Ka Rene: Smashing the Sub 1 10K Challenge at 72 years old

Paint me a picture of your post-retirement days, would you? Right now, in your head, before you read on, just imagine yourself at the fulfilled age of 60-something. What does it look like? Is it you sitting on a bench, in a simple home somewhere out in a beautiful province, peaceful and quiet? Is it you watching over your most beloved and adorable grandkids, brimming with pride and joy? Is it you spending your retirement money traveling the world and experiencing what else there’s still in life to experience at that age, eager and spirited?

Or is it you, still training day-in and day-out to conquer Pinoy Fitness’s Sub 1 10K Challenge, strong and mighty?

Finishing 10K in under an hour at post-retirement age? Are you joking?

He arrives just a little past assembly time, carefully and politely brushing through a crowd of 20-to-30-year-old runners trying to get a spot at the front of the starting line. At that arc, rearing and ready to take on the challenge, Reynaldo “Ka Rene” Gonzales, with unspoken defiance, shows you that: no kids, he is definitely not joking. And yes, he may be old—72 years old, to be exact—but old age most definitely does not mean incapacity because at the gunshot, he takes off… and soars.

Ka Rene as a jockey in his younger days

Although gallops might be a more appropriate term to describe the way the former jockey runs, Ka Rene ran the Pinoy Fitness Sub 1 10K, and shoved it right in the face of the youth that he can still run and do so even faster than they could.

Ka Rene certainly piqued our interests and inspired awe in many who were there at the event grounds to see him cross that finish line with a happy grin, almost knocking over one of our marshals as he make it to the cut-off og the Sub 1 10K Challenge.

Makes you think twice about ditching the running drills, doesn’t it?

Anything is definitely possible when you put in the right amount of hard work powered by an unwavering belief in yourself, because believe it or not, Ka Rene was not always breaking speed records like the horses he used to race with.

Our jolly, old challenge conqueror often spent his nights in a drunken haze, laughing and celebrating wins with his comrades at the race track. “Panay inom ako dati—halos gabi-gabi—kasi pag nanalo ng karera, nagkaka-ayaan yung mag babarkada.” he tells us of younger Ka Rene with a tinge of disappointment in his voice.

“Nag simula na lang ako manawa, tapos sinabi ko sa sarili ko na hindi na, gusto ko na talaga itigil ‘to. Tapos may isa naman akong kasamahan na nag-ayang tumakbo,”

Then one day, a call to reform came in the figure of a friend who had invited him to go for a run; “Nag simula na lang ako manawa, tapos sinabi ko sa sarili ko na hindi na, gusto ko na talaga itigil ‘to. Tapos may isa naman akong kasamahan na nag-ayang tumakbo,” and his smile was as wide again as ever, thinking of the day he first started running.

Recalling the year he retired, Ka Rene was extremely grateful that his 54-year-old self only allowed optimism to take over. Glad that he didn’t just throw in the towel and surrendered to a sedentary lifestyle as most people his age permit themselves to fall into.

Ka Rene’s battle with old age

But naturally, old age came with frustrating changes in the body, and will inevitably for everyone, we’ll see the day that our bodies won’t be performing the way they do in our youth, just like how Ka Rene saw and experienced it. The road of his reformation, he felt, was going to be a tough one.

“Tumatakbo ako, tapos biglang dumugo ‘yong ilong ko. Akala ko init, ‘yon pala high blood na.”

Life truly has this funny and sometimes cryptic way of testing your resolve, doesn’t it? You set your mind to running and getting healthier, and suddenly something happens, you get checked, then after a few tests here and there, you hear from your doctor that you have a chronic disease. Now for some, getting diagnosed with a chronic disease at such a ripe age just does it for them; make them give up hope in achieving their dreams for better things in life.

Quietly leaving the doctor’s office, letting the weight of the realization of having a chronic and possibly debilitating condition sink in, Ka Rene’s feelings were a muddle of sadness, disappointment, and surprisingly enough, a sense of determinedness. Refusing to succumb to grief, Ka Rene defiantly stepped out of his house every morning and chose every day to conquer his condition. Refusing to lose even against the runners he trains with at 800-meter sprints.

“Mag aaya ‘yoong kaibigan ko. Tapos araw-araw, tatakbo kami 800 meters. Araw-araw, natatalo niya ako, hanggang sa isang araw, naunahan ko siya.”

Slowly and day by day, our senior sprinter, got stronger, faster, and by making sure to follow the doctor’s instructions, in a few years’ time, was also able to somehow reverse his condition.

At the age of 72, with normal blood pressure, free from any joint pain, still running races and breaking time challenges. We don’t know about you guys, but that sounds like a pretty great retirement plan to us. Ka Rene only laughed, when we asked how in the world do we get to age the way he did and said;

“Ginagawa ninyo naman na, e. Tumatakbo na kayo. Ang sikreto lang naman ay wag kayong hihinto. Tumakbo lang kayo, kahit sa mga araw na pakiramdam ninyo ayaw ninyo, pero sa totoo, kaya ninyo naman. ‘Yon lang.”

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