Henry David Thoreau once cautioned: “if you’re still thinking the same thoughts that you thought a year ago, rigor mortis of the soul has set in.” Thoureau’s succinct warning reminds me of yet another compelling reason why I continue to be grateful for having discovered running as sport. For the longest time, I would look forward to our out-of-town family vacations as unparralleled opportunities for a well-deserved respite from the rigors of corporate life and a welcome retreat from the pressures of urban living. My wife being very passionate about traveling usually took charge of arranging these trips which has become a family tradition over the years. Although the places she would painstakingly research continue to vary and therefore, engage us, we have settled for a tried and tested template of sorts. Stay in well-recommended hotel or resort rooms, swim to our hearts’ content either in a nearby shore or pool, sample the various dishes the hotel or nearby recommended food establishments have to offer and go sight-seeing. When the running bug bit me, these family outings unraveled a layer I did not know existed: the thrill of discovering a new running trail and literally trying out one.
The inspiration to mix travel with running first presented itself to me as a curious idea when we vacationed at Seda Nuvali. Our room offered a commanding view of the entrancing man-made lake at Nuvali. Around the lake was an over 1km-long walkway which also doubled as a bike lane and a running path. When I saw a number of runners doing several loops around the lagoon one afternoon, I knew I had to sample the running path around the lake that same day. What a joy my first Nuvali run turned out to be. The weather was cool and windy for one, the air fresh and clean. No wonder there were other runners who were clearly enjoying themselves. Most importantly, I took in the beauty of the place: the well-manicured lawn, its landscaped surroundings, the hundreds of koi fish that reeled in mostly local tourists, lovers walking hand in hand, friends guffawing at a well-delivered punchline, families enjoying their early dinner on picnic mats peppered with home-cooked meals, the virtual shower of mist whenever I would pass by one of its gigantic spouting fountains. Enough reasons for me to complete two hour-long runs in the 2 days that my family and I stayed at Seda.
I was hoping to repeat something similar to my Nuvali experience when I drove my family to Palm Beach in Laiya, Batangas. To my initial disappointment after scouting the area, the nearest running path consisted of a loop with a steep uphill climb and an equally steep downhill trot. In between were two short trails that offered panoramic views of the Laiya shoreline – up above was paved in concrete, down below was not. Maybe enjoying the view would distract me from the punishing pressure that I would subject my knees and my feet to or so I thought to myself. Maybe not. In fact, at the outset, I figured maybe I’ll pass. But I guess this sport has really taken its hold on me because I eventually donned my running gear to sample a new albeit challenging running path. I told myself I’d go for a 5k run just to get this running itch out of the way. Before I knew it I was completing a 10km run on our first morning in Palm Beach. Thanks to the breathtaking view of the Laiya shoreline which never failed to reward me with enough drive and energy to complete one loop after another.
Fairly recently, we traveled to Pagudpud which is also known as Northern Luzon’s answer to Boracay. Its dirt roads reminded me of Boracay in the olden days before its main road was completely paved in concrete. The first time I saw the rolling surfers’ paradise waves of Pagudpud, I knew where I wanted to run – a stone’s throw away from its shoreline and its roaring waters. Alas, although some parts of its over 1 kilometer-long shoreline were clean and well-maintained, much of the beach front of most of its resorts was sadly strewn with empty beer bottles, used diapers, water bottles, left-over food and other disappointing testament of environmental irresponsibility. To think that this was one of the stops of the annual Ms Earth contest. I quickly dismissed the idea of running on its shoreline barefoot. Unfortunately, that was the only way to run next to the roaring waves of Pagudpud as wearing rubber shoes would just slow you down and get in the way of achieving any kind of momentum. In the end, I had to settle for its unpaved main road which took me from the mini-theme park of Hannah’s Beach Resort past Kapuluan, the very first Pagudpud resort which we made a mental note to check out next time, all the way to the very end of the road which could offer a panoramic view of the waves of Pagudpud.
The experience was unlike my Nuvali and Palm Beach runs. For one thing, coming from the northern end of the main road which ran parallel to the shoreline, I was initially accompanied by the comforting noise of a peak season tourist destination 1/3 into the run. And then just like that it was just me and the cadence of my rubber shoes pounding on the dirt roads of Pagudpud as I enjoyed the postcard-worthy views of its awesome waves and occasional coconut trees. Having seen too many episodes of Criminal Minds, my exhilarating running experience was inevitably diluted by a nagging fear for my safety as I realized that I was literally quite the only one on the road. All around me were trees and plants, the mountain range to my left and the shoreline to my right. Two things made me dispel my absurd fears throughout my two runs. First was the mouth-watering aroma of longganiza and adobo being cooked at two of the last resorts after Kapuluan each time I would pass by. Second and most important was the unexpected smiles and hellos of two small kids playing on the southern end of the road which afforded a vista-like view of Pagudpud’s amazing shoreline. In the two days I ran in solitude, these two innocent-looking kids whose names I never got dispelled whatever fears I experienced running by my lonesome. “Hello po!,” they would chorus whenever they would see me even as they blessed me with smiles that would melt away your worst fears and deepest worries. Looking back, maybe they were God’s way of telling me to have more faith in mankind. Despite the irresponsibility of some local tourists, Pagudpud is still a perfect sampling of the beauty of His creation. Maybe the more responsible ones still outnumber those who couldn’t care less if Pagudpud is eventually laid to waste.
There is an infectious Rico Blanco guitar riff I’m currently trying to master in the light of my continuing partnership with my wife to marry travel and running. Its chorus captures exactly how I continue to feel about running every time I travel with my family. Notwithstanding its original context, there is a sense in which it also lends itself as a clarion call for the need to imbibe the hope and responsibility that would ensure we are able to continue running in places like Nuvali, Palm Beach and Pagudpud. “Pag gusto, may paraan. Pag ayaw maraming dahilan. Gumawa na lang tayo ng paraan.”