- Bart Yasso
This quote has been sitting on my laptop since June 2010, and I have wanted to post it under "Warrior Wisdom" with an accompanying entry about mentoring. It took me a long time to find my words, and well, to be honest I'm still searching for them. I know they're right inside my head but I just need them to coalesce. However, I'm certain this is the right time to try and write.
And just so you know, this may turn out to be a long one. Don't tell me I didn't warn you.
A few weeks ago, Mrs. PWW received a Facebook message from my uncle Albin, asking her to pass a message on to me, mainly because everyone communicates through Facebook now; a network where I have no account. I won't delve deeper into that here, but my uncle said "Please tell him that the gang here is into running now. Partly because of his influence and Alvin."
In all the years I've been running races and showing up at my grandma's door after a run to help myself to a warm breakfast (we call it "The Soup Kitchen") my uncles and cousins did not show any interest in the sport outside of asking me where I ran, and for how long. They were more inclined to participate in cycling, or if it were popular in the Philippines, pub crawls. So to hear that they're into running is incredible, and for him to tell me it was partly because of my influence (of which I didn't know I had any), is to me, a heart-fattening achievement. Or in Filipino, nakakataba ng puso. It doesn't really translate that well, does it?
The "Alvin" that was mentioned in that message is of course, my cousin and most fervent training buddy when I was back in the Philippines. He and I have run together in a number of events and countless training sessions. For Holy Week last year, we did an Alay-Takbo, a running (pun intended) tradition which he continued this year. We both participated in the 2nd Leg of RunRio 2010, All Terra King of the Mountain, and a few other trail and street runs around the metro. But like most of us, he started out running around the academic oval at UP, struggling to keep a pace which he probably considers a mere warm-up now.
|I miss this training route! Image from Second Wind.|
I remember training with Kuya Alvin for his first race, a 15K run around UP, The Amazing Kidney Race. We would meet in the evenings to run what I initially assumed would be the route, taking him to the infamous Heartbreak Hill. He was buggered after the first climb and had to stop to get his breath back. At that point, I've already participated in a few races, so I actually took on the mentor role and helped my cousin out before, during, and after training runs. He would send me text messages before a race, asking me questions on what to eat, what to wear, how much sleep he should get, and other pre-race rituals. It was somewhat surreal, as with him being the older one, practically my entire life (we've been tight since we were kids) I was the one who always looked up to him for guidance and information. This was one of those rare times when I could actually return the favour.
Throughout our runs and races, I would do the leg work and pre-race bureaucracies of registrations, setting up training runs, and at times, waking him up before the race. I provided him with information on the routes, some nutrition plans, and tips on running shoes and gear. With all the support I was able to give him, there was one thing that I could not be responsible for: character. But knowing my cousin, it was the one thing I was certain I need not worry about. Kuya Alvin is one of the most dedicated and determined people I know, and I have seen time and again how he succeeded through sheer will, doggedly pursuing any goal he sets his mind to. Once he got started, he never looked back.
Our last race together was the Nature Valley Run 21K, which he finished in around 2:30. Since then, he has demolished that time and broke through the two hour mark with a 1:59:58 performance in his last half mary. He recently became a marathoner, finishing the 2011 Condura Marathon in 5:24. He is now contemplating taking on an ultra, is training for an aquathlon, got back to cycling, and aims to complete a triathlon in the near future. I would not be surprised in the slightest when he achieves all this. It makes me beam with pride, following his achievements.
When he finished his first marathon, he sent me a message expressing gratitude, saying I inspired him to do it. Now our roles are reversed. I seek inspiration from him and find strength in what he has accomplished since we started this journey back in the running trails around UP. As any runner would know, it is close to impossible to finish a race, or even to start running, without some source of inspiration.
That is exactly what I need right now.
BACK TO SQUARE ONE
When I first moved to Australia, I tried to hold on to my routines, specifically running. Despite the drastic change in temperature when I was in Stanthorpe, I invested in winter running gear to continue the early morning pavement pounding regardless of the cold climate. I cross-trained by going cycling on country tracks (such heaven) and long-ish weekend rides to nearby towns. Then we moved to Cairns, back to tropical weather, and while I still was able to have some semblance of a training routine, it was waning and I knew it. Life happened.
Just to show you how much my training has dipped--actually "dip" is an understatement; it's more a severe fall from running grace, not a trough but a chasm--here's my annual report from Daily Mile:
|Such a geek. Thanks to Daily Mile!|
I tried to proactively create opportunities for me to get inspired to run, starting with joining a local running club. My first run with them was the first monthly time trial of the year. So for one Wednesday a month, you nominate a distance to run and the time you think you'd be able to complete it. Then you do it again next month to see if you've improved. I chose to run 5K and wrote down a conservative 35 minutes to finish. When the run started, I was right beside an elderly lady runner (she was probably in her late 50s, 60s) who helped me out with the route as I obviously looked terribly unsure of what I was doing. We ran together for the first couple of kilometres, chatting amicably until she said she was apologising in advance if she is unable to keep up with the conversation, as she was struggling enough as it is. I said I was struggling too (we were running a sub 5:30 pace). No sooner than when I finished my sentence, she stepped up the pace and I was left eating her dust. I couldn't keep up! My pace slowed to 6:30, 6:45, and I finished the 5K at an okay 31 minutes, but not without a massive hit to the ego. To be honest, I missed a few runs with the club after that. To be really honest, I haven't returned since. I just lost the drive to run. Perhaps I was experiencing my first, full-blown running low.
So I decided to start from scratch. Back to square one. I took my Garmin off and ran without any care for pace or distance. I ran to rediscover the joy of running, and went back to my old ways. For instance, when I started seriously training, I left my iPod at home and focused on my breathing and my body. I even went so far as to do some research on the subject of running with music versus running without and decided for myself that running without music was better for mental focus. Pretty sure I wrote an entry about it, too. But of late, I went back to creating running playlists and listening to my favourite power songs while out on the road. I figured I can work on my focus later on, but now, it's better for me to just get out the door and keep on moving. If music distracts me from thoughts of stopping, then blast the U2 up. You can't help but feel inspired at hearing the opening line "I want to run" from Where the Streets Have No Name.
|I can stop using this as a peg now|
In the past few weeks, I've run more times than I have since January this year. Only one thing left to do. Set a goal.
When I was living in Myanmar (Burma), one of my good friends shared that he always told his son to have a goal for the year. It doesn't necessarily need to be an academic one, but he needs to set a goal and achieve it. This idea struck a chord in me, and I started setting annual goals myself. In 2009, I set out to complete a Daily Photo Project, which I successfully pulled off. In 2010, it was setting up Pinoy Weekend Warrior, with the aim of getting it recognition. Okay, so my realisation of that goal may be debatable, as the success of a website can be measured in many ways. I was aiming to be known in the Pinoy outdoor scene and I guess I managed to achieve that. I don't have as many hits as other sites, but I've garnered incredible followers. Just take a look at the people who sent their well wishes to this site when it turned one. It's here.
I'm rambling. Getting back to the point, I just realised that I haven't set a goal for 2011. Well, actually, I did. About three years ago.
One of the excuses I've used in the past for not running is the fact that I have no races to run in. Unlike Manila, races in Cairns are few and far between, whereas I was used to having my pick of races to run any given weekend. But now, I've set my goal, and it's a big one.
I'm running my first full marathon.
Two evenings ago, I signed up for the Blackmores Sydney Marathon. The event is on September 18, 2011. I initially planned to run the Melbourne Marathon to coincide with my birthday weekend, as I've always thought that my gift to myself would be running a full mary on my birthday. But my buddy Kaloy told me about the Sydney Running Festival, and it made better sense to run it in a place where I could celebrate with family and friends after the race. Kaloy is running the same race, and Mrs. PWW is doing the half. And really, you can't dream up a more scenic marathon than this one, running on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and finishing at the Sydney Opera House!
|What a race route. Image via source.|
To top it all off, the best part about running in Sydney is being able to share the experience with friends and family. Whether they're cheering you on from the sidelines or downing beers after the race, it's one worth sharing.
On that note, I wish to use this race as a way to pay forward for all the support and inspiration I have received from all my mentors, whether in running or in life. I have decided share my efforts in achieving a personal life goal with a worthy cause by running for charity. I am raising funds for CREATE Foundation, an organisation that works with young people in care. To find out more about them, please visit my fundraising page and if you may be so inclined, please help me reach my goal of raising $1,100 for CREATE. All of your donations go straight to charity, and I would greatly appreciate your support in this endeavour. You may visit my fundraiser page by clicking on this link.
With this, I'll begin chronicling my training efforts on trying to ensure that I am physically and mentally fit to take on the distance come September. I'll keep you all updated on what I'm doing, and I would appreciate any online kicks on the behind to get me up and running during the difficult times. I think Pinoy Weekend Warrior is back, and in a big way.
There is no better way to end this entry than with gratitude. Thank you, everyone. In one way or another, you all have inspired me to be where I stand right now.
All my best,