The Dream We Relentlessly Chase

 

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Saturday, February 16 at 8:00 pm in the evening, I find myself in a cab ride heading to Filinvest, Alabang; the venue where what would be one of my toughest undertakings, will be held.

The ride was quiet.

The driver was keeping small talk at a minimum, thankfully. It was peaceful. My mind wasn’t as such. A clutter of contemplations that were ever slowly devolving into anxious thought was overtaking it. I ask myself; why the hell was I doing this?

Running The Bull Runner dream marathon. That’s what I was deeply questioning my intentions of, to be clear.


Why the hell was I doing this marathon?
Am I running for a medal or a picture to show off?
Was I only running this because my editor told me to?
Did I get myself into this because this is what people expected of me?

“I didn’t start running because somebody asked me to become a runner. Just like I didn’t become a novelist because someone asked me to. One day, out of the blue, I wanted to write a novel. And one day, out of the blue, I started to run—simply because I wanted to,” the Murakami voice inside my head interjects.

Of course, Ming’s-subconscious-Murakami voice lifted a quote from the book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. How appropriate. Perfect, even. My wits were shaken back into me, and the fog clears in my head as the quote reminded me that I became a writer because I wanted to. And I became a runner because I–no one else–wanted to.

A reason bigger than you for a challenge tougher than most

“Josh, what gets you through running 160 kilometers?” I ask my cousin, an ultramarathoner, who I convinced to pace me as we sat at the table where post-race breakfast would be served in around 10 hours. It was 11:00. One hour until gunstart. My heart was pounding. I look down at my watch, and open the heart monitor. 130 beats per minute, it read.

“Well, kapag mahirap na, ang nagagawa ko na lang talaga is mag dasal, eh.” So I guess his strategy is invoking an all-powerful being to get through 160 kilometers. That makes sense. We all have our reasons for doing what we do, after all. These reasons vary. In amount, in nature, and most importantly, in value. That’s how I see it, at least.

I always just thought that if a reason mattered enough to you and to others around you, it will be enough to get you through anything. A reason bigger than you.

So much so that it is magnified because it resonates in the hearts of many others who, unknown to you, also think the same way.

I stood there at the starting line recalling my intentions and holding on to them like a psychological lifeline. I stood there, eyes closed, envisioning a finish that stood for a fight that resonates with a lot of people–that I’m sure others feel the same about.

The marshall counts it down. 10, 9, 8, I join the shouts… 7, 6, 5, deep breath… 4, 3, 2, head high and eyes ahead… 1, bang! And I charge ahead. I run for freedom.

 

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Always in the mood for ice cream. Even on a marathon course. ✌🏽🍦 – BRB now. Getting ice cream.

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Cages and shackles that aren’t iron

Freedom. Isn’t this something that we already have? Isn’t freedom something that we’re enjoying now? After all, so many had already suffered and died for the prize.

No. This wasn’t freedom that held you behind bars. The enemy has gotten creative. There are no more iron cages and shackles that tied down honest folk. Or they’re lesser now, at least. The enemy comes now to tie you down with self-doubt, to cage you with anxiety, and to gag you into silence with fear.

That’s what I ran for, because I was a victim to the same things. I honestly still am, sometimes. Too insecure with myself to take a risk at a new project or a job because self-doubt whispered; if you don’t do it, you won’t fail. But I didn’t win, either.

Too anxious to meet amazing people, because anxiety chuckled; they’re not going to find you interesting enough when they actually did like me. Too scared to speak up, because fear said; people will attack you for it, even when I held a truth that people needed to hear.

Freedom and those who fight for it will always have to sleep with one eye open because it’s so very fragile. And the enemy–be him a voice inside your head, or a person who is influential–is cunning, and he is powerful, and his envoys work ‘round-the-clock.

He knows how to twist the words to make you believe that this is right. That this is just. That this is where you belong and that you have no other place you can be. And if you dare fight back, he can coerce you into silence. It will take much strength and courage to cry NEVER AGAIN, to fight to overcome, and to hold the line.

The burden lightened by companionship

 

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A fight so hard to overcome entails the need for good companions. I’ll dare say that the race represented the journey. And the people everywhere on the course providing support, the compatriots to the cause.

With my very grateful heart, thank you to The Bull Runner Dream Marathon organizers, coaches, dream chasers, marshals, pacers, and of course, all my fellow first-time marathon runners.

Thank you foremostly, to the organizers and the marshals because you provided and continue to provide this amazing platform so I could present mine and my fellow runners’ intentions and causes, whatever they may be.

You are valued for allowing us, and those who will come next the opportunity to call ourselves ‘marathoners’–a dream of any serious runner–in the most well-supported and funnest way, possible. No other event takes care of those new to marathon running in the Philippines.

To the dream chasers, thank you for giving your loudest cheers during the moments we were starting lose faith. You helped us push forward until the finish line, thinking first about helping us cross the finish line in the safest way possible, before your own needs for sleep and other things.

 

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Thank you for all the smiles, the cheers, the pats on the back, taking the time to spray our sweaty bodies with muscle sprays, and for just being there. Your presence was an invaluable morale-booster.

To the pacers, especially my own–my cousin, Josh–thank you for not only enduring the pain with us, but also helping to ease our pain. We chose you for your strength and your fortitude, and your wisdom in the sport.

We chose you because we have complete faith that you will help deliver us to the finish line. This was also a win for all of you. You helped make a marathoner by being the ones running right beside them, shouting motivation at the parts of the course the dream chasers couldn’t reach. And at the finish line, your cheers and screams were among the loudest.

To my fellow marathoners and the coaches, thank you for pledging your run to causes within and without you. Thank you for sharing your strength during training, for sharing whatever knowledge you have so that we can all grow into better runners, for the time you sacrificed during training so no one had to train alone.

Allow me to take this chance to also thank you all on behalf of any runner who suddenly decides to run their first marathon. Why? Because you conquering your 42K battle inadvertently inspired another runner who still doubts themselves and helped them believe that 42K is achievable for them. Thank you for amplifying the voice that calls out; you can rise above any challenge and oppression.

If you fight to claim, prepare to fight to defend it

 

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Stubborn as a bull at The Bull Runner Dream marathon, I fought. The last stretch was tough, but the finish line was only just a few meters away, now.

At 6:48, I cross the finish line. I punch a fist up into the air. The fight is over, and I’ve won over this challenge in my life. I got what I want. I am a marathoner.

I am a marathoner because the conscious decision to become one was made. And now that I am a marathoner, what was next? Can I rest now? Maybe I can. But can I ever stop fighting? I guess only to defend what I fought for to claim, for the meantime, and more so when the cause is being threatened. That’s what I’ll do. And if I can’t do the fighting anymore, I’ll leave it to those willing and able to take on the challenge.

My fight and that of The Bull Runner dream marathon team, doesn’t just end with this other few thousand runners being able to finally say, ‘I am a marathoner,’ but continues so that others can also say the same thing. This is the reason.

This is the drive of the desire: the ripple effect. The dream is to not only inspire, but to also empower others to also want to be able to claim for themselves the prize of not only being called a marathoner, but as a person who, no matter what, can (as stubborn as a bull) overcome oppression in whatever form it chooses to take.

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