A literal kind of ‘home run’

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 26 March) – Runners are a crazy lot. Who would run 100 miles for leisure?

[Disclosure: I’m not as crazy as my friends; my longest race was only 103 kilometers. But one of us placed second in a 250k race in Cebu.]

They get crazier still, especially when you see what they’d do for the love of running in the time of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

We runners love the outdoors. We’d run 42 kms to get to a beach and take a dip, or 18 kms into the mountains to see a beautiful cave, then run back home. Yep, that’s us, members of the Iligan Trail Runners, and maybe millions more belonging to thousands of running groups around the world.

Lock us inside our homes and bar us from running, we’d go mad.

So now that there’s a lockdown in many parts of the world, my hometown included, we decided to keep on running.

Bobby Timonera has to make do with running in their garden with the imposition of a community quarantine in Iligan City (March 26, 2020).

But here’s the twist. Instead of running outside, we decided to run indoors, being responsible and law-abiding citizens. It’s our contribution to the stay-at-home movement in the world’s attempt to “flatten the curve” of this pandemic.

However short the running distance, we’re now running it.

Information technology professional Harold Glenn Dumaog ran 43 kms in his home’s kitchen and wash area that is only five meters wide. That’s 4,300 loops of out-and-back running in a little over five hours. Crazy, right? Can you imagine yourself doing that?

[By the way, GPS watches for runners usually have an “indoor running” option that estimates distance as if you’re running on a treadmill.]

Just as crazy is college student Angelo Tuba, who ran 42k inside the house, from the dining area to the sala. Over and over and over again.

Neizl June Segovia Abad, a petite girl working in an outlet store, also ran 42k around her house. That’s on her fourth day of running. Before that, she ran 21k inside her home on a six-meter stretch, running back and forth. She’s consistently in the podium in the marathon or ultra races she has joined here in Mindanao, road or trail.

Chloe Base, a champion ultramarathon runner, has been averaging 21k on their house’s roofdeck on a 34-meter loop the last five days.

Her elder brother Mark uses the same area, averaging 20k the past four days.

April Purple Love Monterola, a teacher, runs back and forth on a 9.5-meter stretch inside her home, averaging 25k a day.

Another teacher, Dayanara Lee Maghamil, did a 21k in the six-meter stretch from her home’s main door to the sink.

Reynaldo Encabo, the most senior in our group, ran from 11 to 40k around his garage cum garden, his dog trailing him, the past five days. Loop length: 34.5 meters, which he runs on a number 8 pattern.

Erniel Pama, with a 30-meter loop in his front yard, could only do 5 to 10k. Grace Espiritu, with an 80-meter loop available to her, does 5k.

Jaeger Fetalvero, who lives beside a family-owned school, has an entire basketball court all to himself. But he could only do 5k. “I’ve had no exercise lately, until I saw everyone’s posts about their indoor adventures,” he said.

The indoor runners (From left, top to bottom): Angelo, April, Dayanara, Freddie, Harold, Jaeger, Neizl, Mark, Chloe, Reynaldo.

Our strongest and fastest, Freddie Blanco, the de facto leader and coach of the group who won a 100-mile race in Bukidnon last year, runs 20k on a 7.5-meter stretch inside his home, his 11-year-old son Ralph sometimes joining him.

Freddie initiated the Iligan Trail Runners’ 20-day Indoor Running Challenge as the local government imposed an “enhanced community quarantine,” limiting the residents’ movement in the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.

He offered rewards like certificates to those who could run at least 5k every day, and medals for those with the longest runs in 20 days.

“It’s a very unique situation, because those who are so used running outdoors are now running long distances inside their homes,” he said.

“Most of us didn’t expect we could run this far in a space so small inside our homes,” said Freddie, who we thought was crazy enough when he ran 42k in one of Iligan’s favorite running area, that 250-meter stretch of road with an island near Redemptorist Church.

He loves loops, sometimes even climbing Iligan’s most popular mountain, Mt. Agad-agad, eight times in a day as part of his training for trail races.

No wonder he won last January’s “Three Kings Backyard Ultra,” a race at the Mapawa Adventure Park in neighboring Cagayan de Oro City running on a 6.7-kilometer loop in the mountains. The last runner to quit wins.

When he crossed the finish line, he already ran 80k in 12 hours, with an elevation gain of 2,500 meters. Just right after the holidays, when everybody had presumably gained weight.

Freddie posted our 20-day indoor run challenge on Saturday, March 21. Two days later, a nationwide “running at home challenge” was announced by the T8 Philippines Strava Club, from March 28 to April 14. That, apparently, has what pushed my running buddies into hyperdrive.

Me? I’m warming up.

I live in a private subdivision that can give me maybe a two-kilometer loop without going out to the main road, and thus won’t be seen by patrolling policemen. I’ve been using much of this route when I run with my dog. There are usually only a few people walking in the streets of this subdivision these past 12 years or so, and even less these days with the campaign to stay at home. I’m sure it’s safe to run around here, but I’d rather not.

I’m lucky to have an 80-meter loop around our house, half of it paved, half semi-trail of flagstones and dirt path, running through the garage, front yard, garden, backyard, and a narrow paved alley, our pit bull Barry usually joining me in the early part.

I did 5k on my first two runs since the community quarantine, and this morning I did 6k. Yes, I won’t win this contest, but I just want to stay healthy in these troubled times. Every time I finish a run, I thank God that I’m still able to run, which probably means I don’t have it.

Because I’m running on a mostly shaded route, I alternate it with a 30-minute pedaling on a stationary bike, out in the midmorning sun, for Vitamin D, said to help boost the immune system.

I still can’t imagine I can run in a space this small, but I’m enjoying it now. I’d probably do it more often when, hopefully, the pandemic is gone.

Only less than a month ago, we thought it was already the height of craziness when a handful of my running buddies joined me in a 55k run for my 55th birthday on a 5-kilometer loop of city streets.

Oh how I wish we can resume running in open wide spaces, on the road or in the mountains, very soon.