Running the First Mile

Not too long ago, I saw a patient that was referred to me for pulmonary evaluation. The complaint was “shortness of breath.”

Me: What’s going on?

Patient: Doctor, I cannot run a mile. I ran out of air. And I use to run before.

He is in his 40’s and is on the heavy side. OK, overweight. I already reviewed his chest x-ray and pulmonary function test (it’s a stress test of sort for the lungs), and both were normal. My nurse has tested and recorded in the chart his pulse oxymetry (measure of oxygen saturation in the blood) at rest and on walking, and it too was normal. You see, I have all the information I needed even before I lay eyes on the patient.

Me: Do you have chest pains, wheezing, or cough?

Patient: No, no, and no.

Me: When was the last time you were able to ran a mile?

Patient: 25 years ago.

I almost fell off my chair!

You may snicker at him, but I took him seriously. I told him that I do not believe he has anything wrong with his lungs. Although I cannot rule out conclusively any other diseases, like heart conditions, but I am almost certain of the diagnosis.

I told him that his shortness of breath is from being overweight and deconditioning. In more simple terms, he is way out of shape.

I coaxed him that it’s not easy to run that first mile. But I reassured him that with more training and persistence, he should be able to run a mile, and more.

I will be riding a 50-mile bike course tomorrow, as part of the RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). In three months it would be the annual Des Moines Marathon, which I hope I can participate again.

Even though I consider myself fit and have been exercising somewhat regularly, there are days that I struggle to run the first mile. What I am trying to say is, it is not always easy to run a mile. No, let me rephrase that. It is hard to run a mile.

Running a mile and beyond, is not like a faucet that you can turn off for a long time, and then when you turn it on, you expect it to be flowing freely again. No, it is more like a pump, that you need to prime first, before it flows again. Running or any other endeavor for that matter, takes time, training, and dedication.

Long_Distance_Running

For all of you out there, who are struggling to run a mile, don’t lose heart. Many times the hardest part of a long run is the first mile. But the good thing is, it can be done. And it must be done. For your health sake.

As a popular Chinese proverb says, ” A journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.” If I may add, that single step will eventually lead to the first mile.

(*photo from here)

For the Love of Marathon

I love marathons. It epitomizes the human grit and endurance. 26-mile long of pavement-pounding and grueling run. Though I have not run a marathon yet, I hope that someday I will be in one. I have run in three half-marathon in the past three years, so maybe I’m due for the full one next time.

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photo taken during my visit to Boston last year

The Boston Marathon is one of the more famous and elite races. You need to run a qualifying race just to even participate on it. For my age group (45-49), in order for me to be eligible, I need to have a previous time of 3 hours and 25 minutes or less. Really? I will be happy to finish it in less than 24 hours. Or maybe just to finish it, period!

But now this. The bombings in the recent Boston Marathon had saturated our news in the past couple of days. A day of celebration turned into a dreadful one. What a tragic event. What a senseless act of violence. My thoughts and prayers goes to all the victims and their families.

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Boston bombing (photo from CNN news)

Will this horrific acts of terror forever change our love for marathon? Certainly not! We will not be deterred. We will not slow down. We will not back down. And like the fallen runner in the photo, we will rise up on our feet, and we will finish the race.

I will continue to run. I will continue to train. I will continue to participate in the races. We will continue to have marathon events. We will continue to live our lives and pursue the things that we love. Running the marathon will not only symbolize our perseverance. It will also signify our defiance.

Run. For the love of marathon. For the love of freedom. For the love of life.

Take the Photo and Run

It was a perfect autumn day. It was clear and cool, with early morning temperature in the high 40’s but expected to warm up to 70’s Fahrenheit. Excitement was heating up the nippy air. Beautiful day to run the marathon! This was my third half-marathon race. And I even took pictures while running it.

Waiting to start. This was how far I was from the starting line.

There was a sea of people that day. Nice to be in this good company of athletes and wannabe-athletes. This was the annual IMT Des Moines Marathon (which also includes the half-marathon and 5K run). I learned that there were more than 8,000 runners that morning, and perhaps thousands more family and friends who were there to support and to cheer.

It took a few minutes after the official time begun before I even cross the starting line.

Iowa Capitol in the distance. I was trying to follow the pace runner with the red sign 2:20 (that is the goal time I want to finish the half marathon)

Court house building ahead. Can you still see the 2:20 pace runner?

I kept on taking pictures to amuse myself. I also took photos of all the mile markers as motivation for myself of how much distance I already covered. Somehow I missed the mile 2 marker as I was oblivious of other things, like keeping up with the pace runner that I wanted to follow, while watching other runners and not stepping on their toes, for it was crowded.

Mile 3 marker. Where’s the 2:20 pace runner? I think I fell behind already. O well, I’ll just enjoy the run.

After running through city streets we entered Water Works Park, and it was a change of scenery.

Mile 4 marker

Mile 5 marker

I was in mile 5 when there were several runners going the opposite direction, meaning that I was still on my way further and they were on their way back already. Are you kidding me? I must be running slow! The eventual winner of Des Moines half marathon was a Kenyan with a blistering time of 1 hour, 3 minutes and 18 seconds. That was really more than twice faster than my pace.

I was still going upstream, while others were already heading back.

There were several water stations along the way. They offer water and Gatorade. There were even different stations that handed out pretzels, candies, gummy bear, energy gels and power bars. I stopped on most of them and took whatever they offer. Hey, they’re free.  And I don’t even have to say trick or treat!

Gatorade station

Along the route were signs that kind of encourages the runners to go on. There was one that said “Run as if you stole something.” Maybe I should have stolen the prize money for the winner when I passed the starting line and I could have run faster. Playing in my head was the Steve Miller Band song “Take the money and run.” Hoo, hoo, hoo! Here are the other signs.

Why can’t they hand them now in the water station?

I am a Filipino, and I can run fast too. Specially if I am being chased by a rabid dog! (see previous post here)

Besides the spectators on the side of the road cheering the runners, there were also several singers and local rock bands playing, boosting our moods and electrifying the air.

local rock band

Mile 6 marker

I need a break. This kind of break. A breath-holding break, if you know what I mean.

water station

A different kind of station.

They even have an ambulance ready. But not for me. Not today.

Mile 7 marker. I am more than halfway!

Another music band

Mile 21 marker. Huh? Oh, that’s a marker for the full marathon.

Here’s the right one for me, the half marathon marker.

I am not Dave, but I’ll take the motivation. Thanks doggie!

Downtown Des Moines in the distance. That’s how far I need to go still?

Mile 9 marker

Gray’s Lake in downtown Des Moines. A beautiful day indeed!

Still in Gray’s Lake

Mile 10 marker. That’s the farthest I ran training for this half-marathon. It would be sheer determination from here on.

I was on my 10th mile, when a motorcade passed, alerting us to give way. It was the lead runner for the full marathon. He already ran 23 miles in the same time period that I was running! The next marathon runner that passed me was almost 5 minutes behind the leader.

The lead runner for the full marathon.

I learned that this was James Kirwa (#1), a Kenyan runner. He eventually won the race with the time of 2:16:54. It was his third consecutive year winning the Des Moines Marathon.

Mile 11 marker

Mile 12 marker. The next marker will say “FINISH”

This band was blaring heavy rock music when I passed by.

Finish strong? My legs were like jelly. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

I can smell the finish line!

Finally! Finish time was 2 hours 29 minutes. Still close to my goal,while taking photos to boot.

I think I deserve one of those, please.

wearing it proudly

See you again next year! For now I need more ibuprofen.

******

(*all photos taken with my iPhone)

Marshmallows and Delayed Gratification

It is hard for us humans to purposefully delay a pleasure, that we know we can possibly have now. We live in a day and age that we want rapid results, immediate benefits, and instant gratification. We want everything and we want it now. Pronto! ASAP! And we don’t care about its future consequences.

Studies have shown though, that the ability to delay immediate gratification is link to a successful life. In one experiment conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel years ago, he offered marshmallows to a group of 4-year old kids. He told them that if they want a marshmallow they can eat one now, but if they could wait several minutes, they can have two. Some of the kids immediately grab the treat though some were able to hold off. Mischel followed these kids until they were adults and he found that those who were able to wait were generally more self-motivated, more successful in school, and more emotionally stable. I just wonder though if the kids who ate two marshmallows got to see the dentist more. Sorry, I digress.

Looking at the things that we do now in our everyday routine, I know that some of the benefits from our efforts, we would not rake until much later. At least that’s what we hope for. There may be grinding days that we ask ourselves, what’s the point of doing all of this? But let’s keep reminding ourselves that someday we will have our gratification. So hold off gulping down that marshmallow, for someday you will have a whole bag all for you. What? Sorry, I digress again.

In four weeks, I will be running the half-marathon. This will be my third. And I am up to par with my training schedule. Last weekend I ran 10 miles, the longest distance I ran for this year so far. Training experts say that if you can run 10 miles, you can finish the half marathon which is 13 miles (21 km). I hope so. For that’s what I’m training for, right? That’s also the reason I’m not eating marshmallows. Huh?

So as I make the final push for my preparation for the half-marathon, I wonder would it be worth all the efforts – the early morning rise, the long, lonely and grueling runs, the buckets of sweats, and the muscle sores. Would the medal (which is probably worth $2) hanging on my neck, signifying that I finished the 13-mile run, the ultimate prize? Would having my name in the list of finishers the final goal? Would finally cooling off my heels, hanging up my running shoes, and just taking it slow after the half-marathon, and eating all the marshmallows I can eat, the delayed gratification I am alluding to? Heck, no! I don’t think I will stop running anyway even after the event.

By keeping on running today, what I am hoping for is in 15 years, when I am 60 and my son will be 24, that I can still play basketball one-on-one and keep up toe-to-toe with him. Or in 25 years when I am 70, and my grandson is 7, that I can still teach him how to dribble and shoot the ball, or show him how to do a lay-up or even a forceful dunk. Or in 45 years when I am 90, and my great-grandson is 1, that I can still guide and support him as he take his first steps, or perhaps just witness him bite a marshmallow.

That will be gratifying. Really gratifying. And it will be all worth it.

(*photo from here)

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.

Conference Run

For the past 3 consecutive years I ran in the Des Moines Marathon, an event held in October every year. Before you faint in amazement, I want to clarify that I did not run the marathon course itself. For in that event, there was also the 5K run, the half marathon (21K), and the full marathon (42K).

During my first year of joining, I ran the 5K. It was actually my first ever road race. Though I run for exercise since I was very young, I never ran long distances before. Maybe 2 to 3 kilometer tops. I was more on doing sprint in my younger days. But after that run, I admit, I got hooked.

So on the following year, I did the half marathon. It took me a few months to train for it, but I did it. And I finished it with a respectable time (that means it did not take the whole day!) too.

Last year, I repeated the feat and ran the half marathon again. This built enough confidence that I wanted more. I felt then that I was ready to try the full marathon next time.

But not this year.

In fact, I did not even join the Des Moines Marathon event at all this time. I learned early this year, as I was planning my year-long schedule that I would not be able to join the run. There is an out-of-state annual physician’s conference this autumn that I just cannot pass, for the reason of where it is being held this year.

So to stay motivated and maintain shape and in good running condition, I did the next best thing. I joined a race in the city where I attended my conference. Though it was not a marathon nor even a half marathon.

I joined a 5K run in Honolulu. Yeah baby, in Hawaii!

Looks like Roxas Blvd, right? But's that's Honolulu harbor.

Here we go! To inhale the salted air. Do you notice the name of the run was “One Breath”? I think “Out of Breath,” at least for me, is more appropriate.

I'm somewhere in the back. I'm giving the other racers the head start.

If running has always this stunning view (I mean the ocean, not the lady doing the stretching), I really can get used to this.

The runner and the ocean.

What’s next? Boston marathon? I don’t think so. How about Boracay marathon (if ever there is such event)? That’s more like it.

Toughest Part of the Marathon

I finished a half marathon this fall (my second), which gave me satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. However, after seeing Al Roker and Meredith Vieira of the Today’s show finished the recent New York City marathon, I am seriously considering trying the full marathon next time. Even Oprah finished the marathon few years back. If they can do it, surely I can do it too.

People asked me what is the toughest part of my run, and here is my answer……….

It may be difficult when you stand there at the starting line with all the thousands of runners, and all the jitters and excitement in the air, and you feel anxious before you start your formidable run……….

It surely may be tough when you are grueling on your 11th mile but you know you still have more miles to go while other runners pass by you and the spectators are witnessing your struggle……….

It may be really hard that you can finally see the finish line but your legs are so heavy that you can barely lift them and your body is numb from the pain, yet the cheers of the crowd makes you go on……….

Yes, these may be tough moments but they are nothing.

It is more difficult when it’s 5:30 in the morning, and its dark and cold outside, and your bed is warm and comfortable, and the race day is still 3 months away, and you fight yourself to get up and do your morning run……….

It is far more tough when you are huffing and puffing on your 7th mile while you are running alone in a deserted and lonely road, and you are battling if you will continue or just stop, during one of your training runs……….

It is most difficult when after a long trial run, you feel so exhausted, your body aches all over, and you cannot walk straight from cramps, and you start to question why do you even want to do this, and your resolve starts to fade……….

If you endure all of these, then when you step on the starting line on the day of the race, you have already finished the toughest part of your run.

Now, for the tougher question: Why do I want to run a marathon? Because I can!