Saturday, August 25, 2012

What Does It Take To See A Sign?

It was a 5k/10k trail run. The race director reminded the runners to watch out for the sign to indicate the split. I was running the 10k as a recovery run. I just ran a full marathon the week before; so I will just take it easy and not worry about my time.

Indeed I didn’t care about my pace; but I also didn’t pay attention to the sign. At some point in the race, I didn’t see anybody in front of me or behind me. But up ahead I saw what seemed to be a couple of volunteers and they were cheering me on.  “Great job!” “You can do it!” And a volunteer with a stopwatch said to me, “Your time - 21 minutes. 2 miles to go!” Then I went to a screeching halt! What? “Yes, sir! You are the first to reach Mile 4.” No way! I'm running a 5 minute per mile pace? Of course I could not!

And then I realized – I missed the sign. I took a wrong turn and got ahead of the leader by 2 miles.

What does it take to see a sign? Two things.

First, you have to be looking and paying attention.  Then you have to recognize what it means.

Last week, a good friend of mine lost his wife, Chris after a sudden illness.  This week, another family friend lost her husband, Dennis. Dennis was diagnosed of lymphoma last year. When I saw Dennis’s wife at Chris’ funeral, I told myself that I would visit Dennis. But I didn’t follow through. When I learned of his death, I felt bad for putting off visiting him. Looking back, I think Chris’s death was already a sign, but I ignored the meaning.

As a praying runner, I dedicate my runs to those who need prayers, especially to those who are sick. In addition to prayers, I also make an effort to either call them or visit them with the hope of giving them some comfort. Not only I do try to recognize signs, but I also try to be a sign of God’s loving presence.

I feel sorry for not being able to visit Dennis. But I’m taking this event as another sign.  I offered my last run to Dennis in prayer and promised myself to try even harder to be a sign of God’s love and mercy to people I pray for, especially to the sick.

If you have any prayer requests, please email me at, post it here, or in my Facebook page, I am running a marathon in Half Moon Bay, CA on September 23 and I shall offer it in prayer for all your special intentions, especially for those who are sick.

(Reflection points taken from a homily by Fr. Michael Todd, O.P.)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Praying Our Goodbyes

At the airport recently, I saw a young couple perhaps in their mid-twenties, standing just behind the security tape, in a tight embrace. They were both in tears, looking at each other occasionally then kissing; then back in the embrace where their arms were locked around the other. I couldn’t tell which one was leaving but I could tell you none of them wants to let go from that embrace.

The scene reminded me of another couple I saw at the starting line of the San Francisco Marathon. When it was announced one minute to start, the couple smacked on the lips, a quick hug (almost like a chest bump), then the young man walked away and disappeared in the pack.

Two scenes of goodbye said differently. Most of us have been in both kinds of goodbyes. Some goodbyes are easier to say because we know pretty soon we will be reunited with our loved ones. Just like the couple in the race. Some goodbyes are harder perhaps because of the unknown. Just like the couple at the airport.

 But whatever the case may be, goodbyes remind us about a fact of life. At some point in our lives, we would all experience a separation, a loss, a disruption in our “normal” lives. Painful as some of our experience may be, they give us an opportunity to grow, to be renewed, to move forward. And in all ways, goodbyes remind us about God’s presence in our lives. That as we learn to let go, we also learn to let God.

A few days ago, I prayed my goodbye to my nephew at the airport. I prayed for his success in the kind of life he desired. Also last week, I prayed my goodbye to my old workplace. I moved to a new school with a completely different level of students to teach. Today I prayed my goodbye to a dear friend who was laid to rest this morning.

Every time I run, I pray for more faith; and I pray in thanksgiving for all that I have received. I wouldn’t be able to pray my goodbyes if I hadn’t learned how to love more and live life fuller from all the goodbyes I’ve said before.

God speed!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Make Room

When running, especially during a race, I usually take the outer lane to make room for faster runners. I learned this first hand in one of my first fun run many years ago. I collided with a passing runner.  A few runners are courteous enough to alert you about their presence when approaching from behind. But sometimes, they seem to come from nowhere.

A trail runner friend of mine, Christopher was recently struck from behind by a speeding cyclist on a trail. The cyclist claimed that she called out. And my friend said that he actually looked over his shoulder before he crossed the path. He suffered some serious facial and back injuries due to the crash. After learning this, I now make room for both announced and unannounced passing runners and cyclists.

This is also a good practice to take on, not only in running but also in life – to make room for perils on the road. Life’s path is not always safe and predictable. And some hazards are obstructed from your view. Two years ago, when my wife was in and out of the hospital, we lost our house. But wait, there’s more! My computer with all my important documents crashed.

It reminds me about the Story of Job who endured one suffering after another. He became distraught and angry. But Job carried on because he made room. Through a life of prayer, he made room for God. He believed that in spite of the series of setbacks, God still cared about him.

My friend, Christopher also has faith like Job’s. When he was younger, as an Air Force officer, he saw action where he got lost in the vast jungles of Central America. He thought he was going to die but he navigated his way 80 miles in hostile area back to base in 5 days. Before his running accident, he just lost his Mom. He is currently recovering from his injuries and is determined to go back to running again. Christopher’s faith sustains him and his life of prayer allows him to make room to face adversities.

The past few weeks, I was requested to pray for two people who were admitted to the hospital for treatments only to pass away due to complications in the process. Kate was 26 years old and Tina turned 49 the day she died. Also, yesterday, I was on my way to visit Chris L. in a physical rehabilitation facility when I learned that she was back in the ICU again.

Make room. Be prepared at all times for God’s movement. He might just be running right next to you to keep you in pace. Then perhaps to pass you and lead the way. Make room for God.

God speed!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

29 Runners and More

I was the only one still up past the midnight hour. I just came out of the shower after another day of vigil at home. I checked on my wife and saw she was still breathing. She was heavily sedated for the last nine days; it was just a matter of time. A nurse friend had told me that her body was failing rapidly but her will to live was very strong. I bent over and whispered “I love you,” to her.  

After half an hour, I went back to our room to check on her. She had stopped breathing. I just stood there looking at her peaceful state. Trying futilely to be strong, I let tears roll down my cheeks. Then one by one I woke family members up. They all gathered around her crying while I stepped out of the room to be alone.

This scene played in my mind as I was running on the highest peak by the edge of the cliff on the 10th mile of the San Francisco Marathon. I ran in solitude and deep in my own thoughts, looking far away at the overcast view of the beautiful Baker Beach. I was also on the outmost side of the road far apart from other runners who were wisely taking the inner lanes as the road bends.  I knew I was separated from the crowd of runners but I got the solace I needed. But not for long.

A pink rose in my hand, my bib,
and my running shirt during the marathon.
One runner came from behind me and tapped me on the shoulder and said, “God bless you, bro.” I gave him a smile and a high five in the air; “Thanks, man!” I said to him. Before I could get back to my solitary reflection, another runner came up to me again and said, “You’re inspirational. Good job.” Down the road, yet another one. “I love the message on your shirt. Keep it up!”  And there was more to come. I actually started counting the numbers and at least there were 29 runners, including spectators, who gave me some words of affirmation. These were people I never met. But I felt we all had one thing in common – we found ourselves in running.

I actually came to the race for some solitary refuge as I continue to grieve over my wife’s death. Running seemed to complement being lonesome. But I was wrong. Running can connect me with other people even with those who I would never meet. Running also allows me to reach out to others like how the 29 runners and spectators did to me. Sometimes, like John “The Penguin” Bingham said, it isn’t the pace or mileage, but the people who become the most important part in running. 
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge with
a community of runners

Yesterday I was looking online at my array of official running photos from the race. I usually pick the one with my solo shot; otherwise, I just crop other runners out. But this time, I chose the one with the most runners around me and left the picture as is. I’d be lucky to meet anyone of them but I know in my heart that they’ve been part of my journey.

And so have you, my dear readers. Thank you for being a part of my life – running with me, praying with me, or just even following my blog. Oh yeah, thank you too, to a fellow runner K., who I met in the bus to the Expo, who knew about me through my blog. Thank you for all your support and encouragement.

God speed!