Finally, a race (or how I discovered I actually have a competitive bone in my body)

I finally ran my first race last Sunday. It was just a 5k in the Adidas King of the Road, but for a race-virgin who had been putting off joining races, it was a bit intimidating.

For quite sometime I’ve been a closet runner. Running in the treadmill in the house or running with P around the neighborhood or the nearby university campus. I knew if I wanted to keep pushing myself, I had to start joining races. But I always had excuses. The venue was too far. It’s too early in the morning. My husband patiently listened to all my excuses, often saying in the end, “The best thing to do is to do it.”

So one night, when he came home from work with a race kit with my name on it, I knew it was time to leave the excuses and run with the rest of them.

In case you were getting second thoughts, this was a good reminder

We woke up before 4 a.m. Had a breakfast of cereal and yogurt. Got ready and got to the race venue around 5, just before the 16.8 runners crossed the starting line. There were a lot of people. I mean, I knew running had gained a big following in Manila and that there was a race almost every week, I just didn’t realize how big was big. It seemed a large part of Bonifacio High Street up to the NBC Tent in Bonifacio Global City was crawling with runners in their pink, neon green, or blue singlets.

While I waited for the 5k race to begin, people beside me were taking pictures, some were following the host (yes, there was an actual host and stage and program) for a bit of warm-up (pretty hard to do jumping jacks when you’re all standing cheek by jowl behind the starting line though), others were chatting. I was excited, anxious and just eager to get going.

When the race finally began, we all started shuffling. We were probably 30 meters away from the starting line so there were no dramatic starts to witness. Quietly we all shuffled forward, then you pick up your pace and then you realize you’re running.

It was still dark. Hall & Oates was singing “You Make My Dreams” in my ears, which was how I had been starting my runs for the past few weeks. I was going to follow my recent running plan, which had helped keep me in the treadmill for 5k distances, 10 minutes easy effort, 2 minutes hard effort, 4 minutes easy, 2 minutes hard, and so on until I finish.

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“Someone who is busier than you is running right now” (and where to run in Bangkok)

Ouch.

I stumbled upon this old Nike ad in this engaging runner’s blog a few days ago. Well, it was one effective and guilt-inducing ad copy that immediately made me lace up and go for a run. My two-week (I’m in denial and I’m sticking to my story that it was just two weeks) hiatus from running came about during and after the trip to Bangkok.

I know I wrote it here somewhere that I plan to look for places to run and actually go running whenever I travel. Well, I did pack my running shoes, but I also ended up bringing a bunch of assignments with me on the trip. (Never a good idea. But you know what Nike will say…) The one morning I didn’t have an article to finish, I woke up early, put on my running gear, and headed out my cousin’s apartment all set to run. The neighborhood was pretty nice, with its wide, quiet roads and it appeared perfect for running. But then there were stray dogs roaming around, and pretty soon a lot of speeding cars were on the road, and there were no sidewalks, and…well, there’s always something. Excuses tend to snowball that way. And before I knew it, I was making my way back to the apartment.

Back to the apartment. Didn't get to run.

The day before we flew back to Manila, I did find a place where I could have gone for a run in the heart of Bangkok. Lumphini Park. It’s located in this very busy intersection, where crossing the street initially appeared to be a mystery. (We were not alone, when we got back to the Lumphini MRT Subway station, we overheard a fellow traveler asking a security guard where the park was. The guard didn’t understand English so I stepped in and told her it was just across the street. “But where do you cross?” she asked puzzled at the seeming absence of a pedestrian lane. But you can cross by waiting for the light to change on the major intersections and waiting for cars to let you pass in the other smaller roads.)

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The hills are alive…and they kicked my butt

In between the deadlines last week and the looming deadlines this week (hence the blog absence), P and I got to join some old college friends of mine to go up to Baguio for a three-day break. It was much needed escape–I was looking forward to the cool weather, checking out the new Casa Vallejo and the restaurant and bookstore beside it, BenCab Museum, and looking for a road to run on.

Ever since I started running, I have made a pact with myself to look for roads or routes where I could go for a run whenever I go on vacation. I have been to Baguio several times since I was a kid (it’s one of the most accessible  mountain city retreats from Manila), but I have never run along many of its sloping streets. Baguio has simply been more of a convenient escape-from-Manila-heat kind of destination for me, where I would often just eat, stay bundled up, then go out and eat some more. Sweating it out was never in the itinerary. This time, I was determined to take advantage of the cool weather, lace up and run.

Hello, Baguio road

We stayed in a house along South Drive, which starts as far as I can tell from the rotunda in front of the Panagbenga Park (at least that was my landmark) and it snakes south to Country Club Road, where Baguio Country Club is located, all the way to the other entrance of Camp John Hay. The run started out pretty nicely–a line of trees to our left and beautiful houses up on hills to our right as P and I ran along the sidewalk. But after a few minutes, the sidewalk would end and we would find ourselves either running along the road facing oncoming traffic or crossing the street so we could run along another sidewalk (that is until it ends, and we had to cross or run on the road again). Continue reading

I run anyway

When I started running, I would wake up and couldn’t wait to run. I wrote that there will probably be days when I wouldn’t feel like running. Well those days came last week. I was on the 6th week of my 8-week beginner runner’s program and the thought of more and more minutes running before that one-minute walking break in between was becoming daunting. Even when I only had to go to the next room and turn on the treadmill, I was making excuses in my head about how much I could accomplish writing in those 30 or so minutes. But I ran anyway.

Sometimes the road seems so long.

And it wasn’t because I stopped feeling daunted by the minutes I had to run stretching longer and longer or that I could easily silence that voice in my head making excuses to not run. They were still there. (The voice especially gets loud at 5 in the morning on a weekend when my husband wakes me up to run.) But so were the goals. I was going to finish that 8-week program, join a 5k race, join a 10k, keep joining races, keep on running, build my stamina until I find myself running in Angkor Wat in December.

Other runners have said it, including Haruki Murakami, how running helps you to have clear goals–not just when it comes to running but to living your life. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful whenever I finish a run and feel one step closer to my goals. I’m grateful that even during those times when I feel like my legs are heavy and I can’t take another step, I run anyway. I take that step. Running helps me do that.

Another thing I'm grateful for when I get to run early in the morning--seeing the dark sky change colors

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”–T.S. Eliot

Running and panting

In Haruki Murakami’s book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (recommended by a supportive sister after I declared my pledge to start running and conquer that half-marathon in Angkor Wat), he describes how you can distinguish a beginner runner from a veteran. The ones panting are beginners. I know it’s simple observation, but I think about it every time I run and start to pant, I’m reminded I’m a beginner.

Though running implies speed, becoming a runner takes time–like any other goal worth pursuing. I need to focus. I need to be consistent. Every day, I keep in mind a little goal–finish my 30-minute run (or walk during ‘rest days’). If there are deadlines, I tell myself I have to learn to be more focused on finishing whatever is due. Not log on to the time-suck that is Twitter or Facebook and get distracted. I can use that time to run. Finish my story earlier…so I have time to run. (I’m doing 30 minutes a day for now while following this 8-week beginning runner’s training program from Runner’s World.)

Of course, I hope that each day that I run will help me get closer to my goal of running a half-marathon this year. But even with such a lofty goal (for me anyway, it is), running is a humbling pursuit. It constantly reminds you of your limits, of how far you still have to go. But you keep doing it anyway. Because for one day or for 30 minutes, you get to go through it. You get to push yourself. Even with so much panting involved.

Here’s a wonderful passage from Mr. Murakami’s book (find a great review for it here):

Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life–and for me, for writing as well.