Mar 17, 2014

Running Tales

A Collection of Running Stories i call " Running Tales "
Running Tales # 8

                  Running Tales # 7 : Bamboo Bench 

I Was running in the trails North of Manila one cloudy morning in muddy grassland with an endless mountain view on my left and lahar on the right.  I chanced upon a Bahay Kubo sitting on top of a hill and noticed a little girl come out and wave at me.  I waved back returning the gesture then, to my surprise, she called out motioning me to come over. Without giving it a second thought, I did as I was told seemingly mesmerized by this little girl.  She then led me to a little bamboo bench situated just outside her home where we sat comfortably and there she began to talk animatedly about her parents, her home, the chores she had to do for the day while showing me her ducks, chickens and baboy damo.  She was the sweetest girl I've ever met... always smiling oftentimes giggling while she spoke about herself and her life. Her innocence and positivity was so endearing; never once showing a hint of hardship or exhibiting any envy or want for material things. Never once did she complain about her circumstance seemingly content in the simplicity of the life she lived.   After about 15 minutes of chatting with this little girl, I told her I had to go and continue my run. As a parting gesture, she gave me a nice sweet hug and waved goodbye.  I left the place feeling good (a silly grin on my face) happy and content for having had a chance encounter with this little girl. 

Running for me has often been a form of meditation where I can momentarily get away and relieve myself from the stresses of daily life.  But once in a rare while, if we take a moment from our hurried pace to notice the things around us, like maybe spend a little time on a bamboo bench, we may be lucky enough to get a glimpse of what life is truly all about; affording us lessons we may never learn from any book or psychologists chair.   Oftentimes we can be overwhelmed by real or perceived troubles and misfortunes around us, preoccupying ourselves with things that don't really matter and failing to appreciate the beauty and joy in life's simple pleasures which is essentially recognizing the little gems of happiness that come to us each day and finding joy in the moment.  These are the lessons learned by a 52 year-old man from a 7 year-old girl while sitting on a bamboo bench on the top of a hill. 

Thank you Jasmin.  
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Running Tales # 6 : Running Wild 

I have said before that I will run every chance I get, in any place, in any weather and in any time zone. That's how deep my passion for running goes. The only real tragedy when running would be if I no longer enjoyed myself.  I cannot deny, however, that my daily runs around my urban neighborhood has left me wanting.  In all my running years,  I feel like I have dodged enough vehicles, swerved around many pedestrians and  skipped over too many potholes as I make my way around the metro.  So just recently,  I decided to change things up a bit by taking trips out of the city and run ....into the woods.

Running in the "great outdoors" does provide an undeniable escape from what can be an otherwise stress-filled day.  It gives one the opportunity to trade-in the outside environment of cars and other city noises for fresh air and the sound of birds, bugs and trees rustling in the wind; to be running in mud or dirt instead of hard pavement; to be seeing clear blue skies instead of skyscrapers and dodging rocks and rivers instead of potholes and construction piles.  I find that the change of scenery and being closer to Mother Nature does provide a spiritual connection that is very grounding, healthy for the mind and benefits the soul. 

I wish we could have an oasis within the Metro, a naturally preserved park wherein one can just step into to run ( maybe even just walk or stroll ) and be transported into another world that is seemingly far away yet very close. And once we have rejuvenated our senses enough, we could just step out, ready to face reality and the challenges of the outside world.  Unfortunately, such a place does not exist nearby so for now, I will have to contend with taking hour long drives away from the Metro searching for an oasis to run. Unless of course I move to the "Boondoks", maybe grow my own food, raise chickens and goats, bathe in the river ----- and of course, run wild and free.  Actually, that's not such a bad idea after all.
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Running Tales # 5 : Coins.

I see them a lot every time I run. 5's, 1's and 25's - these coins just lying on the road - anywhere  and everywhere I go . They are apparently  more prevalent  in bus and Jeepney junctions, food stalls and the like. 

I imagine the harried commuter scrambling for change trying to catch that ride possibly unaware that he or she may have dropped a few or perhaps,  they must have been  in too much of a hurry to even  bother and scrounge for tiny coins that have seemingly fallen into oblivion.  But I see them and I see them a lot. 

Being the miser that I am, I would pick them up - no matter what the denomination -  and stash them in a "special" jar knowing that, one day,  the road frequently traveled will buy me that special  "Taho"... which, by the way, is perfect after a good run.

Running Tales # 4 : Two Faces of Christmas
“ It’s the most wonderful time of the year…..” so goes the Christmas song  blaring on the radio or in the malls signifying the start of the merry season. 
Running around the Metro, one can't miss the many colorful Christmas decorations on buildings and houses nor the many sparkling lights and parols hanging from trees and lamp posts. Then there is the scent of freshly cooked Puto Bumbong and Bibingka from makeshift stalls ready to greet the steady stream of people coming out of church after misa de galo.  There  is an undeniable chill in the air; the pleasantly cool weather  that only seems to amplify that the holidays are upon us once again.  

For many of us, Christmas is a time  of comfort, peace, and abundance.  We’re fortunate if that is the case. We often get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season dashing around in search of the perfect gift for everyone on our list or partaking in a scrumptious spread of food and drinks accompanied by lots of merry making and laughter amid the company of family and friends. 

Christmas Definitely is the most wonderful time of the year but there is also a flip side to all these. Amid the holiday decors and the sparkling lights, I also notice an increase of beggars on the streets where I run.  A toddler who I estimate to be  about 2 years old, no underwear and slippers and who looked to me like he hasn't had a decent bath in weeks walks up to me and says “Merry  Christmas".   I open my running pouch, hand him a little something and with a sincere smile he says "Salamat Po" then walks away greeting another pedestrian along the way.  I imagine he will be "doing the rounds" throughout the season greeting everyone he possibly could, taking comfort from the kindness and generosity of strangers just so he and his family can have a Christmas of their own. And what about those families who may have suffered a recent loss of a loved one either through sickness or tragedy or those who may be missing the presence of a family member who is far away and cannot be together for the holidays for one reason or another?  I can almost imagine what their Christmas will be like.  Undoubtedly,  there are two faces to the season we celebrate as Christmas; two faces that are so radically divorced from each other.   Which raises the question - Is Christmas really the most wonderful time of the year? 

Though Christmas is a time of celebration, family and giving it is also a time to spare a thought for the less fortunate who may not have the means to provide their families with the 'picture perfect' Christmas we dream about.  Christmas is also a time for gratitude, caring for one another, taking time to be present with one another. A giving of ourselves more than just the giving of gifts.  It is a time when we open our hearts and put others first.  This may be a way we can truly imbibe the "Christmas spirit" no matter what may be going on in our personal lives. With that in mind, I wish you and yours the love, the joy, the beauty, and the peace of this special season. May Jesus’ love surround you at Christmas and always.
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Running Tales # 1 : Cariton Family

There is a family I frequently encounter during my runs. I call them the "Cariton" family simply because this is where this family of three - a father, mother and their little boy, literally lives - in a Cariton. They are never in the same place but stay around the vicinity of Makati Avenue by the "red light" district. They have been such a regular sight during my runs that I have made it a habit to give them some spare change whenever I see them.  No fail.

Then there was a day I had planned a long run, one of the few I've scheduled in preparation for an upcoming marathon. I got myself all psyched and was just about 7 kms into my run when I see the "Cariton" family just up ahead. Not wanting to stop and interrupt my run, I tried to avoid them by just simply passing them by.  The Father, however, saw me and called out "kuya!" and I just quickly replied "NEXT TIME nalang..."  and proceeded  on my way.

It wasn't long after when I felt a sudden tug in my heart that I just couldn't shake off and I knew why.  So I immediately turned back - back to the "Cariton" family - and handed them a little something; maybe a small gesture on my part but it must have been a much needed blessing for this family. They thanked me profusely as they usually do, always grateful and with a huge SMILE.  With that deed done, I went on my way and continued my run; the tugging in my heart completely gone.

I ran 31.56 kms that day. So did my run feel any better?  Frankly, no.  Did I do the right thing? Yes.  They say, making one person smile can change the world – maybe not the whole world, but their world.  I know I should always try to never miss an opportunity for kindness... because sometimes in life there just may not be a "NEXT TIME". 
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Running Tales # 2 : Jeepney
I love Jeepneys.  I love the iconic vehicles' vibrant artwork, colorful designs, the retro signboards, gleaming accessories and airbrushed or stickered art that dresses a chunky piece of metal with unmistakable personality making each jeepney unique.

But I hate Jeepney drivers! In my opinion, they have no discipline. They are usually a consistent cause of traffic in the metro and 
have no respect for the safety of their passengers, pedestrians and runners alike. 

It was under the SLEX / Edsa flyover when a Jeepney driver suddenly cut me and almost clipped my left elbow.  I wanted to tell him off but thought otherwise thinking that the effort would be just a waste of time and energy.  So I just let it go and continued on my run.  Then, moments later,  I see the same Jeepney - the one who had just brazenly cut me off - pull up beside me.  I was expecting a verbal confrontation  and preparing myself for it until the Jeepney driver said, "Boss ! Sorry po. Di ko sinasadya..." and then simply sped away.

That's why I hate Jeepney drivers because just when you think you know them, there is that ONE that messes with your head and leaves a smile on your face.

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Running Tales # 3: Running Etiquette 101

There are many difficulties a marathon offers. Aside from our own personal struggles trying to finish a 42.195 km event, we also have to bear in mind that we are running with a pack of other runners.  Though there is a common guide to proper etiquette during a marathon, I believe for the most part that runners are generally considerate at road races.  But once in a rare while you may encounter that occasional runner who may demonstrate extremely bad behavior like I have. 

Just before exiting the Queensboro Bridge Mile 15, there was this pack of 5 runners sporting similar yellow shirts with the Achilles logo who were walking (not running) on the bridge in a line thereby creating a human wall and making it difficult for others to get pass

Running Etiquette #1:  Run or walk no more than two abreast. If you are walking in a group, stay to the back of the pack and follow the two abreast rule. Do not group-hog the entire road/trail width and let others pass. 

The bridge was getting crowded with runners piling up that I tried to pass in a free and open space between them and just be on my way. Then out of the blue I felt someone shove me so hard that I almost got knocked down to the ground.  As I turned back to look at the guy, this person then shouts with a heavy European accent"...we are the Achilles Team nobody cuts between us".  And as if that wasn't enough, he says  "Fuck you" 3 times probably to make a point. 

Running Etiquette #2:  Move to the side if someone behind you says “excuse me” or “on you’re your right/left”.  If the person behind is giving you the heads up before passing,  it is proper race etiquette to let that person pass  without blocking their effort.

Other runners who witnessed the incident gave him odd looks while others shouted some snide remarks and "bleep" worthy comments of disgust and sarcasm as only New Yorkers could. 

It is true that runners may occasionally jostle, elbow, and even unintentionally shove each other out of the way especially at water stops or narrow spots along the course. This is most common in races with an extremely large number of participants. But to actually shove another runner intentionally simply because you didn't  want him to pass is the epitome of bad behavior and poor form. 

As much as I wanted so badly to confront him right then and there,  it took every ounce of self control to keep my cool and  decide to just let it go (for now) and continue on my run. After all, I came to NYC to run and not let some loser dampen my plans.  

A few days later and not wanting to let this issue pass without properly addressing it, I decided to send an email to Russel K. of Achilles International where in I relayed the incident and filed a formal complaint against their fellow member.  This was their response :

Apology accepted case close.

Running Etiquette #3:  Whatever happens during the race course,  a bit of self control and concern for others never hurts.  Keep it Calm. Run your race and just enjoy.