Trailing (Far) Behind the Running Pastor

Tuesday this week was pretty intense for me. Without much planning and practice, I decided to run with the Running Pastor, Ferdie Cabiling, on his Run Across the Philippines ultra marathon. Pastor Ferdie entered Leyte Province few days ago. He gradually made his way from the southernmost tip of the island up to the northernmost part of the province, the scenic San Juanico Bridge connecting Leyte and Samar provinces.

By now, many of you know that Pastor Ferdie is running to raise funds for the 250 scholars of the Real Life Foundation.

My purpose for running was a combination of good and silly. First, I wanted to support his endeavor to raise funds for Real Life scholars in my own little way, especially that he was passing by the very city where I work and the province where I was born. Second, I just wanted to run with a big guy in this fraternity of runners. I have never joined even half a marathon before. The longest run I had was only 16 kilometers. I wanted this to be my baptism.

My Half Marathon Baptism

So by midnight of Tuesday, I grabbed my worn out, probably fake ASICS shoes, gathered my running stuff which consisted of a gadget loaded with RunKeeper app, a pair of earphones, and my favorite armband to hold the gadget in my left arm. I was all set.

I joined the run with two friends from church, Anna and Ritchel. A group of older guys from Tacloban also joined us, making the total number of runners 9. At first the pacing was slow so I figured I might even finish the entire 50 kilometers. At kilometer 8, I wasn’t very optimistic. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t keep up with the rest of the runners. At kilometer 12, I sheepishly called the ambulance behind me and told the guys I needed rescuing to rest my feet. I hitched a ride for a few kilometers and got back to the race when we were able to catch up with the others. At kilometer 17, I just wanted to go home and forget the whole thing. I was thinking the Lord didn’t need my help to miraculously provide for our Real Life scholars.

But I knew I had to keep running. I tried to imagine my reasons for doing so. I recalled Ms Pinky Katipunan’s Facebook post about how she teared up a bit when she saw Real Life scholars at her 45km mark and how she was motivated by the idea that she was doing it for others. In my heart of hearts, I couldn’t feel the same altruism. Sure it may have been at the back of my mind but right at the moment, it was the pain in my legs that occupied most of my attention. Then I thought how embarrassing it would be if I didn’t complete my own goals, even if I never told anyone about them.

So with my feet getting heavier by the minute and with nerve pains shooting up my leg every time I moved, I trudged on like crazy. I brisk-walked while they ran, meandered like drunk while the other runners seemed to be dancing, and groaned in pain while the older guys were skipping forward like they were just playing in the park.

I finished 21 kilometers with thud on the seat of the ambulance that was just behind me the whole time. Let the muscle pains come now, I don’t care. In the mean time, I felt good that I was able to do what I set out to do.

“Where Does He Get His Motivation?”

For the remainder of the day, my mind kept of going back to the scenes of our morning run. How could a 50-year old have energy for this? My body was holding a severe protest against me when I did my 21 kilometers. Granted, I am not a professional runner. But Pastor Ferdie has been running for 15 days and has covered more than 700 kilometers when I joined him. He endured rain showers, cold mornings, and sweltering heat from Saranggani to Leyte and still he was going strong. Anyone who has traveled long distances by bus knows the weirdness of seeing towns and provinces pass by your window. Hold that picture in slow motion and instead of riding a bus, imagine you do it on foot. It is both beautiful and staggering. When we passed by the towns I only see on the window of a bus, I felt a combined sense of exhilaration and tiredness for Pastor Ferdie knowing that whereas my run would end in Tacloban, his run would go on to Aparri. I have never been to Aparri either by bus or by plane. To think that he is going there on foot is beyond me. How does anyone motivate himself for an endeavor like that?

About a week ago, Philstar columnist Cito Beltran wrote an opinion piece about the Running Pastor where he mentioned that there are times when Pastor Ferdie actually runs alone. When all the runners were well ahead of me and all I could see was the forlorn road without houses nearby, I realized Cito Beltran’s point was painfully true. In the little that I know of running, I realized that completing a long distance run is both physically and emotionally taxing. Your enemy is not just the blisters on your feet and the unpredictable changing of the weather but also the staggering thought that you are actually alone in a project you volunteered to do and that you still have a long way to complete it. Only a strong man with very good reasons would dare embark on such a demanding project.

Encouraging Battle-Worn Local Pastors

We arranged for Pastor Ferdie to meet with the local pastors of Tacloban after his Tuesday run. There he poured out torrents of encouragements to our battle-worn local pastors who have been ministering in the city since Yolanda. I sat at the back of the room listening and laughing my heart out at the appropriate places of his talk while deep inside me I was just so amazed at the amount of grace God poured out in the room. Aside from the energy Pastor Ferdie unleashes on the road everyday, he still had so much fire power to share to the pastors. Then it hit me. This love for God and love for God’s people are the springs in his steps. He will finish the run to Aparri because he is motivated by something beyond himself.

I am writing this blog because of the deep respect I have for the Running Pastor. I am amazed at the selfless love and great self-sacrifice he is doing for the scholars of Real Life Foundation. It is one thing to admire what he is doing from a distance by just liking and commenting on his Facebook posts. It is another thing to see him sweaty and exhausted on the road. There you will see that his love and compassion for the next generation is expressed in the currency of sweat, muscle pains, and hundreds of kilometers of tired footsteps.

If you are reading this, it is probably because you know Pastor Ferdie, you attend a Victory church, or you are a running enthusiast. If you are reading this, I commend him to you. #RunAcrossThePH is a run fueled by his love for the Lord, love for the next generation, and love for those who can’t run.

You can encourage him by doing any or all of the following:

  1. Pray for him everyday as he is making his way through Samar and Bicol region in the next few days. Unlike other areas, there are places in Samar where stores and houses are far between. Just this morning, we had to go very far to find pandesal.
  2. Consider giving to Real Life Foundation. Pastor Ferdie hopes to raise P1,000 for every kilometer he covers in the whole duration of his run. Let us make that happen.
  3. Dust off your running gears and run for a few kilometers with him if you are in the area.

Thanks for reading everyone!