Sunday, April 17, 2011


Lately, it seems Iloilo's been working its ass off vying for the imaginary title of "Provincial Marathon Capital of the Philippines."

It's like the entire city's sort of figured out the kind of sport that it wants to be identified with, the kind of passion that it wants to run through the blood of its people and be passed on to future generations. It's as if Ilonggos have somehow secretly agreed that running will henceforth be the main physical/recreational activity of the city. Every weekend, a marathon just pops up and seals off stretches of road for a couple of hours or so, and more are set for the coming weeks.

Running for the money? Running for fun? Who cares what the motivation is? The legs of this city are surely becoming muscular lumps of skin, flesh, and bone. Give or take a few months, the contours will be so well-formed, even sirens will drool over those mammalian hind limbs. At long last, we'll be able to challenge strangers from distant lands and say, "So how sexy are your legs?"

 The Infante Flyover, facing northwest. The right side leads to the turnaround point in front of UP Iloilo City campus.

Forgive me, for I wax sarcastic. It's just that, all my life, I've worked to become the master of the fast-walk (an apt capsulation for that motion characterized by unusually fast-paced walking), and now this madness comes along and ruins my life's ultimate goal. Everybody runs, like Joey. 

It's actually been over a year since I last ran in a fun run. In October of 2009, I finished running two rounds of the notorious UP Diliman Oval in just under thirty minutes, coming in at 157th among approximately five hundred UP Manila freshmen. That was five kilometers' worth of trudging down an uneven asphalt  road. That was our PE practical finals (we also had a written exam, which was a waste of time, if you ask me).

This morning - guess what I did - I joined a fun run for the first time in Iloilo! I know the city secretly feels the need to celebrate this achievement of mine, but that would simply be too much, thank you. Anyway, there were two categories, 5km and 10km, and out of fear that time might perhaps play its tricks upon me, I chose to play it safe and ran the shorter route. 

It took me 42 minutes and 58 seconds to finish. What a shame. Well, maybe knowing that your passing  PE  actually depends on whether or not you finish running down the 2.5-kilometer elliptical road twice helps speed you up. Time limit this morning was two hours - TWO hours! - which is like flying from Manila to Hong Kong (that's the estimate given by Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific). 

The run was actually a 2.5-km stretch, roundtrip (pardon the plane-ticket reference), and the turnaround point was the Infante Flyover fronting UP Iloilo City campus. I believe this was the highlight of the entire run - to be able to run up and down that famous flyover, without the threat of cars, in the company of a peaceful Sunday sunrise and the fresh morning breeze.

In fact, this was my primary reason for joining the run. Cars whisk us to and from destinations within minutes. But the thrill and excitement of being able to run down the very center of the road, as people once did centuries ago, is something probably everyone who relies mainly on cars for transportation cannot deny. Provided you're fit enough, that's something you need to experience at least once in your life: to run like the world's your playground, to run like freedom itself. We've watched gazelles and impalas running freely across the vast African grasslands on television; fun runs and marathons actually give us the chance to be like these animals for a fraction of our lives.

That said, I'm totally in awe of people who run these marathons like their lives depended on them. I had just finished the first kilometer back from the flyover, and then this 10-K runner comes whizzing past. Perhaps there's no greater sense of fulfillment for these people than knowing that they've beaten a hundred others to finish at the top of the race. And in a way, that's what running is about. For some people, it's more than just reaching the finish line; it's about being the first to reach it.

The mighty Golden Eagle

We say that freedom is ours. But we know deep down that we are never truly free from everything. Something - even someone - will always be tugging at our spirits, chaining us to the banality of life, hindering the flight of our souls. Deep down, we are all hatchlings waiting for that day when we'd finally transform into that glorious eagle, spread our wings, and take flight. We yearn for that day when we'd finally fly past trouble and soar through the untainted sky. 

Running, at least, takes us closer to that day. 

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