A Fake Runner’s Story

One night in July, a smothering sadness overcame me.

It crept up in the worst possible way— unexpectedly and without warning— and like wildfire, the smothering sadness spread quickly all over my body— gripping my throat, piercing my eyes, churning my stomach, paralyzing my heart. It was an overwhelming kind of sadness, and so suddenly struck I was by it, I wasn’t even given a chance to cry.

All I knew this one night in July was that if I wanted to have a shot against my grief, I needed to move. I had to do something to kill my despondency before it got the best of me. I had to fight back.

It was that night in July when I learned to run. With my insides still stifling from dejection, I managed to lace-up a pair of sneakers, put on a pair of shorts and a shirt and bolt out of my condominium door, just when the temptation of hiding and crying under my bedroom covers got real.

I made a beeline for the overpass leading to my university, strutting with a rushed gait. I brisk-walked like my most fearsome nightmares were snapping on my heels— and in a way, they were. Finally, when I landed on the other side of the road, a breeze from some towering trees welcoming me in, I literally made a run for it.

I ran so fast, my legs started cramping two minutes into the sprint. I wasn’t a runner— never was— and my body didn’t take the strain of repeatedly pounding on sidewalk concrete well. But I kept running. I ran through my pain. I ran with a heightened mania, overtaking casual joggers and serious runners. I ran without knowing where to go, through building hallways and fields and parking lots. I have long forgotten my disoriented route, but I will never forget the five words that cycled through my mind during that first, painful run.

I need to get away.

And for a long time, that’s how I ran. In the gym, in villages, in city streets, I ran with a kind of overbearing anger that I would only let loose when I picked my legs up again and again and again and again and again. I cursed a lot during my first few runs, and I conditioned myself to keep going in hopes of being able to let all my anger out. And mind you, there was a lot of it.

But somewhere along the way, perhaps when I started getting stronger and breezing through my once-staggering 3Ks, I learned to enjoy running. These days, I run with a sense of tranquility and fulfillment, always pushing myself to go on the next kilometer— no longer to escape— but to see just how far I can go. I no longer have to get away, I just need to keep moving forward.

I can count on the fingers of my elbow the people I know who take me seriously when I go on runs. Hell, even I find it hard to take myself seriously. Just a few nights ago, when I was avidly going through a stack of Runner’s World magazines I had gotten for free, I thought— seriously, who am I kidding? I had a good laugh over the image— me, madly flipping through an article about interval training. Interval training! When I think about it, it still makes me laugh.

The thing I try to remember is, I don’t run to prove a point. If it sounds strange to you— a girl who talks an octave higher than most chicks, whose idea of a tragedy is a broken nail, somehow manages to run through five kilometers in 30 minutes flat— then it’s because it is strange. But it’s also real.

I’m a fake runner. I don’t train or take supplements, nor do I run with technique. I run for the hell of it, because running to me makes sense— it wakes me up when I’m tired, calms me down when I’m mad, and makes me even happier when I’m already happy.

I run and I keep moving forward.

25,000 Miles In Her Shoes, Part 1

I am forever indebted to my parents for purposely instilling in their children a passionate, early onset wanderlust.

As a family, we didn’t always have the luxury of going places whenever we wanted, but travel was always a priority in our household, coming in just a little bit below groceries and education. And though we couldn’t afford sleeping in five-star accommodations or dining in Michelin-starred restaurants, so long as the opportunity to travel presented itself, you could count on the four of us to suck it up, pack our suitcases and jet off.

During the early years of my life, my dad worked as a social worker, and my mom and I always tagged along wherever his trips would take him. Family photos tell me that my first trip abroad was in March 1995, as a three-year-old wrestling with the in-between chill of winter blossoming to spring in New York City. We also dropped by Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas on this trip, including a detour to San Diego, where I vaguely remember a llama snacking on the ruffles of my shirt at the San Diego Zoo.

Several months after, on December 1995, my parents and I went to Bangkok, Thailand. I had already turned four at this point, and some of my happiest childhood memories took place in that beautifully exotic city, like having my photo taken with a tiger, riding an elephant and giggling at the name “tuk-tuk”.

My brother was born on June 1996, and for almost a year there wasn’t any traveling. We jetted off again on March 1997 to my first domestic destination outside of Luzon— Cebu. We stayed at a family favorite, Shangri-La Mactan, although we left my brother behind because he was too young to travel. I don’t remember anything about this trip, and I was actually surprised when my mom told me recently that we had already gone to Cebu when I was five.

On May 1997, yet again tagging along with my dad, my mom and I traveled to Singapore where we were meant to meet my dad after his business trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh. He met Prince Charles there, and to this day, he thinks of him as the most important person he’s ever talked to in his life. I was already six when we went to Singapore, and I have really fun memories of Sentosa and pretending to look like the Singapore mer-lion in pictures.

Then came the longest travel hiatus I have ever had in my life. For three years, my family and I didn’t go anywhere. Looking back on it now, it was a result of a double whammy— 1) the Asian Economic Crisis that hit the Philippines around 1997 and 2) my dad’s occupation changing nature, shifting from social work to the corporate world. There were no trips to tag along with at this point…

My First Love

Four months ago, I did something on impulse. Running high on—in retrospect— really, really schizophrenic emotions, I “deleted” this blog and announced to the virtual world that it was done “for good”. I continued writing on a different handle, and though I had my reasons back then— I had wanted change, a clean slate and a new life to live— beneath them all was the nagging feeling that this blog was too familiar, overdosing on sentiment and feeling that I all wanted to go away and forget.

And so I wrote elsewhere. Looking back and reading back, I’ve come realize that a lot of the things I wrote in the span of the last four months—both online and on empty, lined spaces of random notebooks— sounded too eager, even impatient if you will. I think I was so focused on being a completely different person, that I rushed so many things that I didn’t know then would take time. Academic achievement, early success in the working world, putting myself out there again. Healing, even. I did a lot of things I never would’ve thought I would ever do, a lot of them petty, like maximizing my cuts in all of my classes; some of them more serious, like picking up new vices.

But I also learned invaluable lessons along the way. I spent time with a lot of close friends whose company I haven’t truly enjoyed in a while. I traveled my own country, and saw with my own eyes a different kind of beauty about it, unfound anywhere else in the world. I realized the value of hard work and hard-earned money, and joined the ranks of fortunate people who get to do what they love for a living. Best of all, I learned how to truly appreciate and love myself, even without the presence of another person doing it for me.

Life goes on, even after a relationship lost and a regretfully reckless semester. Things keep moving forward, even with the positive things, like uncovering enthusiasm for a new job. Today, I’m slowly picking up the better, more familiar parts of myself that I thought I had discarded for good. I’m really happy I’m excited for school again, that I’ve gone back to praying every night, that I’m going back to my first love—writing to express—and that I’ve returned to where I first learned how to do it—this blog.

People change, but we have certain things that are truly us, that ground us to who we really are, even with the chaos of everyday life. That’s what writing is to me, and as silly as I was to dismiss it four months ago, it will always be a part of me. It’s my first love.