Friday, December 31, 2010

One Run At A Time

Many curious or interested about running ask me if I run everyday.  How long have I been running?  How much miles do I cover in a week?  When do I find the time to run during the day?  My simple answer to the question is that I take it one run at a time.

You can make running as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.  But here's my advice to those who want to take on running as their primary workout for their fitness resolution this new year 2011.  Take it one run at a time.  First, decide to run today.  Plan your other activities around your running time.  Appropriate the right amount of time to include the time needed to gear up for the run.  Many a downfall of jumpstart runners is that they take too much time thinking about whether they will run or not, then simply end up not running at all.

The Extra Degree

Here's a motivational video for you to start the New Year 2011.  Sometimes, it takes just one extra degree of effort to make a big difference.  This year, make it your resolve to run that extra mile, to workout that extra minute, to go out of your comfort zone, to swallow that pride, to give more of your time, to share more of your talent, to stay away from that extra calories, to devote more of yourself to the most important things in your life.  Be the best of who you are this year!  Make that extra degree of effort!  Dig deep!  You can do it!  God bless and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rainy Run

It was pouring last night exactly what the weather report said.  Heavy rains with gusty winds.  The streets of Antioch were drenched.  Puddles of rainwater on the sidewalks and gutters were overflowing in a few street corners.   Cars whooshed on the wet roads and splashed on waterlogged areas as the commuters rush to get home.  But there I was running on the road in the middle of the stormy night.  I could see a few drivers looking at me and probably thinking. "Are you serious?"

Yup.  That's me running.  I actually enjoy running in the rain.  It brings out both the playfulness and toughness in me.  It brings back childhood memories of playing the rain and getting drenched in the open air without a care in the world.  As an adult, braving the elements of nature and making it through makes me feel tough.  But the rain also reminds of one of its particular symbolism.  Rain represents blessings.  Doesn't the line that goes "When it rains, it pours," sounds familiar to you?

My rainy run then actually made me think of the blessings I received this year 2010.  Wow, what a year it was.  As I kept running through the rain, I recalled some of my blessings.  I completed six marathons this year.  My wife survived three emergency room visits.  We sold our house.  My son turned 14.  He received a scholarship. I kept my job. I received two grant approvals. I stayed healthy.  Wow!  I just kept running and said a prayer of thanksgiving.  Being soaking wet in the rain felt good as I thought about these blessings.  Thank you, God!  It was good rainy run.  A good way to reminisce this year that's about to pass.  No more rain the forecast for the remainder of the days, but I sure pray for more blessings in 2011.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Family that Runs Together, Stays Together

San Francisco Marathon 2005
I used to drag everybody in my training runs and races.  My wife wasn't too hard to persuade because she wanted to stay fit.  All she needed was someone to motivate her.  But my only son was difficult because he'd rather do something else with his friends.  However, I was successful on many occasions to take him along by making it interesting for him.  We'd run first around the neighborhood, then run to the nearest restaurant.  Or I'd do a running log for him and we'd agree on a reward when he's completed his mileage.  But this was a few years ago.  In this post, you'll find a family photo of us in the San Francisco Marathon in July 2005.  My wife and son completed the Progressive Marathon while I did the full Marathon.  It's one of my favorite pictures displayed in our study room at home.  It reminds me of how we enjoyed running together and how we incorporated running into our family fun time.  Unfortunately, life has its twists and turns.  My wife's cancer came back in 2006 and spread throughout her body.  We were able to do one more run together in June of that year.  But the cancer was very aggressive and the chemotherapy treatments very strong that she is unable to run with my son and I anymore.  However, she does her best in so many ways to still support my son and I in our running.  My son is older now and he has taken running as one of his favorite sports.  He competes in cross country and track and field and joins road races whenever he can.  He has won a lot of medals in all his events.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Are You Ready?

"Failure to prepare is preparing to fail."  It's a famous quote by John Wooden (1910-2010), an NCAA basketball coach who won an unprecedented 10 national championships for UCLA.  It applies to the sport of running, too.  As a matter of fact, it applies to any sport.  However, I think it hits a beat particularly for running races; and I can speak for the marathon race.  After having run 21 marathons, I have developed a routine for long-term and short-term preparation.  The long term involves the running workouts and the diet.  The short-term covers the little details of bringing the right number of carbohydrate gels, pinning my bib on my running shirt the night before, attaching the timing chip, and remembering to press start on my stopwatch when I cross the start mat, etc.  One can never over-prepare for such an important event as a marathon race.

Turn Around

I was quite hesitant to run outside today.  It was a cold winter morning with a slight wind chill factor.  I headed out anyway and went west. There was a chilly breeze that met me head on.  My hands immediately were feeling icy cold.  I kept going anyway thinking that the sun would come out behind the horizon and start thawing me out.  True enough, as I made my turn back at the third mile, the first rays of sunlight greeted to warm my face.  Gradually the air became crisp and comfortable.  I picked up my pace as I headed home.  I felt rewarded for deciding to head out today in spite of the cold weather.

My run today reminded me about the sacrament of reconciliation I went to last night.  Prior to confession, I stayed on the cold and dark path of my anger and pride issues.  I was aware I wasn't an angry person but I just let the feeling take over me for too long.  However, I wanted to turn around and head towards the right direction.  So I went to confession that night.  Just like my run this morning, the decision to turn to God for forgiveness gave me a sense of joy and relief.  I could relate my run to the meaning of repentance which comes from the Greek word "metanoia" which means "to turn around" or "to turn back".  It was a meaningful way for me to prepare for Christmas Day which is just a few days away.  I was glad I ran today and went to confession last night.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In God We Trust

I ran into my runner friend today after a dawn mass at church. We trained for and ran two marathons together in Sacramento, CA. We ran many a prayer run during training and had some memorable faith sharing while carbo loading on marathon eve. We share a lot of things in common, including a knack for wit and humor. Every time we see each other, we know that we have some banter up our sleeves to try to outwit the other. The other thing we have in common is our contemplative nature. We have just as much depth as fun once we start talking about how we're doing. After an exchange of good-natured teasing, we simply start catching up and reassuring each other that God continues to work in our lives.

I've learned a lot from him specially because of his faith-filled life. Always with a smile on his face, he seems to find God in every person, every event, and every little thing. He shared to me one of his practice every time he goes out for a run, which I like to write about today. In his house is a jar half full of change. It used to be empty but it gradually filled up to where it is now. He said that it is a reminder of how God has showed confirmations to his prayers. When he's praying about something, he usually asks for a sign. Some of the signs come when he's running. Those signs are the change that he picks up from the ground when he's doing his running work outs. Those change he said doesn't belong to the ground. He considers every penny and change sacred because of the words inscripted on them "In God We Trust". He accords a measly change with reverence by picking it up, putting it in a special jar, and taking it as a confirmation of God to his prayers. Such is my friend's awareness of God's presence in everything.

It's too bad we couldn't do a run together after the Mass today. However, our brief meeting was enough to remind me to keep trusting that God continues to work in every person, every thing, every time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

San Jose Marathon

It's officially called Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Marathon (DKSVM) in San Jose, CA. Dean Karnazes is no less than the Ultramarathon Man and Silicon Valley is the hub of the tech world, as you all very well know. Of course, these big names names are used to attract runners to join the race.

However, I think calling it the San Jose Marathon is a name big enough to encourage more runners to sign up. After all, its namesake is St. Joseph (San Jose in Spanish), a man known for his strength and faith. And for us runners, we could learn a thing or two about him.

Remember that St. Joseph had to lead his pregnant wife Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. A straight line from these two points would be around 80 miles. Mary rode a donkey while Joseph walked. It is estimated that this journey back then would have taken at least 4 days.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Two Nudges During Mass

The second reading at Sunday mass today was from 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18. As the title was read, my wife gave me a nudge. It was a secret nudge every time we hear a reading taken from the book of St. Timothy, which is our only child’s namesake. Unexpectedly, when verse 7 was read, my son, sitting on my other side, also gave me a nudge. The verse read:

I have competed well; I have finished the race; I kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

It was a verse alluding to running. It is one of our favorite inspirational running quotes which we first read in a tribute to Ryan Shay, a young USA Marathon Champion who collapsed and died during the Olympic Qualifying Trials in 2007.

The verse was part of St. Paul’s letters from prison to St. Timothy. Timothy was St. Paul’s trusted disciple and companion during his missionary journey. When he wrote this letter, Paul knew that his time was near. He had fought a good fight.

As runners, we know how to fight a good fight means. We know how to train hard and give it all you’ve got in a race to the finish.

So I pondered on that little nudge from my son who is seldom expressive of his feelings to me. I thought it was a sign of our bonding. It was a nudge that needed no explanation from either one of us. We both knew what it meant to us.

The letters between Sts. Paul and Timothy also spoke about their relationship. Though Paul was his mentor, Timothy provided comfort and encouragement to him during times of trial. It was a very special relationship, which ultimately, helped build the foundation of a Christian community.

So a nudge from my wife and my son, my two great sources of inspiration and comfort, on both sides, I love it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

"To not do your best is to waste the gift."

My son Timothy quoted Steve Prefontaine in his tribute to his cross country coach on his last year as coach for the school team. His coach told him to alway do his best. He has been with his coach for the last 7 years. My son started from the back of the pack to become one of the lead runners in the diocese. In his last season for cross country, he finished 6th overall out of more than 180 runners in his division. Every run, he said, he did his best for God and and for his coach.

This weekend, I have a couple of really good friends who will also be doing their best and not wasting the gift (of health, I would say).

God speed to Annabel, Barb, and Barbie who will run the Nike Women's in San Francisco, CA and Rolando who will run his first half marathon in Long Beach, CA. May your run be filled with blessings and may you find peace and joy in every mile marker you pass. Do your best and don't waste the gift! Have fun out there!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

May the wind be always at your back!

Sending forth blessing to 4 friends of mine who are running races today.

To Melanie and Steve running the Urban Cow Half Marathon in Sacramento, CA and
To Annabelle and Enrique running the Rock and Roll Half in San Jose, CA.

Here's an excerpt from the traditional Irish blessing --

May the wind be always at your back! God bless!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

God, can you hear me now?

I've been having difficulties in my prayer runs recently. I could't make a clear connection. Perhaps my signal was low? Dead spot? Poor reception? Antenna problems?

I'd take off for a run and so many random thoughts start to flood my head. I entertain them one at a time and even dwelling on a few of them for awhile. I catch myself allowing these thoughts to fill my head. Then I quickly go back to my praying. But just as quickly as I return to praying I drift back to thinking about another agenda in my mind.

Some of my prayer runs even start out on the wrong foot. One day after work, I took off to blow off steam. But the whole run turned out to be a bitching mind session - thinking of how angry I was and just allowing the anger to percolate. I got back home just as mad as I started and went to bed without resolving the situation. Where's the prayer now? God, can you hear me now?

Saturday I had a chance to pick a good time for a long run. It was unexpectedly a free day. My wife and I were planning to go to San Francisco to attend a whole day workshop on cancer survivorship. However, she fell sick in the morning and decided to stay at home. I stayed with her in bed until she was feeling better. Nonetheless, I found myself with a free day. After doing some work at home, I went out for my weekend long run (15 miles) in the evening.

I started out to state my intention to pray during the run as I geared up. Out on the road, the usual random thoughts started. I let them be then let them go. One by one the thoughts came in and out. However, I felt calm and felt no pressure to get rid of the distractions. I collected myself by thinking about my wife's health then asked God why. I didn't want to dwell on it so much so I quickly offer her thought to God even though I strongly felt asking God why. Then as I lifted her up in prayer I just said, "God, can you hear me now?"

This continued on throughout my run. Random thoughts in and out, then going back to God by saying, "God, can you hear me now?" Stopped at the traffic light, doing a sharp turn, running up a hill, crossing an intersection, running under a low hanging tree branch, speeding downhill, I'd say, "God, can you hear me now?"

Finally, heading home on my last 3 miles, pushing it a little harder, I felt God said to me, "I've been with you all these times. Joey, can you hear me now?" Then, my eyes, my ears, and my heart were opened. I realized I've occupied myself with my own busy-ness, dug in on my own frustration and anger, wallowed in self-pity, and actually disconnecting myself to God.

I felt comfort when I finally got back home. I immediately checked on my wife who was sound asleep. I ate some dinner for recovery then I stayed up to watch TV with my son. I went to bed last night thinking that God is always with me, waiting and listening, and also, calling me. I pray to be attuned to Him and thus ready to answer his call.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Prayer Run For My Wife

My wife Jinky is fighting Stage 4 Breast Cancer. It has spread to her lungs, liver, bones, and her brain. She is receiving infusion chemotherapy every week and oral chemotherapy every day. She is also taking a new medication to prevent seizures. She feels fatigue constantly, body soreness, and headaches. She's taking a medication to manage the pain.

But her spirit is as strong as ever. Her faith is holding her up. And your prayers are sustaining her will to live.

She's been fighting cancer for more than 10 years now. She's gone through the works of double surgery and radiation to her thorax and to her brain. She's seen stronger days and also weaker days. Yes, she's been in a situation even more precarious than where she is now. That's why we have faith that she can overcome her condition right now...through the power of prayer.

On Sunday morning starting at 7 am, please join me in prayer as I run and pray for Jinky's healing. I will run a full marathon and will offer it to her. It is my way of showing mortification so that God may look down upon my prayer with favor. And when you pray with me at the same time, and perhaps even do a prayer run, God will heed our prayers, for God loves a praying people. A prayer run is simply to offer yourself - your thoughts, your actions, and your desires to God - as you run.

So join me in a prayer run this Sunday at 7 am. Simply go out for a run or a walk and invite God to be with you as you run. That is sufficient; for God knows what we need even before we ask Him.

During my run, I will also be praying for the sick father of good friend of mine, also a family friend who is going through a divorce, and the mother of another good friend of mine who lost her battle to cancer in January. If you have other prayer intentions, let me know; and they will be in my prayer list on Sunday.

God bless!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Long Run Blues

Today was a difficult run. My mind wasn't into it, but my body seemed like to be running on automatic drive. Sounds like I was cruizin', but I wasn't. This is actually good news and bad news.

Let me start off with the bad news. So the bad news is that mentally I wasn't prepared. My mind was somewhere else. Last night, my wife wasn't feeling well. She was very cranky and sensitive. Then she complained that her right side was feeling numb. Her speech was slurring a little bit like somebody coming out of anesthesia from a dentist. She was also a bit confused. I was evaluating her very closely before I take her to the Emergency. (My wife is fighting breast cancer which is already in stage 4). Now this is not the first time this has happened. The last time it happened, she was released from the Emergency on the same day. Then she did an out patient EEG to test her for seizures and the results came out negative. Anyway, I decided that we should just get ready to go. But before we took off, I evaluated her one more time, and she said that she was feeling better. She asked for a pain pill and that helped her go to sleep. This morning, I left her feeling very tired and achy.

So that was the bad news part. My mind was with her, but I had to show up my butt for my long run as scheduled. Now the good news is that I just kept running and running. It felt like turning the power on on my legs and they kept going. But here is what made the run difficult. As soon as I think about my wife, my legs seemed to start getting weary. I wouldn't be surprised though, because my legs are not really powered mechanically. Normally what I see happening is that I start to feel my legs get tired, then I tell my brain to send a message to my legs to push, push, push. This time my legs weren't tiring, until they get out of synch with my mental state.

I was eager to go back home after the run of 20 miles. I was tired and I didn't like the feeling. But running 20 miles should make you tired, you fool! But no, I felt weary. So I got home and checked in with her. She was sleeping but seemed to be feeling better. I left her for awhile and sat in front of her. I said a little prayer of thanks. Then I drank my fluids for recovery. Slowly I felt better and my mood became more relaxed. I'm glad that my wife is out of danger and feeling much better.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Value of Rest

No run today. Today I logged in 0 miles.

I had the day off but got up early still. I went with my wife to go to the post office, the bank and do grocery shopping. As soon as we got home, I grilled some fresh salmon for lunch. Then I took my wife to the movies. Her choice of movie - Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts. Got home then soon after I took my son and his friend to basketball practice. Now, mind you I usually go out for a run while waiting for him during practice. But today, I stayed put. I found a little shade under a tree and read a book. Then I went inside the gym and watched him practice. I saw another parent and chatted with him. After practice, I took the boys to a Chinese dinner. When we got home, we prayed the rosary as a family.

In running, rest is the time when you achieve the gains from your training. In life, rest is the time to spend for the things that matter the most. Thank you, God, for the time today to stay away from running and the time to get away from busy-ness of life. Tomorrow, I shall do in earnest my long run and get ready to go back to work.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Run with a Friend

Actually it was fathers and sons run. My buddy Jeff and his son; I and my son and his friend, went to the reservoir park. Our sons are getting ready for the cross country season and their team will start training officially in two weeks. So it was a good time for Jeff and I to run along.

I had talked to Jeff before about doing prayer runs so I thought that this would be a good time for him to try it out. Now come to think of it, we did some rosary runs before, but this would be the first time where I'd encourage him to try to do a meditative run. It would be an opportunity for me to see if I can inspire somebody to try it out.

I told him that we would do a Mother Teresa Run. He seemed amused by it, but of course, he said he'd try it. Then I also mentioned to him that this is just one way to keep us attuned to God's presence during the run. Before we took off, I told him to offer this run to God and take the chance to unburden himself of any worries or concerns that he carried with him now.

So we ran together quietly. Our children behind us following our pace not too far behind. It was rather unusual because we were quiet the whole time. I was a little concerned because I certainly didn't want him to get turned off by an attempt to pray during what seems like a social run with 5 of us altogether. So I prayed for Jeff as I ran.

When we got to the end, I waited for him to say something. The first thing he said was that he felt good. He tried most of what I told him, but he said that he had a lot of trouble with the random thoughts and the physical fatigue. He said when he started getting tired midway to the run, he lost focus. It redirected his attention to getting by the fatigue. However, he said that using the mantras and thinking of happy thoughts helped him to pray. Overall he felt really good.

Now that was a happy news for me. Running with a friend can be prayerful, too. Jesus said, "When two or three people are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Run in Honor of

I haven't ran this course in awhile, even though it's one of my favorites. It's a rather hilly 9-mile course. One short hill at the beginning, a long gentle hill at the middle, then a steep long hill before the final downhill finish.

Today I went for it just because. But as I got into the last, most challenging hill, I remembered why I like this. I also remembered why I run.

Ten years ago in 2000 my wife was diagnosed of breast cancer. She fought it tooth and nail. She went through surgery, radiation, and a series of chemotherapy. The cancer was in semi-remission for quite some time. However, in 2006, her cancer came back. And it has spread to her lungs, liver, bones, and her brain. She had another surgery, another bout of radiation, and more chemotherapy. It's been a long uphill battle for her. Today she's still fighting. Every week she goes into chemotherapy, and every day she takes some more oral chemo pills.

She wasn't this ill before the cancer recurred in 2006. As a matter of fact, she took on running. She started training and then joining races. She ran a few Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure races and other local races in our area. She also did a 40-mile 2-day Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Eventually she wanted and felt ready to run a 10k. I supported her all the way, and we trained a few times together.

One of the training courses we ran was a shorter version of my favorite hilly course. I just told her to run along with me while I ran with her pace. As I noticed that she was feeling good, I decided to take her to the most challenging hill before she finishes it off with an easy downhill. She wasn't expecting it, but boy, did she dig deep to conquer that hill. She was so proud of herself after she got to the top of the hill without stopping. I was so proud of her.

Little did I know that she would use that runner's fighting spirit to face her most important battle in her life. I am so ever proud of her.

As I ran that same hill today, I prayed fervently for her. I offered my gift of health and running in prayer and in honor of my wife. To my wife, Jinky, I will always cherish you. I pray that you will be able to run again. I believe in miracles and I believe in the power of prayer. I love you, Jinky!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Food for Thought on Your Next Run

Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Our pastor, Fr. Roberto delivered a homily on the feast day of St. Dominic and spoke about how this passage applied to the saint's life.

Fr. Roberto said that St. Dominic walked for miles and miles everyday to pray and preach the gospel wherever he goes. He covered thousands of miles all over Spain, to France, and to Italy. He did this tirelessly for God and with joy. St. Dominic's treasure was nothing else, but his love of God. St. Dominic was called the "Athlete of Christ."

So we could ask ourselves 3 questions:
1. Where is your heart?
2. Do you do things for God?
3. Do you do it with joy?

For your run today, reflect on the following:
1. Do you love running (or walking, or hiking, or biking)? Think of your reasons or motivation for running. There are several reasons why you run perhaps. And if you could clearly name your reasons, that is a good indication that you love running. You see the value of allocating time to run. You may even put a lot more time and regularity to running than others. You are most likely proud to share to others that you run.
2. Do you do it for God? Offer your running time to God. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for being able to run. I could imagine how other people physically unable to run would exchange anything to be able to run freely. As you run, feel the wind, the sun, the ground, the smell, the views. These are all God's creation. They all bring greater glory to God. When you run, offer yourself to God. Ask for guidance to run in His path.
3. Do you do it with joy? Be a cheerful runner. Do a Mother Teresa Run. See Jesus in all the people you meet and say a prayer of blessing. Empty your mind by worrying about nothing, but instead praying for everything. Know that God knows all that we need and that is best for us. God will not forsake us. Accept it with a lot of faith and you will be at peace. Before you run, feel the excitement of being able to free yourself of needless anxieties by offering them to God. Enjoy the run as God wants you to run. Feel refreshed and joyful after your run. Then share the joy to your family and loved ones.

Your run doesn't have to go for miles as St. Dominic did in his walks. But do it tirelessly for God and with joy and it will take you places.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Run to Relax

No second thought, I just geared up and took off running.

I decided to stop after working in front of the computer for straight 8 hours. It was almost twilight so I figured it was a good time to go before it gets complete dark outside. The work I did was mentally draining. I could feel a bit stressed out too because I didn't think it would take me this long to finish it. I also had a choice to do other things to relax my self, like watching TV, but I decided to run. I said to myself that I could feel relaxed as I run.

On a busy day like today, I typically do a workout to relieve stress and pressure. I take it all out on the treadmill like somebody would a punching bag. On runs like these, I could feel the tension and arousement running through my body during the workout.

But today I wanted to feel relaxed as I run even though I'd exert a lot of effort. I visualized myself going to a place of quiet where I can feel at peace. The place I went to was a place of prayer. I automatically declared my intent to pray during the run. As I went through the steps of becoming aware of my breathing, my footsteps, the feel of the breeze, the touch of the sun rays on my skin, and the sight of the foliage of trees I pass by, I put myself in God's presence. I slowly opened my hands up as I swung my arms gently as I run. I felt calm as I kept on running. I let thoughts and sights distract me a bit. Then I see my palms up as I run and they lead me back to my desire to pray during this run.

The inspiration that came to me was "letting go." I let go all of my worries, frustration, anxieties, fears, and tension. I offered them all to God. I should not worry about anything, but instead pray for everything. God knows what I need and He will never forsake me. I cast my burden upon Him and allow Him to lead me to His path. As these thoughts filled me, I felt at peace during the run. My strides were fluid and my feet light.

As I finished my run, I became aware of the time. It went by fast yet I had already covered 6.2 miles. It was a relaxed run and a relaxing one, too. I thanked God for the experience and asked for His grace to keep me going especially during busy days. Running doesn't have to be another tiring activity after an already stressful day, it could also feel like a place to retreat, relax, and pray your worries away.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Long Run in a Unfamiliar Place

Okay today was new route in an unfamiliar place. On the spur of the moment, we decided to go visit my wife's niece's new home in San Lorenzo. It was already late in the day and I haven't done my long run. It was my fault anyway for not getting up early this morning as I have planned. I knew I wanted to do my long run today.

So before we left I googled the area to map a route of 15 miles. I found an easy loop to follow 3.8 miles long, so I'd have to do 4 loops. First loop was getting familiar with the environment so it went interesting. Running in new places always make the run fun and interesting.

But of course, I also planned to pray. The second loop I planned to empty my mind by being aware of my breathing and footsteps, like I always do at the beginning of a running meditation. I tell you, it was rather difficult. Like the first loop, the new surroundings continue to be interesting, as well as distracting. I was able to go back to my presence awareness only for a few fleeting moments. By the third loop, it was starting to get dark. I also began to get worried for my safety. Again, it was an unfamiliar territory. But the fear actually helped me to pray. I started to pray for my safety. A few parts of the run, I got more aware of the colors of dawn in the horizon and the cool breeze touching my face. I began thanking God. By the fourth loop, it was dark. I continued to pray for my safety and my family's, and my niece's family in their new home. On the last turn and straightaway I picked up my speed and thanked God for being able to squeeze in some prayer time during this run.

It was a nice run. The unfamiliarity of the area actually helped me to run at a faster pace because I wanted to get home soon before it gets too late at night. But it also identified a prayer need of mine - which was my safety. Don't we all pray for our safety on a daily basis? Wherever we are, whatever we do.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Rosary Run

I prayed the rosary as I ran today. I've done it a few times and I can somewhat recite in my head that goes along well with my cadence. Each decade I mark as a marker when I can sip water or wipe my forehead or increase my speed. Praying the rosary as I run always make me feel fulfilled after a run. I offered the rosary for world peace - specially today on the memorial of those who suffered and died on the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th, 65 years ago.

The other night, my teenage son and I had a discussion about praying the rosary. The last 2 months, we've been praying together the rosary every day as a family. Last night, he sounded off a protest. He proposed to pray only one decade for that night because he said he was feeling tired. My wife said she wants to complete the rosary but if he feels tired, he may leave after a decade. Perhaps feeling embarrassed, he stayed until he the rosary was done.

He went to his room immediately after, but then came out and said he wanted to talk to me. He asked why couldn't we just pray a decade sometimes? Why do we have to say it everyday, and not every other day, or pray something else? Why other things we could adjust or shorten but the rosary we couldn't?

I couldn't give him an answer that would convince him sufficiently and have a realization. I went on to explain a lot of things, but I knew at the end that he just wanted his opinion to be heard and perhaps be actually taken on next time. But the gist of what I told him is that what we want to practice as a family is to pray together for 15-20 minutes everyday. Prayer is what will make us closer and more attuned to God. And the rosary is the best and "easiest" prayer that would lead us closer to Jesus, said her mother Mary. Nonetheless, we could also pray in other ways.

I encouraged him to pray over it. I asked that in his nightly prayers, offer it to God through Mary, the question -- why the rosary. I also suggested to him to talk to his mom who is very devoted to praying the rosary.

Today I pray too that he will get an enlightened answer. Deep in my heart, I know that he will realize why...when he's a little bit older, and will be thankful to his parents that we pray the rosary together everyday.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Running Inward

Usually during a physical activity, such as running, walking, hiking, a lot of thoughts cross your mind. Sometimes, a string of connected ideas; sometimes totally random. Sometimes, you entertain all thoughts; sometimes, you dwell on a single thought. However, all these thoughts, ideas, memories come from nowhere else but within you. Hence, an activity like running usually leads you inward to your own self.

I went out for a run on the street while I was waiting for my son from his guitar lessons. And I reflected on the experience of running inward. Lots of random thoughts came to my mind but as I let them fill my mind, I felt them centering and drawing towards my heart. But I could't fully make sense of it. I set the idea aside until I got back from my run and saw my son playing a beautiful piece on his guitar. He and his music sounded soulfully. I could tell he was playing from the heart. Then it dawned on me -- running inward is like an artist playing from the heart. Your heart and your body, your spirit and your strength combine to run freely and joyfully.

From his guitar lessons, my son and I went to one of our favorite trails on Contra Loma and went for a run together. We ran the first half talking about everything under the sun. Then we split up. He did some hill repeats on a short but steep incline. While I ran another loop around the lake. There I reflected on running inward. I thought of a time when the artist in me was expressed from the heart. There was one time back when I was a senior in high school. I played the guitar to lead the school during the Mass songs. It was raining hard outside and we could hear the the really loud pouring rain on the aluminum roofing over our auditorium. Spontaneously, the student body sang loudly but in harmony together to outdo the rain while I played my best to accompany their expression of praise. Everybody was amazed at everyone's singing. The priest said that it was truly a song of praise. I was proud of myself at that time because I knew I played from the heart.

The same feeling came to me as I ran. Before I knew it, I was almost to the end of the loop. I was hardly tired and my mood was high. I met my son by the foot of the hill where he did his repeats. He said he had an excellent workout, too. As we drove back home, we talked about our runs. It was great way to end the day.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Run Back

I was not in the mood this afternoon. It was one of those times when I would've said "I need a drink." However, I said, "I need to run." So I geared up, laced my shoes, and went for a run. I called on God to stay with me on this run.

As I set out to run, I visualized myself running back to God. Remember that story about the prodigal son? I pictured myself as the son but with a slight twist. So the story goes the son decided to return to his father's house. However, unlike the prodigal son in the story, I didn't do anything that wasted my life's inheritance. Today, I just felt that I was going towards the wrong direction. Before I got further away from God, I knew I wanted to turn back.

The prodigal son story then goes as soon as the father saw his son from the window, he got out and ran as fast as he could towards his son. In my image, I saw God running towards me. Then I took off running towards him.

I thank God for my prayer run today. It helped me to calm myself and regroup after the run. It helped me to let go and offer my worries and low mood to God. It helped me get back on track. My prayer run today helped me to stop, turn back, and head towards the right direction.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Run In Memory of My Father

My father passed away 21 years ago today. I still do not fathom why God took him so early. He was a loving, hardworking, humble, and pious person. My father had a goal of sending his 3 children to college. But the only way he could do it was to leave our home country the Philippines and look for greener pastures abroad. So when I was in my junior year in high school, he left for the United States to work. After 7 years of continuously working, without getting a chance to come home, one day at work he collapsed. He had a brain aneurysm. He died after a few days in coma. None of us were able to see him in person for the last 7 years. But finally we saw him when his body arrived home. Just before he died, the youngest child in the family just graduated from college. My father accomplished his goal sending all his children to college. During the wake, a mail arrived. It was a card my father sent to my mother for her birthday. Back then, it took 2 weeks for mail to arrive from overseas. Apparently he wrote the letter a few before he died. It was a long letter where my dad went over his reasons for going to the United States. He said that he is thankful to God that finally the kids are all done with school. He said that now it was time for him to reunite with his wife. The letter was about 7 pages long which ended with his birthday greetings on the card. It probably took him a awhile to write all these, and so he wrote at the end, "Sweetheart, I am tired now. But before I go, let me just say, I love you."

I ran for 8 miles, praying -- down memory lane -- in his memory. May my father rest in peace.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bits and Pieces

In no particular order:
1. I ran on the Iron Horse Trail, one of my favorite trail routes, in Danville, while waiting for my son from basketball practice. I chanted, "God's will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else." It went well with my cadence and it helped me focus on my praying...only for a short intermittent time though. But I thought it was something I could use again in my prayer runs.
2. I was praying on my knees after Communion this Sunday, when an inspiration came down on me and tears just started streaming down my eyes. I've been praying to the Holy Spirit to increase my faith and to guide my prayer. At this particular moment in prayer, I saw the image of St. Joseph caring for his son Jesus. And instantly I broke down crying. I wanted to be like St. Joseph who dedicated his life to care for Jesus and Mary. That is how I want to live my life as I care for my own son Tim and my wife Jinky.
3. I ran with a friend over the weekend. We used to run more often together before but then our schedules didn't work out together the past few years. He ran on and off according to him but always wanted to go back to more regular running. During our conversation as we ran, I brought up the topic of prayer runs. He took interest in it. He seemed to be inspired by the idea. I said that it might just work for him. I know him as a prayerful yet busy person. I told him that you could actually look forward to praying during a run, then gaining the benefits of running as an after the fact. I look forward to another run with him and see we could do a prayer run together.
4. Tomorrow is the 21st death anniversary of my father. He died when I was 21 years old. It was a time of doubt and confusion. How could such a devoted and prayerful person be taken away from me? Even now, I still don't have the answers. But I know God Loved him and watched over him and my father does the same to me, too. I think that's what's faith is all about - believing even if you don't understand. I will offer my father's memory in prayer in my run tomorrow.
This is all for now!

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.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Praying for Safety and Health

I suggest that the first thing in your prayer list when you go out is to pray for your own safety as you run. I think it's extremely important that you are able to complete your run safely and without injury. In this way, you could actually focus on your praying as opposed to worrying about what's lurking around you. Of course, there's always the risk of running into some danger when you go out. Like a loose angry dog, or a wayward vehicle, or some crazy person. The closest incident I've encountered is some drunk teenagers who shouted at me as they drove past me, trying to scare me off and get some reaction. Tell you what, they did manage to startle me but I stayed calm and showed no reaction and kept going. The other thing I'm always worried is a loose dog. I'm always on the lookout for an escape route just in case I will be chased by one. You know, like to climb up a tree or wall or on top of a parked car. But all these things come to mind as I run. So I strongly suggest that the first order when you set out is to pray for safety as you run.

Prayer Request

Today as I was talking with a co-worker, I mentioned to her my running mission. She talked about her ailing 90-year old mother who lives with her. I offered to include her in my prayer list in my long run this weekend. She happily agreed and was very thankful. I plan to run a mile for her mother in her honor and will reflect on her needs and offer them to God. According to my co-worker, she wants to move her mother to a senior home but she is worried that she will look at it negatively. My co-worker requested me to pray that her mother will be open and take the offer positively.

If you have a prayer request, drop me a post. Then I will pray for it as I run.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Can You Actually Pray While You Run?

I learned as a child that God sends his angels to watch over me as I sleep. I learned from a priest a few breathing techniques to prepare oneself in meditative prayer. Many religious processions pray as they walk around town to the church or a pilgrimage site. A teacher of mine told me to offer all your thoughts and actions to God. Every little work you do - from washing the dishes, to driving to work, to playing a game - can be a form of prayer to God. Why not running? Absolutely, one can actually pray while running.

When I need to do long drives, I usually pick a Saturday early morning and try to catch the break of dawn. To me, it's a spiritual experience to catch the the first break of sunlight when you can actually see the rays of the sun directly as the sky starts to brighten up. The moment stirs me to pray and give thanks to a God who made all this possible. I think it's that "misterium tremendum" feeling - a feeling of awe that lends you to surrender any need for explanation. I just want to remain here as long as possible.

I try to start out my long runs before dawn so I can experience the same feeling as I run. It's simply inspiring. This is what I look forward to when I need a motivation to get up from bed. Even how hard starting out may be and painful the run ended up to be, I never ever regret going out for a morning long run. One of the things I've learned to do from this experience is to embed in my mind the same high feeling in any run I do at any time of the day. One of the best way to do this is to pray as I run. When I start praying as I run, I gradually capture and repeat the spiritual experience of the breaking of dawn. Like in meditation, I become aware of my breathing, my feet pounding the pavement, and the road ahead of me; and place myself in God's presence. And yes, I can actually pray as I run.

What is Running?

"I'm not a runner at all. I don't know how you do it."

Quite a few people have told me this when I tell them what I like to do. Running is something any person can do. It's quite simple, too. You put one foot ahead or in front of the other, then swing your arms, one at a time. Start slow, then gradually go faster. I've done it quite a few times for a long period of time for long distances, that's why others think of me running quite effortlessly. Well, that's both true and false. Running is really easy compared to other sports because it only involves one motion over and over again. However, on the other hand, it can also be rather challenging. But there's a caveat. It is only as challenging as the goal you set for yourself. Or to put it in another way, it is only as difficult as the way you said it to be.

In my opinion, anybody can be a runner. Just do it!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What is Praying?

Good question. What constitutes praying? Let me say that there are many ways to look at praying. I think there as many ways you can define it as the people who pray. But there is one thing for sure. We pray to God Almighty who is the Creator and above all things. I think that this is fundamental to the understanding of praying. To believe in praying, I have to submit and humble myself to one who is more powerful than I am. For us as Christians, we have learned a special way to pray. Jesus taught us that we can have a relationship with God who we can call our Father. Through Jesus, we are now able to have an intimate communication with God. I think that's what praying is all about - to communicate with God.

I like to share some of my favorite excerpts from our pastor's message about what praying is, which he gathered from different saints and theologians. My pastor is Fr. Roberto Corrall, O.P. at Holy Rosary Catholic Church.

Praying is...
...dialogue with God. (St. Augustine) make a place for God to enter our lives (Fr. Okumura, OCD)
...friendly conversation with God (St. Teresa of Avila)
...remaining silent before God (Fr. Okumura) seek God, to discover God in oneself (Fr. Okumura)
...the breathing of the soul (St. Augustine)
...the breathing of love (Fr. Okumura)

The last two descriptions bring me to running. Yes you can pray while running. You breathe as you run. You can breathe God's love as you run. Fill yourself with God as you run. Allow God to remain in you as you run. Every breathe, every step, God is with you.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Do You Have A Prayer Request?

It's been 7 weeks since I ran outdoors. Today, it was an exhilirating feeling to feel the wind in my face, stride on black top, and feel the sight, sound, and smell of Antioch. I did an out and back 6-miler around the suburban streets which I like. The cars driving by and a few people out in the streets keep me company in my run. As I started running in cruise control around the second mile, I started to pray. I lost track of my recitation of the rosary at first because I was distracted by the sights and sounds of suburban streets, but as I turned into the trail part of my run, I started to pray more fervently with my breathing and stride in unison.

I first prayed for a safe run. This being my first run on harder surface I really wanted to come home without injury. Then I thought about my wife Aura Jane a.k.a. Jinky who in a few days will be a 10-year survivor of breast cancer. I will post more about her story in my next post but for now let me share with you her caringbridge website:

You see, she is alive today because of the prayers of so many people. As I kept running, I thought about sharing the power of prayer to people who have a prayer request. I will run a mile for your prayer request and I will think and offer your request in prayerful contemplation as I run.

Do you have a prayer request?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Beginnings

My running has taken me to different places of interest as wells as states of mind. A most memorable one was in December of 2005 when I was running the California International Marathon in Sacramento. As I was running the last 6 miles, I knew I had to draw strength from another source. My glycogen levels were depleted and I was felt breathless on every stride. Then I ran past a Catholic church. In an instant, I felt motivated to keep going. I started to pray the rosary as I huffed and puffed. Before I knew it, Mile 26 was just around the corner. Only 385 yards to go. I had a great finish. Praying kept me going. It so inspired me that in the next race, the Napa Valley Marathon, I lined up in my mind 26 significant people in my life. One person for each mile of the race, I thought about and prayed for. The last mile of that race, I thought about my family - my wife and my son - I prayed for them, for us. And it brought me to the finish line. I ran through the pain of achy and tired legs because I wanted to see them already. These are two of my most memorable races that inspired me to be a prayerful runner.