -with cameras focused on me- was definitely a morale booster. I knew it was going to be a lot easier from here on. I caught up with Merlin on a downhill after passing the 16K turnaround marker. We were already merging with the 16K runners who were also on their way back to SM Davao. Merlin didn't seem keen on running with me though. He picked up the pace and was soon ahead of me again.

Going up another hill, I sensed something wrong with my right shoelace. A few more strides and my suspicion was confirmed. It had come loose. There was no other choice but to stop and retie it in a double knot.

Moving on again after the shoelace incident, my thoughts about things getting a lot easier began to fade. The soles of my feet, the right one particularly, were burning. The downhill stretches going towards the turn back to McArthur highway from the Diversion Road were of no help to my obviously blistered soles. Would these be my Achilles' heel in what has so far been a good run? Would these keep me from achieving what I came here to do - a finishing time under 3 hours that would assure me of the possibility of a sub-4 hour marathon in December?

No. Like those Diversion Road hills, I won't let these blisters ruin my run. I kept on, trying to maintain my pace which was not easy with the unquestionably uncomfortable burning sensation on the soles of my feet. I felt that my pace has already slowed down a bit, but I was already going up that small climb going towards the turn to the homestretch at Quimpo Boulevard. I checked on my Timex Ironman Triathlon chronograph and saw 2 hours something. I was going to hit my target. Knowing that gave me a bit more strength to run through the discomfort, or was it already pain?

SM soon loomed ahead. I make the final turn and take some sort of forced sprint. I cross the finish line and clicked on my watch. I checked it as I walked. 2:37:05. Not a bad time. I was on track for a sub-4 hour marathon in December. Knowing that was definitely good.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thoughts before a footrace

 "I had as many doubts as anyone else. Standing on the starting line, we're all cowards."
-Alberto Salazar, three-time winner of the NYC marathon

In five days I will be standing at the starting line of a 32-kilometer footrace along with a couple hundred other runners. Even now, I feel nervous and have my doubts.

There is no doubt about being able to finish the race.

In the 7 weeks since my last race, a hilly 10k,  I have logged weekly totals ranging from a low of 60 kilometers to a high of 90 kilometers. I did long runs from 21 to 28 kilometers, at paces varying from 5:32 to 5:44 per kilometer. 32k is only just 4 kilometers beyond my longest run so far in training.

With all these behind me and barring any debilitating injury, I am sure I can get from the start to the finish.

How fast I could get to that finish is the question.

This is a test race for me. I am looking beyond it to a marathon in December. I plan to finish that marathon, the second in my running comeback - in my second wind - in under 4 hours. How fast I can finish this 32k on Sunday will tell me if I am on target for that sub-4 marathon.

I am not looking at a podium finish. That I suppose would be possible only if I were 30 years younger, or if a lot of the local elite and the younger and faster runners won't be running on Sunday. A finishing time under 3 hours is a more realistic target.

If the running gods bless me with a top finish in my age group, I would unquestionably be thrilled. But knowing that I am on track for a sub-4 hour marathon is perhaps the best gift I can receive.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Taking on the Shrine Hills Challenge again

Hate the discomfort, love the benefits. This is how I would describe my attitude towards hills. I believe it is something common among runners. No one really loves trudging up inclines that seem to turn the soles of your running shoes from rubber to lead and have you gasping for air with every labored step.

But running hills isn't described by 1972 Olympic marathon gold medalist Frank shorter as speed work in disguise for no reason. Running hills builds muscle strength and improves your body’s oxygen carrying capacity. These changes will make you faster once you return to flat terrain.

I don't think I really relish running hills but I have no choice. In a city nestled in the foothills of Mt. Apo, flat terrain is difficult to come by. The road from the starting point of my daily runs immediately takes me into a 1-kilometer gradual uphill haul to the highway leading to the center of town. And I find myself lucky to be able to run here. I am stronger, not only physically but also mentally, because of it.

If running hills in training is tough, more so is doing it in a race. And no race I have run is perhaps more hilly than the Shrine Hills Challenge in Davao City. In fact, I can't think of any other 10k in Davao more challenging except maybe some occasional trail runs. I ran the inaugural edition in 2002 and did the 6th running five years later in 2007. Last June 26, 9 years older than when I first did it, I again took on the Shrine Hills Challenge on its 10th running.

"The first challenge is the rolling hills of the Shrine." This is how the race write-up describes the early stage of the Shrine Hills challenge. We hit the first of these rolling hills as I catch up with some Team Davao Runners mates. We ran together for a couple more hills before I found myself ahead of them and apace with two familiar runners, both regular participants in Davao City runs. One was about my age, and the other was a bit younger, a guy I also ran with and who surged ahead of me going into the finish in my last 21k race.  

Shortly after the 2.5km-marker, we hit the big downhill going into the Diversion Road. This was challenge number 2 - "running downhill for 1.4 kms. all the way to Pangi Road." The runner who was about my age had already gone ahead while I and the younger guy continued to pace each other.

I was aware of what a reckless downhill run could do. It could bust your knees. I went with the natural pull of the descent maintaining the rhythm of my strides. At a water station, I pulled away from the younger guy keeping pace with me and started catching up with two other runners ahead of me. Turning at Pangi, I found a familiar face beside me again. It was the younger guy. Soon it was my TDR mate Jo Cristobal Villar who was running beside us. He didn't stay long. He was soon ahead of us and was gone by the time we turned left at MacArthur Highway.

Moving towards the GSIS village I caught up with the runner my age. By then I had again left behind the younger guy. Ahead of us were a trio of runners, two women who I assumed were the race leaders for their category and a male runner who kept pace with them. We took the turn into GSIS Village and faced the next challenge - "the 1km. uphill climb that starts at Virgo St. up to Pluto St."

"Welcome to Calvary," I thought to myself when I saw the race marker that said "2 kms. to finish."

It was a long climb. Two of us - me and the runner my age - took to it side by side. Up ahead, the younger trio, keeping a steady pace, steadily increased their lead. Experience has taught me that keeping a pace as even as possible would be the best option for me to finish good in this race. I was suffering, but I guess I was feeling better than the man running beside me. He was dropping back as I continued on my steady climb to hell. And then I was directed by a marshal to a right turn to momentary comfort.

The short stretch of road before the final climb up to the finish was a welcome respite with its relatively even terrain. It allowed for some sort of recovery before the last challenge, the Shrine Hill Road ascent.

It is that final climb that really drives the nail in your self-imposed crucifixion in this race. You try as much as you can to hold on to your pace, a seemingly impossible effort when your energy is almost expended. Every step you take feels heavy; every breath you take seems like a gasp for dear life. This is where that mental toughness that running hills in training builds in you comes in.

I told myself that I was not far from the finish, that I would suffer only a little bit more. I told myself that I have done so much and gone so far to do well in this race to give in to the fatigue I was feeling. I told myself that I was stronger than all these, that I was tougher, that I can finish this race better than I did before.

I beamed inside when I saw the turn going into Jack’s Ridge up ahead. I knew the finish line was just a few more meters ahead. I revved up my engine for a sprint after the turn. I smiled when I saw TDR mate Joanna Lizares-Co focusing her camera for a shot. I sped past and crossed the line.

My Timex Ironman Triathlon recorded 44:24.63. I had improved on my finish 4 years earlier in this tough race by a little more than 5 minutes. To say that that made me feel great is an understatement.

"What does not destroy me, makes me strong."

Friedrich Nietzsche may not have hill running in mind when he said that, but my third take on the Shrine Hills Challenge sure proves him right.

Finishing the tough 10th Shrine Hills Challenge 10k in  44:24.63 is more than enough reason to smile.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Team Davao Runners, keeping the fire for running burning in Davao City

Over the last couple of years, running has experienced a resurgence in Davao City. From once or twice in a month or two, fun runs and races have become a lot more frequent, now going at a rate of one a week. On several occasions, two fun runs have been scheduled on the same day much to the dismay of runners who would rather not be made to choose between events.

Participants in these races and fun runs have also grown tremendously. From being just a few hundred several years ago, they now number by the thousands.

This resurgence also gave rise to a new and running group that is steadily growing in popularity among young runners in Davao City - Team Davao Runners.

Team Davao Runners

Formed in August 29, 2010 after the 24th Milo Marathon regional elimination race in Davao City, Davao Runners was first conceived as a Facebook page by running brothers Jette Roy and Nico Sanchez. They wanted it to be a venue where Dabawenyos could be updated on running events in the city and eventually a tool for forming a group of runners who will encourage and support one another.

The first recruits who formed the core of Davao Runners together with Jette and Nico were Caryll Cayaban, Nico's college friend and a newbie runner; Chaz Llanes and Dickenson Togonon, Jette's Tau Mu fraternity brothers; Dino Macavinta, whom Jette met during the Milo Marathon Davao City regional elimination race; Jay Salvaña, another newbie runner who was also active in Facebook, and Mary Ann Degala, the only woman in the team who was known for her "kikay" running outfit.

The group participated in a number of races, meeting more people and recruiting more runners into their ranks. From being just Davao Runners and a Facebook page, the group slowly metamorphosed into a running club adopting the name Team Davao Runners or simply TDR.

TDR's first major group run was no fluke. Imagine running 13 kilometers uphill to Eden Nature Park in Toril's highlands, and then another 13 kilometers back down again to the junction in the district center.

"We still had some sort of hangover from finishing 21 kilometers in the 27th Davao Finisher's Marathon last December 5 when we decided to do what we called the Eden Challenge," says Jette.

"It was all Nic's idea. And it sounded okay to us because it presented a change of  scenery and a pretty neat way to burn excess calories gained during the holidays," he adds.

On the morning of January 2, seven of the group’s members - Jette, Nico, Chaz, Dino, Jay, Jian and Caryll - with new recruits Joey Fernandez, Roy Salingay and Arn Enobio took on the 26 kilometer challenge without the aid of even hydration belts. It was undoubtedly an unforgettable running experience which prompted the group to adopt it as a final test run for all would-be TDR members.

Savoring the conquest, TDR members at the entrance to Eden Nature Park. Yes, they are standing on an incline and it's mostly that way from the start of the run in Toril proper.  

Another group run followed on January 9, this time dubbed as The McDo Challenge. It followed a 15-kilometer route from McDonald's Damosa to McDonald's Matina and vice-versa.

"No registration fees, fancy singlet or ice water, just pure fun!" was how the group described the event in their Facebook page. It generated a modest number of participants despite being just a practice run and was even supported by the Holiday Gym Runners' Club.

TDR has since kept the fire for running burning in Davao City.

Over a period of less than a year, TDR has slowly grown in membership. It now has a roster of 48 total members - 8 women and 40 men - mostly young professionals. The group is largely self-coached but sharing of running experiences is not wanting especially with a couple of more experienced masters runners providing guidance and valuable insights to the group.

Scores have expressed interest to be part of the group for a number of reasons.

Some find the group's dedication to the sport admirable. Guided by the motto "Train or Stay the Same," TDR members hold regular group practice runs ranging from 10 to 21 kilometers and even beyond. These practice runs are at times opened to other runners who are only too excited to join the group. Monthly group birthday runs are also held in celebration of members' natal days.

Even more runners are drawn to TDR because of the group's friendly and happy demeanor especially during races. It is all too common to hear other runners comment "Ang saya-saya ng grupo na yan" when referring to TDR.

They are wacky, too. Most of the time.

But TDR is careful about expanding its roster too much too soon. Membership is by invitation. Would-be members are required to join regular practice runs held every Tuesday and Thursday and participate in at least one race a month.

"We are after quality, not quantity," Jette explains.

"Attitude, dedication, character - these are very important to TDR more than running experience and ability. Only those who have shown enough of these in our open group runs are considered for membership, and they are keenly observed from 1 to 2 months before they are finally inducted into the group by taking on the Eden Challenge."

It is not only running that Team Davao Runners takes seriously. Following the recent devastating flash flood in Davao City which affected a couple of members, the group initiated a voluntary donation campaign through its Facebook page asking runners to share unused or old running singlet and shirts to the affected communities. Despite the short notice, the group was able to gather at least 5 boxes and 5 large plastic bags of donated items which they delivered to GMA Davao. This sense of social responsibility warranted exposure in the local news.  

TDR mates Doc Cris Lao, Joanna Lizares-Co and Kathleen Vera-Competente prepare to deliver donated goods for Davao's flash flood victims

Despite the attention the group has been getting lately, TDR keeps its feet firmly on the ground.

"TDR is still a young group, and we know that we still have a lot to do to be at par with other running clubs. But we are not in any hurry," says Jette Sanchez.

"What we want to do right now is to further strengthen the bond between the current members, and while doing that, help other runners especially the new ones grow in the sport through activities like the TDR open group runs. The more Dabawenyos who run, the better it is for the sport we love so much, and all the better too for a healthier Davao City

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Giving chase at the DVO CTY Run

A wet pavement greeted me when I went out of the hotel's main entrance on my way to the newly opened Abreeza Mall for the DVO CTY Run last Sunday. It probably rained until the wee hours, I thought as I started out on a slow jog. The downpour started as I was leaving Dimsum Diner at Abreeza where I had dinner the night before.

I checked out my right calf muscles as I did a slow run. The dull pain of soreness wasn't there. I prayed it would stay that way for the entire duration of the race.

A little more than 5 weeks ago I shifted to a forefoot strike and it took its toll on my calf muscles. The soreness hit me for a number of weeks, even forcing me to give up a run a few days after I started the practice. The pain caused by the soreness was such that I felt it even when walking. I feared an injury until I started feeling better during and after runs two weeks after. By the final week going into the race, I had recovered. There was still that tiny pinch of soreness especially during and after speed sessions and hill workouts, but it was a lot more tolerable and didn't linger as much. It was totally gone by the time I did my last race distance trial run. My times have also gone back to usual.

At the starting line, I had mixed feelings of confidence and fear. I knew I had put in enough in training to do well in this race. Still, the thought of my calf muscles suddenly acting up stayed with me. I brushed it aside as I took my position up front and braced for the start.

We were off in no time and I found myself passing the top female trio going out of the Abreeza Mall area. This hasn't happened before. It's either I am having a good fast start or these young ladies were taking it easy coming from their recent stint at the Philippine National Games.

Going towards the slight climb approaching the Buhangin flyover, I saw barefoot runner Boni Vismanos a few meters ahead of me. In my past two races where he also ran, I caught up with Boni in the last few kilometers and briefly ran with him before I went ahead. This time, I had him in my sight in this early part of the race. Perhaps I was really having a good start.

Then it happened.

I saw fellow age group runner Steve Hermosa of the Team Davao Runners speed past me and then past Boni. He caught up with a couple of other runners ahead of us and kept pace with them. Steve looked strong. His pace was steady, as steady as the lead he and the two other runners were building over us.

I picked up my pace and caught up with Boni. It was temporary. He was soon in front of me again. It was too soon for me to be doing this, I thought, telling myself we are still at the early stage of this race. Looking ahead at Steve's group, I noticed that they seemed quite a good distance from us now.

I pulled myself next to Boni again and kept a steady pace. It wasn't long before a repeat of our previous runs together takes place. I was soon running ahead of him but still way behind Steve's group.

Moving into Sasa and up the old airport road, I told myself I have a chance of catching up to Steve and the two other runners with him on the climb. I kept my pace as steady as I can, trying not to let the uphill slow me down a bit. Then I saw Steve smiling at me on the other side of the road. He was on his way back already? He's strong... and fast, I thought. I was so focused on catching up that I almost missed the turnaround point. It was way before the old airport where I thought it would be.

The return route from the turnaround point was a downhill and it helped me pick up the pace a bit more. Turning left back into the highway, I saw Steve and the two other runners still way ahead of me.

I was beginning to feel frustrated. It looks like I wasn't making any headway in my efforts to catch up with the Steve's group. In fact, they seem to be extending the distance between us.

But going through some minor climbs before we hit the flyover again, I noticed I was gaining ground. There were a lot more runners on the road back by this point, participants in the 8K run who were mostly walking. I now had two concerns - catching up with Steve and his companions and not missing them in this mass of people around us.

Still keeping my pace, I soon pass the two other runners. Steve has apparently gone ahead. I was checking where he was when someone called me. I glanced sideways and saw a face that was quite familiar but whose name I can’t remember just then. It all seemed like a blur. He knew me by name so I must know him from somewhere. There was small talk between us and then I surged ahead.

Going up the flyover for the turn into Dacudao Avenue, I saw Steve's back. I passed him as we were cresting the flyover and then went with the momentum on the downhill to Dacudao. Going towards the turn to Loyola Street I tried glancing back a couple of times, checking if someone was behind me. All I noticed was a long line of people - a few running, some jogging, mostly walking - in the DVO CTY Run singlet. No one was chasing me.

The burning sensation on my right forefoot just below the big toe had become more pronounced. The wet roads have given me blisters again. But my bigger concern, the pain I know so well in my right calf muscle, wasn't there. Up ahead, I saw the finish line banner. It was only after I crossed it and was making my way to the refreshments booth that I noticed the rain.

I checked my Timex Ironman Triathlon. It said 1:16:52. A good time, I thought, and I had two things to be thankful to for having that - going on with my training despite the soreness in my calf muscles and the motivation from fellow age group runner Steve Hermosa of Team Davao Runners. Chasing him wasn't easy, but it was worth it.

Persistence truly pays.

My DVO CTY Run bib, shoe tag and finisher's medal

With Steve Hermosa (right) and Roy Salingay (left) of Team Davao Runners

Friday, May 27, 2011

Davao City Run hits the roads on Sunday, May 29

Another big running event takes place in Davao City this Sunday from running specialty store RunClub, this time in partnership with the new Nike Athletic Club flagship store at Abreeza Ayala Mall.

Some 1,700 registered participants are running the 4K-8K-16K Davao City Run which starts and ends at the newly opened Abreeza Mall.

Monchit Mackay of RunClub said more runners would have wanted to join the run and apologized to those who were not accommodated.

"It is not our desire to hold a run of more than 1,500 runners as we want to make it organized, safe and fun filled. In fact, we reached our ceiling as early as last Saturday but tried to accommodate a few more slots for our RunClub friends," he said.

As in previous runs organized by RunClub, Kenneth Sai and Vantage Sports have been tapped to ensure a safe and well-organized run this Sunday.

The event will benefit the Padre Pio's Home for Children, a Catholic institution for the orphaned and abandoned children at Tugbok Proper, Davao City.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Smart-WWF Run for the Environment: for runners, nature-lovers and dog owners

Environmentalists, nature-lovers and dog owners who love to run take to the roads again this Sunday, May 22, in the Smart-WWF Run for the Environment in Davao City.

The four-distance (2k-3k-5k-10k) event presented by Smart, World Wildlife Fund for Nature-Philippines, PLDT, SM City Davao, and The Ark Veterinary Clinic coincides with the celebration of Ocean Month this May and will benefit the Smart-WWF Philippines' projects for the protection and conservation of Davao Gulf.

Prizes await top male and female finishers in the 3K (16 years old and under), 5K and 10K distances. The 2k is a special run-walk event for dogs and their owners.

Run for the Environment starts at 5:00 am at the SM City Davao Parking Area C.