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Running as part of my being

/ 05:00 AM September 27, 2020

After almost two months of being quarantined at home, I was overjoyed at the new regulations set by the government allowing outdoor exercises such as running and biking, in areas under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

May 16, Saturday. I woke up at six in the morning to prepare for a 10-kilometer run, which I had been yearning to do for some time. Of course, with safety precautions — observance of physical distancing and wearing of mask. I immediately opened my Strava app when I reached Bonifacio Global City (BGC). There were about 20 other runners in my usual route, all wearing masks.

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I did stretches and put Bach on before tapping the start button on Strava. Nothing really compares to running outdoors, the light sloppy ascends to the merciless uphill roads along with the dynamic switching of your feet and the rhythmic gasping of air. After a few kilometers, I was elated to still be able to maintain my pace. I guess my stationary jogs at home helped a lot.

I started running when I was eight years old. Back then, my cousins and I would go to “Kampo” to run. This is about three kilometers away from Pembo, where I was born and raised. Pembo is the acronym for Panthers Enlisted Men’s Barrio. Adjacent to this area are Comembo (Combat’s Enlisted Men’s Barrio), Cembo (Central Enlisted Men’s Barrio) and Rembo (Riverside Enlisted Men’s Barrio). These are portions of a huge tract of land that was awarded to military men during the regime of former president Cory Aquino. So technically, I was raised in a military community where physical outdoor recreations are commonplace and running every morning is a normal scene.

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The area we used to call “Kampo” is what many now know as “BGC.” We labeled it “Kampo” because it basically housed the headquarters of the Philippine Army. It was during the time of former president Fidel Ramos that large chunks of Fort Bonifacio were sold to the private sector, paving the way for the birth of BGC. Old establishments that are still there now include the American Cemetery, the blue Pacific Plaza twin towers, and Essensa, an upscale residential condo. I have seen the transformation of BGC, as well as how running communities have evolved in the area.

It is fascinating to realize that running has defined and presented itself in different forms and perspectives, at least to me, through the years.

During my childhood, I saw running as an escape, an exploration, a freedom to go to places beyond our neighborhood. I remember my cousins waking me up at 5 a.m. I recall looking up at those amber lights hanging from the towering posts that lit the main roads. There were few buildings back then, just the vastness of space where we sprinted to our hearts’ and lungs’ content.

In my teenage years, I became more cautious of my running speed. It was also the time I was preparing for my physical fitness test in the Philippine Military Academy, where running fast is a merit. I bonded with friends in the neighborhood who were also aspiring to get into the military school. Back then, there were still no public park spaces like Track 30 or Terra 28. We were just running along 11th Avenue, then left to 30th, left to 9th Avenue, left to 26th Avenue, and back to 11th Avenue — a quadrangle amounting to 3.2 kilometers. We used the old-school computation for our speed, given the distance and time. We didn’t have a pedometer that time. We only had a watch, running shoes, and a dream to become a second lieutenant in the armed forces.

In my early 20s, I started running competitively. Early-morning road runs became my breakfast. I was able to ace races, and made a small name in the community. This was also the time I was able to get into running teams and met the big names in the running and triathlon communities.

Now that I am in my mid-20s and already a working professional, running has become a more profound experience, in the most soothing sense. I now run to destress from a tiring 8-to-5 job, to break the monotony of life, and to meditate. When one gets old, running becomes a different form of meditation. It also becomes a time for reunions. Fun run races are good opportunities to catch up with old pals.

Of course, there were off-seasons when I wasn’t able to run. But I can say that in the core chapters of my life, running was an integral part of them. The quarantine days at home have only made me realize that I am a runner, and that running is already embedded in my system.

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May 16, Saturday, I woke up at six in the morning to prepare for a 10-kilometer run, which I had been yearning to do for some time. Of course, with safety precautions—observance of physical distancing and wearing of mask. I immediately opened my Strava app when I reached Bonifacio Global City (BGC). There were about 20 other runners in my usual route, all wearing masks… I knew they were as happy as I was. They were smiling; I saw from their eyes.

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Mario L. Rance, 27, is an engineer working for the government. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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