An excruciating injury could not stop trail runner Arlene Agulto from going out there and racing. That’s how much she loves to run

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I’m not the fastest nor am I the strongest, but when I sign up for a race, you can bet all your running shoes you’ll see me go past that finish line even if I have to crawl, draw blood, or hurl all my innards. While I admire and have high regard for elite runners, my goal has simply been to enjoy a beautiful race route and finish injury-free.

I joined my first race in 2009 when I was still living in the US. It was a 10K race, which I finished in 55 minutes. With no formal training except for treadmill runs at the gym and weekend long trail runs with friends, I was brazen enough to run alongside seasoned runners. Since then, I was hooked into running.

Fast forward to 2013 back in the Philippines. With my mountaineering group, Tribu Kaladkarin, I signed up for my first Philippine race, TNF 22K Baguio. Even while I was nursing an ACL/MCL injury, I continued teary-eyed in pain like a battered bull. I managed to finish before the cut off at 3:31:24, placing 244th out of 355 runners. But, I had to recover and stop running for more than six months. My ortho said if I wanted to run more races, I’d have to go through therapy and find a real expert so I could train smarter. I met Coach Dennis

Antonio through his circuit training program Performance Kintetix (Perx). After several runs with Coach Dennis and his Perx trainer Coach Kirk Patrick Ang, I learned proper form, breathing technique, and cadence.

“My doctor told me to stay away from physical exertion for a week the day before I went to Baguio for TNF 100. I went anyway.”

I recovered and carried on joining “racetinations,” like the 32K Salomon Xtrail run. The run dared my lungs to my edge. Somewhere along the 15th km, the dusty route and killer summer heat had triggered an asthma attack. Foolish little old me left my medication and inhaler at the baggage area; I had to stop several times to manage my breathing. There were many times I was tempted to ask for medics support. But I didn’t. Thanks to the company and support from kind runners on the trail, I marched on pretending nothing was wrong.

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My pulmonologist scolded me when I told him about my Salomon experience. “Strictly not running or physical exertion for a week,” he commanded a day before I was set to travel to Baguio for the 22K TNF race. But I went anyway.

The Baguio trail was still ever so wonderful with a beautiful vista overlooking the summer capital. Almost three hours later, I made it to the finish line with my friends who had finished the 50 kilometers congratulating me for my 22-kilometer achievement. To my surprise, I placed 3rd in the women’s division, 52nd overall out of 446 runners.

I would definitely not recommend others to be as foolhardy as I was considering the conditions. But to run and weave through supportive runners is something that shouldn’t be missed. With efficient and smarter training, knowing one’s weaknesses and goals, finishing a race happy, injury-free is certainly conceivable. It will take time to be one of the fastest and strongest, but my love for the outdoors will continue on wherever that may be.