Category Archives: Wisdom

Of Running & Barely Racing

It was through racing that started my running life. I became a runner 6 years ago when I decided to join a 5k race. Since then and for next 4.25 years, racing was my primary motivation for running.  I would constantly train to race. And there was always that personal race calendar to look forward to. Nonetheless, my love for running developed as I run and run to race. Then for some reason I weaned myself from relentless racing. Runners who were used to seeing me on the race route and in race pictures (even non-runners) thought I had stopped. I did not. I just barely race.

Running became enjoyable
Running never stopped even though there are no finish lines, medals and pictures. On the contrary, running became better. It has evolved into a very gratifying pursuit as the motivation does not come from external sources but from within. I have derived pure joy from running regularly just for the sake of running.  By rarely racing, I was able to run to the tune of my body. Hard runs, easy runs, long runs, and shorts runs depended on my time and mood at that moment, hence freedom replaced structured runs. Somehow, constantly running ‘in the present’ made each run marvelous.  Every run turned out to be good run in the sense that it never took my time for other things that I value equally. The great feeling after each run is pure.

Running became health-giving
A race as its name implies is a competition, and as a participant it is expected that we’ve prepared to aim for good performance. We also target improvements in succeeding races. It is an event where the runner can aspire for what is generally considered as outstanding finish time result that is relative to one’s age and gender in a non-elite field. This is how I perceive racing and to respect one is to do away with mediocrity.

Accordingly, when there is no constant and rigid training as what we normally do for a marathon, and likewise when there is no pressure in maintaining peak performance for half-marathons, 10ks, and 5ks, I became a wholesome runner.  Running injuries due to over taxation of one’s legs and feet are non-existent any longer. With no nasty cycle of injuries due to cycle of races, running has never been this beautiful and continuous.

Moreover, I value my sleep that local races turned me off because of their unhealthful gun times at 4 AM for 21k, while earlier for a marathon. I can manage to run 21 km by myself beginning at 5:30 AM or 6:00 AM and be done 2 hours after, of which by this time the warmth of sunlight is still health-giving. Of my daily runs, 45 minutes to an hour is enough, and this I get to start only at 6:30 AM. No sleep deprivation at all, plus nowadays I have time to read at night with no pressure to wake up so early just to have high mileage training for a race.

Running became inexpensive yet priceless
With all the downside of racing I have identified for myself, paying for those high local registration fees is unwise. What if for instance my race bibs are free, but then, constantly racing still comes with a price that is even greater than its monetary value. Why pay when I can run for free anytime and anywhere without sacrificing sleep, reading, traveling, and spending time with those who matter.

By participating in a race, one can gain abubots (bling-blings), bragging rights (though I’m partial to finish time results than podium-based), shirts and photos. I absolutely don’t mind not having pictures as I solely focus on my running. Once more, why do I need to spend for races with unholy gun start times if what I mostly see in the route are lights instead of sights. So I don’t mind not having any of those race booties at all for these do not add significant value to my running life.

Tracking distance is not anymore as important as tracking time and quality when I run. It’s been quite a while that I haven’t worn a Garmin watch and it felt really good. As long as I am familiar with the route I’ve taken, distance can be determined beforehand or later on with maps. Pace can be mentally calculated. What I’m trying to say is that, Garmin is just a nice to have accessory but not a must have. No gear can ever buy me speed. Now, being stripped down to the essentials of having comfortable running shoes and clothes, plus total well-being, running became a value for money endeavor, if not priceless.

Racing once in a blue moon is enough
Once in a while I may sign-up for a race because of the beautiful scenery in the route – as a treat. Occasionally, I may sign-up to test my capability – as a challenge. Racing has now become a sporadic supplement to my running. Perhaps, the pleasure I seek from running goes beyond the finish line moments that racing once in a blue moon is enough.

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Traveling Light in Life

My next door husband-wife neighbor are both in their twilight years, and one day I went to their property somewhere in Makati for Mister knew about my gardening pastime, and he wanted me to have his terracotta plant containers he was planning to dispose. Their house in Makati is too big and impractical for both of them to stay, so they have it rented instead. Yearly, they live half of the time in America to be with their only daughter, while the other half is spent in the country to manage their properties and be with their relatives and friends. While touring his Makati house, Mister talked about his prized collections of this and that, some stored at his brother’s house, some he sold already. He said, when one gets old, all these stuff don’t matter anymore. I guess his remaining worldly effects have tied him down to Manila. My conversations with him upheld my belief on what I have been doing all along – not being possessed by my possessions.

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To most middle class in the country, the idea of renting is lowly as opposed to owning. Understandably, this frame of mind revolves around material wealth, the kind of thinking where one needs a tangible proof to display one’s success, and again, this sort of “success” they have in mind revolves around properties and possessions. What’s the use of owning a house when years from now, one cannot be certain if the location of the property you’ve invested all your time, money and effort is still desirable for living in every aspect? Just the idea of investing all my resources on a thing is unappealing. When renting, one can easily transfer from one good location to the next, from one town to the next, or from one region to the next.

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Currently, my occupation is based in Metro Manila, but I wouldn’t invest a property within the city even if I have the means, as what normal people tend to do. I can’t see myself spending my retirement years in Manila and do my geriatric exercises in a shopping mall (nauseating thought). Having a property anywhere would somehow tie me down later in life whether in managing it, or trying to sell it, or worst, witnessing its decay. When I retire, I look forward to being a happy nomad, say live, run and work or volunteer a couple of years in a particular place, learn its dialect or language and curiosities until it’s time again to move. The ability to travel light in life and follow one’s yearning is the kind of wealth I aim for.

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Territorial Mascots

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Tsuchiura City in Ibaraki Prefecture is known for its lotus root production and so its mascot somehow depicts its specialty. See the ear of the rodent-like character; it's the cross-section of a lotus root. (This is a local tourism poster at Tsuchiura train station)

I’ve seen how Japanese love to use mascot to represent a place, be it a city or an institution. In some way it’s interesting to note that they found a way to create an identity of sort in a cute way.

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Kutan, the mascot of Narita Airport

From what I’ve observed, local governments largely use these mascots for local tourism campaign and to promote their specialty in a fun way.

A Marathon in Tsuchiura

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Moat and carp streamers in the castle ruins of Tsuchiura

Tsuchiura City seems like a very quiet town that comes alive only a few times a year, in particular during a marathon event every April.  Kasumigaura Marathon is a citizens marathon with about 29,000 participants this year (only 20 foreign participants from what I gather).

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Where are the people? (Snapshot taken a day before the Kasumigaura Marathon)

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Fisherfolk at Kasumigaura lake, the second largest lake in Japan

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Sakura print on the road

Personally, it’s insightful to participate in a local event while traveling that I signed up for this marathon as soon as its registration opened in November last year (even before I obtained my visa). It’s quite a good opportunity to observe and be with Japan’s running citizens as part of my summer vacation.  

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Marathon poster near the tourist information kiosk at Tsuchiura train station

Major international marathons have a great deal of foreign contingents that somehow the local nuances from beginning to end are lost with all those expected international standard type of event planning and participation.

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However with the Kasumigaura Marathon and other similar citizen marathons, there is that deeper satisfaction of getting a chance to see and feel something singularly local, though somehow it’s highly likely one can get lost in translation – but that’s part of the journey, and so, this is the kind of reason I often seek (a deeper one than a participation bragging rights from one of those marathon majors).

Fisherman at Taal Lake

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Fisherman readying his instrument

Sunday morning I went for a run starting at Lipa City Hall with a planned 30 km loop by passing through Mataas Na Kahoy town then Balete town then back to Lipa City Hall. But in order to view the Taal lake at the Balete side of Batangas, a detour of 1.5 km needs to be done that I ended up running 31.5 km instead.

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So for a few minutes of rest here at Taal lake at about 17 km point of my run, I was able to take snapshots of this guy preparing his harpoon rifle to aim for passing fish five meters away from where he is sitting.

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His paraphernalia – harpoon tip, bag and sunglasses

It’s not just about the short rest which is needed for the non-stop uphill run starting this point up to the 30th km point, but moreover the insight gained from this short detour which made my run an engaging pursuit.

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His harpoon like instrument

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