The Running Angel

Just because I don't have wings, doesn't mean I can't fly.

On Running Away

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Somebody once asked me, “Why do you run? What are you running away from?”

Immediately, I was defensive. “I’m not running away from anything!” I told him. “I’m running toward something.”

Every finish line represents a goal, and every time I run toward that finish line and cross it is a symbol of a goal accomplished. I run to chase after my dreams—to become healthier, to build my endurance, to visit different places and explore them on foot. I run to reach that part of myself that strives to do more and to be more.

But lately I started thinking about that question again, and I realized that maybe there are some things I’m running away from. Perhaps I’m running away from the naysayers, from people who tell me I can’t do something. Perhaps I’m running away from the bad habits that have plagued me for years, like playing too many games or watching too much TV—because the time I spend running is time spent away from those things. And maybe I’m running away from the things that stress me out, so that once I stop running and those things catch up to me, I can face them with a clearer head and a stronger heart.

Most of all, I’m running away from myself. From the negative thoughts that hold me back. From the fears that keep me from taking action. From the things I tell myself I can’t do. Running can be tough, and training for a race is hard work, but just doing it allows me to forget all the worries and fears, the can’ts and the shouldn’ts. It gives me the confidence I need to run toward the things that matter most. —A

Photo by Raymond Galang. Taken in the trails of the Saratoga Gap in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Santa Clara County, USA.

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Happy New Run!

It’s been almost a year since our first marathon… and since I last wrote on this blog. There are no excuses—life just happened—but now I’m back!

My last race was a half-marathon at the Run United event last June. Since then, I kind of took a break from running to rest and recharge. I continued doing yoga and I signed up for 360 Fitness, while hubby got into CrossFit. We still ran occasionally but nothing more than a 5-K.

Since the holidays began, we’ve just been eating and eating and eating! And what better time to reboot and start anew than on the first day of the New Year? After more than a month of not running, we finally laced up our running shoes again and hit the road.

After just one kilometer, our muscles were already screaming bloody murder. Our joints and muscles creaked and popped, like they were just starting to wake up from a long slumber. I could feel the blood struggling to pump through my cholesterol-clogged arteries. I had been feeling pain in my left iliotibial band the past week (from my butt cheek all the way down to my knee), possibly from sitting and lounging around too much, and it was actually a relief to move and stretch it out.

We only ran-walked 3.6 kilometers but the struggle was definitely real. Who knew that running 3-K without training could be ALMOST as hard as running a full marathon? It felt good to be back though. And I have no doubt we’ll be back in proper running form soon enough. (We’ve signed up for the Condura half-mary again so we really need to get back in shape!)

Happy New Year, my running friends! May you cross more finish lines in 2016 and flourish in this race called life. —A

2016 New Year

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How Running a Marathon Changed My Life

“Something has changed within me, something is not the same, I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game. Too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep, It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap!”

—Defying Gravity, from Wicked the Musical

At the TBR Dream Marathon send-off party last February 11, Coach Jim Lafferty told the runners that we would not be the same once we cross that finish line—the old me would die and a new person would be reborn. He said it again on the day of the race, right before the starting gun was fired at 2:00 am on February 22.

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It’s true that this whole journey has changed me little by little the moment I signed up for this race back in August. I learned I could still push myself to take risks and do something out of my comfort zone. I started to love running in the morning (whereas in the past I hardly ever woke up before 8 am unless I really had to!). I gained the discipline to stick to a training plan for six months. I prioritized doing long runs on Sundays over lazing around and not doing anything productive.

At first I thought a lot had already changed, and that the race would simply be a graduation of sorts, a culmination of all the training we had done. What I didn’t expect was that I still had a lot to discover about myself on the day of the marathon.

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As I laid out all my gear the night before, I felt pretty confident. There were nerves, yes, but not more than the usual anxiety I feel before any race. Our family and friends were very supportive and encouraging. We had done the training and I knew we were ready for this.

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Sunrise over Nuvali

The race course was composed of two loops around Nuvali. The first half of the race went by breezily. We had previewed the course in past Bull Sessions and it was just as I remembered it—rolling hills, wide roads, green grass, and trees. The night air was cool and crisp. At one point, we joined Coach Jim’s 2:1 run-walk pace group and his occasional comments kept us entertained (“Men think they run the world, but it’s really women who do!” Right you are, Coach!). At 21-K, hubby and I were right on target, running slowly but surely at less than 10 minutes per kilometer. I remember thinking, Wow, this marathon is so easy!

Boy, was I wrong.

By the 25th kilometer, my legs started to give up on me. The pain crawled from my toes to my ankles up to my calves, knees, quads, and hamstrings. My upper body felt great—my heart strong and steady—but my lower body was screaming, begging for me to stop. I was on the verge of tears. I kept thinking, What did I do wrong? Why were my legs giving up at just 25 kilometers?! I ran 30km three weeks ago and my legs had been sore but I felt like I could still go on. I had stuck to our pace and was diligent in taking my gels, Gatorade, and water. Why was this happening now? Was it because I gained weight, tapered wrong, trained too little?!

By the second loop, the “rolling hills” felt like mighty mountains (UpHELLS, indeed!). I could not keep up our 2:1 pace anymore. As the sun started to rise, I had to walk longer and pray harder. I seriously started to doubt myself. I finally realized why people say that the marathon is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Negative thoughts crept into my head and keeping them at bay was just as hard as putting one foot in front of the other.

IMG_9124Motivational tidbits along the course helped me to keep going (and taking photos was a good excuse to stop and rest)

I was very disappointed because I knew I wasn’t going to reach my goal of finishing the race below seven hours. At that point, it was no longer about the time, but simply about reaching the finish line. Though it was extremely tempting, quitting was not an option. I put on my music to distract myself. I stopped to stretch every few minutes. I sat down to rest whenever I saw a sidewalk, even if it was just for 30 seconds. I forced myself to smile whenever I saw a camera. I took chocolates, rock salt, and Chippy from the Dream Chasers and soaked in their cheers and encouragement. Time crawled ever so slowly. By the 36th kilometer, my watch died. At first I was upset about it, but looking back, maybe it was a blessing because it prevented me from feeling dismayed whenever I would check it and realize that we had only ran-walked a few hundred meters.

IMG_9119My perfect pacer and running buddy

But the most important factor that helped me finish the race was my husband, Roland. He was encouraging without being overbearing, patient without being too lax. He made me run 1 minute, walk 1 minute. And when I couldn’t do that, he let me run from one pole to another and then walk to the next. He literally pushed me while we ran, especially on the uphills (he says this helped him utilize his core more). I kept asking if he was okay, but he’d always say I shouldn’t worry about him and just focus on moving forward. He’s definitely much stronger than me, but he sacrificed a faster time so that we could finish together.

When we reached the “H Loop,” which was frustratingly within sight of the finish line but had us run three more kilometers, I knew we had this. We just had to push a little bit more. We saw our friends, taking our pictures and cheering us on. With the sun burning my skin, it felt like the longest three kilometers of my life.

11006399_10153064408948363_2665074301433638854_n Thank you, Pinoy Fitness, for capturing our finish line moment!

And finally, after seven hours, twenty four minutes, and five seconds, we crossed the finish line hand in hand. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief—we are now marathoners! A familiar face came to congratulate me. It was Coach Lit Onrubia, whom I had worked with in Runner’s World. After reading his articles and hearing all his advice, it was nice to see him there. It’s like he was personally welcoming me into the elite club of marathoners, which includes less than one percent of the population!

Something definitely changed once I crossed that finished line. I learned that I can choose not to quit when the going gets tough. I became grateful for all the little things that helped me finish the race. I appreciated my body for getting me to the finish line and I realized I should take even better care of it. I decided to focus on the positive and learn from my mistakes. I was humbled when I realized that I couldn’t control everything, that there were some things I just had to let go. I’ve heard of couples who fought while running a marathon together, but I loved my husband even more after this race!

Best of all, I proved to myself that I am stronger than all my fears.

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I am very grateful to the Bull Runner founder, Jaymie Pizarro, Coach Jim, Coach Lit, the Dream Chasers, and the whole team who made the Dream Marathon possible. Thank you for giving me and all the other dreamers a chance to become marathoners and for making the experience a truly memorable one. Thank you, Coach Roel Ano, for training me and Roland and helping us prepare for the race. Thank you also to my batchmates, who shared this journey with me. You are all an inspiration to me. #42KALLTHEWAY!

To all the runners who are still dreaming about doing their first marathon, I say go ahead and take that leap! Yes, it’s extremely tough, but once you commit to it, the journey will change you in ways you never expected it to. And it’s all for the better. —A

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Birthday Run: Bull Session in Nuvali

It’s 2:00 am on December 20—the day before my birthday—when my alarm starts blaring, jolting me out of my deep sleep. I grudgingly drag myself out of bed, thinking, “Who the f*** wakes up at the crack of dawn and drives an hour out of the city, only to torture themselves by running for two and a half hours? Crazy runners, that’s who!”

Obviously, I am not in the best mood so early in the morning, but by the time we arrived in Nuvali, Laguna for the TBR Dream Marathon Bull Session at 4:00 am, I felt the excitement start creeping in, as it always does when I see other effin’ crazy runners like myself getting ready to race.

Roland and I weren’t able to attend the last three Bull Sessions held in Bonifacio Global City, but we made it a point to go to this one in Nuvali so we could get a preview of the racecourse. After a few warm-up exercises led by Coach Lit, we were divided into run-walk groups and then we were off!

We opted to join the 2:1 group (2-minute run, 1-minute walk). Though we’re accustomed to 3:1 or 4:1, we figured it would be better to run conservatively since we weren’t sure what pace the other runners in our group would take. It was very dark when we started so we didn’t really see much, but I enjoyed running with my batchmates. Unlike in an actual race, the feeling wasn’t competitive as people weren’t rushing ahead of each other. I felt one with the group as we ran together every two minutes, and fell into step every time the people in front yelled, “Walk!”

Eventually though, the group began to scatter as runners settled into their own paces. (And that was fine too, because I was starting to get annoyed with a runner who had her speakers on full blast. Not everyone wants to hear your playlist, gurl!) Roland and I settled into a steady rhythm, our feet moving one sure step in front of the other.

By 6:00 am, more than an hour after we had started, the sky grew lighter. The sun remained hidden in the clouds while the cool wind continued to dance around us. The view of our surroundings started to reveal itself—rolling hills, wide roads, green grass, tall weeds (a.k.a. talahib), and the occasional trees. I cannot remember the exact route, but I do remember passing a few villages and seeing signs that pointed toward Miriam College, Xavier School, and Republic Wake Park.

There were only two hydration stations on the course, as we had been aptly warned. Good thing the weather was cool so I didn’t feel the need to drink as much as I normally would. I took one GU gel (salted caramel flavor) which was a bit too sweet but gave me the kick I needed.

Toward the last hour, we switched down our pace to a 1-minute run: 30 second walk—it’s the first time we tried it and turns out, we were able to maintain our pace better than if we had stuck to 2:1. We eventually caught up with the 3:1 pace group (or maybe they had done an extra lap and caught up to us) just in time for a photo op! Woohoo!

Picture 1Photo from Instagram (@jaymiepizarro)

We finished 17km in 2 hours, 37 minutes. Pretty slow yes, but feeling good. They were serving Enervon HP—a high protein, chocolate-flavored recovery drink. So yummy and perfect post-run!

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After doing some stretching exercises, it was time for a few more photo ops!

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TBR coach and Runner’s World columnist, Lit Onrubia, reminds us not to indulge too much over the holidays. LOL!

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With The Bull Runner and Runner’s World cover girl, Jaymie Pizarro, who said the weather is usually cooler on race day. I hope so!

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With old and new AMCI members who are always up for a new adventure.

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After a filling breakfast in Pancake House, we drove back to Manila and made it home safe and sound. I know this hashtag is so overused, but having freshly showered, feeling the slight soreness in my muscles, and knowing I had a great race to look forward to, I really did feel #BLESSED in every sense of the word. —A

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A Running Tour of Manila

This article was originally published in the October-December 2014 issue of Runner’s World Philippines. Photos by Roland Aquino.

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A throng of runners stood on the bridge by the entrance of Fort Santiago, waiting for the starting gun. The water below glistened in the late afternoon sun and I shielded my eyes from the glare, regretting that I didn’t bring my sunglasses. The former defense fortress has witnessed wars, earthquakes, and other calamities over the centuries—and on September 7, it watched over Salomon’s first City Trail Race. I soaked in the history, along with the energy and adrenaline charging through my fellow 12-K runners, as the race began.

Salomon has been organizing hardcore trail runs for the past few years. I’ve joined their races in Tagaytay Highlands and Hamilo Coast, Batangas and it’s always been challenging but rewarding. This time, they brought the race to Intramuros at the heart of Manila, to allow runners to get a taste of trail running without leaving the city.

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We exited through the gates of Fort Santiago and hit the streets. It was like doing a running tour of Manila as we passed by the usual tourist spots like the Manila Cathedral, the Palacio del Gobernador, and the Plaza San Luis complex. As an editor and former journalism student, it was a treat for me to see the back entrance of the Manila Bulletin building, with the smell of newly printed newspapers wafting in the air.

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On our second loop, we climbed up to run on the walls of Intramuros, which are built with volcanic rocks. Our pace slowed as we navigated our way through the rough, uneven path, jumping over deep grooves in the rocks. This was hard to do, as the view from the walls was quite distracting. We could see a lush, green golf course and skyscrapers in the distance. We also passed through different baluartes, or fortresses where old cannons still stand in defense of the city.

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On our third loop, we ran on the perimeter of Intramuros, on the sidewalk by Bonifacio and Padre Burgos Drive. It was a less picturesque side of Manila, where we inhaled the smoke from passing cars and saw kids playing on the sidewalk, while their parents cooked dinner nearby.

On our final loop, just as the sun was setting over the city, we got a chance to run underneath the walls. It was dark and a tad spooky as we ran through the tunnel, treading carefully since we could barely see a few feet in front of us. When we emerged on the other side, the moon was out and the street lamps had been turned on, casting an eerie glow on the cobblestone streets.

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Roland and I crossed the finish line after one hour and 50 minutes. They were already calling the winners to the stage as we went to collect our medals and free snacks. The people at the food stand asked, “Chicken or sisig?” Of course, we went for the less healthy choice. After that grueling run, eating sisig was a fine reward!

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When we visited Tokyo last year, Roland and I ran around the Imperial Palace and I remember thinking, I wish there was a place like this back home where we could run and feel the city’s vibe and culture. As it turns out, there is such a place. Joining the City Trail Race allowed me to see Manila in a whole new light. Intramuros, which I only ever visited during field trips back in school, has a rich and vibrant history that I was only able to appreciate while running through it. Sure, Manila may not be as perfectly clean or picturesque as Tokyo, but it’s real and beautiful in it’s own way—and it’s a place I’m proud to call home. —A

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The Journey Begins

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About two weeks ago, on September 24, I was driving to the first Bull Circle of The Bull Runner Dream Marathon. On my way to the venue in Fort Bonifacio, I got stuck in heavy traffic due to construction on the corner of C-5 and Pasig Boulevard. I had training early that morning so I was tired, sleepy, and irritable. Several times, I was tempted to just turn around and drive back home. “F*** this!” I voiced out loud to my equally frustrated husband. “I’d rather go home and sleep!”

But somehow, we trudged on until we finally got to the venue an hour late. Just as we sneaked into the back of the room, Coach Jim Lafferty started playing this video about Terry Fox, a Canadian athlete who did a cross-country run that spanned several months to raise awareness for cancer research—and he did it all on one leg.

Of course, I teared up while watching the video, because here I was complaining about traffic, when this guy just did something truly heroic.

***

When I started running almost 10 years ago, I never dreamed of doing a full marathon. I always had a lot of excuses: I’m too busy, it’s not really on my bucket list, I’m not at the peak of my fitness, etcetera. But at the heart of it lies all my fear and self-doubt. Can I really run 42 kilometers? Can I commit to the training? Do I have what it takes to go the distance?

By showing Terry’s video, Coach Jim wanted to tell us that if Terry could do it, anybody could do it. But according to Coach Lit Onrubia, we need to answer three questions first:

1. Why are you racing?

Two months ago, I decided I needed to climb out of the rut I was in and to stop living in fear. Running a marathon always seemed like this big, scary monster to me, and I thought it’s high time I conquered it. But more than that, it’s a way to remind myself that I can do whatever I set my mind to and that I am brave enough and strong enough to conquer other big, scary things in the future.

2. How much time do you have to spare?

As my work load decreases in the next few months, I have plenty of time to train. And this time, I’m committing at least three days a week to running. What I love about the TBR Dream program is that it allows you to incorporate running into your lifestyle—and not let it take over your whole life.

3. What are you prepared to sacrifice?

So far, I’ve sacrificed late nights in lieu of sleeping and waking up earlier and started spending significantly less time doing leisurely activities. I know I have to sacrifice sweets and other unhealthy food as well, but I have to admit, that part’s been a real struggle!

Aside from the TBR program and training sessions with my coach, another thing that’s been really helping me prepare for the marathon is The Runner’s World Big Book of Marathon and Half-Marathon Training. The training tips and practical advice are spot on, but what I really love are the inspiring stories of other runners who overcame various obstacles to finish their 42-K.

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I truly believe that the journey is just as, or maybe even more important than the destination. Two months ago, I embarked on this journey by signing up for my first 42—or maybe it began when I first started running back in 2005. I know it won’t be easy, but I’m pretty sure it will be all kinds of awesome.

Other marathoners have said that the journey will change you… that you won’t be the same person you were once you cross that finish line. Who will I be after this journey ends?

I can’t wait to find out! —A

 

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Running Pegs

One of the things I love most about my job is being able to meet and write about some of the most inspiring, amazing individuals. On the cover of the July-September issue of Runner’s World Philippines, we featured eight exceptionally talented runners who can serve as our “life pegs”—people who motivate us to overcome obstacles, lead a healthy lifestyle, and be better runners.

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Here are a few of their words of wisdom:

rw_july489 samThe Funnyman

“Fall in love with running. ‘Yung love kasi, laging nare-relate sa romantic sense. But running is exactly like love! If you see the beauty in the person and you love being with the person, then it’s love.” —Sam YG, DJ and marathoner

 

 

rw_july059 mary joyThe Marathon Queen

Hindi naman maiiwasang matalo, pero sa bawat talo ko, ‘dun ako natututo. Mas lalo kong pinagbubutihan ang training ko.” —Mary Joy Tabal, 2013 Milo Marathon winner

 

 

rw_july343 nikko The National Athlete

“Learn how to say no. If it takes you away from your goal, say no.” —Nikko Huelgas, Team Captain of the Philippine National Triathlon Team

 

 

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The Pro Paralympian

Lahat naman merong destiny. Isipin mo lang kung saan mo nakikita ang sarili mong mag-excel at ‘yun ang pagtuunan mo ng pansin.” —Sixto Ducay, member of the WetSHOP Para Tri Team

 

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The Ultrarunning Champ

“Train hard and set a goal. Don’t just finish—finish strong.” —Keshia Fule, 2012 Bataan Death March 160-K Ultramarathon winner

 

 

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The Community Coach

Kung ano ‘yung natutunan ko, gusto kong maituro din sa kanila para balang araw, malayo rin ang marating nila.—Roel Ano, RW Challenge Coach and founder of Run for Kids

 

rw_july407 sophiaThe Early Starter

“If you win, that’s amazing—but if you don’t, it’s okay too. You don’t lose as long as you finish.” —Sophia Almendral, triathlete since seven years old

 

 

 

IMG_7766 solennThe Fitspiration

“Running is the best workout. It’s the easiest way to lose weight if you do it regularly and at the right speed. The key to being fit is moving regularly and finding your own beat.” —Solenn Heussaff, celebrity runner (and my personal fitspiration! Can you believe she used to be overweight?)

 

So there you have it! Eight truly inspiring runners we can emulate and look up to. Read their full stories in the July-September 2014 issue of Runner’s World Philippines. (Buy it in bookstores and magazine stands nationwide or download a digital copy at summitnewsstand.com.ph.)

runnersworld_july042Kudos to my amazing team for helping organize this crazy cover shoot!

Photos by Jay Tablante

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Running with Salomon

My very first pair of hiking shoes was from Salomon. I had just signed up for AMCI mountaineering club and was about to climb my very first mountain. I heard that Salomon was a good brand for hiking and since I wasn’t sure yet if I would really pursue the sport, I opted to get a cheap pair at a warehouse sale. I can’t remember what model it was but it did get me through my first few training climbs in one piece—albeit with a few dead toenails!

Fast forward seven years and I found myself at the starting line of the 2012 Salomon X-Trail race in Tagaytay Midlands. Salomon’s brand manager, Janice Tañada, was my batchmate in AMCI and she invited me to cover the event for Runner’s World.

So that’s not me but I love how this photo captures the beautiful trails we passed during that race. It was challenging but enjoyable. We ran through dirt roads, farmlands, and pine forests, breathing in the cool, fresh air as the early morning fog enveloped us.

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Now that’s me crossing the finish line at 2:42. Pretty slow for a 12-K, but I always believed running through trails is an experience to be savored and enjoyed (and captured on camera, too!).

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I missed the 2013 edition of the Salomon race because I had an important event to attend that weekend (like, you know, my wedding! LOL!) so I was psyched when I got to join the 2014 X-trail race in Hamilo Coast, Batangas last April. This race was a helluva lot tougher (or maybe I was just out of shape), with runners climbing steep hills within the first kilometer.

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This vast expanse of flat land was a welcome respite from all the steep ascents and descents.

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We only had about a kilometer to go at this point but that kilometer was a whole stretch of large rocks and boulders. I finished this race in over 3 hours but it was well worth the effort. At the finish line, Roland and I were reunited with a lot of AMCI members and old friends.

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It may seem quite daunting, and I’d understand if some people think it’s crazy for us to do this. But for those who want to get into trail running, Salomon has come up with a city trail race, which allows you to experience the joys and challenges of trail running right here in the city. The race is happening on September 7 at Intramuros, Manila. Imagine running (we’ve been warned that there’s some jumping involved as well) through the historic streets of the walled city, retracing the steps Rizal took in Fort Santiago, and soaking in our country’s culture and heritage. It’s the perfect race for trail newbies! You can still register at R.O.X. Bonifacio High Street from August 30 to September 5.

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I’m definitely looking forward to running and writing about this race. (Watch out for my race writeup in the October-December 2014 issue of Runner’s World.) See you in the trails! —A

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Stop Living in Fear

Ever since I was a child, two little devils called fear and anxiety followed me around wherever I went. Perhaps it wasn’t so obvious on the outside, but they were there. I remember when my parents used to leave the house at night to go to their prayer meeting, I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep, waiting anxiously for them to return. After my first year of college, I fainted at church one summer (I’d just done a hard workout and perhaps wasn’t properly hydrated), and the anxiety just seized me until I could no longer do any of the other activities I had planned to do for the rest of that month. Instead, I stayed home, paralyzed by fear.

As I grew into young adulthood, I became a little bit bolder, a little bit braver. The fears were still there, sure, but I learned how to handle them better. After graduation, I flew to Singapore as part of the SIF-ASEAN Student Fellowship Program. Before we left the Philippines, I remember looking at the other Pinoy fellows who seemed so smart and calm, and thinking, “Am I the only one who is terrified to leave my home for the very first time? To live in a new place, with people from different cultures?” But once I was out of my comfort zone, I found myself doing things I never thought I would do—like joining (and winning!) a beauty pageant, breaking the rules, and forging strong friendships with other ASEAN students. After I got back from Singapore, I got a job I knew I would enjoy (as apposed to one that seemed like the “safer” choice), joined a mountaineering club, started running, fell in love, and went on all sorts of adventures.

But as I moved into my thirties, I sensed the little devils gaining strength once more, telling me to stay where I am, to stop venturing into the unknown. And I’m not just talking about traveling to new places, but also about doing things I’ve never done before. I realized that as we grow older, saddled with more responsibilities and ailments, it seems so much harder to go after new dreams and new goals—harder yes, but not impossible (my own mom is living proof—she started competitive ballroom dancing in her late forties and still keeps winning trophies 10 years later!).

Last August 21, I was watching a documentary on one of our beloved heroes, Ninoy Aquino, the man whose death sparked a revolution. I was struck when he said, “My theory is, we all have to die sometime, if it’s my faith to die by an assassin’s bullet then so be it, but I cannot be petrified by inaction or fear of assassination and stay in the corner. I have to suffer with my people, I have to lead them.”

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So maybe I’m not battling a dictator or risking an assassination, but I am doing something that I’ve long thought about but always feared—to run a full marathon. Roland and I just signed up for The Bull Runner Dream Marathon, our first 42-K (more on this later). It was fun and exciting at first, but as we wrapped up our second week of training, the doubts and fears started to arise along with the little aches and pains that crop up during a hard training session. A lot can still happen between now and the marathon in February, but for the meantime, I will do my best to not let my fears and anxieties get the best of me. And to prove that we can still chase after new dreams, no matter how old or fearful we are. —A

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Climbing Out of a Rut

I’ve been stuck in a rut for a few months now, maybe even years.

When I hear the word rut, I imagine a dark, damp hole in the ground with nothing but soil and rocks and roots all around. The clear blue sky can be seen, but it is too far out of reach. It is lonely and miserable and depressing.

But the rut I’m in is actually quite comfortable. It’s got a nice couch and a TV with all my favorite shows. It’s got the Internet and an iPad with games like Candy Crush and PvZ. It’s got a fridge stocked with goodies and sweets. It’s got a Kobo filled with books (though most of the time, they are ignored when there’s a new update on the games). When you’re stuck in a place like this, it is very difficult to climb out, to will the body that’s gotten slow and sluggish to just get out and run. When you’re already so comfortable, why would you ever want to leave?

Because seeing the sky above, knowing there’s a big old world out there just waiting to be explored, leaves one wondering and wanting more. Because the whispers in one’s ear, saying it’s time to get out, are becoming too loud to ignore. Because the pounds that have crept in and the clothes that no longer fit have started to pile up.

Here are a few things I decided to do to get out of this rut:

1. Sign up for a race.

Roland and I are going on a trip to the US in October. It’s our first trip outside of Asia together and I could not be more excited! Running is one of the best ways to explore a new place so we decided to look for a race we could join while we’re there. (Plus, it’s a great way to counter all the eating that’s sure to happen.) We’re joining the Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon on October 25. Running + wine sounds like the perfect combination to me!

healdsburg half

2. Get a coach.

I am really not a morning person, but last Tuesday and Friday at 6 am, I dragged myself out of bed to train at the Ultra track oval. Luckily, it’s just a five-minute walk from our place. We booked several training sessions with Coach Roel Ano, who was also our coach when we did the Runner’s World 25-K Challenge last November. It’s really very helpful to have someone motivating you and pushing you to your limits. Though those first two sessions were tough, I’m beginning to see the benefits of training in the morning. Nothing beats breathing in the fresh air, soaking up vitamin D from the early morning sun, and seeing other runners pound the track with their lean legs and perfect stride.

ultra

3. Start writing again.

The irony of being a magazine writer and editor for a living is that I find it very hard to write for myself. After a stressful day at work, I just want to stay away from my computer and retreat to my comfy rut, where I can watch my shows and play my games. But writing has always been a way for me to reflect and see things in the right perspective. Back in high school, when I had limited access to the Internet, I’d write pages and pages of words on my journal, looking back on my experiences and processing how I felt about them. As the digital age took over, I did this less and less, apart from the occasional silent retreat where I had no choice but to power off my gadgets.

After my shingles attack back in 2012, I got very busy with getting married, adjusting to a new home, and dealing with added work responsibilities. I’ve been able to keep running and traveling, though not as often as I used to. It’s all been overwhelming but I’ve been very blessed. Though safe and comfortable in my rut the last few months, I don’t want to be removed from the world anymore while life passes me by. I want to participate and engage, enjoy and appreciate the little moments.

So here I am, trying to claw my way out, one handful of soil and rocks and roots at a time. —A

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