It was my 10th straight day of running. I decided to go out on a 10k loop of dirt road and short pavement close to home. I have run there countless times before I moved to another locale because of work some three years ago. It was the first time I was running that loop again.
It starts off with a gradual descent for about three kilometers and then continues into two kilometers of rolling terrain. Along the way, I pass a steel bridge traversing a mountain spring, a babbling brook, and farmlands planted to rubber, fruit trees, and rice. Chirping birds, barking dogs, and crowing roosters add to the rustic mood. All of it gives you a sense of freedom, of oneness with nature, and even reckless abandon.
On the way back, I push myself up the short climb from the bridge, looking forward to the more gradual but definitely much longer ascent back to where I started. I had already run more than six kilometers by then. What happened next happened fast. My right foot hit a stone, I lost balance, and felt myself hurtling towards the rocky limestone dirt road. I was down.
I was stunned for a few seconds, but immediately got back up and resumed running. I felt the sting on my right knee and my left thigh. I glanced down and saw dirt and a little blood. There was dirt too on my sweaty shorts and singlet. And there was even more sting on my elbow and my left arm. There was even more blood there mixing with my sweat.
Moving on, brushing off the dirt from my shorts and singlet once in a while, I thought of the other times I have fallen down while running. It happened to me while running alone on Manila's asphalt roads once. It happened to me while running with a friend up Mt. Batulao. It happened to me on a much earlier race in Cotabato City back in the first half of my running life. I finished the race at the top of my age group.
The day before this run, I watched a replay of the Nagoya Women's Marathon on cable television. One of the top Japanese runners, Sairi Maeda, fell in the early part of the race, coming into contact with another runner as they were grabbing their drinks from a table. She went on to post a strong third-place finish with her time of 2:22:48, the eighth-fastest time by a Japanese woman. If it can happen to the elite, falling can happen to us mere mortals even more.
The important thing is we do not stay down. We instead pick ourselves up and go on, running towards the finish despite the pain of our cuts being soaked in sweat, despite the bruised ego and the self-doubt.
It is life mirrored in a split-second event. You stumble, you fall, you get back up and go on. You continue to pursue your dreams, you continue to live your passion, and in the end, you look back at it and shake your head while smiling.