Archive for June, 2011

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For the past four years before we came here, my job coaching cross country and track & field at Mills College swallowed my life, and race planning was the most difficult part of it. Yet Take Back the Night prompted much more tooth-gnashing, hair-graying, and tear-shedding than any of those other races ever did.  I could chronicle the months-long nightmare of nailing down the date, venue, sponsors, equipment, and marketing, but suffice it to say that everything that could have gone wrong with this event, did.

But at last June 18 arrived, cool and overcast.  Then at 3:00 the skies opened.  We huddled in the stands, hoping that the storm would pass, but the only change was the dirt track turning to mud.  We made nervous jokes about gathering animals two by two. Around 5:00 we gathered to pray, and finally the rain lightened to a heavy sprinkle as we set up for the race. By 6:00 the Samaritana women and other race registrants began to show up.  The women were jittery and feeling varying degrees of fear and excitement about running the 3k or 5k–distances unthinkable just a few months ago when they could jog just once around the block when Super Babae began. “When it started raining, I prayed to God that it would stop in time for the race,” one of the women said to me around 6:30.  “And now it’s stopped. God answered my prayer.” (It started raining again just minutes after our event, and has been raining non-stop every since.)

It was almost completely dark by then, but when we asked the security guard to turn on the electricity for the lights and sound system, he said he couldn’t turn anything on until 7:00 (the time that the 10k was supposed to start), and meanwhile runners and the DJ’s sat in the stands in the dark.  7:00 came and went, and another security guard told us that the event permit, due to a clerical error, said 7:00 a.m. instead of 7:00 p.m. And of course he didn’t have the authority to override it, and his superior had gone home, assuming that because of the rain we’d canceled. So no lights. A race in the dark and the mud? It was a liability bomb just waiting to explode.

Meanwhile the 10k runners were getting restless on our mud swamp of a track, and our MC’s were stalling by yelling announcements with no PA system.  After some heated conversations and frantic prayers, the senior security guard returned from his house to turn on the power and lights to a big cheer from the crowd, and only 30 minutes late, with the Philippine National Anthem and an opening prayer, Take Back the Night was on.

I gathered the women for a quick pep talk, and they put their hands in the middle of the circle and chanted “Super Babae” (Taglish for “Super Woman”).  At the 5k starting line, one of the Samaritana women called the other women together to pray.  She thanked God for the change in weather, and prayed that they would be strong and able to run away from their past, no matter how they finished, and take back the night in their own lives.

As the runners splashed on their way, I cheered and swelled with pride as I saw each Samaritana woman pass, often in pairs or trios, alternating between wide grins and pained grimaces. Nate and Coach Kenny (one of our visiting American volunteers) ran with some of the women who were struggling, encouraging them through each soggy lap.

As the runners crossed the finish line, there was lots of cheering, laughter, and muddy, excited hugs.  One of the top female finishers said that running through the mud had been a fun, new challenge, different from other races she’d run.  The Samaritana women talked about how they’d thought they wouldn’t make it, but were so happy they had.  They were proud and amazed that they’d been able to go so far, and one of the women was pleasantly surprised to find that she’d earned a medal by finishing in the top three in the 3k!

As we awarded medals and cash prizes and then cleaned up for the night, there was a general feeling of cheer and inspiration, despite the long day of rain and the muddy races.  Several runners and volunteers thanked us for putting the event on, and said how inspired they were to be a part of it.  The women thanked us again and again, saying how special it was for them.  As we hugged them and told them again how proud of them we were, their glowing faces told us it had been worth it.

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And now we want to thank all of the good people who helped make the event possible!  Thanks to our sponsors Quezon City and Gatorade, to our event partners World Vision and Run4Change!  Thank you to Chloe from Mellow 94.7, Raffy Reyes from RX 93.1, and Katherine Visconti from ABS-CBN for promoting the event.  Thanks to all of the churches who promoted and signed up for the event.  Thanks to the UP Gender Office and College of Human Kinetics for helping us secure the venue.  Thanks to Coach Kenny and the team from Cole Valley Christian school in the US for hours of volunteering, and our friends Joe and M3 for compiling results.  Thank you to everyone at Samaritana who worked so hard around the clock for weeks before this event, especially Ate Becky, Ate Sunny, and Ate Jane.  Thanks to Ate Denise, who spent her entire birthday making sandwiches for and working at the event.  Thanks to everyone who sponsored women to run, making it possible for dozens of them to participate and see what they were capable of.  Thank you to the more than 40 friends and family across the world who committed to praying daily for this event for many weeks, and who were such a source of encouragement to those of us planning.  Most of all, the glory goes to God; it was pretty obvious to us all that this thing couldn’t happen without some miracles, and we’re grateful that His hand was on it all.

If you have a few more minutes, check out more event photos on Samaritana’s facebook page here.

-Laura

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