climb

against all odds: AMCI B2K5's 15km induction run

i’d run the route before, but nothing could shake off this fear that hung above my head like the blade of a guillotine whose rope was losing one strand after another. my last run prior to this weekend’s happened just before kibungan, which is over 3 weeks ago. i hadn’t managed to squeeze in a run anywhere in between, and i was concerned my legs might have grown accustomed to walking. so it was with a healthy helping of trepidation that i marched to SM makati to do my final grocery for the weekend. accompanied by ava and gilbert, i shopped for 16 people. the meal plan was meticulously chosen: lots of carbs for dinner, and two sets of breakfasts: before and after the run. after some deliberation, the list looked like this:
dinner

chili con carne
penne with red pesto, mushrooms, and chicken strips
chicken and mango salad in french dressing
fruit salad
crema de fruta

pre-run meal

bananas
oatmeal and peach slices
wheat bread
peanut butter and strawberry jam

breakfast

chicken tocino
beef tapa
green eggs and tuna sausage

the chili con carne was by request. people have been asking for it since mariveles. the rest i had no idea how to cook, but got vague notions from the net. it looked very much like a last meal. and i guess at P200 each, it was a small price to pay for a feast. i don’t really know if eating well was the key to doing well in the runs, but at least, they’d be fed well.

we met up some folks at shell along SLEX, and convoyed with them to UPLB. the area where we were supposed to spend the night was the BSP camping grounds, and there were teepee huts there that could have accommodated all of us. but the huts looked shell shocked, and more of us opted to sleep in our tents. we reached the place early enough to rest for a while, although at past 4pm, i already started cooking. there were some people who still needed to make up on their skills, and i very generously offered my tent to niel, jazzie, and gerry so they could do tent-pitching in 5 minutes.

but a series of unfortunate events led to the tent being pitched at least 5 times by 10 different people. as a result of my act of charity, the tent was returned to me, with muddy shoeprints inside, and at least 7 crooked pegs. i was most amazed by how i managed to keep my cool that evening, because at the very sight of the muddy print, i would’ve barked at every single person who borrowed the tent. but it helped that they were dispersed. since if they had congregated at one spot, i would have made sure they’d sleep with the memory of my hot temper and my equally incendiary words. it’s not like my tent is a cheap local brand. it’s a TNF, for crying out loud, one that had been used only on 5 camping trips. and this is one reason why i have reservations about being a philantropic mountaineer. my MSR blacklite cookset should’ve served as a lesson to me, but still i refused to be a selfish bitch. now it’s clear. the expensive equipment climbs when i climb. now i have to get new pegs for my tent. i’m tempted to collect from everyone who used it. i was so secretly pissed that night, and i just returned to the kitchen for therapy. the sight of happy campers having a good meal was sufficient for me to simmer down a little.

at after 10pm, we all had eaten and were ready to turn in. some people were still lined up for a bath. i already had mine, and was dressed in my running attire, less the running shoes. angie was making rounds announcing that it was way past lights out. so i snuck inside my tent, and started praying. i prayed for strength beyond my own, and surrendered my fears, doubts, and injuries to Him. i could still feel some pain in my legs from the last climb, so i was concerned this would be a great issue once the run starts.

not too far away, the members combined alcohol, an annoyingly loud sound system, and i don’t know what else to make sure the evening would be anything but restful for us trainees. i wove in and out of sleep that night as laughter crawled into my tent. jazzie and JC didn’t fare any better. and both jazzie and i were awake when the members were screaming her name, as well as mine. before 4am, i was already up heating water for coffee and choco. lyn took care of the oatmeal, and i gathered the bananas, bread, and spreads in the middle of our kitchen area. at 5am, we were all very anxious and ready.

when we went up the starting line, may asked me to lead the stretching exercises. i hadn’t gone to the gym since i terminated my membership last july so i just sort of tried to recall may’s routine. calves, hamstrings, quads, ankles, knees, the works. then we asked that our drinks be placed at certain water stations. three were scattered all over the 2.75km route. and at exactly 6am, we were sent off. one might be inclined to think that this was no serious matter, since we were generally laughing and having a good time along the way, but this was certainly no joke. at the turnpike, just before the first ascent, the strong ones overtook me one by one: first sigz, then nestor, then jon. after two rounds, i was running fifth. eubs was ahead of me. i was less concerned though, with my ranking, although when mike asked me prior to the race how i’d fare, i said i’d probably wind up 8th (7th, not counting jon). i was more focused on finishing with enough time to help out others.

by the third round, i was way ahead my pace the first time. at 46 minutes, i could quite literally walk the rest of the way. and i was very tempted to do it, since i could feel many muscles complaining and stiffening. by this time, gerry, JC, dyake and gilbert had overtaken me, although eubs was just behind. i’d find myself running the descent at a good pace, letting gravity take most of the credit. on the ascent though, i would be doing a walkathon. i knew that if i had exerted any more effort, i’d be inviting cramps. and that would be devastating.

despite the pain, i continued running, one foot ahead of the other. i’d be passing the same people in the water stations, handing out cups to me, dousing my back with water, cheering me on. i was beginning to think of the great physical costs of getting inducted. was this all worth the effort? i brushed aside the growing doubt and tried to remember my prayer the previous evening, the same words i said before the run. i surrendered my fears, my doubts, and my injuries, and hoped that my triumph would be for His greater glory. i continued running, and walking in between, when running felt impossible.

finally, i was given my fifth yarn. i put it over my head and thought about finishing the damn thing. i wanted to dismiss thoughts of exhaustion, pain, and muscle cramps. beng was only about to start her fourth. marlon and i pushed her part of the way. on the last ascent, i overtook gerry. told him that he, dya-ke, and i should finish together, but he said his muscles were starting to cramp, and he couldn’t run anymore. so hand in hand, dya-ke and i crossed the finish line together. for a few moments, i walked around and reflected on my accomplishment. there were cheers from all around, but i could barely hear anything audible, as everything around me seemed to move in slow motion. may announced that i finished in 1 hour, 43 minutes and 30 seconds. 7th overall. the very next thing i thought about was that there were only about 16 minutes left for everyone to finish. so i snapped out of my reveries and immediately proceeded to the route and tried to find people to push. other than gilbert, none of my IC groupmates had yet to cross the finish line.

then i saw lyn. dindo was running beside her. i prodded her on. along the way, i saw wency being pushed. i took her other hand and helped in pulling her. when she crossed, i returned to the route. there were only 6 minutes left. a very spaced out ava was being assisted by greg and gilbert. i took her other hand while gilbert pushed her. “don’t let go of my hand,” she said, and i kept telling her that the run was a small thing compared to what she’s so far accomplished throughout the training. as i ran with her, the toes of my left foot would cringe in pain. i refused to bow to the pain in my legs. and it was quite literally killing my foot. the injury i sustained from a bad fall in amuyao was returning. but i wanted to help ava cross the finish line. she finished in 1 hour 57 minutes and 40 seconds, and she cried in the arms of lyn.

i looked around. alexis was till nowhere in sight. as i ran down again, i noticed that the pacers -- bossing and james -- were leisurely running the last few 200 meters. not far behind them was von, who by now was running on the strength of 4 men who held her arms and who kept her upright. she was literally swarmed, and as they pushed her, she fell. they picked her up again, and she was literally crying and gasping as she took her last 30 steps. nothing could have been more cinematic than the sound of may’s voice announcing the last few ticks of the 2 hour requirement, and von crossing the line with 3 seconds to go. she fell immediately on a chair, exhausted.

alexis, in the meantime, was about 50 meters away. i went behind him, pushed him up, even as he said “ayoko na, hindi ko na kaya.” he jumped as he stepped on the finish line, about 15 seconds behind the cutoff, and i led him to the water station. then someone was calling for a medic. a very distraught, pale, but smiling happy hung on to the guys who assisted her. she was dragging her limp legs under her, and i don’t quite remember her to be so white. she was conscious but looked dazed and confused.

one by one, the 6 who didn’t make it in 2 hours arrived. last of them would be beng, who cried the minute she finished, saying “hindi ako makakasama.” she fell into my shoulders and i honestly didn’t know what to say to comfort her. by the end of the run, around 6 girls sat on chairs with a variety of injuries, tended to by red cross people. there was some jubilation, but also regret. we could have done so much more for our friends. and it is no assurance that there’s always a second induction run the following week.

after the initial euphoria of finishing the runs sank in, we all proceeded to the camp area. people broke down their tents and took showers. i cooked breakfast. one by one, we left UPLB, until the run became a mere memory, a great accomplishment we’d talk about in the future.

more than the physical challenge, the 15km run has been a most emotional activity for us. it was by far the greatest challenge that many of us had to face, for in this run hinged our membership in AMCI, the fruit of our labors the past 4 months. it showed how much we were willing to sacrifice and to give up just to be able to join the induction, just to be able to be in the fine company of our new friends, just to pursue the sport of mountaineering. it showed how much a few encouraging words can do to push people to do things beyond the limits of their imagination. and above all, it showed unity.

and other melodramatic crap. i’m still angered by my crooked pegs and the muddy shoeprint. but i’m moving on.
Yeah it tends to get emotional. forget about your tent. Your really a nice person not an evil bitch! hahahahaha... Congrats.
i can't shake it off because i somehow feel that my tent's been abused and disrespected. i'd probably just be as livid if it were a cheap coleman or conquer. what i expect is pretty basic really. so that's why i'm pissed.
i know i know. that's why i dont do th tent pitching station anymore hahahaha... on another note, wala na bang pag-asa ang friend natin si Jason and Carlo for that matter? Baka you can change their mind pa.
yeah, it's hard lending your stuff then getting them back all busted. it's not really a matter of how expensive the thing was, it was a matter of people taking care of things they borrowed from you.
i cannot agree more. if everyone acted that way, the world would be a much better place to live in.
Thank you!
(Anonymous)
I've just come to realize that I haven't properly thanked you yet for helping me finish the 15k run-- and believe me-- your presence and words of encouragement meant all the world to me then. Although Greg and Gilbert were pushing me on, and I could see that the finish line was just a few meters away-- even then, I was still on the verge of wanting to just quit it. But suddenly I heard your voice, telling me that I've accomplished far more difficult goals than this. By what standard do I measure pain and difficulty? Of course, it has to be our "bar" experience. I instantly thought (to the extent that I could still come up with a lucid thought) about our taking the bar for four weeks and all the the hardships we had to overcome, and this utterly convinced me that if I could pass the bar, I could finish the 15k as well. And though, to my mind, nothing could possibly surpass our "bar" experience in terms of difficulty (because I can always run another 15k, but I would NEVER want to take the bar again even if someone offered to pay me US$1Million), this 15k run definitely comes second in the list.

Never in my life have I completely relinquished control to "third persons" (haha, this is legalese, but I can't help it, after all, Greg and Gilbert are third persons relative to you and I) as I did that day, and for a control freak such as myself, that was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.

"I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything,"

Thank you, Alman.

Ava
Re: Thank you!
you're welcome.

honestly, if someone offered me US$1 million, i'd gladly do the bar again. haha. imagine. 4 weekends when your heartbeat sounds like a drumroll, or when you're perfectly well, but still my mom's cooking tastes like cardboard.