In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned the growing popularity of running as a form of exercise for many Filipinos. Key reasons include the following:

  1. You only need a minimum of equipment; a pair of good running shoes, comfortable clothing and probably a water bottle to hydrate yourself during the session should suffice. Some like to up the ante with an iPod full of their favorite exercise music, and special portable apps and devices to watch their progress and body functions.
  2. You can plot your own course on nearby roads, or even take part in the increasing number of running events within and outside Metro Manila.
  3. As a form of cardiovascular exercise, it is a great way to build up endurance and serves as a stepping stone to more advanced forms of exercise. It also burns a great deal of calories, if plotted correctly.
  4. It is less prone to injuries than many other forms of exercise, since it exploits our natural bipedal motion.
  5. It is one of the first exercises we ever learn in life.

In the last event I attended (The St. Luke’s Eye Run), I managed to improve match my old five-kilometer time in the six-kilometer group (meaning I ran faster). Hope does exist indeed.

However, concerns have grown over the increasing costs of running events. For instance, the recently concluded Condura Skyway Marathon cost me P950 to join the 10-kilometer run (which admittedly gave out cool medals in turn), while most events cost about a quarter to half that on equally good roads. And while this has been more the exception than the rule, there is a strong possibility that event organizers will raise registration fees to the point that it will become prohibitive (or at the very least discouraging) for people seeking to get fit on a tight budget. This will then force runners to pick their events and potentially demoralize participants from running.

So while I understand that organizers need to cover their expenses for such events and seek to make a profit, they ought to consider keeping the registration fees reasonable enough for most participants as this can actually mean better profits and a more solid reputation among the growing community of runners in the country. The Milo National Marathon is proof of that, and if their standing among the community is good enough, there is no reason both the organizers and participants can help each other in a win-win situation.

Considering that heart disease and diabetes are among the top killers of the country’s population, it is time that a run for better health and well-being get past the starting blocks and make that crucial march to the finish line.

*****

Speaking of running, since attending the Greenhills Eco Run in November, I have chalked up three more running events to my name as follows:

  • The 35th Milo National Marathon in December. This is the country’s longest running (and perhaps best known) running event, due to national recognition of the Milo brand (a chocolate malt drink made by global food giant Nestlé). As such, it has always garnered a strong following and simultaneous events have been held in areas within and outside of Metro Manila. I signed up for the five-kilometer running event and I finished just half a minute ahead of my earlier time in the Greenhills run. My main disappointment with the event was the sheer number of participants resulting in high pedestrian traffic, which prevented me from pushing myself much. I did get a singlet, as well as energy drinks, water and a banana.
  • The 2012 Condura Skyway Marathon on February 5th. While being the most expensive run I signed up for so far, I was drawn to the event by a chance to run along the length of the Metro Manila Skyway (which is normally off-limits to pedestrians). To test my mettle, I signed up for the ten-kilometer run and while even more exhausting than my earlier runs, was made fun by the cool weather and the sun rising over the scenic Laguna de Bay (Lake of Laguna). I got myself a singlet, a bottle each of energy drink and water, a poster promoting the preservation of mangrove trees and even a medal. My officemate Mike B. managed to survive the 42-kilometer marathon to cop an even bigger medal in the competition.
  • The Discovery Vertical Run on February 12th. This was held at the McKinley Hill outside Bonifacio Global City. While the event is noted for its ten-kilometer vertical run (nine kilometers on surface streets followed by one kilometer of running up and down stairs), I stuck with the five kilometer run instead. I did experience breathing problems which killed my progress, but I managed to finish the run close to my earlier times and I got prizes such as the usual singlet, a Discovery Channel shirt, a ballpen and photos with a running Chihuahua. Yes, that is not a typo.
  • The St. Luke’s Eye Run on March 11th. This was held in Bonifacio Global City, in the streets surrounding and near St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City. In what would be perhaps my single most significant run yet, I managed to match my old five-kilometer time of 48 minutes within the six-kilometer run. According to my calculations, it meant I ran the five kilometers in just over 40 minutes.

And during those times, I managed to put in some practice runs after work with my mates Joeven and Mike D. (yeah, I run with two Michaels). Despite looking and feeling like a dog put through non-stop rescue missions, I did enjoy the runs to some degree and I actually experienced the euphoria that experienced runners have spoken of.

And oddly enough, I saw some benefits sooner than I had expected. My notorious paunch (or belly, if you prefer), shrunk much as shown by my shirts fitting better in the past week or so. And with my usual habit of going around the house with only a pair of shorts on, my smaller abdomen was noticed by everyone at home.

Considering my concerns over my slowing metabolism and its implications on my health, I was amazed by the gains I had made and so have resolved to extend my foray into running. I won’t be breaking any records soon, but I may be gaining something more valuable in the process.

And that will be sweeter than any medal or trophy the world can give me.

*****

With the recent chaos at work and home, my attendance at running events has taken a serious hit and I have not attended one since the Eye Run back in March. Mapping out a suitable route has been a challenge so far, but I intend to pick up where I left off.

Oh, and knowing I had the proper mid-foot strike technique while running all along helps.

*****

The recent bout between Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao and Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley ended in much controversy when the American was declared the winner via split decision. Many fans and observers expressed largely negative emotions about the outcome, ranging from shock (as shown when his mother Dionisia Pacquiao fainted upon hearing the verdict) to utter disgust and dismay at the judges’ decision, all the way to anger among those who felt the Filipino pugilist had clearly out-performed his opponent. Even Bob Arum himself, the top banana of Top Rank Promotions, could not contain his disappointment with the decision, stating that the reputation of boxing had taken a serious hit with the decision and he was determined to have the judges investigated. And with the Associated Press count showing Pacquiao throwing and accurately landing a significant number of punches more than Bradley, this has solidified the case for many who feel that the Filipino should have kept the welterweight title in his corner after his performance.

Now going to the decision, I cannot formulate a definitive opinion on that since I was only able to catch the first round (where Pacquiao seemed hesitant and lacking in aggression) on delayed telecast before I had to go to work. I would certainly welcome an opportunity to watch the bout from opening to last bell. But I certainly am concerned that the decision has gotten the American’s reign as welterweight champion on bad footing. And while I welcome a rematch to help address the question once and for all, there is concern that it may finally be time for the congressman of Sarangani province to hang up the gloves for good and focus on his many other interests in the country. It is a brutal sport, where people have actually died or had their lives changed forever.

But most surprisingly Pacquiao’s mother, who had long been trying to convince her son to retire from the sport, is now demanding that a rematch be set so that Manny has a chance to exact his revenge and take back the title now around Bradley’s waist. Talk about the mom making some real noise here.

As for corruption and greed in the sport, that is nothing new at all. For years professional boxing has been mired in controversy as millions of dollars are usually at stake for each big-name event and the question of where such huge amounts go is something that has long mystified experts. And with documented cases of corrupt combatants and officials fixing fights in the past, who can indeed say if the sport has truly shed its seedy reputation? So the judges throwing the decision Bradley’s way is not so unlikely after all. And understandably, as many point out, it should be investigated. But I do doubt that this alone will cause real damage to the sport, since boxing remains popular even though mixed martial arts promotions like Dana White’s UFC continue to grow in followers each day.

So while displeasure with the decision is understandable, it is not the end of the world. Should Pacquiao decide to pursue the rematch, he will still carry the hopes of millions of fans worldwide with him along the way. But if he decides it is time to retire, I will respect that decision as well. After all, he has way too much going for him as he has his duties as congressman and even has various businesses and investments in his name. And remaining as gracious as he could in his unpopular defeat, the Filipino pugilist has shown the world that winners are not always the ones with the gold on their bodies.

*****

After seeing my Mum’s posts on Facebook about her watching matches of the recently concluded French Open as well as her divided support for the NBA’s Western Conference Finalists the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, I have come to realize that I have more in common with my parents than I thought: A passionate love of sports.

Having played tennis, pocket billiards and basketball for years, Pop was always ready to share his opinions on his favorite sports and I could count on intense dialogue on those matters. He was also a follower of boxing, and his outspoken opinion on the controversial George Foreman-Axel Schulz bout in 1995 made me appreciate the sport despite my dislike for violence.

Mum, however, was more of a movie buff and I would usually find her in the room watching her favorite films on HBO and Cinemax. But when she started mentioning her admiration of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic with gusto as well as her knowledge of the sport, I learned then and there that she loved her sports too.

Congratulations are in order for Maria Sharapova of Russia and Rafael Nadal of Spain for winning their 2012 French Open singles division titles, by the way. They just proved why they are among the top ranked players in the world now. And though Rafa did it at the expense of my Mum’s hero, I bet that it will not be the last we hear of the World No. 1.

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