It was no Colosseum.
But gladiators were there, chasing glories through grit.
Neither was it Olympus.
But the ancients would have been proud of the dogged determination and dedication that filled the morning air.
Neither was it Araneta Coliseum, the supposed mecca of an archipelago’s athletic endeavors.
But it was filled with those who made the early morning pilgrimage toward better selves.
It was Greenhills Shopping Center on a Sunday Morning. It was filled with weekend gladiators, health-enthusiasts-turned demi-olympians, and even those who just wanted to make sure that blood still flowed through their veins.
It was awake as ever this morning, as the city still slept, and was in transition from a hard night of partying to 10AM Mass. No doubt, ounces upon ounces of sweat had already been spilt on the shopping center’s pavement. Hundreds of shoes had already kissed the running path wound its way around the center. Later, this path would be filled with cabs, sedans, vans, traffic enforcers, motorcycles and people trying to cross from one shopping venue to the next. Later in the day, the shopping center would threaten to burst at the seams with the sheer volume of humanity that it tried toe good store. But that would be later. Now, it belonged to those who dared to rise early.
There were the senior citizens, sometimes accompanied by their children or grandchildren. Some would walk gingerly. Some would go through the entire motion of a sprint, but going at the pace of a foxtrot. Then there are the exceptional senior citizens who put my lungs and legs to shame – those warriors from a different time still decked in their full running battlegear, still going at competition-speed and form. Whatever their pace, I am always humbled by their dedication to life. They always make me realize how much I do have, and how much I should utilize them to the fullest.
Then there are the bikers. A good section of the road has been cordoned off for them, and they have earned this special section by consistently showing up and varying the cardiovascular landscape this side of town. They’re in full gear from bike to biceps. Man and machine in motion is poetry to watch – if you’re attentive enough not to be rundown by them. When I get my bike in the future, I’d sure join them.
Socialites also come to partake of this community event. They come in the best shoes, the flashiest athletic shirts, and the iPods with the funkiest headphones. Sometimes, they even came with the most colorful head bands. But their objective is not to run. Their objective is to meet their amigas, or their kumpares, and walk around the shopping center, do a good lap or two, then head on to Gloria Maris, Mister Donut or Krispy Kreme for more stories about the good old days, or what the best medicine for their gout is. Their chatter adds character to the soundscape, as the more animated ones flail their arms as they gesture when you pass by their group at Mister Donut.
I would really have liked to write about this Tai Chi group, too, that used to meet consistently on the shopping center grounds, but I haven’t seen them there in a long time.
There are, of course, the real runners, who you could identify a kilometer away. They’re not going to be in really flashy gear or they won’t be wearing the most faddish sports equipment, and they won’t be with someone whom they’ll just talk to the whole time. They’ll be in dress-down, let’s-get-to-work muscle or plain shirts that are already drenched with sweat since the minute you saw them.
And there are those who just want to make sure that they’re healthy, or hobbyists, or preparing for the next Fun Run they signed up for. They’ll probably be wearing the jersey that came with the last fun run, and when they see another runner in Greenhills wearing the same one, they’ll be smiling. These are the ones who don’t just get to have a good workout as the day begins. These are also the ones who, because of their un-hardcore pace, can still take a breath to observe everyone else running around them, and even blog about them.
Runners have been going around Greenhills even way before this running bug caught the country, and I’m willing to bet my running shoes that they will still be running around it long after. Running in Greenhills is not just an opportunity for health, but an opportunity to socialize for others. It can be a way to better one’s self, to cut one’s 5K time in the next Fun Run, or to get to a better waistline. It can also just be a way to enjoy beautiful Sunday mornings, and be comforted that there are other crazy people who woke up early like you did, to run while the sun rose, and while the rest of the world slept. And who knows? Maybe the gladiators would be proud of our craziness, too.