What was left unsaid

Old men will be the death of me.

In last Sunday’s 2nd Rotary Run 15K race, I marked as target for overtaking a stocky man who appeared to be in his late fifties or early sixties. I spotted him running with a friend in Lahug after I passed a group of about five men whom I have been tailing starting at the old Social Security System building.

When I saw him, my secondary goal of finishing 15K in 1 hour and 25 minutes had grown bleaker by the meter. Before I even reached the turning point near the PLDT office on Osmeña Blvd., I had given up on trying to finish the distance in 1:20, my main let’s-see-if-I-can-do-it goal for that day. Nearing the UP campus, I was worried I couldn’t even meet my secondary finishing time target.

Until I saw him.

“Oh great,” I told myself, “another Rening Ylaya moment.”

Rening Ylaya is the 74-year-old runner you see everyday in the Cebu City Sports Center track oval.

When I was still starting out to run in the middle of last year, I nearly killed myself trying to overtake Noy Rening in the Run for Sight 10K race. I was only able to pass him when he had to take a pee by the roadside in the last kilometers.

Last Sunday, I knew the very moment I saw the stocky man that, unlike Rening, he didn’t have a weak bladder.

I overtook him near JY Square and scanned the road ahead to find another target to overtake. I checked my GPS watch and found I was running my target pace.

Several minutes later, however, he passed me again, still running with his friend.

I let him pass but I was starting to dig deep, taking stock of how much I had in me to burn in a final burst of energy to dash to the finish line. Not much.

I ran faster and overtook him near Waterfront Hotel in Lahug but I was close to panic when, after checking my pace, I found I was running faster than what I thought I could maintain.

He overtook me again in the Mabolo area and this time, he was sprinting alone. Talk about fair-weathered running friends.

I struggled to keep up and didn’t bother checking my pace. To defeat him, I had to run with my heart, not with my GPS watch.

I sprinted the remaining distance to finish the race in 1:25, my secondary target.

I saw him again about two minutes later, lining up to claim his hamburger. We locked eyes and almost instantly, both of us broke into smiles. I’ve been trying to decipher what was left unsaid in that trice. “I nearly gave you a heart attack, didn’t I?” “Had this been two years ago, I would have run you down, you punk!”

We exchanged high fives.

I asked him what his time was, he told me he didn’t look at the race clock.

The Cebu City running community is full of people like that Sunday runner: Amazing Old People (AOP), inspiring seniors. They inspire you to run. They are fitter than many people half their age. And if you make the mistake of racing them without training, they can run you down.

If you’re reading this, you AOP, I want you to know that I will be training even harder. I will be a more disciplined runner. Because the next time we see each other in a race, I will run you down.

Then we can exchange high fives at the finish line.

Punctuating last Sunday’s amazing run, which was organized by Rotarians Kenneth Casquejo and Jet Neric, was the incredible 47-minute 7K finish of 5-year-old Prince Paquibot. The kid from Bankal, Lapu-Lapu City, used to sneak out to join his uncle, architect Cleofas Quijano, in his regular runs. Prince’s first run was in the 3K category in Run With A Smile. Since last Sunday’s run didn’t have a 5K category, he registered for 7K.

Prince finished the run ahead of many people more than twice his age.

Don’t make the mistake of taking this tot lightly and racing him. This kid, he will be the death of you.

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