I run…therefore I am

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Lessons on the Road…so far

This was supposed to be my lead entry for 2011 but since it had been a busy holiday and post-holiday for the family, the Fat Ass run , BDM practice run and the Condura Marathon easily steamrolled on my set schedules. Anyway here goes…

a. Getting out of ones’ comfort zone. Everytime a runner ventures out for new roads to conquer, he leaves his cozy comforts and embarks into a new adventure with a mixture of trepidation, excitement and curiousity. As in life, nothing in running is definite. So we expose ourselves to the possibility of various dangers awaiting us on the road, both from the outside or within. For Ultraruns, the risk may seem greater but many friends seem to favor ultraruns since the pace is more relaxed with less pressure to improve one’s personal record and thus less injury on many sensitive areas of the legs. But then again, I might just be psyching myself up for the big day – the Bataan Death March 102 km on March 6-7. Yup, we will be running while the sun is coming out into its scorching peak by midday.

March 6-7: Judgement Day(s)

b. Getting in touch and close to Mother nature. Whether trudging on rocks and sand or clambering over boulders, one is always in close contact with mother nature (away from the modern creature comforts). One is also aware and made aware of Her ever changing condition – whether it’s the sweltering solar heat or strong windy weather, the runner soaks up (and hopefully enjoys) the current conditions surrounding him in order to move on. So he is most adaptable to either expected or unexpected of these many conditions. One is wont to keep moving, without complaints or aggravation but a positive outlook and vibe.

c. Getting in touch with the real world. Out of his protected fortress and gated community, the runner ventures out into the real world, witnessing and encountering some neighborhoods/districts he would never set foot in if he had not set out that morning. He is not protected by his tinted 4×4 vehicle but in close contact with the hoi polloi (the masses), smelling the stench and experiencing their everyday living conditions. Since many of these runners are born leaders, hopefully, these constant encounters with the common tao will make these influential runners more sensitive to the real needs of the lower class.

d. Humility. Indeed, running is a great equalizer as titles, status and positions vaporize once the gun explodes. Once on the road, what matters is who runs fastest, who finishes strongest and who trained the hardest. Once in a while, I love to kid myself that I have the perfect physique of a runner – long, slender torso with a hint of chest, mildly bulging arms, semi-muscular legs, etc. So this well-toned body is supposed to take me fast for miles, right? Well, not really. In fact, I’ve been quite immersed in the world of running for some time to tell you that I’ve seen the most ‘un-runnerly’ participants whiz past me in many a races. Never again will I ever size up any runner just because he’s too wide, too skinny, too short-legged, etc.

this is it!

e. Patience. From the start of our brief running history, Dave and I never aimed to outrun other runners. Our goal was to enjoy the experience and finish the run, sans any injury. We were satisfied to finish in the final batch but with persistence and regular training, our pace finally picked up. Soon enough, we were aiming for PRs (personal records) and upping our previous times. After months of LSDs and alternate runs/walks, we’ve entered the zone of tempo and speed runs. (and injuries, hopefully the mild/temporary ones)

f. Daring. For every ultrarun we commit ourselves in, we put ourselves not only to familiar/new risks on the road but possible disability or even death. And anyone who signs that waiver form is made aware of such consequences which may discourage the weak of heart, that’s both literally and otherwise. But even as the kilometers increase, the eagerness multiplies. Now we know why ultrarunners are branded as crazies, insane, etc.

danger dead ahead...

g. All runs are never the same. A well conditioned newbie runner who brings with him new expectations and excitement could easily outrun a veteran who hasn’t prepared well enough or was ‘out of synch’ that race day. A new place, an unfamiliar terrain or an erratic environmental condition could easily spell a big difference whether to boost one’s spirit & energy or eventually weigh down on the broken in and excited participant.

See you in the finish line!


127 Hours with Aaron

the view from below...

I don’t know if it was a good decision to watch 127 Hours at this time, 3 weeks into my ultimate run of a lifetime – the Bataan Death March 102-kilometer ultrarun.  I just figure out that it would a good conditioner for my upcoming ordeal – if Aaron Ralston can survive 127 hours, 18 hours should be a breeze, with a lot of sun, dust and unadultared carbon monoxide exhaust thrown in (according to friends who survived the weekend test run).

Of course, Ralston was just in one place while I will be moving forward and covering hopefully all 102 kilometers.  But.  He had his hand caught between a rock and the canyon wall, no plan of action, no support system, no contact with the outside world.  While I – will have a goal to finish in less than 127 hours, a coterie of vehicles I can rely on for food, clothing and rest, supportive friends who will be guiding and pacing me during the most crucial kilometers of the race plus I can easily call it quits and take the support vehicle when I feel I can’t go on anymore.

the real Aaron Ralston (we're not worthy!)

With Ralston, he had no choice but to make the most critical decision of his life in order to survive.  James Franco was perfect as Aaron, trapped and helpless during the most part of the movie.  If it were not handled by Danny Boyle (a favorite), I would have easily dozed off into the closing credits.  But with a lot of creative shots, scoring and editing – 127 Hours becomes a meditation of life and survival.  Some of the scenes were all too familiar – the recollections and hallucinations, the regrets and the spirit to struggle and soar.  Some of them I’ve gone through, though in a lesser degree, while struggling on the road with nature’s ever changing harsh conditions.

achievers both: franco, ralston.

Last night, while reading Born to Run, Mcdougall writes about one of America’s cruelest ultraruns – the Leadville Trail 100 in Colorado.  The elevations and descents and inhumane conditions was the perfect setting for the Tarahumara Indians, touted to be the world’s living strongest and fastest runners of mankind.  Anyway, Aaron Ralston is some kind of honorary member of Leadville 100.  Less than a year after surviving his 5-day ordeal, he was invited to join the race for free, if only to underscore the status he has achieved within the world of ultra athletes.  He finished it with his new prosthetic arm.  And he continues to run, jump, climb, dive wherever adventure awaits.

Now if I could only have 10% of Aaron’s indomitable spirit and stubbornness, methinks I’ll survive my own race of a lifetime.

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Post-Condura Run blues

Running for the Dolphins. pic by runningpinoy

6 Days after finishing my Condura Skyway Marathon, I’m home doing this. While imagining how colleagues for the BDM (Bataan Death March) 102 km are battling out the heat and exhaustion in the 52 km practice run on the actual route of our run in March – that’s from Abucay, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga. It has been 3 days since I first experienced general body weakness which eventually revealed itself as a bad case of Amoebiasis. Probably, from some food/drink I took. Anyway, I’m thinking I will get better sooner than later.

It was best not to have attended my sessions with Coach Titus at the ULTRA and today’s practice run. Little by little, I’m learning to listen to my body. So here I am whiling my time away, watching some DVDs and getting some inspiration from Christopher Mcdougall (Born to Run).

extracting secrets from the Tarahumara Indians.

the token.  pic by marvin pangan

the token. pic by marvin pangan

Last week’s euphoria of my 3rd Condura Run (& my 4th Marathon) has whittled down but it had been another personal best with a 5:02 finish (my Garmin registered 4:58).

Even with a milder hip pain that’s been bothering me, last Sunday’s run was quite ideal for my standards – two nights before, I had a 9-hour sleep and the night before, I barely had 3 hours of zzzz but it was really deep. The weather was also quite cooler at 3:30 am at the BGC and Makati areas. I had been keeping in mind most of the lessons Coach Titus had shared with me (‘keep it springy and run smart’) and quite eager to apply them. So once the gun fired, I started keeping a running pace of 7:30 bringing along Vic & Rossell with me. We were in the middle of the pack, I estimated.

At the end of Kalayaan overpass going to Buendia, I was by myself threading the slightly lit streets of Makati. So far, no signs of impending pain.

we live to see the dawn. pic by Aaron Anievas

After Buendia, we were directed to ascend the Skyway where most of the action (and pain) would happen. Going up, I chanced upon a tall guy who would pace me through the whole stretch of the skyway all the way to Sucat.

The guy it turned out was a friend of fellow runner, Jet Paiso. He’s Nicky Tuason, a radio anchor of “Tatak Pinas” on DWDD 1134. He’s also a nephew of the friends Jojo & Randy Banzon (in Marikina) so the connection was instant. For more than 15 kilometer, this radio guy almost unceasingly talked and shared of his life while we were battling exhaustion and dehydration. For me, those were the testy parts of the race as I was still trying to get my pace moving and my groove going. Fortunately, I survived with minor hints of pain and a lot of distraction from Nicky.

We parted somewhere along km 32 and hardly did any walking except for stretching & water/bathroom breaks. There were episodes when the hip pain would send some sensation so I would just adjust my running to Coach Titus’ style (slightly bent knees, toe-knee-chin in one line, etc.). Eventually, the discomfort disappeared and I was back with my old bouncy strides with a lot of push from my collection of run music from the 80’s. At the end of the skyway, I was almost gliding, taking in all the positive vibes and enjoying my second wind.

'I'm learning to fly (but I ain't got wings)' Tom Petty. picture c/o Aaron Anievas

In the middle of the Buendia route, I found my 3rd running partner. Sorry, didn’t get his name (but from the Condura listing, it could easily be Joseph Salting). It’s his first marathon and was aiming to finish strong.

The last kms: Into the Groove. picture from

All the eagerness and enthusiasm eventually seeped into me and I was able to keep up with his pace (quite swift at 7:30 min/km during the last 5 kilometers). After a few periods of walking, we crossed EDSA into the finish line, slightly dashing and putting our best feet and faces forward as the cameras come clicking.

It had been a great day and I joined the other runners near the finish line as we welcomed other runners enter the finish line. Now this was the fun part, really. As we shared our excitement with the finishers and transmitted that running energy among the struggling finishers into their last meters of the marathon. Come to think of it, running is a really a community thing.

we. run. as. one. pic by marvin pangan

New York in my mind...hmmm

With Team Boring. picture by Aaron Anievas