Running of the Bulldogs

I went to the annual Drake Relays last weekend and ran the 10K road race. I can say, I ran like a Bulldog*. Or more accurately, I panted like a Bulldog.


The inaugural Drake Relays was held in 1910. So this was the 106th year of this event. It was a 5-day meet with competition in track and fields.

Over the years, hundreds of Olympic medalist have competed in the Drake Relays, like Bruce Jenner (yes, that’s him or now her?), Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, and Jesse Owens to name a few.

By the way, if you don’t know, Bruce Jenner is a former track and field athlete, and won a gold medal in Decathlon in 1976 summer olympics. So he (or she) was already famous before the Kardashian’s fame and way before the sex change.

Bulldogs stadium or also known as the Blue Stadium

Drake Stadium, home of the Bulldogs

Back to the Drake Relays, due to good sponsorships, it is also one of the richest athletic event in the US. For example, the winner of the half marathon was awarded $70,000 prize money, while the winner of the 10K was given $40,000. But I would never get that. Maybe if they have a prize for the slowest?

Even though these events attract elite athletes, it was also open for wannabe athletes like me, especially the road races. After all, if anybody can get an athlete’s foot, then anybody can be an athlete, right?


For the past five consecutive years I have participated in the Des Moines Marathon (I ran the half-marathon, 21K) which is held every fall. But this was my first time to join the Drake Relays. And also the first time to run the 10K.


As I came a little early, I had time to take some pictures. Then when it was time to line up, I had to find my place in the starting line.


Oh, that’s the elite runners group, with the 5-minute-per-mile pace. That’s not running, that’s flying. I don’t belong there!

I had to find my place at the back. Way, way at back of the line, with the more than 10-minute-per-mile pace.


Then I found this line. Oh, that’s not it too. That’s the line for the portable toilet!


Finally, it was time to start. The half-marathoners were given a head start, while we, 10K runners were released 30 minutes later.

There they go!


The first half of the course was a piece of cake. No, I am not gloating. It was due to the fact that it was mostly downhill. And of course, I took photos while I ran, so I can blog about it.

Here’s a photo of the course going downhill with some of Des Moines skyline in the distance.


Here’s one as we pass by a sculpture park.


But like the reverse of the law of gravity, what goes down, will go up.  So on the final half of the course, it was mostly uphill. That’s what took my breath away. Especially the dreaded and infamous “Bulldog Hill.”

The Bulldog Hill may have chased my breath away, but never my will.


We had plenty of cheerers along the way. We even had a marching band inspiring us to push forward on the steepest climb of the course.


After the hills, finally the stadium was in sight. I gave my final push.

When we enter the Bulldog Stadium, there was a crowd of people to witness as we finish. It does not matter if you were the first finisher or among the last, they cheer you on just the same.


I really like the feeling as I sprinted to the finish line in those lined tracks inside the stadium. For a time, I felt like a real runner. This maybe the closest feeling I can get to being an Olympian.

Maybe I can be famous too like a Kardashian? Naaah!


(*Bulldogs is the athletic team of Drake University)

(**all photos taken with an iPhone) 

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.

runner with heat exhaustion

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.