21 Kilometers


        It was my first time to run for 21 kilometers. “Hunat Sugbo,” organized by Parklane Hotel last June 23, drew more than 2,000 runners. Together with some friends, I registered for the event. The last distance run I had was 12 kilometers. It took me an hour and 20 minutes. For this occasion, I outlined a personal training. But I realized it was not enough because it took me 3 hours and 43 minutes. The route led us from Ayala to JY Square, traversing UP to Capitol, then to Fuente Osmena, all the way to Banawa then back to Fuente, Capitol towards the finish line in Ayala.
          I had a smooth run from gun-start until my 12th kilometer. My legs got tired at the 13thwith every step getting heavier. From then on I had to walk-run-walk at intervals. The pain was not becoming less as I covered a greater distance. The most difficult part of it all was the last 3 kilometer. That stretch from Fuente Osmena to Capitol straight to the final lap was the hardest. I took to walking. Some runners were doing the same. I felt I still have air and energy but my muscle memory was at its limit. But just as I was about to complete my last kilometer in a walking mode, a passer-by walked towards me in a bright red shirt. On it is printed in big, bright letters: never give up! That timely reminder gave me a push to end my run in style.
          Running is a metaphor of our life. We actually run towards the finish line. We need to keep pace and never give up. And as we do, we obey certain given standards. There is no short-cut in a distance run. Your lack of practice will show. When I got to the finish line, a beautiful medal was awarded over my head. It was a souvenir for my sacrifice. But a few were turned down. I was told they failed to complete some stretches and cut corners. In running we don’t create our own maps or draw our own distance. A one kilometer is a thousand meter step. Running then, involves discipline and training. We obey certain natural laws to succeed. Following them guarantees our physical fitness.
          When God created the world, He also included a moral dimension in it. He gave a purpose for everything. He gave a standard for what is good and bad. A thing is good if it attains the purpose for which it was made. My running shoes were good because it brought me to the finish line. I saw someone among the crowd. He was running barefooted because his shoes gave him blisters. It was better for him to run without them. So man was created to run the course of his life and reach heaven. Faith is his guide to go the distance. His reason sets the standard for what is good or bad. Yet our reason has its limits because at times it can be darkened by confusion, passion and doubt.
          One great apostle we celebrate this month is St. Thomas whose feast falls on July 3. In John’s Gospel, he is notorious for being a doubter. Being absent at the first appearance of Jesus, he declared: “unless I put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Thomas was a realist. He needed to investigate. Curiosity was the stuff God made him to be. Through his skepticism, scientific inquiry about Jesus was born. It was because he “touched” Christ’s wounded hand that made him realize Jesus was indeed real and physical. His doubt confirmed the truth he believed all along that He was the God-made-man who transcended the clutches of death. So he made a most heartfelt confession “my Lord and my God!” The letter to the Hebrews tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Thomas showed exemplary faith. Moreover, his faith was illumined by reason.
It is a constant struggle for us to reach the finish line. Along the way we are beset by temptations to abandon our goal. The German writer Johann Goethe wrote “there is enough stuff in me to be both a gentleman and a rogue.” We need to train our will to always choose those things that will make us a “gentleman.” While we log on to the gift of faith, that invisible power in our life, which will bring us farther than our own poor efforts can carry.
(This article also appears in the Faith Section of Cebu Daily News, July 07, 2013) 
 

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