IF DAD never did anything again for me for the rest of my life (and he did lots more) I would still have been grateful if only for the fact that he imbedded in me the itch to run for exercise, run for solace, run to destress, and to run for everything else. I don’t have completely positive memories of running, sometimes he woke me up on early Sunday mornings and like everyone else, I wanted to sleep in, but overall, the experience of galloping wild through nature like a thoroughbred, relying on your legs to get anywhere, everywhere and the pheromones of releasing so much potential energy was something few memories could match.
Jogging (that was what running was called) from the Paco family home to Cultural Center every radiant Sunday at the crack of dawn left such a lasting imprint on my DNA that although I would all but consign physical activity to the dustbin of history for half a decade or so, when I hit the three-oh, four-oh, and sometimes even in between I would remember that I had a surplus of days of euphoria whenever I made running a weekend habit, and just carry on from where I stopped.
By the by, I can’t stress this enough : as long as you don’t have a history of heart and cardiovascular illness and you have checked with your doctor beforehand, running is one of the easiest forms of exercise to take up, and there’s no pressure whatsoever to start at a pace you’re not comfy with. In fact, if you want to start with a brisk walk just to go easy on your tootsies and marshmallowy heels, so much the better. The only equipment you’ll need are a sturdy pair of cross-trainers (running shoes not essential), shorts or jogging pants, and a T-shirt, preferably one that sez something silly like kiss the jogger, it’s good for your health. 🙂
Back to my running revival. The latest episode had its special feature : the air I heaved and gasped for was pure as the polar blasts from the nearby South Pole, the only problem being that the same air was as cold. Other than that, as long as I remembered the customs of the place, didn’t call too much attention to myself, and stayed polite and courteous, I usually enjoyed myself.
My first focus of observation was the hosts, of course, the hospitable Kiwis and Maoris. Like driving, runners and walkers tended to stay on the left side of the footpath, which is the logical thing to do. For us outsiders it took a little getting used-to, but it was alright after a while. As they pretty much value their privacy and want to enjoy their quiet time either running or walking their dog, taking out their baby or spouse / partner on a stroll, or anything that involves ambulant distraction, acknowledging them via a nod or small smile is the standard way of greeting.
This is actually good for me, because I am usually huffing and puffing, trying to look cool while going 150 beats a minute, and maintaining the connection between my cellphone radio and my chipipay earphones that could unravel anytime. So, the first two rules with the locals : Stay on the left side, keep the nods short and the smiles sweet. After that, you just make up as you go along.
The Asian wayfarers are different. Mainland Chinese septuagenarians in track suits fit as kung fu masters, Southeast Asians picking up or bringing their grandkids to school, and South Asian couples walking to work, not very many hogging the footpath as runners but friendly just the same.
It might just be a coincidence, but Asians tend to be a tad more colorful in their garb, whatever the age, region or religious persuasion. As opposed to locals who are more conservative in their attire, and prefer black probably to hide unflattering body contours (I’m just guessing), Asians are naturally more flamboyant, don’t seem to care about color coordination and clash colors any time they fancy.
Because of the the above and my natural affiliations, I end up being a little more friendly when it’s an Asian I encounter, although it’s not my intention. I correctly guess that smiles are more easily returned and waves acknowledged, and bottom line it’s probably an it- takes-an-outsider-to-know-an-outsider type of thing, but it could just be me.
I reserve my best close-up smiles for Pinoys who’re running to the grocery, running to the Salvation Army store, or just running period that I occasionally encounter during the weekend. Kabayan aren’t very big on running, because there’s so much to do on weekends, like attend Pinoy parties, go to Mass, do your groceries, and catch up on much-needed sleep, so when you do see someone of the kayumanggi persuasion who’s chattering with their companion with the familiar vowels, sibilants and plosives, I not only make a full stop, but make sure I’m heard when I say kumusta kabayan? More often than not I get an instant reaction, especially with my broad smile and red-white-and-blue tee, if I’m wearing it.
Tipping my cap off to the elderly ladies (especially the older ones), taking time to smile and ask about babies in their prams, shouting ni hao, shenti zemeyang to the Mainlanders; the little things don’t take too much effort, but they make the difference when you’re greasing the joints, flushing the pipes and dusting off the cranial cobwebs on Godzone’s brilliantly beautiful Sunday morning. As a weekend Pinoy runner, it doesn’t get much better than this !
Thanks for reading !
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