Drenched but Pressing Forward

It had been raining non-stop yesterday. Only a typhoon would cancel the running event. The monsoon brought more water than wind. When we chatted via Facebook Messenger, Rose Angelie “Ram” Hernandez confirmed that the fun run would still be held regardless of the weather. I met her at my first climb at Mt Marami along with Arlaine “Leng” Biag, Demi Dimatera, and Brian Estares. They were all enthusiasts of running. Brian and Leng went to Bataan for the Orani360 half marathon. Ram and I participated at the Kasama Run event at Blue Bay Walk in Pasay city, part of Metropolitan Manila.

Pinoy Fitness, an organization and community centered on physical fitness and health, organized the event scheduled at August 14, 2016. Among the sponsors were Michaela (a fashion retailer), Toby’s® Sports (the name speaks for itself), RUNNR shoes, and Suncoast (a beverage maker). Registration fees went to charity. Running distance was categorized at 3 km, 5 km, 10 km, and 16km. In a special batch, runners must finish 10 km within one hour.

Ram challenged herself by joining the special running batch called the SUB1. I intended to run 10 km too but without the time constraint. Back in college, my Physical Education classmates and I covered 8 km for our final test. Yet when I signed up at the RUNNR store in Alabang Town Center, Muntinlupa city, a woman in charge of registration gave the disappointing news. Slots for the 10 km category had run out but those for SUB1 were still available. As this was my first major running event, I chose 5 km instead.

It did not rain after I left home past 2 AM on the day of the event. I put my stuff in a fanny pack and wore a woodland camo boonie hat so raindrops would not blur my eyeglasses. Riding a passenger bus, I reached my destination before 3 AM despite the distance between Pasay city and my hometown. Ram said she would arrive one hour before the event would start at 4 AM.

Metal posts emitted fluorescent white light in contrast to the black of the surrounding’s darkness. People in their running singlets began to arrive in small groups. I called Ram with my mobile phone. It only rang continuously until a female voice said the number I dialed could not be reached. Minutes passed. A man stood out among fellow runners due to his intense stretching. People left their bags to the care of staff at the baggage stations. Other staff, also donning outfits of lime green with a hue closer to yellow, filled numerous foam cups with water. These drinks were placed on top of several tables laid right next to each other, resulting in possibly the longest single table I had seen in person.

More people filled the parking lot that served as our assembly area. I saw a diversity in gender, age, economic background, even nationality. Still, Ram could not be contacted. Hoping to spot her, I roamed all over the place. I walked past a line of portable toilets as well as a few makeshift stands. Then an idea came up. After noticing the entrance to the parking lot, I stood there and waited for Ram to arrive.

The loudspeakers went active. Runners for the 16 km category were told to assemble at the starting line. I had a chat with two male runners. Then a woman walked by and she looked like Ram. Excusing myself from those guys, I ran and checked her out. It was Ram indeed. My feeling could be described as that of the shepherd in the Biblical proverb who lost one sheep and did not care about the other 99. Ram did not hear her phone ringing. It did not matter. At least we could talk about poetry, films, news, societal issues, and other stuff after this event. She graduated from the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines while I hailed from Los Baños. We were both involved in the humanities. Ram also introduced me to her friends Nina and Soleil, who would run 16 km.

Ram and I had a chat near the starting line until her turn for the 10 km SUB1 came. I did not hear the starting gun, only the announcer yelling “go” on the microphone. The road turned into a colorful breathing river. Then the participants were all gone. Runners from another 10 km category replaced them. It could have been my turn.

It began to drizzle. More water fell from the sky with added intensity. I brought out my new folding umbrella from the fanny pack. Later on, a male runner aged in his sixties asked me if he could share it with me. I nodded. Our conversation revealed that he was also from Cavite province but lived in another city.

At 5:15 AM, runners for the 5 km category were finally told to assemble. Our fellows from the 3 km group would follow us five minutes later. Eagerly, I stood at the first row on the starting line. To my right were two women named Jane and Rena. I noticed them earlier standing side by side near the parking booth. I talked to the two briefly just before this Canadian fellow asked them about the regular 10 km run. Always eager to meet people of other nationalities, I also learned that he was from Toronto but had been living in the Philippines for six years. Then he went to find his companion while listening to music through earphones.

Jane’s dental braces and neatly tied hair got my attention. We asked each other’s addresses, jobs, and previous experience in running. I was not shy to admit that this was my first major event. Then a few official photographers kindly told the participants to face their sophisticated cameras. A click of a button preserved the memory of a group of people who tested their speed and endurance under rough weather. The rain grew stronger. Warm light from a street lamp enabled me to see countless droplets of water.

The announcer made the countdown. I did not brace my body like a cheetah preparing to launch itself to its prey. My breathing remained normal. Yet my legs twitched a bit due to slight excitement. The Kasama Run did not feel strangely new. It was the same as the multiple times I jogged on the side of the road that ran along a golf course in my hometown. Sometimes I would sip taho, that sweet tofu morning snack, for energy before sweating it out with fellow runners both teen and older adult. Back at the fun run, the announcer then yelled “go” with exclamation.

My plan was to start off with a moderate pace and conserve energy. Some runners sped past me but I did not care. Then Jane and I were next to each other. I told her we had the same pace. I was wrong. She kept on running until I could not see her due to the dim surroundings and rain. When I outpaced fellow runners, they would catch up after I made my pace slower.

The skies turned more blue than black. We entered a stretch of road that ran along Roxas Boulevard. Headlamps of various vehicles cast an eerie glow. Green, red, white, and yellow lights could be seen from distant skyscrapers. One could visualize this scene by looking at the cover of the video game Battlefield 4.

Our way ahead sloped uphill at the flyover. Feeling absolutely sure about this, I reduced my pace while ascending. At least my legs felt minimal strain despite the other participants overtaking me. My singlet was already soaked by the rain. Even my boonie hat began to turn floppy. Wet socks made my feet uncomfortable. Before we even reached the flyover, a few small portions of the road were flooded with ankle-deep water. Every step made a splash that could easily irritate a fellow runner by my side. I brisk walked these parts instead.

My technique worked. I gained speed when going downhill. Yet the aching of my legs intensified. They felt so weak that I could not run continuously. Like what I used to do when jogging and what they taught in PE class, I switched to brisk walking when too tired. Then I would regain energy until it is enough for running again.

I reached the point where 5 km runners made a turn to a lane that went back towards the starting line. It was indicated by a sign made of tarpaulin and wood. A group of facilitators handed out rings of green yarn. I asked a fellow runner why. He said we should wear it on our wrists to indicate we already passed the 5 km marker. The well-built guy then quickened his pace. I could not keep up with him and I did not want to. I was competing with myself.

As the sky grew brighter, I could distinguish the facial features of my fellow runners. A woman that I found attractive wore a black Adidas® jacket. A group of friends stayed together. There was a young man who apologized to me after he stepped on a puddle and water splashed to my legs. It was alright. We were already drenched by the rain anyway. Then I caught up with Jane. I ran next to her and chatted about running events, mountain climbing, and the experience of being part of Kasama Run.

Just when all of us thought the weather would be no more than a drizzle, it rained fiercely. It was as if a storm suddenly brewed up above us. The wind lashed a spray of water against our bodies. It even overturned the 3 km marker sign that lay several meters right in front of me. Shrieks could be heard. A few runners were nearly struck. The marker may be lightweight but someone would sustain a bruise or cut from its wooden parts. Event facilitators propped it up as I ran past them. After that, the skies became calm again.

Jane became my spontaneous running buddy. We both dealt with leg strain. Despite the fatigue, we cheered as the road led us closer to the finish line. I kept on chatting with her. At one point, Jane lagged behind and she insisted I should keep on going. I declined, saying I would rather accompany my running buddy. Having an amiable companion by the side reduced the physical and emotional burden in this kind of activity. Talking to her distracted my thoughts from the aching of my lower extremities.

The way turned right beneath a tall building. Jane and I could not help but shout happily. After another turn to the left lay a straight path towards accomplishment. We congratulated each other. I made a compliment about meeting her. Side by side, we ran towards the finish line in a moderate pace. A few runners summoned what remained of their energy for a sprint. Jane also wondered where her companion Rena was. They were seven in total as a group, including Jane’s brother.

A photographer fulfilled his tasks as we approached the finish line, which happened to be the same arch at the starting line. Staff handed out medals with sky blue ribbons. They also featured a bottle opener – perfect for my favorite beverage in the form of Vitamilk™ soy milk. Jane and I made it among the top 100 finishers of the 5 km category. Cheers and words of congratulation filled the air. The surroundings had a triumphant mood. Jane asked me to take a picture of her under the arch. I agreed on the condition she would do the same favor for me. It was a win-win moment.

Jane fetched her bag from the baggage station. Noticing a long line of people and stubs attached to our medals, we went to get freebies. I got a black umbrella made by Michaela, a Kasama Run bag tag, a flash drive from a retailer called Walker, and a bottle of Lightwater™ (a Suncoast brand). After that, Jane and I took those pictures. We bumped into Ram and I introduced the two to each other. Then it was time to part ways with Jane. The last I saw of her was when she chatted with friends as Ram and I fell in line so she could have her own freebies.

After finishing a 5 km fun run with relative ease, I looked forward to do 10 km next time. Running events not only promoted fitness. They also tested our resilience and determination. They also gave chances to meet more people and boost socialization skills.

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