of new loves and old passions

Posted: March 27, 2009 in my favorite runs, myphilosophy, running, running in manila, runs 2009
Tags: ,

“Your stroke is good but you’re a sinker!” Swim Coach with gorgeous shades tells me as I raise my head out of the water. “You drag your feet…” He quickly adds then he knots his forehead and raises his eyebrows when he realizes that I am actually trying to suppress a chuckle. “Yes, I’ve been known to do that.” I reply with as serious a face as I could muster. The naughty little imp inside my head starts whispering…”In all things and especially when you run!” And I shake my head and kick off from the edge of the pool to finish off my 2.2km swim.

It’s still dark when we wriggle our way inside the check-in gate of the Condura run. We do this caterpillar style. I’m holding on to someone’s back while someone else is holding on to mine. More than a thousand runners have come to lay claim to the 21KM route. I find myself standing side by side with Ketikat and Dingdong and Ting. Batgirl soon shows up behind us. We scan the crowd for the other runners in our group but in that tight squeeze it’s not that easy. Chuchay, our support and paparazzi for the day, finds her way up the stage to take a picture of the excited crowd.  We all smile and pose even if we think it unlikely we will show up in the frame at all.

Everyone is just psyched to have the chance to run on the Skyway. I wile away the time by looking up at the sky and squinting at the crescent moon with a bright star shining just below it. My mind starts wandering. This always happens before a race. Some people may focus on one thing. My mind simply goes places before a big run. It’s how it prepares itself for the journey. It goes somewhere else altogether and will have nothing to do with reality for a while. The loud cracking sound from the start gun brings me back into the corral. People start shuffling forward. The Condura race is on the way.

I drag my feet off the start line and start to push forward.

First love, the one they say you never completely forget. The one you wax reminiscent about once in a while. Swimming has always been that for me. I look forward to swim-training day. The thought of being in a cool blue fifty-meter pool makes me want to jump out of bed in much the same way I did years ago when it was the thought of seeing my crush from across the hallway. There’s a spring in my legs and a fluttering of butterflies in my tummy!  My emotions  a cocktail of excitement, elation and fear. First love, so many years ago and yet on some days, on some days,  it really seems just like yesterday.

I pull my head down under the water and start to blow bubbles out my nose. First it comes out in erratic spurts. I can feel my heart thumping inside my chest. It’s been ages since I’ve swam this much, this fast, this long. I am starting to feel lightheaded. I force myself to focus. Six more sets to go. My eyes follow a long black line that disappears into blue-black water a few meters down. Focus. Focus. Focus. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Soon enough a relaxing calm surrounds me. It’s never as quiet as this when I am running. It is never this easy to focus. There is nothing around me but water. Black merging into blue and then dissolving into liquid dark. I close my eye and push off once more from the pool wall. Five more sets to go. I feel the beginnings of an unknown joy bubbling forth. I can do this all day.

By the time I make it to the Skyway, the sun is already rising between the rows of buildings that line Makati’s central business district. It’s an orange yellow disc glowing in the horizon. The city’s skyline stands regally in the distance.  I catch myself distractedly watching the city as it emerges from the black. My pace slows down considerably. I don’t mind. I am enjoying the show. I raise my hands and use it to freeze- frame an image in my head.

I focus my gaze on the road ahead of me. It’s a sea of runners as far as the eye can see. Runners bobbing up and down the skyway ramp. It ‘s a view that amuses me. A man running beside me starts swinging his arms around wildly. I ask him if he is planning to take off the ramp with his makeshift propellers. He laughs out a reply. He explains that his arms have started cramping. I feel his pain. I understand it. I wish him the best and keep pushing off the grey-black road.  I still have 12 more kilometers to go.

My calf muscle starts twitching, threatening to cramp. I look at it and give my legs a little shake. I focus on shifting my weight elsewhere. I try not to panic. I will my muscles to behave. I start whispering a prayer. Thankfully, my muscles cooperate.

True love, now that that takes a lot more work. True love is never as easy and it goes far beyond the butterflies in your stomach variety. You don’t view it with the same wide-eyed innocence or excitement as you did with your first love. You know that sometimes, even with all the best-laid plans, even with the kindest and best of intentions, some things simply go awry.  True love takes all that you can give and it still wants more.  It demands far greater time and it’s capable of dishing out much greater pain. And it never ever is truly fair. But you choose it anyway and you do your darndest to hold on to it and to all the possibilities and promises it holds… time after time after time!

We are lounging by the beach and out of the sandy blue, Chuchay turns to ask me “Why do you run? Are you running from something or are you running towards something?” The question surprises me but I take it seriously and think about it for a while.  I am unable to give her a clear answer though.

Two hours in the pool is never as painful as two hours spent pounding your foot on the hard cemented road surface. You don’t tire as fast. And you recover from swimming at a much faster pace. Running is different altogether. There are days when I find myself questioning why I even do it. Days when I ask myself why I keep putting one foot after the other mile after foot-hurting, backbreaking, body-aching mile. There are far easier ways to keep fit. There are less painful ways to dream. I still don’t know the answer. But I’ll keep following that white line on the grey road. And I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other.  And I’ll keep gazing out into the far horizon as my chest wells up with an unnamed yet familiar hope.  Just as the horizon reveals its secrets as I come closer, just as the once hazy structures solidify in the morning mist, I believe that my answer will come soon enough.

It’s one final push up the Kalayaan flyover, my former nemesis in the last Condura race. It was my very own personal dragon then.  Not this time. My sister and Cathy are waiting at the bottom of the flyover with cheers of support and  a bottle of Gatorade.  I am only able to wave my hands,  my brain too focused and  too tired to form words of thanks. I know they will understand. Redemption comes in short and steady strides.

Am I running from something or am I running towards something? I really don’t know. Perhaps it is both.  In the meantime, I’ll just keep on running.

1:56:12 for my condura half marathon. A PR, yes, and a slight improvement from my San Antonio 21Km time. Now it’s on to San Francisco for the Marathon in July…

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Comments
  1. Christy says:

    Congrats, Mesh. and good luck to the July marathon. and bring home some photos from San Francisco.

    Hi Christy! Thanks! It’s always great to share the road with you. I always end up with pictures! Haha! I was watching you from the back at the flyover. Galing ng pagkaka-train mo kay Vener! 😉 I wish I had my very own pacer and trainer and paparazzi too!

  2. run unltd. says:

    Hi Mesh, congratulations, you’re tough. Its evident on your previous run. By the way, I run towards something. See you again.

    Oh I know you are running towards something… or rather someone! Haha! I’ve watched you zoom towards her a couple of times during road races! 🙂 You are both a joy to watch. Thanks for the pictures and the encouragement on the road. I appreciated it then and I am sincerely grateful for it now!

  3. ricov says:

    “…Are you running from something or are you running towards something?” Wow, profound question. I have just learned to love running and not yet at that state to fathom such question. Perhaps running is one of those dualities, where running away from something is actually running toward something. What those somethings are, I do not know. What I do know is that this post is great writing, as I have learned to expect from a beautiful mind. Congratulations on your personal best by the way.

    I was hoping to chat with you during the takbo.ph carbo-load party, but there was no opportunity. Maybe if I run fast enough I can catch up with you someday (haha). Keep running – and swimming 🙂

    Thank you. I also did try to say hello at one point but you were distracted and busy with hosting responsibilities and posing for pictures! Anyway, we share the same playground, I’m sure there will be other opportunities to trade stories… 🙂

  4. sundaywarrior says:

    Yehey another great run! congrats for the PR it’s becoming a habit na, bur thanks for the cheer at the finish..

    Salamat! Haha! Didn’t you know? I’m the emperor’s new cheerleader hire with short neon skirt and pink pompoms… You only really see me if you choose to believe. I can even do cartwheels with a little prodding. 🙂 Congrats to us for that run. It was amazing running up the Skyway ramp, wasn’t it?

  5. kingofpots says:

    mesh, congrats for a PR at the Condura Half..i know you will have another PR at the SF Marathon..good luck & keep on running faster..as usual, nice post.

    thanks a lot, BR. I know I have you and the coaches to thank for making the track and the speed training and the drills available. I’m definitely looking forward to running the SFO marathon! 🙂

  6. marga says:

    Mesh!!! Nice seeing you at the duathlon this morning. 🙂 Excited ako sa pictures haha. 🙂 Next time let Ting know when you wanna bike, sama ako to teach you!! 🙂

    hahaha! thank you thank you… like i said… so far pang BMX lang talaga skills ko sa bike! 🙂 so hanggang paparazzi lang talaga ako sa duathlon.

  7. Dean Hebert says:

    Mesh… EXCELLENT and on a tough course…

    by the way.. we are always running away from and running towards something.. and in the process.. we may even find true love….

    Coach Dean

    true love? hmmm it’s akin to getting a surprise kick in the gut sometimes… but hey, i’ve always been fond of surprises! hahaha!

  8. moljcy says:

    cant wait for the next post =)

    me too! I don’t even know where it’s coming from! haha! 🙂

  9. Ray Abenojar says:

    Hello Mesh!

    You ran strong on a unique route! Congrats! 😉

    I think they are complementary: running away from something means running towards something else (unless you have that Matrix Revolution scene where Neo is at Mobil subway station chasing after the train and ends up where he started) 🙂

    Thanks! I prefer chasing ice cream carts and balut vendors and taho vendors to chasing trains…

  10. workaholicrunner says:

    Congratulations on the fast run. I can only dream of breaking 2 hours. What is our goal for the San Francisco marathon?

    Thanks! As for our goal… 4 (words, of course!) haha! Ghirardelli Hot Fudge Sundae… I’m already dreaming about it now. 😀

  11. ilo says:

    hmm..masyado ka mabilis..:)..papatirin kita sa next..congrats on the pr..

    hmmm… may patid ka nang na-iisip ngayon. akala ko ba tadyak lang? 🙂 haha! thanks for making the last 300meters much more interesting.. and fun!

  12. gleeman says:

    Its a good thing that running and swimming are two mistresses that will not be jealous of each other.

    I wish I could have my second mistress, perhaps someday…

    Beautiful composition. Looking forward to read more. Cheers!

    Haha! Me too. Except I’d have to write more, right?
    You’d be surprise at how those two mistresses can take swipes at each other… vying for more of your time and attention.

  13. bsiojo2009 says:

    mesh! finally found you. am doing bdm 2010. cheers, Beth aka Pinay Runner

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