Sunday, January 09, 2011

Running the Cebu Marathon

Very early this morning I lined up at the starting point of the Cebu Marathon (42 k) at the IT park. There were some 1200 runners who started running at 4 am, along the streets of Cebu, the SRP highway up to Talisay through the 800 meters tunnel.

I ran a very slow pace since my right knee was still a bit painful due to the knee injury I had 4 weeks ago after doing a lot of speed intervals as part of my training. I was aiming for a sub-4:30 marathon originally but due to the injury, I was content to finish the marathon using the run-walk method (4 min run/1 min walk). I reached the midpoint in less than 3 hours but after 30 k my knee became more painful that I just decided to walk the remaining kilometers. I reached the finish line after covering the distance in 7:00:o8. This is my PW (personal worst), the slowest marathon I have ever ran, 3 1/2 hours slower than my personal best of 3:33:15 which I did in 1983. But I was still happy to reach the finish line and receive my finishers' medal. The last finishers medal I received was in 1995 when I ran the Rome Marathon. I didn't get a finishers medal when I ran the Pasig River Marathon in 2009 since I was way behind the cut-off time.

If this happened over 25 years ago, finishing a marathon in 7 hours would have been a source of shame. My first marathon was 4:30, my second was 3:36 and my third was 3:33. After that my goal was to break 3 hours (which I never did due to cramps) but I always finished under 4 hours. So slower than 4 hours was even a big disappointment. But now 25 years later, I would consider a 7 hour marathon a source of pride - a badge of courage. The finishers' medal I received this morning is a symbol of patient endurance in the face of adversity. Last week, I wasn't even sure if I could get to the STARTING line due to my knee injury. I was thinking of backing out - but I already paid P800 registration fee and I was already in Cebu. So even if I have not fully recovered I just ran very, very slowly and my aim was to reach the finish line no matter how long it would take.

At my age, it seems that running a sub 4 hr marathon is a distant possibility. There are things that I could do when I was 30 that I can't do now that I am 56 year old - like running a 3:33 marathon. But there are things that I can do now which I couldn't do when I was 30 years old -like run/walking 400 km across Mindanao in 9 days, and run/walking barefoot 800 km across the French Pyrenees and the North of Spain in 27 days. I am not as fast as I used to be, but I have more endurance. In the long journey to through life what matters most is not how fast I can run/walk but how far I can go and reach my destination. What is most important is not speed but patient endurance - because life is not a 100 meter sprint.

I dream of making the journey of a lifetime - a solo, unsupported run/walk across the Philippines from Davao to Aparri via the Cordilleras (around 2,200 km), averaging 42 km/day in two months, 7-8 hours a day with one rest day per week. When I was 30 years old such a dream would seem to be an impossible dream. But now that I am 56 years old, such a dream appears attainable. But first, I have to allow my knee injury to fully heal and recover. I hope I can do this within one year.

Running the marathon this morning is a fulfillment of a promise I made to myself when I was newly ordained priest 30 years ago - that I would run a marathon every year even when I reach 80 years old and beyond. I failed to keep this promise for 14 years (after I got injured in the Rome marathon and took up biking) but took it up again last year. This time I intend to keep my promise. Maybe when I am too old to run marathons (probably when I reach 90) I will enter the wheelchair division. So it is not how fast, but how long I can run - for a lifetime.
Still, I dream of breaking my 3:33 pr someday - before I turn 60 years old. When I turn 80, I might have a better chance of finishing first in my age division (80 and above). Dream on.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Overcoming our Dark Side, Becoming the Best Version of our Self

I am attending the Redemptorist Provincial Chapter Assembly here in Cebu at the Holy Family Retreat House. It started last Monday (Jan. 3) and will end this coming Monday (Jan. 10). There are over 60 Redemptorists from Visayas and Mindanao in attendance. We have come together to set the direction of our life and mission for the next 4 years. We are also electing the leadership team of our religious province.

Yesterday morning, I was the designated presider and homilist of our daily Eucharist. This is the text of my homily:

Overcoming our Dark Side, Becoming the Best Version of our Self

There is a story of a native American chief of the Cherokee tribe talking to his grandchild: “there are 2 wolves fighting within my heart.
One is mean, greedy, lazy, proud, and avaricious.
The other is kind, compassionate, loving, courageous, and vibrant.”
When the child asks who will win, he answers:
“the one that I will feed.”

This story reminds us of the struggle within each one of us – a struggle that continues even to our old age.

If we go through our life we will notice acts and behavior
that we are not proud of,
that we find despicable and that we regret.
This could be those moments when we became, selfish, greedy, angry, avaricious, lustful, lazy, abusive, and prone to addiction
This is the dark side of ourselves, the worst version of ourselves,
the sinful self.

What happens when the dark side dominates our life?
We fail to carry out our prophetic mission,
we tend to spend our time in pursuit of sensual pleasure and comfort– feeding our addictions, we could break our vows,
we could engage in sexual misconduct or abuse,
or be involved in financial anomalies, we could create scandals,
we could lose our credibility

But who we are doesn’t have to be defined by our past sins & mistakes.
We don’t have to allow the worst version of ourselves dominate our life.

The Gospel relates to us Jesus' struggle against the diabolical temptation in the desert, before he started his prophetic ministry of proclaiming the Good News and urging people to conversion.
Paul in his letter to the Colossians calls for conversion – dying to the old self and putting on the new self.

Constitution 10 states that our special mission is the explicit proclamation of the Word of God to bring about fundamental conversion… We are called to be apostles of conversion.
We can only carry this out if we ourselves have experienced conversion and redemption.
Conversion requires transformation – from sinner to saint, from being the worst version of ourselves to being the best version of ourselves.

St. Alphonsus in his letter to the confreres in Aug 8, 1754, wrote:
“ God has called us into the congregation to become saints … Let us – in what remains of our lives, long or short – let, us, I say, become saints.” This does not mean being canonized or having a statue and feast celebrated in our honor.

A description of what it means for us to become saints can be found in Const 20: “Strong in faith, rejoicing in hope, burning with charity, on fire with zeal, in humility of heart and persevering in prayer …hearts full of joy, denying themselves, always ready to undertake what is demanding…"

For many of us, Const 20 is a distant unrealistic, ideal. But it is the image of what we can be – the best version of ourselves.

Unless we are able to overcome our dark side,
unless we go through a process of ongoing conversion,
unless we become the best that we can be –
all the restructuring will be in vain,
all our beautiful resolutions and proposals will remain on paper.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Welcoming the New Year 2011

I just arrived here in Cebu this afternoon after spending my post-Christmas vacation in Iligan with my sisters and their family.

Last night after the New Year's eve mass at the Redemptorist, I went over to my sister Nonie's house and joined her family and my other sisters (Mely & Cely) welcome the New Year. The night-sky was lit with colorful fireworks. I went home to the monastery at 1 pm and slept soundly. I woke up early to celebratethe 6 am mass this morning and later left for Cagayan to take the plane for Cebu.

As I welcome the New Year, I also say goodbye to 2010. It has been a good year. I achieved most of what I planned to do. I went on a pilgrim journey. I ran/walked 400 km across Mindanao during the Holy Week, and then ran/walked 800 km barefoot the Camino de Santiago in Spain in July-August. I have also lived as a hermit in the mountain of Busay. I have almost finished editing and revising 2 book projects and they should be ready for publication.

What does the new year 2011 have in store for me? I expect major changes in my life after the end of the second semester in March.

What are my goals this year?

Continue losing weight until I reach my ideal running weight of 135 lbs
Run the Cebu Marathon
Solo Run/Walk for Peace across the Philippines (Davao to Aparri via Cordilleras - 2200 km)
Publish my books
Spend more time in promoting the growth of Basic Ecclesial Communities all over the Philippines and conducting retreat for the clergy.

I am just so excited thinking about the prospects for this year.