Why Indeed

Possibly the most famous admonition associated with Saint Pio is: “Pray, hope and don’t worry. Worry is useless.” In this day and age of dizzying changes and transformations happening every nanosecond, it is one admonition we who live in the 21st century would do well to take seriously. 9-11, globalization, climate change, digitization, drug wars, Brexit, rationalization, financial meltdown,  Syria, ISIS, Greece…The list is endless. As the classic rocker Don Henley would put it: “In a New York minute, everything can change…” To be sure, given all these,  it is very easy to intellectualize Saint Pio’s counsel.  I propose though that unless and until you are forced into what some existential philosophers call limit situations, you would never fully appreciate what he was trying to drive at when he offered the above advice.

I must say I’ve been blessed to find myself in such a situation a couple of times. It is possible that all this is borne of the challenges associated with entering midlife. Then again, it is equally possible that this is a matter of selective perception – seeing what we want to see in what are objectively random events in one’s life.  Having said that, I’ve been thankfully  blessed to come across some friends who unwittingly offered what to me appears to be the biblical premises of Saint Pio’s reminder.

The first one is from Jeremiah 29:11 and I quote: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” While the original context of this passage was the message of hope and assurance that God wanted to bless the Jewish people with as they had to stay as exiles in Babylon for 70 years, I believe it is not stretching the meaning of the passage that much if we are to relate it to our individual and collective state in the face of various adversities.  More to the point, it easily grounds  the first component of Adversity Quotient which the researcher Dr. Paul Stoltz refers to as control or how one perceives an adversity as either actionable or beyond hope.  One can either look at the problem as a permanent state from which there is no escape  or as a temporary detour from which one could  springboard to better things. Jeremiah 29:11 underpins the latter.

The second one I have been blessed to be gently reminded of is from Matthew 6:26-34  and it goes: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which if you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore, do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear? For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father know that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  Again, while these words were addressed to the crowd that gathered around Jesus during his famous Sermon on the Mount 2,000 years ago, its explanatory power resonates loud and clear  in the 21st century regardless of one’s social, economic and political situation. For indeed, just like that, as they say, you could lose it all. Just like that, one’s life could unceremoniously end. Just like that, a relationship could end. Just like that, the unexpected could happen.

I suggest that it is precisely in the context of these three passages that we could fully appreciate the other half of Saint Pio’s admonition which we don’t often hear:  “God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”  With these three passages written hundreds of years apart, one can more confidently sing along to Annie’s “Tomorrow” and play the air guitar to Bamboo’s “Umagang Kay Ganda.” Why worry indeed!


I Will Sing, Sing a New Song

vk medal

It’s been exactly 7 days since I completed my very first marathon along with 618 aspiring marathoners by way of The Bull Runner (TBR) Smart Dream Marathon. I must  say I still find myself reeling from the surreal experience even  as I find myself coming full circle with regard to the niche that music has played in my love of running.

There was a time when music figured prominently in my runs. It was, in fact, what motivated me to buy my first smartphone. It didn’t disappoint even as I discovered running apps which could seamlessly integrate my playlist with its GPS tracking and automated coaching. Music had a way of energizing my practice runs and firing me up during my actual races.  As I met runners whose passion for the sport practically equalled if not exceeded mine, I eventually found myself discarding music in exchange for comparing notes, trading stories, and soliciting advice while on the race course. In between these running conversations I came  to better appreciate  the value of silence, solitude and reflection.  When I finally invested in my first stopwatch, music became even more  superfluous. In lieu of enjoying my latest playlist as I ran, I eventually found myself drawn by the rewarding experience of recording the highlights of my run and critiqueing  the same post-run. As if to reinforce the preceding,  my stopwatch died on me at km 26.

Then again, perhaps the singer-songwriter Don Henley was right. For better or for worse, music naturally lends itself as the soundtrack of our lives.  And so as I look back to relish my personal victory over my first 42.196km course, no matter how humble and modest,  I inevitably turn to what catapulted me to complete my first run in a university campus  more than 3 years ago.  Here are eleven songs which perfectly capture and celebrate the  arc of my very first marathon journey.

feb blog course map

“Hall of Fame” (The Script)

“You can go the distance, you can run the mile, you can walk straight through hell with a smile”

This has become a family favourite as I often cite it to encourage my kids to dream big dreams and be all that they can be.   I realize as I reflect on the grace of  having completed my first marathon that it might as well apply to me.  It is a song that is oblivious to the difficulties and challenges that await those who aspire for great things. Its focus is on the dream and the aspiration that fuels one’s vision rather than the attendant sufferings and inevitable difficulties. For this reason, it seamlessly dovetails with the enthusiasm and optimism of  a passionate running apprentice signing up for The Dream Marathon. “#OwnIt42K” would be apt as alternative title.

feb blog airborne

“Through Your Hands” (Don Henley)

“So whatever your hands find to do, you must do with all your heart”

“Respect the distance,” veteran runners would often admonish aspiring marathoners. I could not  agree more. I had no illusions about running a marathon. I knew from the very beginning that it was not a walk in the park. It required a lot of hard work, sacrifice and discipline.  Much has been written about the marathon journey being  a protracted battle with oneself mentally, emotionally, physically and, yes,  spiritually.

This John Hiatt composition which was recently reimagined by Don Henley traces that long and winding road to discovering what your life is about past the doubts and distractions.  Along the way, it pays homage to  the ethic of hard work, sacrifice and discipline as prerequisite to make things happen through your hands.

“Learning to Fly” (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)

“I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings. Coming down is the hardest thing.”

This song was adopted as the official anthem of the Chicago Bulls in 1991. The US Air Force SkyDiving Team followed suit after. Its words and music mirror the wide-eyed excitement and all-consuming desire  of a student pilot to learn how to fly.

It describes my disposition to a T throughout the 5 Bull Circles and the 5 Bull Sessions that Coach Jaymie Pizarro painstakingly organized with her TBR Dream Marathon Team.  It was this same hunger for learning tried and tested techniques that fired up my interest in ChiRunning and video form analysis both of which were facilitated by Coach Lit Onrubia, head coach of the TBR Dream Marathon and founder  of Forward Lean Running.  I knew then as I know now that I seriously had a lot of learning to do given the various injuries I started sustaining after my first 10K race. “Knowledge is power,” Francis Bacon once wrote.  But applied knowledge is even more powerful.

feb blog calendar

“Say” (John Mayer)

“Even if your hands are shaking and your faith is broken, even as the eyes are closing, do it with a heart wide open”

The centerpiece of the TBR Dream Marathon is the tried and tested beginner’s marathon training program designed by Coach Jaymie Pizarro, Coach Jim Lafferty and Coach Lit Onrubia. It ran for 22 weeks and it was one component of the program that totally depended on the willpower of each TBR dreamer (i.e., that was how Coach Jaymie referred to us.) The only  exception were the  5 progressive long runs that coincided with the scheduled Bull Sessions where pacers and our fellow dreamers took the practice runs to more engaging levels.

This song celebrates one’s commitment to keep a promise to get something done. Thankfully, on most days, it didn’t require that much effort to lace up and run. The secret was to block off the time to get it done. Some days proved to be difficult and challenging though. The reasons varied but they could sometimes be compelling if you let your guard down. You’re exhausted from work. You lack sleep. You feel lazy. You’d rather have more fun.

“What’s bigger than a mountain?” a friend once asked his team. “A promise to yourself,” he offered.  I’m glad I kept mine.

feb blog program

“Stand by Me” (Tracy Chapman)

“No I won’t be afraid, no  I won’t be afraid  just as long as you stand, stand by me”

This song goes out to the most complete support system a first-time marathoner trainee could ever ask for – my wife Elaine who is my coach,  my confidant and my cheerleader  formidably backed up by our 4 enthusiastic  kids who would often accompany me during my weekend long runs. Come to think of it, I completed my very  first 2.2 km run with my family. The first bib I ever wore was occasioned by a fun run where my entire family participated. All my out of town long runs were completed with my family. It was apt and fitting then that they were with me when I completed my first 42.196K.  I’ve said it before, I will say it again, I only got this far because my wife and my kids  stood by me.

vk with family

“Wild Mountain Thyme” (Ed Sheeran)

“And we’ll all go together where the wild mountain thyme grows around the blooming heather”

This well-loved Scottish traditional love song penned in the 1800s has been covered by a long list of prominent musicians. Among them were  The Byrds and the late Glenn Frey. It is  a song that is  replete with themes of hope and optimism grounded in and powered by inclusiveness. Hence, its emphasis on “we’ll all go together where the wild mountain thyme grows.” Ed Sheeran’s version   is possibly the rawest and most  unadorned sonically.  The positivity and resilience of the songwriter shines through loud and clear.

For this reason, it is the perfect song for all the practice runs and races where I breezed through the race course with my fellow runners thankfully with  hardly any injuries. For that matter, the song is spot on to remember the joy and exhilaration of completing the first 21k of my first marathon with my fellow runners and friends I’ve met along the way. Even my ChiRunning instructor threw in a “Looking good, Von” compliment to punctuate the end of the first half of the race.

feb blog vk june aj

“Rockin in the Free World” (Pearl Jam)

“There’s a warnin’ sign in the road ahead, there’s a lot of people sayin’ we’d be better off dead”

The second 21K of the course was something else.

It reminded me of the hell that I went through in high school when I realized to my dismay that the Algebra examples taught by my Math teacher were worlds apart from what surfaced in the actual exams.

More to the point, the second half represented everything that went wrong in my past races. From my first ITBS episode to the unexpected and almost endless uphill leg of my first 34k race. From the cramps that came out of nowhere as I neared km 19 during my first 21k to the hitherto treacherous cramps that almost stopped me in my tracks at km 33. From the crushing self doubts to the elusive form that went down the drain as my cramps screamed at me to stop this insanity.

This 1989 classic rock anthem composed by grunge godfather Neil Young rose to prominence when it immortalized the collapse of communism. It was revived by U2 and Pearl Jam during the 2005 Live8 concert which lobbied for the G8 countries to help the poorest countries of the world. As the ultimate rock and roll take on Dylan Thomas’ “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” it is the perfect musical antidote to the thought of despair and surrender in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, one  that will keep that fire in your belly burning even if hell freezes over.

“Miracles” (Coldplay)

“From up above I heard the angels sing to me these words”

Thankfully, if you forge ahead long enough, if you hold on long enough, if you fight back long enough despite the searing pain, the nagging doubts and the creeping disappointment, the finish line eventually comes into view. “Oh hey, I’m floating up above the world now” sang Coldplay frontman Chris Martin in this official theme to the movie “Unbroken.” Martin might as well be singing about my  emotional state for days on end from the time I crossed the finish line. It is said that the afterglow is “widely treasured by photographers and painters as it offers breathtaking imagery.” That is exactly the mood that this song paints.

feb blog vk with rio

“Kind and Generous” (Natalie Merchant)

“For your kindness I’m in debt to you and I never could have come this far without you”

“Hindi Ko Ito Narating Mag-isa” happens to be the title of the Philippine King of Comedy’s authorized biography. In the book, Dolphy pays homage to all the individuals who made his success and legacy possible. While it goes without saying that the breadth and depth of his legacy are infinitely far-reaching than my first marathon, I think he will forgive me for invoking the same declaration of gratitude and appreciation.

I only got this far because of kind and generous people I had the privilege of crossing paths with. Never mind if I repeat myself  over and over again in my social media posts. I am forever in your debt, Coach Jaymie Pizarro, Coach Lit Onrubia, Coach Jim Lafferty, Coach Francis Diano, Ms Macel Janeo, Coach Jun Cruz, Mr Mike Janeo and Mr Neville Manois for curating and masterminding the 22-week TBR Dream Marathon and giving me the chance to participate in it.

My gratitude to the wacky and enthusiastic Dream Chasers on race day. From the kind words of encouragement to the radiant everything-will-be-fine smiles on their faces. From their empowering placards guaranteed to make you chuckle to their superhero-inspired capes that reinforce your belief in yourself. From the caring foam stick massages to the free chocolates and chips. From the free hugs to the surprise celebrity-driven pep lines courtesy of Anthony Pangilinan and MariceL Laxa-Pangilinan. My cup overfloweth.

My thanks to my running friends from The Bulalo Team led by  June Policarpio, Louie Pangilinan,  Anne Orquiza, Ronnel Sunga, Kelyn Das, Aj Favor, June Petogo and Jane Santos  for the words of encouragement,  the warm camaraderie and their compelling example of passion and dedication.  I will never read the word steady the same way again.  Thanks as well to  DM Marasigan and Mon Guinto for their friendship and solidarity.

My gratitude to my friend and veteran world marathoner Rio Mayuga who unbeknownst to her almost half a decade ago, set me off on my protracted journey to the sport of running. I first witnessed Rio’s passion and enthusiasm for the sport as she coached the runners who represented our VOE team.  As I wrote separately,  It was almost  cinematic or if you will, poetic that just when I felt like slowing down and giving in to my muscle  cramps,  she generously offered to pace me enroute to the last albeit most difficult 500 meters of the race.  In the course of doing so, she planted yet another set of seeds about even greater and grander things that beckon after my first 42.196km.

My thanks to the Dream Catchers led by Photo-Ops, Active Pinas, Ricky Pets and other photography enthusiasts and professionals who quietly and without any fanfare immortalized our dream moments on the race course.

“40” (U2)

“He set my feet upon a rock and made my footsteps firm”

We are, according to the existentialists, contingent beings. We need not be yet we are, precisely because of the grace of The Necessary Being  that makes such possible. The same could be said of my very first marathon. There (i.e., DNF’d)  but for the grace of God go I.

Psalm 40 is the basis and inspiration for U2’s “40.” It celebrates the joy of someone giving thanks to God for all the great things the Lord has done for him. It is one compelling song of thanksgiving that resonates with me as I write this.  In the end, all that I have achieved by my own and by way of the kindness and generosity of others could have only come  from Him who makes all things possible.

In the thanksgiving mass I attended tonight, our priest celebrant differentiated grace from will thus: If what you have been praying   for comes   to pass, that is grace. If it does not, it is God’s will.  Hence, there is nothing to fear and there is everything to praise God for.  Let this song be my humble prayer of praise and thanks to God for answered prayers.

feb blog FINAL

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (Michael McDonald)

“Remember the day I set you free…From that day on, I made a vow.”

On several occasions, Coach Jaymie promised us two things. To wit: one, you will never forget your first and two, you will never be the same again after you cross the finish line.  I believed her then. I believe her all the more now.  Once again, I have my friend Rio to thank for amplifying the latter  so eloquently when she posted this inspiring note after the race: “…now that you’re a marathoner, you’ll find there’s so much more in the world you CAN do, that you never thought you could. Keep on running…because you can!”

Here’s to bigger dreams today, then, which are realities tomorrow.

Congratulations to my fellow dreamers of TBR Dream Marathon Batch 2016!

The best is yet to come.

feb blog best is yet to come



Shake It Off

How does a song grow on you?

Let us count the ways.

It can seize you with its melody line or it can reel you in via its opening riff. It can wrap itself around you by way of the Last Song Syndrome (LSS) or it can immortalize a pivotal moment in your life. It can sneak up on you through a movie you’re watching or it can make you do a Robert Fulghum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten“Oo nga, ano! Matagal ko nang alam yan. Nakalimutan ko lang.” (i.e., “Indeed! I’ve known about that a long time ago. I’ve just forgotten it over time.”)

taylor swift shake it off

The latter was exactly how I eventually discovered Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” to be surprisingly insightful and inevitably infectious. “Shake It Off” is the sixth track in Swift’s latest album 1989. At the outset, I thought there was nothing much to the song except for the amusing YouTube video which my wife showed me. Just in case you haven’t seen it yet, the video shows a heavy set police officer in his 40s driving around while lip-synching and dancing along to “Shake It Off” from start to finish. After catching Swift’s official music video in a local diner, the song intrigued me enough to look up its lyrics. And that was how the song brought me back to the first day I discovered the power and the glory of Habit 1 of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Be proactive.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was written by the late Stephen R. Covey in the same year Taylor Swift was born. For the past 26 years, it has sold 15 million copies and has been translated in 38 languages. To this day, it is considered as one of the best non-fiction business books. Time Magazine cited the book as one of the 25 Most Influential Business Book of all time in 2011.

7 habits

The first 3 habits are what Covey calls the Habits of Private Victory. These are: Be Proactive; Begin with the End in Mind and First Things First. The next 3 habits are categorized as Habits of Public Victory. Among these are: Think Win-Win; Seek First to Understand then to be Understood and Synergize. The last habit Sharpen the Saw is the habit of renewal and sustains all 6 habits. To learn more about each habit, get yourself a copy of this classic business book or look up Franklin-Covey in social media. Here in the Philippines, public seminars on the 7 Habits are facilitated by the Center for Leadership and Change.

Be Proactive is a habit that Covey discovered after reflecting on Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. According to Covey, what differentiates human beings from animals and other living things is the space or gap between stimulus (what happens to you) and response (what you do after the stimulus.) The space or gap between stimulus and response is where the freedom to choose our response lies. When an animal is provoked (negative stimulus), it attacks (negative response.) When you are provoked (negative stimulus), you may choose to attack (negative response) or you may choose to do otherwise and seek to understand the attacker (positive response.) You may choose to report the matter to higher authorities for resolution (positive response) or you may choose to engage in a dialogue after assessing the risk that the attack poses to you (positive response.) In short, there are a variety of responses available to us. Thus, the popular quote: “It is not what happens to you but rather what you do with what happens to you that ultimately spells the difference.”

man's seach for meaning

To sharpen our capacity for developing this habit, Covey introduces two circles. The circle of concern is where we find things that we cannot do anything about even as we endlessly worry about them. Among these are the weather, inflation, aging, dying, and the like. The circle of influence is where we find things we can control and influence such as the food we choose to eat, the thoughts that we dwell on, the clothes we don for the day, how we spend our money and the like. The key, says Covey, is for us to focus on the circle of influence instead of worrying about the circle of concern. If we do this, he promises that the circle of influence will eventually and inevitably grow bigger than the circle of concern. Those who choose to focus on the circle of influence eventually become proactive. In contrast, those who’d rather preoccupy themselves with the circle of concern inevitably become reactive. And this is where the power and the glory of being proactive lies. By focusing on the things we can do something about and ignoring those we cannot do anything about, we act on the things that happen to us. In contrast, those who concern themselves with things they cannot do anything about empower things that happen to them to act on them.

It is precisely in this context that “Shake It Off” offers itself as a creative 21st century take on understanding and appreciating the two circles discovered by Covey. The opening lines of the song focus on stuff that she cannot do anything about, namely, the unkind things that her detractors say behind her back. To wit:

“I stay up too late, got nothing in my brain
That’s what people say mmm, that’s what people say mm
I go on too many dates, but I can’t make ’em stay
At least that’s what people say mmm, that’s what people say mmm
‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
…Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake”

To her credit, even as she takes stock of what others have to say about her, Swift  chooses to focus on what she can directly influence: her vocation and career as a songwriter and musician. Even more telling is the fact that wittingly or unwittingly, 2/3 of the song focus on her circle of influence. Just like Covey, Swift is pretty clear as to what she’d rather prioritize in this short life. Hence,

“But I keep cruising, can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music in my body and it’s gonna be alright…
…Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
I’ll never miss a beat, I’m lightning on my feet
And that’s what they don’t see mmm, that’s what they don’t see mmm
I’m dancing on my own (dancing on my own), I’ll make the moves up as I go (moves up as I go)
And that’s what they don’t know mmm, that’s what they don’t know mmm
But I keep cruising, can’t stop, won’t stop grooving
It’s like I got this music in my body saying it’s gonna be alright
Hey, hey, hey, just think while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and dirty, dirty cheats in the world you could have been getting down to this sick beat
My ex-man brought his new girlfriend
She’s like “oh my God”, but I’m just gonna shake it
And to the fella over there with the hella good hair
Won’t you come on over, baby, we can shake, shake, shake”

Not bad for a 26-year old pop icon who is dismissed by some quarters for being shallow. Not bad indeed, especially if you think about how, it took Don Henley, an elder rock statesman several decades  to realize the wisdom behind such a shift in  paradigm.“It took me 42 years to write this song, and 5 minutes to sing it.”  Henley was, of course, referring to  “The Heart of the Matter,” the closing track of his 1989 classic rock album The End of the Innocence. The song pretty much articulates the same theme that Swift tackles albeit from the perspective of moving on by  asking for forgiveness and forgiving oneself. To do otherwise is the height of folly.

“There are people in your life who’ve come and gone
They let you down and hurt your pride
Better put it all behind you cause life goes on
You keep carrying that anger, it’ll eat you up inside”

don henley heart of the matter

Random Ramblings by a First-Time 10K Finisher

The fastest 10k finisher in the recent 38th Milo Marathon completed the race in 31 minutes, 56 seconds. For perspective, that’s 58 minutes, 4 seconds faster than the prescribed 1 hour 30 minute qualifying time set by Milo for a 10K race. Furthermore, according to Runners’ World, the current record time to finish a 10K race for someone of my age and gender is 29 minutes, 31 seconds.

Be that as it may, I’m nonetheless still reeling with euphoria after achieving a modest Personal Record (PR) by way of my first 10k race. You see I used to average 1 hour, 33 minutes and 34 seconds. At a recent race event in MOA, I surprised even myself by completing my first 10k race in 1 hour, 6 minutes and 41 seconds. It’s not even a sub-par, I know, but I decided to write about it to celebrate it. Here’s why.

takbluehan shirt

Actual Logo of the 2014 TakBluehan. This is not my bib number though.

Two years ago, I only had a passing interest in this sport. In fact, I only joined an actual racing event early last year to support my son by way of a 3K fun run called TakBluehan with no regard for, much less an understanding of the concept of a qualifying time or a PR. For a time, I was contented with going to the gym thrice a week and when the time would allow it, complementing my thrice-a-week routine with Sunday long runs. Until the influence of print and social media came along that is, most notably, a number of my FB friends who took to running like their life depended on it. Among the most prominent are the NYC marathon finisher and Iron Man Rio Mayuga, the Illinois-based Dipolog Youth Club founding member and newly-minted Iron Man Alvin Ang who’s also my brother in law and triathlete power couple Erick and Karen Perez. It is partly to their credit that I eventually graduated to regarding this sport more seriously. More importantly, thanks to one doctor I met early last year during a routine annual medical exam. Being an accomplished long-distance runner, he advised me, thus: “the Milo marathon is coming soon. You should sign up for that. You’re not a runner if you don’t participate in Milo. Don’t worry about your time. Just go sign up and run.” And so it was that I reached out to a friend who recently turned his back on a corporate career to pursue his first love which was swimming instruction and eventually, triathlon coaching. His name is Nonoy Basa and his school is called Streamline Instruction. The coach he assigned me to was no less than the famous Iron Man and writer Noelle De Guzman also known as the Kikay Runner. I have both of these accomplished athletes and coaches to thank for my recent modest or if you will, baby step achievement.

Before You Begin

In one of our early practice runs, Coach Noelle observed that it’s a good thing my family obviously supported me in terms of my efforts to improve in this sport. More than providing me with the psychological aspect to keep at it though, my family’s now weekly routine of joining me during my coaching sessions as well as my practice runs eventually exercised a positive influence on them as they, too have expressed and shown a budding interest in the sport. In fact, they now jog regularly with me on weekends.

If support from home is critical during my coaching sessions and practice runs, more so, during the actual race. Did I say that the support from home is most critical? My wife Elaine was my cheerleader, motivator and onsite coach all rolled into one the night before the race and after I crossed the finish line.

Other equally important first-hand lessons this beginner’s milestone afforded me before beginning a race are getting a good night’s sleep, watching your nutrition, being early at the venue and doing drills.

The value of getting a good night’s sleep so you’re raring and ready to race during your big day cannot be overemphasized. There is a whale of a difference between running after getting some serious rest and running after staying up late. I’ve experienced both and I did not want to experiment to see if it would turn out otherwise in an actual race. Nutrition and hydration proved to be just as critical as I remembered to carbo-load during lunch the day before and go fibre-heavy for early dinner. Noting Coach Noelle’s insight from her recent blog insights on the 2014 Rexona race, I made sure we were at the venue more than an hour before gun start. This allowed me to do the drills I learned from her which I supplemented with quick jogs and brisk walks.

Voices in My Head

I am grateful for having completed a number of basic running modules offered by Noy’s school prior to my first 10k. The customized lessons they taught via their experience-based talks interspersed with actual demonstrations and drills proved to be of great use to me throughout the 10k route.

Most notably, Noy’s tip of using the 15:10 rule served me in good stead. That the race route happened to cover several loops with state of the art traffic lights equipped with countdowns worked to my advantage. In parts of the route without the said traffic lights, I applied the 15:10 rule by mentally counting from 1001 to 1010 as I sought to complete his recommended 15 paces.

Coach Noelle’s constant reminders kept me on my toes throughout the race. I swear I could almost hear her commanding voice in the course of the race: “Pick up your feet!” “Check your form before you focus on speed.” “Pace yourself but get past the slow runners.” “Trim the forward movement of your arms” “Keep your head up high.” “Put your game face on and your body will follow.” “Speed up in the last 3 kilometers.”

To Compare or Not to Compare

“Papa, I have a question,” my youngest son asked me with a smiling face the night before the race. “What if you’re the last one? What will you do?” I gently reminded him that racing is about focusing on your personal best and not comparing yourself with other runners because if you do, you will only be disappointed. “But Papa,” my son insisted, “I run faster than you do.” Which was partly true because while I would pace myself every time my kids would run with me, my small boys would always break into a sprint and laugh heartily after overtaking me. In any case, I now have a first-hand appreciation for what my running heroes have documented in their respective memoirs. I’m referring here to Haruki Murakami and Dr. George Sheehan who both get positively affected at some point by passing other runners. Conversely, they couldn’t help feeling deflated when other runners do the same to them. This was where the winning insight of Coach John Wooden came to my rescue along with the Nike App that kept me company throughout the race. “Give it your personal best and stop comparing yourself to others,” Coach Wooden would often remind his players. I was just as grateful to the Nike App as it kept my attention glued to the challenge at hand instead of focusing on being passed by other runners. Oh and by the way, I’m happy to report I was not the last one to cross the finish line.

torres pic sources 12 27 2014 1102

Nike App’s Take on My First 10k

Quo Vadis?

Not that I’m sour-graping but I would dare say that there was a high probability that I could have achieved an even more impressive finishing time had I not stopped thrice to ask the marshals where the next loop was after I completed the first 8km. I studied the route a week before the race and the night before. Based on the route map provided by the organizers, we were supposed to run towards the northern end of MOA, loop back and then run towards the southern side from where we were to loop back and end where we started. What happened was after I completed both, I had to do two more loops of the northern-end segment before I was allowed to cross the finish line. The Nike App I was using reported that the total distance of the supposed 10k race was actually 10k and 700 meters. It’s a good thing one of its features is its built-in capability to provide real-time feedback regarding your average pace and distance covered with practically each kilometer you complete.

I am equally grateful for its playlist feature which provided the racing soundtrack courtesy of all my rock heroes from Don Henley (i.e., “Through Your Hands”) to Tom Petty (ie., “Learning to Fly”), from The Dawn (i.e., “Habulan”) to Rivermaya (i.e., “Posible.”) Songs like the preceding helped me enjoy the race with a healthy dose of “cinematic drama” even as they egged me on to complete the race with my personal best.

torres pic sources 12 27 2014 1114

A Number to Remember My Race By

The Runner’s High

To deal with the confusion and subsequent temporary loss of momentum towards the last 2 kilometers of the race, I remembered Coach Noelle’s reminder to speed up towards the end of the race. Apply it I did, and before I knew it, there was the finish line in front of me and the actual finisher’s medal being handed to me with a hearty congratulatory greeting. The whole experience seemed surreal to say the least. Buoyed by my modest achievement, I allowed the confusion and delay occasioned by the last 2 kilometers to slide even as I noted that some finishers were complaining about the actual distance of the 10k race. Still others were asking about their official finisher’s time.

There is always a euphoric feeling that awaits you whenever you finish a workout or a practice run. Some sports psychologists refer to this as “the runner’s high.” But it’s more popularly known as endorphins – the chemicals which are released by the human body to serve as “the pay-off for your body’s reward system.” I now have a first-hand appreciation of the fact that the endorphin rush that accompanies my weekly routine pales in comparison to the one I experienced after a real race. I suppose this is the reason why so many runners go through the sacrifice of having to sleep early and wake up at 2am to commute or drive to the racing venue and compete on a Sunday which is when a great percentage of our population would rather sleep and wake up late. No wonder there are practically weekly fun runs and marathons all year round. I initially thought that I would have to wait until 2015 to complete my first 10k race after missing the 38th Milo Marathon because of last-minute changes in my schedule. My thanks to Aqueous for facilitating the Green Hope Fun Run. For this running beginner, despite the confusion towards the end of the race, no other name for a racing event could have been more appropriate. Green is indeed the color of Hope and I really had Fun in this Run.

On to the next race!