You could see him from afar. He stood at least a head above “regular” people. He always wears a tight black dri-fit shirt that emphasizes his ballooning midsection. He wears shades and has earphones on his ears – as if to say he couldn’t care less about the world around him. But I saw through him. He was a big, galumphing piece of reality that was destined to be my arch nemesis. Even if he doesn’t know it yet.
It all started in the Rexona Run. We both ran the 10 kilometer MOA-Manila course, supposedly the flattest course in Metro Manila. Here was where runners came to set their personal best records. That’s exactly what I came to do. I prepared (or at the time, I thought I had prepared enough). I ran. But I didn’t conquer. Instead of establishing my personal best, I clocked in at my second worst time. I attributed it to my not knowing the course well enough (hey, it was my first time to run the course), or being distracted by the beautiful view of the bay, or lack of hydration (I didn’t go to enough water stations). But he was there.
He looked like he didn’t care about the world, but everytime I would catch up with him, he would speed up and dash off. After a few minutes, I’d see him walking. I’d catch up, then he’d speed off again. The guy used me as his marker! So I ran harder, trying to save whatever I could of my race time, and ran the speed consistently. Predictably, he tried to run at my speed. But my guess was correct – he couldn’t maintain a pace like that. Hey, I tried my best not to judge! I know we’re all trying to be healthy and lose some pounds here, but he should have known better, using me as his marker. So I finally lost him as I neared the finish line.
I saw him again at the Unilab Run. I was headed back to the Bonifacio Global City. There would be no excuses now. It was a familiar course, no bridges, and few slopes. But the Monday of the week before the race, I felt a sharp pain in my right foot. To this day, I am still unsure of what it is, but it hurt enough to make me miss half a day of work. I pushed my practice, and was still able to race. But at the 7k Mark, I felt the awful pain coming back. So I tried to compensate by using more of my left foot. Bad move. Now both feet hurt. I had to walk. Then I saw him overtake me. And I couldn’t do anything about it.
I don’t know why I didn’t like the guy. Okay, maybe I do. It’s my competitive nature trying to tell someone I don’t know that he can’t just make a marker out of me. Or, maybe it’s just because the guy reminded me of my worse runs. To be melodramatic about it, he was my worse self.
Today, I ran the AXN Run. It was a new course for me (and for most people, actually). The 10k entailed 4 inclines (I hear the 21k run seemed to be a never-ending series of flyovers). It could have gone down as another one of my worse races, but I’m proud to say it didn’t. The course was tough, but I was blessed to have been able to practice better this time. Between the Unilab Run and today, I took running more seriously. I read up more on running, I asked my (more serious) running friends how to get a better 10k time, and I put in the actual time and effort necessary to run better. The result was a time better than the flat course of MOA.
Yes, I saw Big-Guy-in-Black at the race. I was just thinking about him and my disdain for him, when I saw his head, towering over the others. But this time, I was already coming from the U-Turn, and he was still making his way toward it. I had sufficiently put almost a 2 minute gap in between the two of us.
After seeing him there, I kept looking behind my shoulder to check if he was at least within a glance away. He wasn’t. And for the rest of the race, he never was. The next time I saw him, was at the Finish Area. I had already clocked in a few minutes ago, and he seemed to have just reached the finish. I had succeeded. Take that, Big-Guy-in-Black.
I know, I know. Running is actually a very personal sport. It’s not like basketball or badminton, wherein the opposition is what drives the players. But that guy, as I said, represented my old self. My worse running times. My self that had not logged in enough practice but expected a better 10K result.
And if running is a way to exorcise personal demons, today, I had just kicked an elephantine one out.