Beginnings (12 March 2010)

Still tired from work and the commute home, I felt relieved to be wearing comfortable track clothes. The gym was almost empty, except for the basketball team and a handful of badminton enthusiasts. I appreciated the solitude. At this point in time, I’ve learned to thrive amidst anonymity.

The beat up red and black spikes felt tight at first. As I was tying the laces, I felt a renewed sense of vigor. Suddenly, a deluge of memories came tumbling by.

I remember the first time Coach gave the Demolisher 1 spikes to us chosen few in 2006. We were fresh out of a breakout UAAP season. From ignominious last placers two years ago, we clawed our way to a respectable position. In a sense, getting free Adidas stuff was a well-appreciated icing on the half-baked cake.

We’ve been through a lot, my spikes and I – from the death wish long sprinting workouts, far-flung provincial meets to forgettable PATAFA races. In fact, I wore the pair on that fateful November day when I broke my arm.

Bubbling with nostalgia, I smiled at those fond and not-so-fond recollections.

The eerie quiet of my erstwhile home track said it all. Why the hell am I doing this? Will I be fast enough to run 13.72 seconds to qualify for London 2012? I doubt it. Will the track provide food on the table or contribute to the betterment of my chosen career? Indirectly, yes but directly? I have my doubts as well.

For a moment, I stared blankly ahead, almost laughing at myself at this purported folly. Here I am at the cusp of my professional life, doing something I have not done in 2 years – track training. Most of my close friends would undoubtedly say “move on from track.”

I tried doing just that the past two years. Aside from basketball, the thought of doing other sports as hobbies abhorred me. I am a track athlete to core and I feel very much at home on nowhere else but the track.

Life without track was a great big bore consisting of lethargic days at the office, boozing and oft-pointless workouts. I became lazy and mediocre. Something felt horribly missing. From the determined go-getter that I was back in college, I regressed into just another Makati office rat.

Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame uttered the following profound lines: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.” As a college athlete, my purpose was to study and compete. But when I left the academe, I had difficulty finding new directions for my life’s compass. Badly shaken at having lost my final collegiate race, I left the track with much angst. I could not seem to move on. The past almost always found a way to haunt me, no matter how hard I tried running away. It took years to shed those pent up anger, to stop running and to face the undeniable fact that track is not my life.

I haven’t found my career yet, but the overall picture becomes clearer with each passing day. Although I have a healthy family and social life, I still haven’t met the lady of my life. Indeed, I still have miles to go in these much bigger aspects of life. Nevertheless, I’m glad to be on the right track once again.

The Demolishers’ snug fit and firm spike plate urged my sleepy legs to do what it was trained to do – to be fast. Letting go of all doubts, apprehensions and past inhibitions, I closed my eyes to breathe the crisp air of this unusually cool summer night. Feeling the excitement run through my veins, I took the first few powerful steps to begin the sprint. Feeling the smooth-flowing yet quick strides, the supple movements were a symphony of speed.

I was grinning at the end of that electric dash; my mind was clear and lucid. The pleasures of the bottle could not even measure up to this. Whatever happens in the coming months – whether I wind up competing or not – I know for a fact that by going back to where it all started, I can put the past chapter to a final close and begin writing a new one.

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