Tuesday, July 27, 2010

San Francisco Marathon

The night before a marathon I always prepare every single item of my running gear by my bedside. So the night of the SF Marathon was like any other except for one. I wrote on a piece of paper "Prayer Run" and laid it on top of my gear. It was a reminder for me that morning to put on my running gear meditatively to prepare me for my prayer run.

It was a good start but the praying was so hard to sustain the whole race. I tell you there were more distractions than inspirations. The "distractions" of course, were my own doing. You see, after 17 marathons, I've learned to pay attention to anything just to get my mind off the running pain. So I have little mind games to continuously dull my senses and hopefully fool my body to think that I'm in a very relaxed mode.

So my mind games prevailed throughout the race but my intention of a prayer run was not entirely in vain. Like I said, I had a very meditative start and had a clear desire to run in prayer. One of the most inspiring moments of grace I had was when I was running through Golden Gate Park, specially right at Mile 14 to 19. I could hear my footsteps, I was aware of my breathing, and I was gazing at the big oak trees that lined the streets of the park. Running aware, I chanted quietly "My Lord and my God" in cadence with my strides. It was beautiful, it was grace. I could clearly picture God, my Father, running towards me just like the father of the prodigal son who ran to him when he saw him from afar coming home.

It was truly a prayerful moment. But at the same time, it was a crucial leg of the race for me to run strongly but conservatively. How I come out of Mile 19 would gauge how I will run the rest of the marathon. Well, I came out strong to my amazement. But I think it was grace.

I finished the race with a negative split. I ran the second half of the race almost 10 minutes faster than the 1st half. I ran the last 6 miles on a 9:30 pace. The last 385 yards, I sprinted against another runner. I was exhilirating.

I am proud of this race. I felt really good after the race. I thought it was a good prayer run even at least for just a small part of the race.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Headache at the Expo

Man oh man! This is my 5th San Francisco Marathon but this is the first time I've seen it this crowded at the Expo. I enjoyed going to their Expos because of everything that it offers to runners. I'd set aside a good amount of the Race Weekend to spend at the Expo. But not today. Today I had a terrible headache.

Was it the crowded place, the long lines, the heat inside the Expo, or a combination of all these? Most of the races are sold out so that means lots of runners. I went there first thing on Friday, the first day of the Expo to avoid the rush, but lo and behold, there was a long line of people snaking around the block waiting to get inside the Expo. Inside, there were lines on every race on every step on every 10,000th bib number. Unbelievable! As I walked my way out of the expo, I stopped by the Loyal Runner table to get my Loyal Runner Water Bottle (I love water bottles! :) ). It was the table with the shortest line but but the slowest to move. There was only one volunteer behind the table and she was doing multiple jobs. I thank God for her volunteerism. But my headache was uncontainable so I decided to bail out of my line. Besides I had to get out of the city before rush hour to get home in time. I still had to pick up my son from his practice.

There's gotta be a better time to get to the Expo for me next time. I am going first thing tomorrow is a good time, which I was what I used to do in previous expos. Anyway, that's life. At least tomorrow I will be looking forward to a pre-race time out to relax and enjoy the city my wife and son. I absolute have no time post-race because I have to bring my son to another one of his practices as soon as I cross the finish line, believe it or not!

My headache's gone now as I write this post. One thing I'm looking forward to is to go to church and hear Mass with my family at St. Patrick's Church in the city. I will offer my race as a prayer. And in my prayer will be thoughts for all the very important people in my life. Looking forward to a prayerful run in San Francisco!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Run With My Son

On Sunday, my son and I are running our respective races in San Francisco. He is doing a progressive marathon which is basically completing 23.1 miles before the race then running the final 3.1 miles in the 5k race on Sunday. While I am running the full marathon.

My son has been training on his own the whole time. We pretty much go to the gym at the same time but he follows his own training program. I gave him a few pointers but I thought he was old and experienced enough to train as he pleases. Besides he also has other sports to do like basketball. He also takes up folk dancing. So his fitness schedule is pretty full yet diverse while I focus mainly on one thing, running. Hence I make sure I don't impose on him my training regimen for my running goal.

This boils down to having very few running times together, my son and I. But today, we ran together. We started out quiet and slowly together running at the same pace, as we originally planned. I took the opportunity from the silence between us to start praying. We remained silent through the first half of the run. As we made our turn about, he started to pick up his pace. Being the slower runner, I trailed behind him. As I followed him, I focused on his physicality. He had broad shoulders, ran with an efficient form, and seemed to glide effortlessly. I kept looking at him from the back when I thought was a grace of wisdom was given to me. My son has taken up running because he loves me. We used to "argue" about doing runs, but today it dawned on me that he listens to me and ponders on the little input I can give him about the sport. As I saw him run, he has imbibed the value(s) that came with running and the intention I had for offering this sport to him. As I watched him from the back, I became very thankful. The grace of gratitude...and humility,...that God's plan is at work in our lives.

The last quarter mile, my son turned around and gave me a faint wave. I waved back. Then he took off to finish this run strong. I receive a lot of feeling of satisfaction from this run when I finished a few minutes behind him. I knew he was proud of himself for what he can do now and what he is capable of doing if he continues to persist in training. But that I leave to him. However, I will remain his number one fan and always the first to encourage him to give his best in whatever he does. I feel that running would always be choice up there for him because today is one of those days that he will remember when I am long gone. A run with his father.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The important thing is to declare your intention before you run. "I like to be in communion with my God as I run."

Today I ran on the treadmill in a gym. It was nice and warm outdoors but my son requested to run in the gym so he could do some strength training after a run. Anyway, I find myself running in the gym more frequently this summer, which is really not a bad idea at all.

However, praying while running in the gym is not too ideal. I went through the basic meditative preparation as suggested by Robert Joslin in his book "Running the Spiritual Path." As I started picking the pace on the treadmill, I focused on my breathing. But the blaring music all around seemed to be muffling my breath. I could feel my exhale as the intensity of my run started to pick up, but my other senses were picking up too many stimuli. My eyes kept on panning the 10 TV screens sprawled across in front of me. My nose could smell my own sweat. My sweat kept trickling down my face. All these were nothing new to me, except that I realized it was too hard to take the first step of a meditative running in a gym. However, I persisted and I tried to be aware of my legs as it touched the ground. Actually it was no ground. As you know, I'm running on the treadmill. But I did visualize myself running on a bridge over the waters. This is good because this is something I will actually do when I run the San Francisco Marathon is a few days. Then I let my thoughts wander but reminding myself of my main intention for this run. "I desire to be in communion with God." Every time I did this, I felt that all the external distractions became part of my praying. It wasn't a very meditative type of praying but I sincerely felt in my heart that I was aware of God's presence.

At the beginning of your run, remember to declare your intention to pray. Ask God to give you the grace to meet Him as you run. I am sure He awaits and is ready for you and is even running towards you.