When job hunting is finished

For a few months last summer, I’ve been through different interviews in different companies that I actually lost count of the ‘final interviews’ that seemed to have led to nothing. I’ve also lost count of the times when HR people would say “we’ll call you later” but no call ever came. However, at the height of the storm last week, I started receiving calls from a few of these companies, including a couple that I applied for last April (one would not think that they’d still be hiring considering that, if my memory serves me right, their ads mentioned “urgent hiring”). It’s as if Typhoon Glenda woke them up from a deep sleep and made them realize suddenly that they have not filled up the position – after three months. I actually had to turn them down saying that I am already employed but earlier today, I received a call (from one of those that I really liked) asking me to start reporting tonight. Yes, after leaving me hanging for a long time that I actually stopped waiting for their call, they suddenly pop out and ask me to report on the same day they inform me that I got the job. Apparently, all I need to do now is to submit some documentary requirements and sign the contract.

It looks neat, right? Well, here’s the thing: I am already with NoBox Transitions Foundation (a non-profit organization) and I intend to stick with them for a while. It actually makes more sense to take a job that is nearer where I live but I guess at this time I value the stress-free work environment at NBTF more than the distance. [The only thing that could probably change my mind is if the other company agrees to give me more (way more) than what was initially offered. If they don't, there's no point in jumping ship because I am already enjoying where I am right now, plus I also believe it what NBTF does.]

On the other hand, I am curious to see if the work load in this other company is “not toxic” as I was assured of by one of the managers. If they’re telling the truth (or at least close to it), I might also consider accepting a second job since the schedules are not in conflict. I am not enrolled this year, anyway, so I guess a good substitute for my supposed school work would be another 8-hour job. But again, this is only if the other company is willing to ‘up the ante’.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all about the money but because they left me with nothing for months, I think it’s just fair that they also have to offer more. They cannot seriously think that I have been waiting for them for three months and not look around for other opportunities. And if they can’t agree, then we can all just move on. As I have said, I am already happy where I am and I don’t really think that I lost anything if I don’t take the offer.

[Btw, this is the same company that told me that my background and experience make me "a perfect fit for the job". I wanted to believe that but then they did not call for three months so I guess they were just trying to make me feel good. But if what they said is true, then perhaps I can expect more if I tell them my new conditions. lol...]

NBTF provided me not just a job but a cause I actually want to support. It would take more than just a higher salary to make me jump ship.

NBTF provided me not just a job but a cause I actually want to support. It would take more than just a higher salary to make me jump ship.

Running: The rest is over

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After more than a year of self-imposed “rest” from my running, I am now ready (or at least I think I am) to resume training and prepare for my next target. I have in my sights the 2015 edition of the very first organized run that I ever joined – the very same event where I did my very first marathon a year after. I am hopeful that by February next year, I would be marathon-ready again.

What I’ve learned, however, is that going back is not really that easy if you’re coming from a long hiatus. Perhaps it’s because my self-imposed rest was really mainly because of the stress that I had been through for the past 12 or so months. But anyway, I want to think that the “rest” is over and that I have to start donning my running gear again.

Hard or not, training has to be done. After all, this is the only activity that has been keeping me in shape. This means that in the coming months, I will be back to my old training ground that is the UP Diliman Campus, there will be more LSDs with runner-friends, probably running clinics if my schedule permits it.

The bright yellow sunflowers 'beautify' the view along University Ave. - a nice site after a grueling run.

The bright yellow sunflowers ‘beautify’ the view along University Ave. – a nice site after a grueling run.

So as a “come back” run, I went out today running from my boarding house going to UP.  The plan was to slowly adjust to running again so I did not really set a target in terms of distance or time. I just planned to stop whenever I felt tired already. Surprisingly, I was able to cover 10 kilometers one hour and 20 minutes.  Of course as expected, it wasn’t an easy run – even though I really took my time. The first few kilometres were specially agonizing and it took me a while to adjust. My feet initially hurt and my breathing was strained. And when I thought I’ve adjusted already, I started to feel tired and hungry. So I started walking back home covering and additional 4.45kms, stopping only for a quick bite.

“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.” — William James

Running marathons: It’s more fun on the Skyway

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Condura 2013d

The beautiful monster

The best thing about not preparing myself well before running the Skyway Marathon was that I got to run at a very relaxed pace. Because I was slow, I spent more time on the elevated road and just enjoyed the views. Yes, even in the darkness there are nice views around Paranaque, Muntinlupa, Taguig, Makati and nearby cities, thanks to the billions of lights that look like stars on a cloudless night. Every now and then, I would see a distinct light and wonder where it is located, how far it is from where I was, and why is it so distinct from all other lights around it. Every now and then, I would see a sleek yellow line or a pretty little arc in the darkness and wonder what the row of lights could be. Even the neatly aligned street lamps of the Skyway was a sight to behold as they looked like lighted spikes on the back of very long serpentine monster that was trying to lead the runners into the darkness. The straight lines created by these lights were just as beautiful as the curves and arcs that guided the runners as they seem to run in packs, each looking for that monster’s head, trying to conquer it before it conquers them. There is no other running event that can provide this kind of view other than the Skyway Marathon. And I am thankful for the rare opportunity of running this route and appreciating the big city’s beauty from a different perspective.

Reality check on the slow lane

My first medal

My first running medal was for a 5-km run during the Run for the Dolphins in 2011. 

The truth is, appreciating the beauty of the night was just my excuse for my less-than-ideal performance during last Sunday’s Condura Skyway Marathon 2013. While I truly appreciated the beauty of the lights and was actually awed by the views, this was really not the reason why I had to be very slow. I was slow because I was afraid that if I push myself so hard, I would end up with a lot of problems that are usually associated with not being prepared. I was slow because I was afraid that I would again experience muscles cramps (usually on my thighs and calves). I was slow because I was afraid the pain on my lower back will kick in before I even reach the finish line. In other words, I was slow because my body was not in proper condition. This is a lesson I thought I already learned in the past but for some reason, I am still stuck. Perhaps, I still lack all that discipline that runners have engrained into their systems. And unfortunately, I have no excuse for that – not even work that usually keeps people busy.

Mixed feelings

Condura 2012

I really have mixed feelings about the way I finished my third marathon. On one hand, I am very happy that I did not end up with any major injuries or problems. And for once, I actually got to enjoy a marathon like I never did before. As I mentioned, the views it offered are a rarity plus I got to interact better with other runners. But on the other hand, I was also a bit disappointed with the results because I know that I could have done better. Yes I was without major injuries but truth be told that even before I reached the finish line, I was already feeling exhausted. Unlike my last marathon, I felt unusually very tired just a few kilometres after the halfway mark. This is why I had to walk a lot in the last quarter of the route. I don’t see anything wrong in walking during a marathon (us average runners have that privilege because we don’t have to deal with the pressure of besting all other runners to be able to stand at the podium) but this time I think I walked more than I wanted to. I know that in more ideal conditions, I could have registered a better time and still end up with no injuries. But I did what I was capable of at that time so regardless of how it turned out, I still have to say that I enjoyed the experience.

Conquering the Skyway

I don’t really subscribe to the idea of a running anniversary but if I were to start, the Condura Skyway Marathon actually marks the beginning of my running calendar. The very first organized run that I ever joined was the Run for the dolphins during the 4th Condura Skyway Marathon on February 6, 2011. Back then, I did not have any idea what happens during an event like this. The only thing clear at that time was that I wanted to join a fun run for the experience so I thought I’d just put on my running gear and go with the flow. After I crossed the finish line five kilometers after, everything changed. I already knew I was addicted to running. The rest, as they say, is history.

So after a year of joining more runs and going on regular trainings with new found friends, I ran my first full marathon during the 5th Condura Skyway Marathon: Run for the Mangroves. That would have been my first year anniversary. At that time, I thought I have gone full circle already. From a 5-km fun run, I sort of advanced to more gruelling runs and finally culminated with a full marathon. That was both an end and a beginning of a period in my running. Just like what many others would say after that run, I was now a “certified marathoner”. Fast forward to February 3, 2013 – the 6th Condura Skyway Marathon is already my second time to run on the Skyway (back in 2011, the short distance runners did not have the chance to go up the Skyway) but I have to say, the experience is still just as awesome as the first. The best part is that on both occasions, despite a little struggle to reach the finish line, I conquered the Skyway by finishing without any major problems. The route may have offered numerous uphill climbs (which I found out to be my waterloo) but I was able to overcome them, one crest at a time. So yes, despite being a little disappointed, I still proudly say I conquered the Skyway (twice and counting).

Running: It’s more fun on the Skyway

Condura 2013

One reason I keep coming back to this event is that it is well-organized. In fact, I think it is one of the most organized runs I have ever participated in. The hydration stations were aplenty making sure that runners do not run out of something to drink. There were banana stations which is really a big help. It’s also nice to note that the medical personnel were noticeably more attentive to the needs of the runners. They don’t just wait at the ambulance. Instead, they were more pro-active by seeking out people who may need their help. In other words, they ask instead of waiting to be asked. Their alertness and responsiveness was comforting. Things like this, little as they may be, actually make a run more satisfying for runners. Congratulations to the organizers for making sure that the concerns of the runners are taken care of. It’s been two years already since that first fun run. And it may be too early to say this but I am already excited for the next edition. Because it is a rare opportunity, running on the Skyway is something to look forward to. I just hope that when the next edition comes, I am more ready. For now, I’ll try to look back at those great two years and see what I can bring into this year to make my running experience more satisfying.

See you all on the road – elevated or otherwise!

It all started with a 5-km fun run.

It all started with a 5-km fun run. A year after, a full marathon completed the circle. Two years after, another full mary was added to the fun.

Rexona Run 2012: A bitter-sweet finish

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When I went to Mall of Asia for the Rexona Run 2012, there were a couple of things that I wanted to happen. One, I wanted to finish the race in under two hours. And two, I wanted to finish it without any injuries, serious or superficial. The first one is something I thought to be within reach considering that my best time is just a couple of minutes above two hours. Plus, a sub-two finish also meant I am entitled to an additional token – a key chain –  that was given to all runners who finish with the cut off time. The second one is something I always aim for and in this particular case, my thoughts keep going back to the same event last year that left me almost ‘crippled’ – I wasn’t walking normally for a few weeks after the run.

Well, it did not work well for me, on both counts (although I have a feeling that things like this almost never work well according to my plans). I finished the half marathon (21 kms) in two hours and 15 minutes so clearly I missed my mark – and it’s not even close to my personal best. As for the second one, unfortunately I really cannot say that I finished with no problems or issues. The problem wasn’t really that serious and it’s nothing compared to my almost debilitating injury last year but it was there alright and I cannot just ignore it. The truth is, I felt better when I crossed the finish line for a full marathon last month than when I crossed the finish line this time.

There is, of course, a perfect explanation for what happened but it only sounds like a bunch of excuses (even for me). So for now, I’ll just write it down under my “things to learn from” list because right now, excuses only spoil the fact that despite everything, I am still comfortable with how this year’s Run ended for me.

Outrun Yourself

Even before the Run started, I was very confident that I would greatly improve my previous year’s results despite being in almost the same condition. It wasn’t really a hard assignment considering that my race results for the Rexona Run 2011 is still my worst – in terms of time and post-race condition. This is why the challenge wasn’t really whether or not I will finish faster than last year. Instead, it was whether or not I would finish in less than two hours as planned.

I was so hyped up that I started very well. For the first quarter of the race, I would say that not only did I outpace myself, I actually did it in a manner that would have left me out of breath (literally) a year ago. Unfortunately, the strong start did not last long because after the first half, I started to slow down. By kilometer 17, it was already very clear that the planned sub-two hours was impossible. If it was any consolation though, at least I was still in better shape than I was last year at that point.

When I crossed the finish line, I was able to slash at least 50 minutes from the previous year’s run. I’d say that’s a great improvement considering that even though I wasn’t totally pain-free, I was still walking normally unlike the year before. Unfortunately, the finish time still wasn’t enough to make me eligible for the token that the organizers gave to those who finish the half marathon in under two hours. Yes, I am talking about a keychain and it may be just a small item but for many a runner, it’s a status symbol. Or at least, that’s what I think. And it makes me a bit sad that I don’t have one.

Perhaps, another day. Another run. What’s more important is that even though I did not finish as planned, I was still able to outrun myself, defied the odds stacked against me, and thereby surpassing what I truly expected from myself, given the circumstances.

Rexona Run: Surpassing expectations

Sometimes, when we run in events like this, we cannot stop ourselves from expecting certain standards from the organizers. These expectations usually cover several aspects of the event from organizing, to the route, to hydration, and even the after-race freebies. And I have to say that this year’s edition of the Run did not fail to satisfy what I expected. Well, there were a few things I wished to have been looked more into but they are so minor that I just thought of them as something I could have avoided had I prepared myself better.

As far as organizing was concerned, I have no complaints. From the time I deposited my baggage at the counter up the time I claimed by goody bag, I really cannot say I had problems. Everything was in order.

I also like the fact that there was a 21-km relay. I think this is one factor why the regular half marathon was not really crowded, because a great percentage of runners who would have registered for the category settled for the relay. Around 3,000 ran the regular distance, of course, but if not for the relay, there would probably be an additional 2,000 starting at the same time. As per experience, a crowd that big means congested road for at least ten kilometers.

As for the route itself, I liked it very much. It was generally flat (save for one flyover), but the numerous turns provided enough challenge, time-wise. I also like the fact that there was overflowing hydration. My favorite station was the one at the 10th (and I think the 12th) kilometer because they had the small water bottles. It was more convenient to carry while running which meant one can have water between water stations. And with the heat that was brewing that morning, coupled by my profuse sweating (which is my normal thing by the way), that was just what I needed.

The large nets to catch used cups were a very nice reminder for runners make sure they don’t just scatter the cups along the road. Of course, there were those who still do but it was minimized this time.

Aside from the overflowing hydration, I also liked the fact that there were a lot of bananas. This is way better than previous experiences when bananas usually run out after only a couple of hundreds of runners thus leaving the average and slow runners with nothing but peelings at the so-called banana stations. This time, I helped myself to several of these bananas. I got hungry trying to outrun myself big time in the first half that bananas in the second half were a blessing.

And who would not be satisfied with the loot bag given after the race? It was practically bursting with products that one can actually use. Well, there may be a few things that I would not personally use but at least I can give them to someone who would.

All in all, I’d say the Rexona Run 2012 was yet run I enjoyed and liked. And if there will be another chance, I will run the same Run again.

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**Thanks to Jose Ramizarez, Pinoy Fitness (Jeff Lo), Edrick Nicdao, and Hendrick Or for the photos

**Thanks also to Allenstein Co, Aquiz Minlay for the other photos.

My Milo Experience

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“The marathon is a charismatic event. It has everything. It has drama. It has competition. It has camaraderie. It has heroism. Every jogger can’t dream of being an Olympic champion, but he can dream of finishing a marathon.” – Fred Lebow

After doing two marathons this year, I can now call myself a marathoner. I have not really considered myself one after my first marathon because I thought I was only testing the waters that time. It was as if I was only trying out the experience enough to get my feet wet. But after the second one, I can now proudly say, “I am a marathoner.” I can also proudly say that I did not just finish the race. More importantly, I finished it the way I wanted to.

I went to the 36th Milo Marathon – Manila Eliminations a little apprehensive. I knew in my mind that I once I start, I was going to finish it no matter what happens. But I still had doubts about my preparations. Have I trained enough? Will I be finishing with no injuries? Will I be able to achieve what I want to? These are just a few of the questions that were bothering me before the race.

To add to my worries, I arrived at the venue with only just enough time to deposit my baggage at the counter. The race was going to start in a few minutes and I did not have enough time even for warm up and proper exercise. This worried me because based on experience, my old knee injuries would almost always kick in if I go for long runs without proper stretching. Muscle cramps are not far behind once that happens.

But not wanting to be at the tail end of the group (which usually causes me to go on an abnormally faster pace at the very beginning), I went immediately to the assembly area and wiggled all the way to the middle, still worried of what could happen. Four hours and 46 minutes after gun start, I had answers to my questions. Yes, apparently I had enough preparations. The fact that I finished it a little earlier than I expected (because I ran a little faster than my planned pace) is a confirmation that I was in better shape than I thought. I might just have exaggerated my apprehensions. But ironically, it’s this nervousness that kept me calm during the whole run. It wasn’t also completely pain-free of course, but I finished with no injuries (unless the “re-awakening” of old blisters count as injuries). And to top it all, I finished the race the way I wanted to, and more.

When I signed up for the race, there is one thing I really wanted to achieve – that is to shave off at least 20 minutes from my previous marathon’s record. In doing so, I should be finishing in under five hours. When I crossed the finish line, I could not be happier when I realized I actually slashed 30 minutes. That extra ten minutes was like an extra incentive.

The little bumps along the way

“Tough times don’t last but tough people do.” A.C. Green

As I’ve mentioned, the run was not completely pain-free. It was a great one but I have to say that I also struggled, although luckily, on not so serious matters. At several points during the race, I had to break my stride because of a lot of things. Of course there is always the factor of getting tired after some time and that had caused me to walk some parts of the race, especially after the 21stkilometer. And then at one point, I had sidestitch. Luckily though, it did not last. Neither did it get any worse. Thanks to what I learned from some running clinics, proper breathing can do some magic. I also thought at one point that I was feeling some pain on my knees – right where my old injuries are. And it had to happen within the first ten kilometers. I thought that was the end of it already but for some reason, it went away. Perhaps it was just my mind worrying so much to the point of panic. At one point also, I thought I had to stop for some meds for hyper-acidity, which I expected because of my experience with the energy drink that was served during the run. But perhaps I was just hungry because after two bananas at the next station, by stomach settled down and I did not have to take the meds. I resumed my pace but I was really alarmed that I had to slow down a bit. Still at one point, after 28 kms, I realized I might have worn the wrong underwear. I was feeling some pain down there because of chaffing. It was not really that bad but when you feel that stinging sensation every other step, it becomes annoying. Still at one point, sometime in the last five kilometers, my thighs started to feel tight. I thought I was feeling the beginnings of muscle cramps. For a while I debated with myself whether to keep pushing because anyway I only had around five kilometers left or to slow down if only to avoid finishing with a limp. In the end, I decided to go on a run-walk combo and it worked because I was still able to run the last two kilometers and actually finished the race running (unlike some other runs in the past where I approached the finish line with a little limp because of some pain on several parts of my legs).

Photo by Lestsky Photography

Before I could be accused of making up excuses, I want to make it clear that I am not and I do not have to make excuses. I am happy with my results and making excuses for nothing would only spoil the fun. I cannot really say that I could have done better had I not ‘suffered’ from these pains. No, that is not my point in enumerating them. The point is that these things either happen inevitably or they can be avoided totally. Either ways, these “down times” are part of the whole experience. To an extent, they are part of the lessons we learn as we continue to develop ourselves in the sport.

Truth is, because of these small problems along the way, I kept ‘panicking’ and that made me check myself from time to time. Yes, I was pushing hard enough to make sure I am within (or even doing better than) my planned pace but every time I feel something out of the ordinary, I would assess myself if I was still capable of pushing harder. In other words, I wanted to make sure that I was having fun – that I don’t end up suffering from more serious pains when I cross the finish line. I wanted to make sure that at the finish line, I would still have enough energy because I knew that a lot of friends will be there and being in pain while in the company of probably the most energetic group is not what I picture myself to be in.

The driving forces on the road

“We can’t all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.”- Will Rogers

Another reason I really wanted to avoid the serious pains at the end is the fact that this run is meant to be fun because of the very reason it was organized. It may sound cliché but thinking of the recipients of the activity also made me want to make sure I enjoy it as much as I could. I was imagining myself being watched by those kids and if they see me wincing in pain if only to bring them joy, would they enjoy their gift as much? I know my involvement is just a drop in an ocean of offerings but if you are tired after running a couple of hours, your thoughts start to wander and look for some kind of motivations. During this run, that was my other driving force.

On the other hand, I also had to keep going because I was racing with myself to beat the medal cut off. As if running a full marathon was not challenge enough, Milo posed another one my imposing cut off times. (The qualifying cut off time was already out of the picture even before I started the run so I had to be content with the medal cut off.) Beating that medal cut off was an additional incentive that was worth looking forward to. At least that’s what I was thinking while on the run.

Of course, I also cannot discount the boosting effect of the cheers and encouragements from other runners and spectators who were there to support their friends. If I have to mention some, I’d start with the ever-supportive Ok-Ok Running Family. Ours is a relationship that extends beyond our common passion for running. We are already like brothers and sisters who just happen to live separately. And just as biological siblings would do, we encourage each other for the better and our support for each other cannot be taken for granted. Thanks very much.

Then there is A Runner’s Circle. Their presence during the run was like a breath of fresh air. Honestly, I felt like a kid making his daddy proud as I ran past Dad Raul and his family cheering for the runners. The short chat with Perkins and Ria at the finish line was just as refreshing. Nothing beats the feeling of sharing your thoughts right after the experience and while you still seem to be in Cloud 9.

Photo by Jesselyn Morales

The Running Photographers and other volunteer photographers who patiently endured the rain just to take photos and cheer on the runners is another thing I have to be thankful for.

Thanks also to the other running groups who, just like the volunteer photographers, were there to provide support for the runners. I took advantage of that, I have to say. I’m sure I have seen Snails cheering. Then I think I’ve seen cheerers from Eat, Pray, Run. I even think one of them handed me a banana while another one offered massage. Then I think I saw a group from Hypersports. They may think they were just enjoying – having a time of their lives – but their presence was a great boost to many of the runners, me included.

Still there are others that I should be thanking but I have to offer my apologies for not being able to name all of them. You know when you run that long, at some point you become so engrossed in what you’re doing that you fail to notice a lot of the people who, in their own little ways, have offered you great help. That is my excuse but from the bottom of my heart, I am thankful.

A satisfied runner

“I loved the freedom of running, the fresh air and feeling that the only person I’m competing with is me”- Wilma Rudolph

Truly, I may have gone to the Milo Marathon with a little apprehension but I went home fully satisfied of the results – now my PR for a marathon and I can only hope in I’d be able to match or do better in my next target run. Do I wish I should have done better? To an extent, yes, because I dream of joining the Finals. But I am fully aware of what I am capable of and at this point, I am definitely not cut for it. Otherwise, I would not change anything. But I will take note of the experience for when I run another marathon again, I would be wiser and more prepared. For now, my expectations just fell into place perfectly and as I said, I could not be happier.

A million thanks to Milo for bringing this experience to more runners. By making it cheaper for us, you are in a way making a statement – that a running event does not have to be expensive to be enjoyed. The fact that you are also doing this for charity makes it even more memorable. Thank you very much for the experience and may you continue to share your blessings to the needy. May you continue to inspire more people.

Race results

Although the rightmost part of the table says that I am not qualified for the National Finals because of my time, I am still proud of how I finished. If it comes down to numbers, apparently I am 501st among 1,619 finishers beating the 6-hour cut off.

[P.S. I originally wanted to talk about the run itself but I can only say one thing – it was excellent. I am sure there are some people who would not agree – just there would always be runners who complain on anything – but as far as I am concerned, it’s still one of the most organized runs I ever participated in.]

Photo credits: Thanks to Running Photographers, Pinoy Fitness, A Runner’s Circle, Team USB, Sigue Correr Runners, Team JRunning, Photovendo and other photographers who endured the rain to take photos.

Milo Marathon: Shaking off my pre-race jitters

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Saturday, July 28, 2012; 11:00PM

In a few hours, the 36th Milo Marathon will begin. I will be there. I will be one of the hundreds who will be pounding the road, come rain or shine.

The marathon has come to represent different personal goals for different people. While some runners just want to finish without major problems (i.e. injuries), others are dedicating the endeavor to some personal causes close to their hearts. And while some are just thinking about achieving better personal records (PRs), others are seriously considering qualifying for the National Finals. This is the Manila Eliminations, afterall. For whatever it is that we want to achieve by running this marathon, I wish everybody the best. May we all have the strength to run, the endurance to keep going until we finish, and above all the energy to enjoy.

As for me, I just want to make sure that I finish within my target time. Yes, a better PR is my personal goal. I do not have the illusions of finishing the race within the qualifying time but I’ll do everything I can to record a more decent time. If I can slash at least 20 minutes from my previous time, I’d be a happy runner (not that I would be sad if I won’t achieve it). I am still not sure of my conditions but this is not the time to start thinking about the negatives. Unlike some, I don’t feel the need to let the world know how low I am feeling before a major run or to let the world know how my training (or lack of it) was. Right now, the only feeling I can speak of is the feeling of excitement for the challenge this run brings – the same feeling of excitement that is now keeping me awake. And well-trained or not, I am still going to run like only death (or the possibility of it) can stop me. Although, of course, I’ll have to dig deep and check my notes on what I’ve learned so far over the past 16 months of “semi-serious” running.

Best wishes to all my friends, especially the first time marathon runners. And good luck to those aiming for the qualifying time cut offs.

But as we run to achieve our personal goals, may we be all reminded, inspired, and motivated more by the very reason for this marathon. May we all be inspired by the fact that our mere participation means a great help to the commitments of Milo as it continues to reach out to those who are in need. This marathon’s appeal is not limited to it being the “biggest, longest and grandest running event in the country” (Andrew Neri, Runner’s Handbook). It is, in fact, a run that is geared towards youth development through sports. This is through Milo’s shoe campaign which aims to provide shoes for children. May we be motivated by this campaign and that we continue to support similar causes as we continue to enhance ourselves in this sports that we have come to love.

See you all on the road. Kaya natin ito.

(PS: thanks to whoever made the image I used here. I just got that from somewhere and while I assume that’s from Milo, I cannot be so sure. Thanks anyway.)

“I Run for St. James School”

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There is nothing more fulfilling than giving something back to your Alma Mater. The very school that trained you into what you are right now. The very school where you spent four years wishing the years were shorter so that you can get out of it earlier but once you left you started wishing you can go back and be that teenager again.

To show support for St. James School, around 400 alumni, friends, and patrons gathered at Burnham Park, Baguio City for the “I Run for St. James” Fun Run last July 22, 2012. The participants and organizers braved the cold weather and threat of strong rains that morning. But as if to show support also, Mother Nature cooperated when it stopped raining for a while until the run itself was concluded.

The fun run, which was organized by the SJS Alumni Association – Baguio and Benguet Chapter, aimed to raise funds for the rebuilding of the school’s administration building that was burned down last June 2, 2012, just a couple of days before the scheduled start of classes for this school year.

The event, I would say, was a huge success in that it was able to achieve what it was organized for. I cannot help but compare it to similar events organized by big organizing outfits who make business out of events like this and whose events are usually bankrolled by big companies. Sure the SJS fun run was not as sophisticated but it was well thought of by the coordinators – a small group of Alumni who don’t have any experience in fun run organizing. Sure there were no big sponsors to speak of but the organizers made it sure that the basics are provided for the runners and other participants (there were those who registered and did not run but were still present to show support). The organizers made it sure that there was enough hydration and EMS services was also provided. There was even free-flowing coffee and pan de sal, which was nice because it was really cold and during the program, it started to rain.

But what really made the event even more a success is what it represents. It was not just an event where participants arrive, run the route then go home like they have just done their usual morning run. The real success is in the fact that the participants enjoyed themselves while at the same time shared a little of what they have for a common goal.

The fun run was also a true reflection of the bayanihan spirit that we, Filipinos, are known for. In our place, we call that “og-ogbo” where everyone comes out to help during times of need. This is shown not only by the Alumni who pooled their resources but also by non-Alumni who never wavered in giving support. They are those who are on our sides willing to lend a helping hand – perhaps even both – if we need them.

The fun run was also a mini-reunion of former classmates, of friends, and of relatives who are now based in different places. This alone made the event more special.
Because there were only two from my batch and I was moving around a lot, I became a mere observer of these happy moments as the participants gather in smaller groups, probably to catch up with each other.

The fun run was also a ‘family affair’. Many of the alumni brought with them their spouses and the rest of their families to have fun. Thus started the term ‘alumni by insertion’ referring to non-alumni spouses who gave their all-out support for the school.

All in all, the event became one big picture of happiness and fulfillment. Not only were the participants given the chance to show support and affirm that undying community spirit, but they were also given an opportunity to enjoy each other’s company – just like old times when we were, at one time or another, running around the corridors of the school, or huddled together under the cypress trees sharing stories, or seated together in the classrooms listening to the teacher (or maybe pretending to listen) while drawing caricatures instead of taking notes. But I digress.

In the end, many of the participants started discussing (over coffee) the possibility of another fun run. This, in itself, means that the event was not just a successful one but one that should be repeated because it’s fun. And we have the leadership of the organizers to thank for that. Kudos to Devy Polilin Pascual, Bertha Padalla Alibcag, Bernice Padalla, all or Batch 90, and Aurora Helen Padalla Omengan of Batch 2001. We also thank all the volunteers who sacrificed their time and gave so much effort in making the event possible.

For more details on the St. James School fund drive, please visit http://sjhsbuildingfund.shutterfly.com/.

My Epic Story

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“The challenge and the energy running requires may be a selfish one but it actually motivates me to be stronger in my relationships.”– Joan Benoit Samuelson

Team PinoyFitness Eco-Runners.

Joining the Epic Relay 2012 is probably the most amazing experience in my life as a runner. Unlike other runs I finished before, this is different because it is not all about the distance. It’s not even all about the time. Instead, it was all about being able to combine forces with other runners because this is, after all, a race that requires teamwork. It’s all about camaraderie.

At the outset, I would like to thank Jeff Lo (pinoyfitness.com) who organized the whole thing for us. Without him and his sponsorship, we would have not been able to experience this. I will forever be grateful to him for giving me this experience. A million thanks also to Cheryl Castaneda, Rachel Jose, drivers Arnold and Bong for the tireless support. Their efforts in making the runners comfortable are very much appreciated. Actually, without them, it would have been impossible for us to achieve what we have achieved.

Nathan’s handheld hydration bottle was a great help during the run.

Thanks also to Mariel Flores and to Nathan Performance Gear for trusting us with their vision. Yours is a vision that is not hard to market and you could have chosen faster and more popular runners, if only to make sure that your aim is associated with more popular runners. But you chose us and trusted us enough to carry your vision. Thank you very much for that. The trust you gave us was another motivating factor for each of us.

Of course, I’d also like to congratulate my teammates (Coach Mherlz, Lala, Mharu, Peachy, Czhel, Jonathan, Edgar, Jackie, and Coach Bob) for the great performance. We did not realize this at first but apparently, we were a force to be reckoned with. We thought we were just there to enjoy but we actually ended up beating our own target. That’s already something.

Let me thank all of you also for the encouraging words, for the camaraderie, for the friendship. I knew from the beginning that I lacked proper training for the uphills but your confidence in me was a great motivation. You have been supportive all throughout and that, in a way, made it easier for me even during the times when I knew I was lagging for one reason or another.

Thank you very much and may we have more kilometers to run together, more challenges to tackle together, more victories to enjoy together.

Here is my epic story.

“Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz

When Jeff called for interested runners who would like to make up a team for the Epic Relay 2012, I immediately (and confidently) signified my interest in joining. I’ve already read a little about the event and I was more or less aware of what I was getting myself into. (I guess, my familiarity with the Bataan route also made me want to take the challenge. But as to how it actually was during the race is a different story.) From the beginning, I knew already that this was going to be a more serious race (as opposed to a fun run). This means that team members would have to be serious and fast runners. I am fully aware that I am not as fast as many other runners but I can confidently say that I am not really that slow either. So yes, I knew I was going to be pressured if Jeff was to choose me to be part of the team but I was resolved to come forward and present myself to run for Pinoy Fitness.

I eventually made it to the team. During our team meetings, Jeff made it clear that winning is only secondary. It was more important for him that we enjoy and finish without any major problems. And as we do it, we were to run with another purpose – that of promoting the importance of being eco-friendly in this kind of activity. This was echoed by Mariel Flores of Nathan Performance Gear who said that “this is not a race na kailangan nating manalo.” As a sponsor of our team, Mariel mentioned that it was also more important for her that as a team, we finish all 250 kilometers of the race. And in line with Nathan’s vision of promoting eco-friendly running, she wanted us “to be the example.”

And so the team was named Pinoy Fitness Eco-Runners.

When it was finally clear to me that I was really running (this was when I was designated to run specific legs of the race), the pressure was on again. At this point, I was already visualizing the terrain and I knew already that (1) I really don’t have enough training for it, and (2) there was not enough time to train since we were given the race routes barely a week before the actual race and participating. I understand what our sponsors said about not thinking too much about our individual times but I did not want to take that as a license to relax – not yet anyway. So despite the explanations by Jeff and Mariel, my mindset was still a bit competitive. I knew it’s ‘suntok sa buwan’ for me to come up on top but I wanted to be as close as possible to whoever is there.

I didn’t want to make my lack of training as an excuse because as I mentioned, I was more or less aware of what I was getting myself into. But I have to say that throughout the whole time, I was praying hard that nothing serious will happen to me (and of course, to the rest of the team). I was really hoping that my confidence will take me to where I want to be. I was hoping that my little knowledge of the race route would help give me assurance that it’s not going to be that hard (again, the actual run was totally a different thing).

“Push yourself. No one else is going to do it for you.”

Our team officially started at 5:25am with Coach Mherlz taking the first leg. Our excitement was at its peak as we boarded our vans to meet her at the first exchange point at Cubi Point. Everything was still on target at the point. Our ever reliable coach gave us an excellent start. It was almost doubling the pressure on us who are coming after her.

Two hours after the gun start, I started running my first leg of the race.  But while we were waiting for our team’s second runner at the second exchange point, I was so nervous for some reason. But thanks to the encouragements and last minute tips from my teammates, somehow I was assured that whatever happens from this point would be ok. We were there to enjoy and have fun anyway. At least that was what we were all thinking.

This is the end of my first leg where I had to do a sprint (sort of a 200-m dash) because I didn’t want to be outrun by another runner. I had enough of that already. lol…

When the baton was finally passed to me, I started running like a mad dog. In my excitement, I attacked the first couple of kilometers like I never did before. I was actually going downhill and under normal conditions, I would not have been running faster than a 6-minute pace. Downhills are my knees’ worst enemy and I still have not perfected its management. But at that time, I was only concerned about the road being slippery especially at the sides that are not being tread on by vehicles. I was amazed at how I did when I checked my watch to see that I was actually running around 4 minutes per kilometer. That’s already very fast for me and I was still running comfortably with no signs of knee problems. I cannot be happier at how I was doing.

The excitement was, however, doused by what came after the downhill part – the uphill climb. The next four kilometers were fine because although I slowed down big time, I still managed to move along on a slow run. It’s the 7th kilometer that posed the hardest challenge for me at this point. This was the part that had “Phillip-you-are-not-prepared-for-me” written all over it. It was actually a bit too steep for my liking so I was forced to do power walks. I was worried that if I pushed harder, I’d end up with leg cramps and would have trouble running the next two legs assigned to me. I guess I was too cautious but I wanted to conserve energy if only to make sure that I will not end up with injuries. (Note: There is another part of the route that is steeper than what I have but for one with no sufficient training, that was already hard for me.)

Funny little thing happened: While I was going up one of the steeper parts of the road, my teammates passed by me and they asked if I needed more water. Immediately, I thought “yes, I do need cold water”. But I guess in my confusion, instead of saying “yes please”, I actually said “sige, go” while signaling them to go ahead. I don’t know how that happened but my gestures and my words did not match what I had in mind. So for the rest of the section, I had to make do with the water I had when I started. Good thing I didn’t have any issues.

“Don’t quit. You’re already in pain. You’re already hurt. Get a reward from it.”

While waiting for our teammates at Mt. Samat, we took time to rest and take photos with other runners like Titanium Runner who was also getting ready for his next leg.

At the gates of Mt. Samat, our group (first five runners and support crew) excitedly waited for the other group who took over the baton starting from the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. The excitement was high but I cannot disregard the fact that I wasn’t really feeling very well. And to add to my worries, my thighs have become stiff so I had to ask Coach Mherlz for massage. I was really worried that I won’t be able to run my other assignments but I had to downplay what I was feeling because I did not want anybody to be bothered. I was just hoping that a little rest would supplement the relief I got from the massage.

When it was my turn to run again, everything seemed to be fine. Although my thighs were still not 100% conditioned, it was manageable. Or so I thought.

A couple of kilometers from where I started, I had sidestitch so I had to slow down. (And it had to happen at one of the best parts of the route. Such a bummer.) And if that wasn’t enough, my thighs finally gave in. I had cramps already. I knew already that the next six kilometers were going to be tough and that the cramps will not go away unless I stop. But that wasn’t an option at this point (hell, it wasn’t an option to quit at any point during the race). I had to finish. I would have crawled if I had to (although I knew it wasn’t really that bad lol). Slowly, kilometer by kilometer, I ran-walked and luckily, it did not get any worse.

I was so disappointed at myself because my original plan of attack was totally botched.  I would have understood if my cramps started when I was on the actual run. But for my thighs to suddenly go stiff while I was at rest, that made me think something was wrong – that I probably missed something else. That’s what made it so disappointing but there is no one to blame but myself.

But I wasn’t about to beat myself to death just because I was disappointed. I wouldn’t have achieved anything that way. Instead, I took it as additional motivation as I ran my third assignment. This is why on my third run, I pushed like nothing mattered except to finish at the shortest time possible. If previously I was worried about my cramps getting worse, this time I stopped thinking about it. If in the previous leg I walked the slight uphill, this time I kept running. Anyway, I thought, except for the cramps and sleep, I did not have to worry about anything else already. There was nothing to lose at this point. And so I pushed harder and although I know I could have done more, this leg was still my fastest among the three legs I have done. I didn’t realize this until later but the feeling at the end of this leg was exhilarating.

“The sweat. The time. The devotion. It pays off.”

After a little rest, the first five runners wait for the others at the finish line.

24 hours and 57 minutes after our first runner started, our last runner crossed the finish line. We did it. We finished as a team. And we were well within our team target. We could not have been happier. When the yellow medal was handed out, the feeling is unlike any. I know we have all received other medals in our previous runs but for me, this is probably one of the most memorable medals in my collection.

A few hours later, we got confirmation that our team was the second in the Mixed Category. That was the icing on the cake for us. Sure, the competition part was only secondary for our team but the realization that we can actually compete while having fun just made the experience even better.

“You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.” – Steve Prefontaine

After the whole thing, I was asked again by Jeff if I will do this again next year. With no hesitations, I immediately said yes. This shows how happy I am with how I did and how satisfied I am with the outcome. I am satisfied not only because I was able to run but because I ran with a group of energetic runners whose mindset is more or less the same as mine. Ours is a team of people who come from different backgrounds and whose only common denominator is our passion for running. Other teams were composed of runners who work together, who went to school together, who are barkadas outside the running community, etc. But ours is a different one. The members are only connected by running. After our runs, we go our separate ways, attend to our individual lives, and probably talk to each other only in Facebook. Some of us do not even know what the other members do for a living. But this did not prevent us from coming together to run with a common goal.

I am also satisfied not only because I was able to run but because in the process, I built friendships along the way.

So yeah, will I be doing the same thing again? Sure I will, if given another chance. And when that happens, I would make sure that I will be more prepared.

For now, I will make do with savoring the sweetness of my team’s achievement while being thankful for everyone who made it possible.

See you on the road.

All my medals have their own stories but the one for this one is, at the moment, the most exciting one. The fact that I earned it as a part of team makes that story more interesting.

(Photo credits: Thanks to Jeff and pinoyfitness.com for the photos I used here.)

Why do I run?

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Why do I run?
I run because I need to.
I run because I want to.
I run because I can.

I run because I need keep fit. And running provides me the simplest way of checking how I fare as far as staying healthy is concerned.
I run because I want to meet more people who share the same interests as I do. And since I started joining fun runs, I can say that my ‘network’ has been growing quite well.
I run because I am blessed with the ability. Running is my way of showing my appreciation to my Creator for the gift.
I run because in doing so I can help others. I trust organizing bodies enough that when I run, part of what I give out goes to those who really need help.

I run because it makes me feel good.
I feel good knowing that I am healthy. I feel good knowing that I have friends. I feel good knowing that I have helped someone. I feel good because I have achieved something.

Happy running everyone!!!

Pushing new possibilities, the Hyundai way

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04 April, 2011

It’s been two days already since my last run and I’m still marveling at how good it feels. I am not sure if it’s because I recorded my personal best in this run or if it’s because the run was absolutely free – perhaps, both.

I am referring to the Hyundai Fun Run for a Cause, of course.

I am relatively new to activities like this but I think my participation in a handful of these weekend runs has given me enough ideas for comparisons. And let me say that the Hyundai Fun Run for a Cause is, by far, one of the best and most memorable runs I’ve ever participated in.

“New Thinking. New Possibilities”

When I first learned about these weekend runs and started participating in them, I’ve noticed two things – registration fee and a ‘cause’. Promotions for these runs always put emphasis on the ‘cause’ in the hopes (I suppose) that it will be more convincing and more attractive to more people (other than the serious and dedicated runners who look at running from another view other than just going from start to finish while having their photographs taken along the way). The ‘causes’ may involve environmental protection, education, housing for the poor, etc. and for many runners, these ‘causes’ always leave a soft spot in their hearts making it easier for them to reach into their pockets and pay for the registration fee. In other words, the ‘causes’ are conveniently selected and promoted so that more people will register, thus, bigger amount is accumulated. (As to how the money is dispersed, that’s another story and at this point, it’s neither mine to tell nor to question. I trust the organizers enough as far as donations are concerned.)

To a certain degree, I feel that I have been conditioned already to think that in order for me to help the ‘cause’ I’ll have to shell out money to cover for what they call registration fee. Never mind that the supposed donation is very small compared to the total amount (e.g. Php50 out of Php950). At least I am still helping in my own little way. I am not complaining, of course, because at the end of the day, the decision to register rests solely on my own free will. No one can force me to if I don’t want to register. And I know that aside from joining these runs, there are other more direct ways of helping the ‘causes’ they are promoting.

But that conditioning was somewhat shattered by a new line of thinking, a new possibility. Who would have thought that there will come a day when runners enjoy a run without shelling out a cent for registration? Who would have thought that a free and very organized run is possible – complete with singlets and RFID tags? Who would have thought that even a free run can help certain ‘causes’ that are also promoted by other runs that require fees?

No one but Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc., apparently. Yes, it’s that name that comes with your Starex, your Tucson, your Accent, and many more.

I can only imagine how the idea came onto the planning table. But whatever transpired within Hyundai’s corporate offices that gave birth to this free run, it also gave birth to a new possibility – that helping ‘causes’ through organized runs does not have to be expensive for running enthusiasts.

So thanks to Hyundai, around 24,000 runners (according to a news article about the event) experienced something new – running for a cause without a fee – last April 2, 2011.

“Innovations for Humanity”

When I arrived at the venue two hours before my gun time, the first thing I did was to go around so that I can familiarize myself with the setup. So far, I haven’t seen any major differences between this event and the other runs I have already participated in.

But there are things I really liked during the run – things that I never observed in my previous runs. First, the event organizers have marshals along the whole stretch of the course. In other events, all you can see are plastic cones. Why is this noteworthy, one may ask. Well, for one thing, the marshals are humans who are better at directing traffic (human running traffic, that is) than plastic cones. Their presence also gives the runners a feeling of security – one feels that if anything bad happens, help is just a second away. And most importantly, the marshals, being humans, know how to cheer for the runners. Their encouragements are a big help for some of the runners, me included.

Another thing I liked about the run is how the water was dispensed. Because water was not dispensed in plastic cups, I did not have to force myself to drink more at the water station in preparation for the next lap while at the same time, I did not have to be carrying my water supply all the way from the starting line to wherever it gets depleted. This is very helpful for me because I can only take small amounts of water at a time (or else I feel discomfort if I drink a lot while on the run) but at the same time, I am not accustomed to clutching water bottle for the whole run (I feel more comfortable if my hands are free during the run). I also didn’t have a hydration belt so carrying water from start to finish was not really an option for me. As far as I’m concerned the water distribution was very convenient.

And did I mention they have a ‘great’ supply of water? (There was more than enough that I’ve seen people lugging bags filled with several water bottles on their way out from the venue.)

Fun Run for a Cause 

And then there is the ‘cause’ for which the run was organized – another very important aspect of the activity. Even before the event itself, people have been echoing each other’s appreciation of how Hyundai can come up with a way to help certain charities while at the same time making sure that people enjoy themselves in a fun run. And during the run itself, the energy among the runners was truly electrifying. One can only assume that this is the kind of energy you see in an event like this because it’s not every day that one is given the opportunity to help an organization extend its helping hand to the needy. And on the other hand it’s not every day that one is given the opportunity to join a free run with complete paraphernalia (i.e. RFID tag, singlet).

Simply put, this run for a cause is a one of a kind – an opportunity that does not come very often.

Commitment for another run

Overall, I would say that for a free run, the fun run last Saturday is one of the most successful and most organized running events I have seen so far. In fact, I think I’ll always look back to this event when I assess how well-organized the other runs will be in the future – the same thing I’ve been doing since I first joined my first run which, in all fairness, was also very organized and well laid out but such was expected because of the fee involved.

But the question now is, “will there be another free fun run in the near future?”

One of their flyers say so and I, for one, sure hope there will be. In fact, like may running enthusiasts, I also hope that this will open the eyes of other potential organizers and sponsor to follow what Hyundai has done and provide us with activities that, if not totally free, have more affordable fees.

But for now, all I can say is ‘THANK YOU, Hyundai for the opportunity.’

See you on the next run.

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