Live, Pray, Run

Many runners regard their endeavor as a religion. They are so devoted that they may be members of the Nike’s Witness, or the Church of Later-day (and Early-day) Runners, or the Cross-Country Faithful, or the 7-day Joggers. Maybe I am a member of this creed.

Then there are other people who treat other things as their religion. Like eating. They perform this as if it is their sole God-given duty. Well, I will not divulge on this subject any further, at least for now.

But why shouldn’t we treat running as spiritual exercise? I mean, literally.

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My training for the half-marathon for this fall is in full swing. I have been doing the short runs (3 miles) at least twice or thrice during the week, and one long run (5 miles and increasing by a mile every week) on the weekend. I am currently on 8-mile long run.

That is a lot of time dedicated (or wasted?) on running, you might say. What else can you do with that time?

For me, I use that time to clear my head. Or do some serious thinking too. With the beautiful scenery around me, my creative moments (due to relative lack of oxygen?) come during those runs. I have even composed in my head, snippets or even whole article blogs during those period, and I just have to download it into the computer when I sit down.

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But more recently, I have used those times running alone, as my meditation hour - communing with nature and its Creator. We certainly need those quiet moments. Not much talking, but listening.

Not too long ago, during a heat wave in our area, it was so hot that we had a string of 100-degree F days. It was so dry too that we had no rain for weeks, and we were in a drought-like condition, much to the demise of corn and soybean fields here.

Then one morning, as I went out for my run, the surrounding was all wet from the rain the night before. The parched land was soaked with water. It was breezy, cool and refreshing. I was grateful for the rain, as the farmers in our area were as well.

As I was running, I encountered a deer who perhaps was also thankful for the rain. She stood motionless as I passed by, just staring at me.

A thought was impressed on me. “As a deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee.” What a good reminder. To this I add: as a runner panteth for air, so my soul longeth after Thee.

May we all have a blessed week.

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(*photos taken with an iPhone during my morning runs)

Heart and Sole

I have a new bounce in my strides. A new spring in my legs. A new zing on my feet. No, I did not discover the fountain of youth. It’s just my new running shoes. It’s Nike Zoom Structure Triax +15. (I don’t know why the long name.) It’s all about the shoes, right?

I replaced my old beat-up Nike shoes as I have run it to the ground. Old and worn out running shoes can lose their stability, cushioning support, and shock absorbing ability, leading to increase stress to feet, legs and joints that may cause injury. The experts in running recommend that you replace your shoes after 300 to 400 miles of running. I believe my old sneakers have more mileage than that.

In my conservative estimation, I run at least 5 miles a week, when I am not seriously training, and up to 10 miles a week, maybe more, when I was preparing for the half marathon. So I could have run 300 miles in a year, easy. Thus my old running shoes was way due for a replacement since it was almost 3 years old, and has more mileage than what the gurus of running recommended.

Maybe I held on to my old running shoes for so long since I felt quite nostalgic about it. After all, it was in that shoes that I ran my first half marathon. And it even let me finish my second half marathon too. But it was time for it to retire.

It was not the first shoes though that I ran aground. When I was in second grade of elementary school, I had sneakers that I destroyed, literally, in less than a month. With all my running, jumping, climbing, and playing “sipa,” it broke open. The sole and the upper part separated as if my shoes was “smiling”, while my socks stick out of it like a tongue. My father got frustrated with me that he told me I needed shoes made out of iron, like a horseshoe.

my new Nike Zoom waiting to break out

My new Nike Zoom Structure Triax +15 (sorry, I can’t get over its long name) is not also the first sneakers that I got excited about. When I was about to enter Kindergarten, my parents bought me a new pair of shoes for school. It had rubber soles and rubber toe cap. The upper was colorful canvas with bright cartoon images printed on it. I love it so much I placed it near my pillow on my bed when I sleep at night. Maybe I should also put my new Nike shoes near my pillow when I sleep. On second thought, my wife would probably slap me with those shoes when I start snoring, so never mind.

A good pair of rubber shoes can be pricey, especially brand name shoes. It can be a status symbol too. My first sneakers with a famous brand was what George Estregan wore in his action movies, Adidas Hurricane. I think I was in high school then. Before that, all my sneakers were “no name” shoes, or at least not popular brand, like Nike, Converse, Puma and the like. But they work just the same. No-name and locally made shoes does not necessarily mean poor quality, for I would say Marikina-made shoes are good shoes.

For a long time I also dreamed of having hi-top or hi-cut basketball sneakers when I was much younger. I envy some of my friends that have them. But since it was so expensive, I did not even asked my parents to buy me one, for I know I can live without one, and besides my parents provided us with what we need. The only hi-top shoes I had during my school years was my “Ang Tibay” combat shoes which I used for Citizen Military Training (CMT) and Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC).  And yes, I sometimes played basketball even with those shoes on.

After running a few miles in my new Nike Zoom shoes, I felt great. My legs did not feel tired at all. My feet did not ache. Even my bunion did not ache. I wonder if these are the dream shoes that will run and finish my first ever full marathon. After all, it’s all in the shoes, right? Well, I wish it is that easy. For I would say it is more of determination rather than the shoes. More heart, than sole.

Now, I just need to buy that “determination” from the store. I hope it is on bargain.

Chasing Life

I love to run. As if you don’t know that by now from all the posts I have about running. But when I say run, I mean an all out run.

When I do my morning run of about 2 to 3 miles, the last 100 to 200 meters, I would break out in an all out dash as if I’m Flash catching a runaway train. This gets my heart pumping, my energy juices flowing, and my head in a daze in some kind of rush. Though it can also makes me wheeze like a beaten down carburetor.

Sprint is my first love before I got hooked on long distance running. Back in my high school and college days, I ran 100 and 200 meters race. I was good enough to win in local club meets and church sportsfest, but not fast enough to make it to school varsity. In college, during our physical education class, I was clocked just a hair over 15 seconds in a 100-meter dash, that is without formal coaching and training. That was probably a stroll though, compared to Usain Bolt who holds the record at 9.58 seconds.

But my fastest sprints were not in the oval track nor was it in a sports competition.

One early morning a long time ago, I was jogging in the streets of Manila when a fierce-looking stray dog decided to chase me. Maybe I smelled like a dog in heat. I ran so fast, I believe I broke the sound barrier! Or maybe it was not my speed but my girl-like scream that broke the sound barrier, and woke up our still slumbering neighborhood.

Then there was this instance after I emigrated and was living in New York City. My wife and I went out for an errand and when we returned in our apartment, there was a stranger inside our apartment. I thought first that he was repairman sent by the superintendent. But upon seeing us he bolted out the door. Without thinking, I ran after him through the building hallways, down three flights of stairs, and across 2 blocks of busy New York streets while shouting “Thief! Thief!”. But I was not fast enough to get him. Or maybe he got lucky, I lost him among the crowd of people. So you thought “akyat-bahay” was only in Manila?

Looking back now, that was really foolish of me of pursuing the burglar. What if he had a weapon or an accomplice waiting? What if I was able to overtake him, he certainly would not just surrender, but probably would fight for his life, right? And I know I was not strong enough nor trained enough to subdue him for he was bigger and more muscular than me. The only Kung Fu I know was watching it on TV. I could have been badly hurt or worse killed. Maybe being not fast enough was a blessing. But I certainly gave him a good chase.

When I was 4 or 5 years of age, my family went to a recreational facility, I believe was Balara Park, which was across UP Diliman and in the heart of Metro Manila. Balara was actually a water filtration plant but also has a park and swimming pools. It was a premiere weekend destination during those days. We had a picnic and spent the day swimming.

When it was time to go home, I continued to play despite of my parents telling me to get ready and help them pack our things in our car. It must have been that I was told to get ready multiple times but I was oblivious to their call. Maybe I don’t want a perfect summer day to end.

The next thing I remember, my family were all inside the car and my father started to drive the car. They were leaving without me! Boy, did I ran! Of course I realize now that my parents were just teaching me a lesson, but in my young mind, I thought they were leaving me for real.

I ran after our car for several yards as fast as my little legs could carry me, while my father drove “slowly” away. Finally the car stopped, or perhaps I overtook it, I don’t really remember now. Perhaps that was the first time my parents found out that I have wings in my feet. It was in an enclosed compound, and there were no speeding cars around, so I was not really in danger – except for the peril of being left behind, at least that’s how I saw it in my naive memory.

I learned my lesson though. Aside from the obvious, of heeding your parent’s call right away, I also learned that if you want something so badly, you chase it down. Run, as if your life depended on it.

It is amazing that now, after 40 years, I am still running. Chasing things that matters to me. My dreams. My family. My faith. And life itself. Perhaps, my legacy too.

I hope that when the time comes, when I have no more spring in my legs for a 100-meter sprint, or barely have strength just to put one foot in front of the other, that I can humbly say: I have run a good run.

Unfinished Race

I was feeling the heat as I was running this morning. It was still early, but it was already hot and muggy. As I was sweating it out, I cannot shake out of my mind the young man I admitted over the weekend……

I was making my rounds in the ICU when I received a call from the Emergency Room physician. He had an unconscious patient in the Emergency department that needed to come to our ICU. Few moments later, the patient was brought up to our unit. My medical resident and I then came to examine him.

He was a 29-year-old muscular man.  He was comatose, stiff, intubated, and is on the ventilator.  He was febrile to 40 degree C (104 F). From the story I gathered, he was previously healthy, in fact too healthy, that he was a long distance runner. He was taking part in the annual “Dam to Dam,” which is a 20 kilometers run, basically a half-marathon. This was his 4th time to run this race, and he did trained for this event. However it was very hot and humid that day with temperature way above 90 degree F. I was told that he did fairly well through the race, but suddenly collapsed, literally a few yards from the finish line. Yes, he was that close in finishing the race.

He was unresponsive when he was brought to the emergency room, and with a temperature of above 41 degree C (106 F). He also had a seizure-like activity after he arrived in the hospital. He was intubated shortly and was placed on a life support machine. He was a picture of health one moment, but in short turn of events, he was fighting for his life.

Our patient had suffered exertional heat stroke. It is a life-threatening condition when the body temperature rises above 40 degree C, seen especially in young people like athletes or military recruits that are doing strenuous physical activity in a hot and humid condition.

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We tried aggressively to quickly bring his body temperature down by putting ice packs in the neck, axilla and groin area, spraying water in his body with strong fans blowing on him, doing ice water bladder lavage, and giving cold intravenous fluids. There is no specific treatment for this condition except rapidly cooling them and giving supportive care.

After examining our patient and giving directions regarding his management to my ICU team, I went out to the waiting room to talk with his family. I was met by his wife who was obviously distraught  and was very anxious, almost to the point of panic, which was understandable. She was crying, but was able to speak between sobs and gave me more history, as her friends tried to comfort her. Their 2-year-old daughter was merrily jumping, running and playing around the waiting room, oblivious to what was going on. She asked me directly if her husband would make it, and I quickly answered yes without hesitation to sound positive, even though in the back of my mind, I knew anything can happen.

The next day, our patient had not significantly improved, if not, even worse. Aside from remaining comatose and hooked to the ventilator, he was also showing signs of injuries to the kidneys, liver, muscles and vascular system (he was going into disseminated intravascular coagulation or DIC). These multi-organ failures can happen as complications from the heat stroke.

I met again with his wife, who was more composed this time. She asked me about the condition of her husband, the new developments and complications, the ongoing treatment, and how soon do we expect improvement. As I tried to answer her questions one by one, she was digesting and holding on to every word I said. She then asked me point blankly, what was the likelihood that her husband would die. I paused. This time, I then gave her the most honest answer I can give. I told her that according to the medical literature, the mortality rate ranges from 20 to as high as 60 -70 percent (yes, that high!) depending on how many organ failures are involved. That’s when she broke down again in tears and openly wept.

She excused herself and said that she will let their family members know so they can come and see him now, while they have their chance. How I wished I could have given her a better optimistic answer. But I couldn’t…….

As I approached our home street, finishing my  3-mile run this morning, I silently uttered a prayer of thanks for my safe and completed run. I also breathed a prayer for our young patient who was still languishing in our ICU, three days since the race and counting. With his young family and with his whole life ahead of him, I know we have to continue our efforts to keep him going. He has an unfinished race. And I don’t mean the half marathon.