Thursday, July 15, 2010

Running: The death of a Runner

Death marred the running community these past few weeks. Remus and Alexander, smitten by the running virus that has spread sporadically throughout the archipelago, died in separate hospitals after joining separate events in running-- an activity that ironically promotes health and wellness.

Remus ran the 34th National Milo Marathon 21k Manila elimination race last July 4 (click  
here for story as related by his father) and Alexander ran the Energizer Night Race in Cebu last July 10 (story here).

I was touched by the stories behind their runs, more so because I am a runner and a physician and the organizer's lapses especially by the medical personnel, as claimed by their families, could have been prevented if not for prompt and proper medical response.

I can relate very well to Remus because we are of the same age and have similar running mileage. At the peak of his career, he left behind a wife and 2 children. The anguish felt by Remus' father as he related his story can be felt in the old adage that no father should bury his son.

I have almost been a statistic myself when I ran my first 21k last May in the 3rd Jonas Cortes Mandaue City Run suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion as the organizers failed to provide adequate water in the water stations and of the very late gun starts (separate story 

Of special concern is with the so-called runners, weekend warriors here in Cebu, who join races each weekend without the benefit of proper training in between. They are a statistic waiting to happen.

I am also concerned with fly-by-night race organizers-- promoters of running events hoping to cash in on the runners by organizing fun runs without proper logistics and support.

To organizers, the runner's safety and hydration should always be in mind.

Remus' and Alexander's stories led me to rethink my running goals this year.

Since I started running last January, I have always made it a point to run for my family. Due to genetics, I have an underlying medical condition which is now under control due to cardio exercise, maintenance medications and proper diet.

But the running boom in the 7,107 beautiful islands of the Philippines, has inspired me to run a little bit competitively against myself. I have now sought to improve my 5ks, 10ks and 21k (I am joining the Cebu elims for the 34th National Milo Marathon 21k on Sept. 5-- my second half marathon and the full marathon next year.).

But where does recreational running end and competitive running begin?

For me, when you no longer enjoy the scenery, the isolation and the rhythm of your movement when running and instead you seek continuous improvements in running time, distance and endurance while becoming disappointed with your performance, running becomes unhealthy. The body has a way of saying NO and each one of us should be able to detect those signals, not neglect them.

We must remember that we run for ourselves and for our families waiting for us at home, not for podium and Facebook bragging rights.

We should be fit to run, not run to be fit. 3-4x running a week is quite alright. Always take it easy and enjoy it as it should be.

Tonight after a day off from running, I'll run again and think of these guys. Strangers to me but connected like brothers by a common bond.

To Remus and Alexander: Keep on running and see you on the other end, my friends.