Posts Tagged ‘running’

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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.


Take Back the Night is just 15 days away.  As we do our best to prepare for the fun run/race that will, we hope, raise the funds needed for Samaritana to accept the women who are currently on the waiting list, we are grateful for prayers, encouragement, and support from all of you who are near and far.

We’ve recently been asked by a few people back in the States if it’s possible to sponsor a Samaritana woman (or multiple women) to run this race.  The answer is yes!  The whole point of this event is to raise money for Samaritana; whether that money comes from race registrations or donors overseas, the result is the same: more women can get off the streets and start a new life.

There are currently 21 women at Samaritana.  Many of them hope to run and finish their race on June 4.  Please pray for these women, for sponsors to support them, and for all of the planning we’re doing during the next fifteen days to make this a great event for everyone involved.

If you would like to sponsor the Samaritana women, you can follow these 3 easy steps below:

1. Send an email to to let them know that you would like to sponsor a woman (or multiple women) for Take Back the Night.  For example, you might say, “I’d like to give $25 for every Samaritana woman who runs and finishes the race.”

2. Write a check to Samaritana’s non-profit partner in the US, Mission East Asia National Support (MEANS), and designate Samaritana in the memo. Samaritana is certified by the Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC); your donation will be tax-deductible.

3.Mail your check to: P.O. Box 8434, Bartlett, IL 60103.

We’ll post pictures, race results, and other news after the race on June 4!

-Laura & Nate

After Taste for Freedom, our fund-raiser that many of you attended or helped make happen, I said to myself, “Never again!” Event planning is just too stressful for me, since it requires both organization and detail-orientation, two things which I most definitely am not.

And yet here we are again. As you may have read a few months back, Laura had the idea to use her coaching experience to start a fitness program, Super Babae, for the women at Samaritana.  Super Babae is gaining momentum (Nike’s second donation is en route from the States!), and when we were talking to our friend Ryan (who worked in sports marketing and managed events), the idea came up of doing a fund-raising race for Samaritana. (All the Samaritana women will get to run the race and get the t-shirt for free, so we’re encouraging them to train the next few weeks as 3k is still longer than most of them have run.)

June 4 is closing in fast, so we’d appreciate your prayers! So far we have a venue, a few partners, and a water sponsor, so all we need is a few hundred locals to register and it’ll be a smashing success!

— Nate

These are my running shoes. They’re last year’s model, bought on closeout from for $60. Plus they had free shipping! Pretty thrifty of me, right? What a great sport running is: all you need is a pair of shoes! Everyone should get into it.

Global Hunger Fast Me reads that paragraph, and he wants to hit Old American Me over the head, steal Old American Me’s shoes, and then sell them so he can feed himself and his wife. (Maybe even eat meat a couple times!)  Because those $60 shoes–that’s a month’s earnings right there! There’s no way Global Hunger Fast Me, wearing his one pair of $2.50 flip-flops, could ever afford Nikes. There’s a reason Global Hunger Fast Me doesn’t see any joggers in the squatter community around the corner: as uncomfortable as it is for Old American Me to hear, running is a sport for the comparatively rich. If Global Hunger Fast Me wants some exercise, he’ll do what the millions of other urban poor around the world do, activities you can do in flip-flops or barefoot: walking, basketball, or soccer. (Or, since activity just makes you hungrier, probably not.)

Over the past nine months living in metro Manila and working at Samaritana, we’d already come to appreciate another of the reasons poor people don’t exercise: they don’t have access to the knowledge, the facilities, that we do as rich people. (For example, some of the women’s kids go to Batasan Hills High School. How many students do they have there? 40,000. (in morning and evening shifts). One of our friends teaches the morning shift, and has five classes of 65 kids each. Does it sound like there’s space for a gym? If they’re in school, the $2/day kids may well be in one like this, or–if they’re like a lot of the women we work with, had to drop out of one like it.

Thanks to this brutally peso-pinching week, it’s unforgettably clear to us why most of the Samaritana women (on top of lack of knowledge or facilities) had never exercised. There’s just no way for them to afford the gear–which puts in even richer perspective the donation that enabled us to start the Super Babae fitness program at Samaritana. Thanks to our Patron Saint of Exercise, Krista Ford at Nike, we were able to help these women do something they never otherwise would’ve been able to: jog around the block.

So since the true purpose of this week for us isn’t only self-denial, but gut-level lifestyle understanding, we haven’t run at all this week. We haven’t even exercised beyond walking to buy food–which brings me the third uncomfortable conclusion about why really poor people don’t exercise as much: it just makes you hungrier (and rice doesn’t grow on trees). Earlier this week I noted that for Global Hunger Fast Me, every decision comes down to money, but perhaps what would be more accurate is to say that every decision comes down to hunger. So exercise? Sorry. I’ll be sitting on the curb.


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* * * * *
Daily Tab:

2 whole-wheat buns–16
1 mango–16
3 eggs–15

Lunch + Dinner
bag of mung beans–33
2 hamburgers–22
2 tofu blocks–8
1/2 kilo rice–15
1 egg–6

shampoo sachet–6

Daily Total: 179

Tumakbo Tayo!

Posted: December 3, 2010 in Life in the Philippines
Tags: , , , ,

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Ask anyone who has been to the Philippines what the best thing is about this country, and the answer will always be the same: the people.  Yes, outside of Manila you’ll find the full array of tropical beauty: stunning beaches, lush jungles, green mountains, aquamarine waters, and picturesque volcanoes, but Filipino generosity, hospitality, and good humor outshine even the best scenery, as we were reminded during our recent work trip to the backwoods Samar region.

While the humidity and heat generally make running a rather miserable pastime here, in Samar running occasioned priceless memories.  We got the sense that in many of the hamlets we visited, we were likely the first white people they’d seen in person.  We were a general spectacle just walking down the street, but running, we were full-scale entertainment. Kids especially were entranced;  girls giggled, and boys called out, “hey, Joe,” (a holdover from the U.S. military days), plus cheerful attempts at American accents with “hi!” and the usual questions of “What’s your name?” “Where are you going?” “Where did you come from?” We responded in halting Tagalog, cause for endless, delighted laughter.  They pushed our names around their tongues, trying out the new syllables.  (Nate has become “Nathan,” because “Nate” is tough for Filipinos.  Most of the kids thought my name was “Dora” instead of Laura.)

On one particular run through a tiny fishing village on the island of Daram, we quickly came to the end of the town’s one road, and kept jogging down a crumbling paved path through the darkening jungle.  As we passed nipa huts and cinderblock shacks with corrugated metal rooftops, some of the kids started to run with us even though they were only wearing flip flops. “Tumakbo tayo! Let’s run!” we encouraged them, and the kids, who had now doubled in number, made no attempt to suppress their amazed laughter.

The pink light of twilight finally fading, we passed dozens of staring, amused faces.  Two men chuckled while sharing a cigarette leaning against the wall; a mother hung out the window of her tiny sari-sari store, waving as we ran by with a cloud of thirty or so children floating behind us; two little girls held hands, barely visible through the haze of smoke from chicken and fish and pork being roasted over cookfires everywhere.  Startled roosters crossed our path, and frantically squawked out of the way.  Somewhere below us, the town church rang its bell.

At the end of our run, we circled back to the small park at the town’s center.  I was lagging behind, learning the names of a dozen girls who were surrounding me, holding my arm affectionately and giggling whenever I spoke. When I arrived at the park, I desperately wished for a camera: there was my husband doing a hamstring stretch, leaning over one leg propped up on a cement platform, with 30+ little boys copying the stretch beside him.  While the night quickly took over the ocean sky above us, we taught at least fifty little kids half a dozen stretches.  Only when the sky opened up and the rain came did the kids leave us and scamper home.

On another run, on the Southeastern tip of Samar, we were met with a similar reaction from the local kids, who eagerly joined us as we ran through their town.  A charming, ten-year-old girl, Maryelle, quickly decided that I was her friend.  When I asked her where she lived, she pointed to a ramshackle group of huts just across the street, and then grabbed my arm to take us there.  Surrounded by kids, we passed through a tiny alleyway, and on the other end saw mothers and sisters and aunts, most of them smiling at us. “You all live here?” I asked, and the kids eagerly nodded and said they did.

There was a tiny sari-sari store where an older sister worked, and Nate asked if she sold water.  She disappeared for a moment, and when she came back, she was carrying two chilled, plastic bags of water.  There was no sign of bottled water or a filtration system anywhere, and yet we both knew that turning our noses up at this gift was something we couldn’t do.  As the kids showed us how to bite a hole in the corner of the bag and suck on it, we prayed that God would protect our stomachs and not let us get sick.  Then we drank the cold water, stopping only when I accidentally squirted water all over my face, which the kids, of course, thought was hilarious.  So far we’re still okay, so God seems to have answered our prayer.

“You want to run?” I asked the kids in Tagalog when it was time to go. They ran with us back through the town, across a bridge, to the place where the paved road turned to dirt, and Maryelle asked me if we were all going to our house together.  I didn’t know how to answer her; our hotel was far enough away that it would mean a lot more running, and what would we do with all of these kids once we got there?  She asked if we were coming back later, and since we were leaving Samar the next morning, I told her I didn’t know.  When at last we reached the edge of town, with aching hearts, we told the kids we had to go.  Maryelle looked at me mournfully, but at last smiled her beautiful smile and waved goodbye.