Saturday, April 28, 2012

Running the Twitter Road Race

The Twitter Road Race came to my attention in January this year - via Twitter of course - while I was looking forward to running a 17k race for a radio stations where I used to work.

I remember reading somewhere that a short fast run is a good indicator of how fit you are, and I thought being able to do good in this virtual road race organized by runner and blogger Doug Casarro would be a great confidence booster.

I ran that inaugural Twitter Road Race on January 21, 2012 at 00:23:57 (4.47/km pace) and was 64th out of a total of 376 participants, 57th out 174 male runners. I recorded the best time among the 15 participants coming from the Philippines, and also had the 2nd fastest time among 17 male runners aged 50-59. Not really impressive but runners like us, mere mortals in comparison to the running gods lining the elite ranks, take our little victories and find great pleasure in them.

Doug set the Spring Twitter Road Race for today, April 28, and again I ran it. This one was not like the first though. While I was in great condition going into that one, I am in return-from-injury mode this time.

While doing my final speed session last January 31, six days before my race, I suffered a metatarsal stress fracture in my right foot. I missed my race, spent a month with my right foot in a cast, and missed running altogether for two months.

My run this morning was only the 6th straight run I have done since coming back through four weeks of walking followed by walk-run intervals. My time of 00:26:13 (5:24/km pace) was nowhere close to my time in the inaugural Twitter Road Race. But hey, I'm running again after a metatarsal stress fracture. I can't be happier at this point.

P.S. I actually ran 7 kilometers this morning. I did easy an 2k then picked up the pace a bit and held it through the remaining 5k for my Twitter Road Race.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Meant to run

We were meant to run.

We do not need to read a book or a scientific treatise to tell us that, though both are there to confirm the fact so that we can perhaps be more comfortable with what we are doing. It could after all sound and look crazy to the rest of the world who would rather find solace in the soft comfort of their couches and lounging chairs. I remember a runner friend who was once asked by his father just what it is that he keeps chasing in the wind.

For me, the simple truth that we humans find joy in running was revealed when I chanced upon a mother and her two kids while I was on my way home from a run. The mother and her older child, a girl of about 5, were slowly running side by side. Behind them was a little kid of 3, chasing and laughing his heart out in joy.

There is perhaps no other natural activity that gives children as much joy as running. They learn to pick up things and throw them or use them to hit other things, but you seldom hear them ecstatically laughing doing that. But let them run, whether they are chasing you,  chasing each other or chasing the dog. The wide grin, the sparkling eyes, the excited laughter. These would almost always be there.

When I was a kid, I remember a game I, my cousins and other kids in our neighborhood enjoyed playing. The game was called batin. It was a game of tag. Players were divided into two teams with a minimum of four or five kids each. Each team had a camp. Members of each team tried to catch members of the other team until the entire camp is captured and the game is won. Members of a group who were caught were kept guarded in the camp until they were touched and saved by a teammate. The game could last for hours without being won. And there was all the running - to chase and catch opponents, to avoid getting caught, to save a captured teammate. We ran unmindful of the distance or the time, conscious only of the fact that what we were doing was fun.

Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that we were meant to run. We were meant to be happy doing it. And not only as children. For where is it written in the rule book of nature that we can't be like kids at play even as we have moved up in age if the joy we find in that keeps us healthy and happily satisfied with life?

The photo above of children running and playing in the rain is from Zara Alexis: The Bibliotaphe's Closet.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Touching ground

I have told running friends several times that I didn't think I was ready to run barefoot just yet. I tried it once on a dirt road and my feet cringed at the feeling of sharp pointy limestone pebbles hitting my bare soles. Forget the five fingers. I'm no believer. If I would run barefoot, I've always told friends, I would do it the only way I believe it should be done - unshod. I find the idea of a barefoot shoe a total anomaly. Minimalist shoes, yes - extremely minimalist even if you will - but a  barefoot shoe? Come on. Same goes for running in sandals.

That being said, it took a metatarsal stress fracture and the desire to check how well my right foot has recovered after nearly two months of not running to make me rethink running barefoot. What indeed was a much better way of checking if my injured right foot has recovered fine than running barefoot. So one afternoon last week, several days after starting my walk-run comeback routine, I took a few turns on the grassy ground around the house. It wasn't really much given that our house stood on a hundred-something square meter lot. That didn't really matter. What did was the satisfaction I felt when no complaint came from my right foot. The feel of the cool grass on my bare soles was also stimulating.

On Friday morning, while walking my dog, I noticed a dirt clearing just before the basketball court inside the old church compound close to the subdivision where we lived. I checked it out a bit before taking a turn with my dog around the next two adjoining subdivisions, and then we came back. I hitched my dog's leash to a post of a bamboo hut next to the clearing, took off my thong sandals, and went off unshod for a few rounds. I went for about five minutes before I stopped. My feet felt good. I felt good. And I saw no reason why I shouldn't do it again.

I did this morning, running barefoot the way I believe barefoot running should be done - unshod. The reddish packed dirt was still wet from the downpour late yesterday afternoon, and I got mud clinging to the soles of my feet even before I finished one round. I didn't mind, not in a single minute of the entire ten minutes that I, like a child at play, savored the feeling of my bare feet touching ground.

Would I do it again? Definitely, longer and more often, on days when I need to give my feet a break from the rigors of running fast and furious on pavement. When I ran barefoot the first time on that packed dirt Friday morning, I told myself I could learn to love doing it. I think I already do.

"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."
~ Khalil Gibran

My bare feet after my 10-minute barefoot run. Happy to be dirty. Happy to be touching ground. 

My playground. A clearing inside the old church site close to where we live. I still need to measure it's circumference but I think it's somewhere around 300 meters.

My tracks. They make a good impression on the wet dirt. I apparently have a midfoot or, as runner and blogger Peter Larson put it once, a fullfoot strike. Looks good.

More tracks on the wet dirt. My feet love touching ground. 

I thought skipping through the bamboo poles while I ran would do my feet good. 

I'm not so sure but there seems to be a more forefoot oriented landing after I skip the poles. 

My buddy. Dog was eagerly waiting at the bamboo hut when I came back. I didn't let him run with me this time. He seemed to be struggling to keep pace the last time. I don't know exactly how old he really is, but tenish or thereabouts would be like it.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Starting over

"Just like starting over..."

That line from the 1980 John Lennon song could  very well be my mantra these days when my body is relearning running after 8 weeks of inactivity due to a metatarsal stress fracture on my right foot.

After a series of walks last week, I started doing run-walk intervals  this week, and sure enough, my body's negative reaction to the stress immediately manifested itself when I took the first few steps of a 5-minute jog early Monday morning. I felt pain on my knees and my ankles. It was not the sharp stabbing kind that tells you something is wrong and forces you to slow down or totally stop. Rather, it was the kind that tells you your body has somewhat forgotten how it feels to do this and is complaining from the stress. But the body is a wonderfully intelligent machine, one that relearns and adapts quickly, and my knees and ankles are soon at ease with the movement.

My five-minute slow runs interspersed with five-minute brisk walks on Thursday were even better. No complaints from the knees, the ankles, and most of all from my right foot. It was like they were more comfortable than they were on that first day. I easily went into a rhythm in the run segments.

This morning, I started much later than I did in my two previous workouts. I attended early Easter Sunday mass with my wife, and had to move my run to 7 a.m. Being summer, the sun was already shining quite intensely when I went out. The walks were shorter today at 3 minutes, and the runs longer at 7 minutes. I felt something new this time. Starting my first 7-minute run, I felt a familiar burning sensation in my upper arms, the same discomforting one that you feel at the starting of most short races. It is a feeling that tells you you are pushing you body and it has yet to adapt to the workload. I also noticed that I was breathing more heavily.

Perhaps it was the late start. I always seemed to unconsciously push myself more when I started my runs later in the morning, and maybe I was again unconsciously pushing it just a wee bit more today than I did in the first two days. Whatever the reason, how I felt during the early part of today's first 7-minute run segment showed me how out of shape I have become. But I'm not worried.  I know I'll get back the form I had before I was sidelined by injury in due time.

Right now I feel like I can't wait for Tuesday to do those 2min walk - 8min run intervals.