Trackspotting

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Choose life.  Choose sports.  Choose a reasonable distance.  Choose a comfortable pair of running shoes.  Choose a singlet, cap, running shorts loose enough to wick away moisture but tight enough to keep you from chafing.  Choose a number.  Choose the dramatic angle by which you cross the finish line.  Choose amber-colored sunglasses to keep the sun from fucking up your vision.  Choose brand placement and advertising on every miserable line of the race course.  Choose marathons, sprints, jogging, off-road trails.  Choose sport pedometers.  Choose Velcro arm-straps for your iPod.  Choose running.  Choose life.

Why would I want to do a thing like that?

Sure, there are times that I run, but it’s driven more out of a sense of urgency than a prize, a place at the podium, or some other motivation.  The bus stop at Paseo de Roxas, the quick dash to Herrera, the hard right to Valero and into the office.  Nobody’s playing Yanni’s “Santorini” or Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire.”  The posh side-streets of Makati and Bonifacio High Street, and the shaded walks of UP Diliman; now those are places where you would find runners.  Health-conscious runners driven by competition: the kind of people who examine running shoes at sporting-goods stores like they would gold necklaces at the jewelry shop, or maybe sea cucumbers at the wet market.  No, not me: not for a guy who would cough up gobs of phlegm after a quick sprint up a flight of stairs.

Almost everybody runs these days, and maybe it’s a lot of fun and excitement for all of them.  It was just last year that everyone bought a badminton racket to work, a whole class of weekend warriors and afternoon athletes who promised themselves a sport for the year.  Nah, it’s not a fad; it’s more like a quarter-life extension of what we all didn’t like to do in high school physical education, running laps around the field to get passing grades or to exempt ourselves from squatthrusts and other inane punishments from the baril-barilan commander barking orders at a bunch of wannabe power-trippers sporting funny haircuts, carrying wooden rifles.

I’m taken back to HBO, with at least two Steve Prefontaine movies.  I wonder if we have the same motivation; maybe I may just be moved enough by the excitement of competitive running, and the triumph of the human spirit, if I started making my own running shoes, with rubber soles molded with an electric waffle-iron.  Maybe I should set lofty goals, like breaking Roger Bannister’s record and set a mile under five minutes.  Or maybe I’m just too lazy to run.  Maybe by the time I turn 35 I’ll be eating greasy potato chips from the folds of my stomach, cola dribbling out my mouth and into my quadruple-chin like a waterfall vanishing into El Niño.

Then again, maybe I should just buy a good pair of running shoes, run every race I desire, and probably forget about it all come the next big popular wave of ballroom dancing.

* – Apologies to Irvine Welsh for a liberal dose of “Trainspotting”

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