The Running Angel

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

Starting Over

The other day, I was updating the list of races I’ve joined and I realized it’s been more than two years since my last half-marathon. As I looked through my old race bibs (yes, I’m sentimental like that) and photos of past runs, I began to miss the days when I was a more active runner. I think running is a lot like being in love. From late 2008 to early 2010, I was caught up in the romance of it all. I was so passionate about the sport and signed up for race after race. But after about two years of being on a high, other things demanded my time and attention and running took a backseat. I was so comfortable in my relationship with running that I failed to make time for it and it slipped down my list of priorities.

Now, running seems to be nudging me, beckoning me to come back. “Remember how much fun we used to have,” running says. “Let’s rekindle our relationship.”

And what better way to ignite my passion than by training for another half-marathon? I haven’t picked a race just yet (though I’m looking at one in January or February 2013), but I’ve decided to start training again next week. And just as I did before my first half-marathon, I’m once again turning to Runner’s World for a proper training plan.

I hope to write more about my training in the coming weeks, but for now, a quick trip down memory lane of my past 20 to 22-K races.

All smiles after my first half-marathon in Singapore. December 7, 2008.

Running on the Skyway at the Condura half-marathon. March 22, 2009.

Trudging through miles of lahar at the TNF100 in Sacobia. May 24, 2009.

Breathing in the fresh scent of pine trees at the TNF100 in Baguio. April 25, 2010.

A pint of Häagen-Dazs ice cream after the Nature Valley half-marathon. Best post-race reward ever! May 30, 2010.

You’re right, running. Though we’ve had our fair share of challenges, it’s mostly been an enjoyable ride—one filled with memorable moments and valuable learning experiences. I can’t wait to do it all again. —A

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Running in Paradise

Last summer, I had the opportunity to join a race on the beautiful island of Boracay. I wrote about the experience in the July-September issue of Runner’s World Philippines. Below is my article along with a few extra photos. 🙂

When I’m at the beach, there’s nothing I love more than just lying on the sand. When I’m on vacation mode, the last thing I want to do is get up and run. But on the eve of April 20, I found myself jogging on the soft white sands of Boracay Island. I had signed up for the Skyathon 2012 Boracay Beach Run the next morning and I was trying to figure out whether I’d be able to run in my shoes or if I should just go barefoot. I had never run 10km on sand before so I was feeling a bit nervous and apprehensive.

I was running toward Station 1 when I looked up and saw Willy’s Rock bathed in yellow orange light, while the sky slowly turned shades of pink and deep purple. My breath caught in my throat as I gazed at the majestic sight before me. The Boracay sunset gets me every time—or maybe I was just getting tired! Time to head back and save my energy for the race.

As I turned around and made my way back to the Tides hotel, I saw a different type of light. Establishments along the shoreline emitted colorful flashes from strobes, signaling that it was party time soon. But there would be no partying for me as I had to get up early the next morning for my 10-K. Instead, I settled on a bottle of Banana Rhum shake from Jonah’s after dinner (together with my new friends April, Franc, and Jhe) to cap off the night.

The next morning, about 300 runners gathered at the starting line across Epic beachfront. The sky was just starting to lighten and it seemed like it was going to be a cloudy day. The sea was calm and the waves lapped quietly on the shore. I did a few stretches and took a few pictures while waiting for the race to start.

At about 6am, the starting signal rang and the runners sped off towards Station 1. The 5-K loop went on until the end of Station 1 and back, then moved on to Station 3 before turning back to the finish line at Epic. The 10-K racers would simply have to run the loop twice.

I had decided to wear my shoes during the race but since it was harder to run on dry sand, I opted to run closer to the shore where the sand was harder and more compact. I also decided to just take my time—I was not aiming for a personal best; I simply wanted to relish the sights and enjoy my first race in this island paradise.

The first 3km (1.5km to the end of Station 1 and back near the starting line) went pretty smoothly. There weren’t that many people at the beach yet and there was a relatively wide, clean area near the water where the sand was nice and compact. But as I moved toward Station 3, the shore seemed to slope upward and the hard space between water and dry sand grew narrower. It felt like I was playing a game of tag with the waves, as they moved forward and back, trying to catch my feet. One area was also covered with a carpet of slippery green seaweed. I didn’t want to risk falling on my butt, so I just dug my feet into the soft sandy floor.

On my second loop back towards Station 1, I was getting a bit tired but happy to be on hard sand again. A group of lean, tanned men—all barefoot—in a two-line formation (probably a Dragon Boat team) waved as they ran past me. More people were at the beach now and they gazed curiously at the runners who trickled toward the finish line.

Back at Station 3, the tide seemed to have gotten even higher—and since most runners had the same idea of running on the compact sand near the shore, it was quite difficult to avoid the water. The waves finally won the game of tag and managed to catch my shoes, making them wet. As I ran forward, I noticed barefoot runners on their way back, and felt jealous of their feet skipping on the water.

As I reached the turnaround point on Station 3, I thought, what the heck—I’m taking off my shoes and running the last kilometer barefoot! I didn’t even mind running (or maybe it was more like trudging) on dry sand because I loved feeling the soft, powdery surface beneath my toes. I alternated between run-walking on sand and water until I finally crossed the finish line.

Though it was my slowest 10-K yet (I finished at 1:30), it was definitely one of my most enjoyable runs. I savored every minute of the race, absorbed the sights and sounds, and felt energized by the beauty of the place. And I believe that’s what every runner should strive for once in awhile—to join a race where one can run for the sheer pleasure of it and have fun from start to finish. —A

The best part? Relaxing in the pool after a long hard race!

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The Beginning

It all started with one dream: to climb a mountain.

I had always been pretty active since I was a teen. I had a thirst for adventure and was constantly looking for ways to quench it. Back in college, I wanted to join the Loyola Mountaineers—but when I found out that we had to run 10 laps around the Ateneo campus as part of the tryouts, I thought, are they crazy?! No. Way.

Fast forward to a year after graduation: at a meeting with some alumni of the SIF-ASEAN Student Fellowship, a guy named Alman asked, “Who wants to climb a mountain?” My ears perked up. “Me!” I answered. “Me too!” My friend Maida chimed in. He then told us to show up at the Ultra track oval at 6am that very same weekend to join the AMCI Mountaineering Club. He assured us that no experience was necessary, that we didn’t even have to be physically fit to get in.

Without knowing just what we were getting ourselves into, Maida and I showed up at Ultra bright and early for training. They had us run a few rounds on the track and do various other exercises. Up until that point, I had never considered myself to be a runner. I always thought I was too weak to do it. I can still remember the first few weeks of training, when I would lag behind my fellow trainees. Part-running, part-walking on the streets of Valero, breathing in the smog, getting drenched in rain and sweat, and doing my best not to be sideswiped by passing cars, I would constantly think, what the hell did I get myself into?

But as the weeks passed, I grew stronger. With each kilometer I ran, each mountain I climbed, each challenge I had to go through as part of my training (a lot of which I wrote about in my old blog), I went further and further beyond my limits. Before I knew it, I had run 10 kilometers at the 2005 Milo Marathon—the first race I ever joined!

One of the final requirements to get into AMCI was to complete the 15-K qualifying run—in two hours or less. It was a daunting task for me, considering I could barely run one kilometer just four months back. I remember the day well… October 2, 2005 in UP Los Baños. I did not sleep a wink the night before. It must have been adrenaline and sheer will power that pushed me to finish the grueling course within the cutoff time. Of course, I will never forget the friends who cheered me on and literally dragged me to the finish.

It’s been seven years since that fateful day. I had gone on to run many more kilometers and go as far as my feet could take me. In that span of time, I can’t say when exactly I fell in love with running. All I know for sure is that I hope to grow old with it. —A

Shoutout to AMCI Batch 2005—my very first running buddies!

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