Archive for the ‘runs 2009’ Category

iron

Where is your new blog? Where are you hiding it? Ketikat asks from across the table. You haven’t been posting in your old one.

“Yeah…” I reply as I pop a chicken nugget into my mouth, “I’m done with my iron shoes. It’s now all about my iron nose…”

It’s been months since I last posted.  I’ve been quite distracted. I have, after all, been avidly watching my very own soap opera inside my head. And, as most soap operas tend to do, the plot would often veer towards the ridiculous. There was no way I could share this story until I got it all sorted out.

My Iron Shoes started with this piece: Confessions of a Reluctant Racer. It was all about my reasons for being on the road and my attempt to run my first marathon. My reasons for running have not changed. It was, and it still is, mostly about sharing the marathon road with friends. It is, as it was then, still about my runs toward breakfast… with a slight variation. Now it’s a run to breakfast with friends and a side serving of B. B being Boston and running a 3:45 qualifier.

The path to Boston seemed pretty straightforward. But then that plan hit a snag or rather a curb! One fine Sunday morning, in the middle of cross training, I flew off my bike and misplaced my nose. And somehow, between the toppling bike and the hard pavement, a different story began to unfold…

The first day I got back on my bike, everything just scared me. I was a wreck. It was then I knew that there was more picking up that I needed to do.  It wasn’t just my nose I had left in pieces on Temple Drive. I had also left behind pieces of the girl that once took such joy from being on the road. And that simply wouldn’t do. Not for me. Not for someone who considers the road her very own playground.

The journey to Boston now required a slight detour. Before I could continue my quest, I first needed to tame my monsters, temper my fears and somehow put the girl back together again.

I needed to get my iron back.

A curtain of fog and mist hides the bridge as a new wave of runners approach it on a chilly Sunday morning. It’s a steep climb up from the park below. Patches of blue and white are slowly becoming visible in the sky overhead.  I take a deep breath of cool, crisp air and focus my gaze intently on the loom of the bridge up ahead. My steps quicken as others have began to slow down. I am getting nearer the incline. I scan the crowd of runners slowly making their way to the side of the road. Just a few more steps and it’s time to let go. A full-blown grin is let loose on my face. It stays there the whole time I am running up that road. A part of me still cannot believe I am finally going to cross the bridge in my running shoes. The bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, my marathon bridge now! Five full months of training and just a kilometer and a few heart beats away …

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…7…8… 1, 2, 3…”

I hear Batgirl’s voice counting inside my head.  The first time we encountered an incline that daunted us, it was at the Yakult run in Roxas Boulevard so many runs and what now feels like a million years ago.  Back then, Batgirl would count out loud for both of us.  We would run up the fly-overs together. She told me to keep my gaze on the road below and to simply count out the steps. This way, the incline would feel more manageable. Batgirl is a natural coach.  She taught me how to run up hills. She taught me how to attack inclines. It’s a lesson I carry with me to this day…. except, I don’t look down anymore.  I fix my gaze firmly up. I keep my focus at all times on that crest at the top of the hill.  I stare intently at whatever gray blue patch of sky rests over it.  I always want to know exactly what’s left of the hill to run.

I signed up for the San Francisco’s Marathon in January of 2009. San Francisco was going to be the marathon. It was my first attempt to improve on my then 4:45 marathon finish time.  My goal for San Francisco was 4:15. But then, in the middle of a very long run, I found myself in another marathon… The Milo Marathon.

Maintain! Maintain! Maintain! Coach Titus shouts out the instructions 6 kilometers away from the Milo Marathon finish line.

A plaque on my father’s wall reads: Life is something that happens while you are out making other plans. It’s a Beatles’ quote that’s always amused me as a child. It’s something I found myself thinking about quite suddenly in the middle of what seemed like an endless stretch of Roxas Boulevard. Apparently, a marathon is also something that happens while you are out for a very long run. I had been running for close to four hours. My last water stop was at km 35. There had been no open water stations after that. We were getting so close to the finish line and yet it never felt so far away as it did then.

I take it a step at a time. One foot placed in front of the other. Like prayers in a rosary, every step was a declaration of faith and every bead of sweat, an offering of gratitude for the grace that’s kept me going towards a finish line that, at this point, I still could not see.

The plan for Milo was simple. It was meant to be a 35 kilometer long run. The rest of that 42 kilometer route was optional. I could walk it, I could crawl it or simply ignore it. After all, this wasn’t meant to be my marathon. This was my last big push. One final go at running long before my real marathon which was going to happen in exactly 21 days.

That was the plan. What happened was something altogether different.

When we hit km 30.5, a man on a bicycle told us. “If you keep this up, you may just make it to the top 10!”

Top 10? I was in the top 10? Wow! What a magical number. Coach Titus and I looked at each other… And then we just kept going. After all, what is another 12 kilometers between friends?  It’s good to be brave. And when your courage begins to fade, well, you just hold on to your illusions and delusions as long as you can. I had no idea what that 12 kilometers was going to be all about. This was a good thing because it was going to be one of the driest and hardest 12 kilometers I’ve ever ran in my life.  I was lucky that I had Coach Titus pushing me all the way. My saving grace during that training-run-turned-marathon was an experienced coach who figured out early enough that there would be no more water stations left. I was running inside my head. I had not noticed. I had started to push. I was all set to run after that all elusive 4:00 hours. The coach had shouted at me to maintain my pace and to conserve my energy.  “Maintain!” He tells me. “Maintain and save your fire for a later day!”

A desert full of dry cups and a thousand sanity checks later, I see the finish line!

“Seventh place!” The woman shouts out as soon as I cross the finish line chute. Then she hands me a laminated piece of pink paper that reads:

42.2K
Woman
For Verification

I needed to ask,”Are you verifying if I ran the full 42.2K or if I am a woman?”

Sign up for the full sprint. A mini-sprint will just bore you! AquaGirl gives her instructions from across the store.

I shake my head all amused at this woman’s fire. What AquaGirl so conveniently failed to add was this: What does not bore you may actually kill you!

It all started with an application for a tri-sprint, the Animo Sprint. All of a sudden, I found myself deep in training for an honest-to-goodness half-ironman.

Blame it on borrowed fire…

I would not have had the courage to get back on the bike had Aquagirl not pushed me that very first day. This explains the detour… She wouldn’t allow me to keep sitting on that curb so I had to force myself to get back on that bike. Part of what pushed me back was perhaps pride and a reluctance to show weakness…But now I recognize it mostly to be a moment of grace. Grace through a friend who adamantly refused to leave my better and stronger self sitting on the curb.

“You don’t earn grace, little girl,” Sr. Xaveria, tells me with a stern voice. I am seven years old and getting a lesson in faith from my then favorite nun of the above! “All grace is freely given. It is never earned. But when you do get it, you better have a grateful and open heart.”

And so the journey continued. I stuck with my training. I focused on hacking away at those miles.  And every weekend, I faced my demons on the bike. I kept at it knowing that I had friends counting on me to show up and expecting me to share the road with them. I kept at it in spite of the constant arguments I was having inside my head. Having a team waiting for me by the side of the road gave me a deadline. It forced me to deal with my issues and resolve it.  I winged some, I faked some but at least it got me back on that bike and on that road.

“That’s what we do,” AquaGirl tells me, “that’s why we are a team. We push each other in training. And when we have to, we catch! “

Heat, oppressive, stifling heat at every turn. It had been hot on the bike leg. It felt like I was in an oven during the run. I was running towards electric poles. I was running towards tent poles. I was running towards the next pail on the side of the road. I was running towards anything I could see  on the path in front of me.

I was tired but this wasn’t the time to stop.  I had started reciting nursery rhymes because I was unable to remember anything more complicated.

“800 meters to go!” I hear someone shout. And once again, although there is no incline up ahead, I start counting every step in my head.

I spy four men in front of me as I run around the small pond. I keep running towards them. I pass the first man. He waves me on. The second guy stops and starts massaging his legs. I slow down, I fiddle with my race belt but I can’t find my biofreeze gel. He sees me slow down and waves me forward… Go! He orders and then smiles. The third man is just ahead and he is skipping on the red carpet. He looks back and he is wincing in pain. I look away and allow him his moment to be brave. We are both after one thing, after all, a good and strong finish. He will have his. I know it. I am off to have mine now.

What we need is a good mix of Fire and Grace…

I tap into everything I have left on reserve and sprint towards the finish line of the 70.3 Half Ironman in Cam Sur.  I will not walk to the finish line although there is no shame in that. I will run because that is where I find my joy. I will run because, even now, even as I flirt with my first half ironman, I know my passion still belongs to running. It’s still the marathon that makes my heart skip that beat.  I push off and I run and for a brief second both my feet are off the ground. I know it is the closest I will ever get to attaining flight.

Fire and Grace…

Fire is, was and will always be my responsibility. It is my job to make it and to continue to stoke it so it keeps on burning inside of me. Forging iron requires true-blue fire. But my grace has always been in my family and my friends. They are the ones who cheer me on, who hand me bananas on the road, who badger when required, who heckle and push and who catch. They are the people I share the road and my journeys and my stories with. They are the ones who fill the path with laughter and humor and joy so that the occasional growls and yowls of pain are drowned away…so that the fears are faced and the devilkins are sent back empty-handed into their own little hells.

That finish line is now more than a thousand steps behind me.  But there are other finish lines beckoning up ahead as there are marathon roads left to run. But for now, I am enjoying my pit stop as I look back to celebrate all the finish lines I have crossed.

What’s next in the horizon? Why, another marathon finish line, of course! Which one?  I don’t know. Not yet. But now I look down that road with a heart as light as feather wings because now, finally, the girl’s all here and once again she is ready to play!

————————————————————————-
Milo Marathon (Manila Eliminations July 5, 2009) – 4:10:52
San Francisco Marathon (July 26, 2009) – 3:57:56
70.3 Ironman Cam Sur (August 23, 2009) – 6:22:09
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“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…

running from tittivilus

Posted: March 20, 2009 in running, runs 2009
Tags: ,

What do you do when you find yourself in the middle of a hellish sort of work-travel season?

Tittivilus, that sack toting, word munching, gossip-mongering little monster of a demon has been hanging around my blog this whole month. Between the pressures of work and the early morning runs and the rising temperatures in and outside my office, I just could not find the time to even put two coherent sentences together. Every time I did try, that little demon would immediately spring into action, engineer some sort of distraction and as soon as my mind starts wandering (Yes, yes, it doesn’t really take much to get it to do that!) Tittivilus would then gobble up all the words I’ve managed to write down! You need a combination of iron will and lots of sleep to battle demons of this variety. I’ve been working at forging one for years but never did have much access to the other. Not even during the queen mom imposed siesta days of my youth. So, I’ve let Tittivilus hang around this little domain. I’ve allowed him to have his fun. This month there were simply much more pressing concerns I needed to attend to.

img_3008It’s been a month of airports, ports and tollgates. A series of skips and hops over territorial borders and an ocean or two. Still, it’s been a great month. Work has certainly taken up a lot of my time but there have been good times too. There was that 2-day romp with friends at a beach down south. Then there was that trek to Pinatubo Crater Lake up north. And in between, whenever time permitted, a few good runs. Not a lot but enough to keep me happy. And sane! (Or as close to it as possible!)

Race Day Sunday is now just around the corner. Everyone is excited about this one. There’s even that Carbo Loading Party that I’ve signed up for tonight. It’s all part of the preparation for the Condura Race that will take us to the Skyway and back. For me, it’s not so much about running this race fast. I wouldn’t mind being able to do that though! 🙂 It’s really more about running it F-U-N!! It’s my first race this season where I’m running sans hindrances and excuses. I’ve only joined 2 races this year. Happy Run (ran it while still slightly injured) RuNew (ran it while still jet-lagged and almost ended up staying inside the cemetery part of the route after the big sneeze incident. I sneezed as an allergic reaction as soon as I entered the cemetery/park gates and my back went into spasms because I was dehydrated. Don’t ask me why I signed up for a race when I knew I was going to arrive just two days earlier from a 19-hour plane trip. Believe me, it made a lot of sense at that time. It’s just a bit hard to explain at this point.) Anyway, there will be none of those excuses this race. This run, I’m all here. Not injured, not jet-lagged, not dehydrated, and definitely not out of my mind and distracted. I’m all here. I’ve got everything I need to make this a fun one for me. And I’m set on enjoying it.

But…I’ll deal with the 21K run on Sunday morning. For now, I’m simply getting ready for the BIG EAT!!!

So what do you do when you find yourself slogging it out down hell’s work portal and hanging around with a devilkin? You fix your gaze upwards, of course! You focus on that light at the end of a dark tunnel. And, when you find your chance, you mark your heaven and let your feet take you up, up, up towards the sky!

I’ll see you on the Skyway everyone! Happy running! 🙂

Caligula, little boots, the emperor of pain, would notch himself onto my legs every time I would go for a run.  I had hatched a plot to give him a Happy send-off.

The year was only a few days old when my phone blinked out a message from Batgirl. “I’m registering tonight for the Happy Run, do I count you in? ”

“Yeah, sure,” I replied without putting much thought into it. “Sign me up for 15K.” This was a good 3 weeks before the event. I had, at that point, only managed a grand total of eight kilometers in the last 10 days. My legs were still a vision in black and blue and my right knee was sporting a bright pink tape around it.  I was a model of optimism. I figured I had more than enough time to recover from the accident and get my running legs back on the road again.

Fast forward to the week before the PSE run. 6kms a run was the longest I could manage before succumbing to what I then called “the annoying little troll” attached to my legs. That was already an improvement from the 3KMs the week before. I had my last of the eight therapy sessions that Monday. If Frustration were an ad campaign, I would be the shoo-in for poster girl.

“Give me a name!” I beg my therapist. “What do I have now? Shin splints? Runner’s knees? Calf strain? What is it? My shins hurt.  My IT bands are tight, there’s a knot in the middle of my left thigh. My knees go on lockdown at the slightest incline!  What the hell do you call this pain?!”

The PT looks at me with similar frustration etched on her face. Ma’am (Darn it! I really am a ma’m now!) He tries to say calmly. “You simply need to give those legs a rest. Your pain is moving around because your knees, your legs, your ITs need to recover from the trauma of the bike accident! Different muscle groups are compensating for the lack of mobility in others due to your injury!” He makes sense but I don’t find comfort in his truth.

“When exactly am I going to be healed?”

He sighs. “You just have to be patient, ma’m. “(There he goes again with that ma’m bit!)

The doctor never tells me to stop running. I am grateful for at least that part.  As I am rushing out of that therapy room I do hear him hurriedly adding restrictions. “Stick to grass, treadmill, and maybe track for now, ok? “ I follow his instructions. I am a vessel of meekness and humility.

I continue to struggle with running distances longer than 6Kms.

In the middle of the second week, I wake up and have a revelation. “Caligula, that’s who you are! You are that little tyrant of a pain in my legs! In history you were an emperor known for your tyrannical rule. You ruled by whim inflicting pain and sorrow on your people with mindless abandon. You are mad and cannot be reasoned with!”  I’ve been playing this game all wrong! I’ve been skirting around the pain. I haven’t been dealing with it directly! I had allowed the mad Caligula to wrest control of my legs. To move where it wanted.  I was adjusting to the pain when it should have been the one forced to respond to the therapy and me!  “Well, I’m done playing host!” I tell Caligula. “And I’m done waiting. And I’m done adjusting. You’ve simply got to go!”

I’ve read enough history books to know this: You don’t wait for a tyrant to leave. You don’t cower in fear when he reveals his madness. You face him head on and you throw him out! I could do so much more about this injury. There was no one else who knew this pain better than me. Not my doctor, not my therapist, not even the coaches in the track.

So I book extra PT sessions in the week. I discuss my strengthening program at the gym and ask my trainer to adjust it to my current needs. We assess, we re-assess and then we get to work. I start lifting really heavy weights. So much so that by the end of the week, Snuffy starts calling me Arnold! (I ignore him but I also order my trainer to lessen the weights and simply do more repetitions).  I then schedule two deep massages three days apart. I buy a month’s worth of comics reading and two poetry books and five back issues of Runner’s World. I set up a mini bunker in my living room and I settle in to read and rest and have a weeklong conversation with my legs. I also read up on the anatomy of the human leg. I start memorizing the names of the different muscles; I start tracing them in my head. I map out the route of my pain. I pore over the diagrams in the gym and memorize the stretches. I stalk every twitch and spasm I’ve ever felt in my muscles. I begin to understand it.

Time to enlist the Senate’s help in the plot to overthrow the Emperor of Pain. I call on Gluteus Maximus. We recruit Tensor Fascia Latae. Gastrocnemius and Soleus are soon in. Gracilis and Sartorious soon follow. Now we have the soldiers. Vastus Lateralis did not even need to be asked. He was part of the plot to overthrow from the very beginning. Coach Titus Salazarus announced the plan for battle.

This time I wasn’t going to be a bystander in my therapy. I was going to take a very active part in it.  No more tiptoeing around the pain. I was going to go right for it.  “Go slowly!”  Advises Titus.  “Focus while you run and figure out the triggers of your pain. List it down. What you know, what you understand, you have a chance of controlling and containing.

We start the slow run to recovery.  I run circles with Titus and my Caligula around the track. Pain would still radiate up and down my legs but I was no longer running in fear of it. In fact, I was daring it to come out now. I wanted to get to know it and to figure out where exactly it was coming from. “He’s here!” Soleus would report. “Now he is moving right up here!” says Sartorius. We flank and outflank.  With Titus by my side, I ran around and around the track. We would speed up, we would slow down, we lifted and we shuffled and we went through all the motions to identify as much of the stress points as we could. At the end of the run, we retraced the progression of the pain and we scheduled a massage.  There was nothing relaxing about this massage. We were going straight to the source. We were going to pound on all those places Caligula had notched on to. We were going to go after all the knots and all those rough spots we had identified. We were leaving my emperor of pain no place to hide. Pain for pain! Pain to get rid of pain!

Now this felt more like it. It was then that I realized that I had unknowingly signed up for a different kind of race. In the year that had gone by, I was always racing to the finish line. This time was different. I was now a participant in the race to the start line of a happy run. Any happy run!

The emperor of pain doesn’t disappear on that day, or on that week. But the pain does lessen.  The emperor starts losing his grip. “You need to learn patience.”  Titus tells me. “Recovery cannot be rushed.” I could only nod. I was too tired to argue. This truth I could accept because this truth came with something else the therapist, with his medicine and his science, was unwilling to give me at the hospital. This truth came wrapped in hope. This truth was backed by the weight of running experience.

As I left the track that day, Titus and I agreed to stay focused and on the attack. And even though the finish line of the Happy Run was still hazy, the start line, at least, was now waving clearly and undeniably in the horizon.

—–0000———

The stars are still out on the morning I set out for THE HAPPY RUN.

There’s dryness in my throat as I go through my last minute preparations. I keep tying and re-tying my shoelaces. I wet my lips and then find myself biting into them. Plotting assassinations does take its toll. It took a view of a princess sporting a silver tiara in her head as she was sprinting across the parking lot towards her consort, the frog prince, to remind me of what I needed to remember. Seeing her put everything in its proper perspective.

This is supposed to be fun! Relax! What the hell are you so afraid of?

“You see?”  I whisper to Caligula. “You even have royalty attending your funeral!”

There’s a buzz of excitement in the air. The start corral is humming with palpable energy. I catch myself jumping up and down a few times. I stretch and I twist and I give my legs a little shake. “We’re here!” reassures my Senate. “We’re ready! It’s time.”

Caligula, my emperor of pain, never stood a chance.


saboteur

Posted: January 19, 2009 in running, runs 2009
Tags: , ,

45 minutes. That’s the finish time I set for my friends at the 10K PSE Bull run. I didn’t tell them, of course. I didn’t want the pressure to get to them.

By 6:20, I was walking to the finish line. The supposed finish line as I had it all figured out in my head. As I grabbed my camera from my car I caught myself humming a light, playful melody. I felt lighthearted. I was resigned to my no-run fate that morning.

10 minutes later I was staring at an empty lot. Oh dear Smiley! Where in Wanda’s universe is the finish line?

Now, I had taken great pains to sabotage my running aspirations in this race. Whenever my wants and my needs differ, I find that the best way to resolve it is to employ sabotage in the service of the greater good. In this case, the greater good was my needs over my wants!  I had to do my darndest to stop myself from running in this race. I knew I shouldn’t run it. I also knew that should I find the smallest of openings, I would sneak right in and do it anyway! My right leg could really use another week off from the pounding strain of the road. I’m back running but I’ m sticking to kinder surfaces like treadmills, tracks and grass for now.

Sabotage! That was the only way. I wasn’t going to sabotage the race. But I was set on sabotaging me. No subtlety required. I simply set about employing very intentional and deliberate acts of obstructions so I could not and would not run in this race.  I ignored Mukhang Guilty’s kind offer to register for us. I agreed to a Saturday night out with a friend. I slept late the night before and even set the alarm to ring after the race had started. And on the morning of the race, on my way to the finish line so I could cheer for my friends, I put on the flattest sandals I could find! And I wore very heavy jeans.

Finding myself in an empty lot messed up my cheerleader/paparazzi timetable big-time!  Didn’t they say NBC tent?!!

“Listen and let your ears guide you!” I hear my Sensei whisper in my ears. I start scanning the horizon. I still don’t see it but I hear it. The strange melody in my head has now been replaced by a more discordant, sibilant sound.  I let it guide me.

I’m late. It’s more than 40 minutes since the race started.  I want to run but I can’t. I know how to run in heels; sometimes I even dare run in stilettos!  But I simply can’t run wearing very flat leather thong sandals.  As sabotage ambitions go, this one is clearly exceeding my expectations.

I spy a field dotted with white tents. I see a girl being thrown high up into the air and doing a flip.  A buffoon on the stage was delivering a nasty spiel about ambulances and death-defying acts and anesthesia! He was nowhere near amusing but he was loud.  As I get closer, I see a box of freshly baked-bread on one side and colored confetti atop some tables.  Before I can seriously start worrying that I had found myself in a carnival instead of a race, I see Baldrunner. He’s finished the run, of course! This, more than anything else, confirms my suspicions that the man drinks jet-fuel for his pre-run breakfast! He is simply getting faster and faster. Uh-oh! Mukhang Guilty and RunMD will very likely be at the finish line already. Chuchay too!!! And where the nelson is that finish line, anyway?

Finally, the finish line! Or what passes for it.  RunMd, who set a PR in this race, is standing like a race marshal at one end. “What is that?” I ask as I point to a queue now snaking all the way down the street. “That,” says RunMD very sagely,” is THE FINISH LINE!”

Well, I shelve all my paparazzi plans as soon as I see that chimera of a finish line. Silly, I don’t mind being. But cheering for people as they join a line to the finish line feels kind of weird. It’s also anti-climactic!  I know my friends. They only willingly join lines when tasty food is promised at the other end. They would more likely be pissed than cheerful in this line. Who would want moments like that frozen in digital memory?

I did take a picture of Nora, the Golden Girl, because she had an amazing smile on and I liked that. It made my morning. She is waving in the picture. Not at me, of course. We’ve never met. I was just lucky to be standing close to a person she knew. There! I did get to be paparazzi, after all.

I move away from the mass at the finish line and start to look for the rest of T2 and my running friends. Chaos at the finish line notwithstanding, I know that they all had good fun running in that race. Having given my ears a good warm-up on my way to the finish line, it was now very happily eavesdropping on everyone else’s conversations and running stories.

Daydreaming mode on, I sit on the curb and pictured myself on that road running that 15K next Sunday. I tap lightly on the cemented road with my right foot and make my peace with it. It won’t be an easy run but it will be a good run.

I love running. I am a runner. It’s not something that’s bound to change anytime soon.

If there is one thing I took away from the experience of watching from the sidelines of what seemed like a mess of an event, if there is one thing I learned after watching all those people still leave with big smiles on their faces in spite of a queue at the finish line, it is this:

A good run is never simply defined by finish times. When we find ourselves on that road, we find ourselves in our playground. The minute we push off from that start line and head out towards the beckoning horizon we know that we are headed for an epic journey compressed in one-hour increments. Bit by bit, we push ourselves towards given limits and, whenever we can, we try to go beyond them.

We are runners. We run but we are not defined by our speed. We race but we are not defined by our finish times. We are runners and we are defined by our passion.

I am done playing saboteur.