There are people who stubbornly pursue dead-end dreams and accept rejection to embrace their destiny.
Such is the story of Cesar Guarin, who once chased after his dream—nay, obsession—of becoming the first Filipino to bring home the Olympic marathon gold medal. When he failed to qualify for the 1980 Moscow Olympics because of an injury, Guarin took his frustrations on the road and embarked on what would now be known as the 2,251-km Trans Pilipinas Run in 1983.
At that time, Guarin thought the long distance would give him better training to improve his speed. And his strength, endurance and speed did improve. But, unknown to him then, it was the run that would earn him the title “Father of the Ultramarathon” in the Philippines. He launched another even more ambitious project, Trans USA in 1985, covering 4,690 km in 87 running days.
When he finally qualified for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, an injury foiled his dream once more. He took a long hard look at his running life, and after much thought came to accept that the Olympic dream was not for him.
“I thought that probably I was not structured for speed, that maybe endurance was my strength,” he said.
Investing in his strength, he did a six-country, 3,756-km Trans Europe Run in 1992 before taking a long break from long-distance running to nurse another injury. By 2009, he was back in shape and finished a 1,272-km US-Canada Run in 29 running days, a 2,053-km Trans Australia Run in 2011, and this year conquered a seven-country Finland to England Run, a 1,820-km run in 45 running days.
Today, 56-year-old Guarin is set to realize his dream of becoming the first Filipino to finish running around the world. To achieve that, he needs to cover at least 42,000 km. It is, in fact, a feat only three ultramarathoners on official record have accomplished so far.
Called Global Run, it is divided into 15 stages, with Trans Pilipinas Run in 1983 marking Stage 1. Guarin has already covered 15,842 km in four continents in 271 running days. He has nine more stages to go, scheduled to be completed in 2017 for a total of 42,000 km across 47 countries in 920 running days. The project he embarked on as a competitive 23-year-old will be accomplished when he turns 62.
His next run, Stage 7, will kick off January 2013 in the Middle East, spanning six countries and covering a stretch of 1,265 km in 31 running days. He gets one day off, every Friday of each week, that he’ll spend giving inspirational talks to OFWs. His mission: to get one million Filipino supporters/advocates who will ignite the spirit of nationalism abroad.
Teeming with OFWs
The Middle East leg will be a special one for Guarin. Not only is the region teeming with OFWs, but he will be the first Asian allowed to run from UAE, Oman, Bahrain to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Czar D.
Balayron, Global Run project manager, said the team is taking extra precaution in this culturally sensitive region.
Among the restrictions imposed are no sleeveless shirts and shorts. Guarin must wear long-sleeved shirts and running pants that go below his knees. Not that he has a problem with that. January is wintertime. Apart from the slight discomfort his “overly” dressed body will experience, additional clothing will actually be helpful in keeping his body warm.
Ultramarathoners are notorious for having a high threshold for pain. A deformed, swollen, bleeding and blistering foot after a 100-km race is just the tip of the iceberg. So how does Guarin run every day for eight to 10 hours straight, covering 40-60 km each day, and still manage to sigh when he sees a glorious sunset in the horizon?
“Running has become meditative for me. I feel I become a part of nature. I feel like God is with me. That’s the kind of high I get from running,” Guarin said.
Guarin said he chooses to focus on the positive—in this case, the spectacular view before him—rather than dwell on the pain. Pain is a given; pain will always be there; it is something you cannot control, he said. You can control, however, what your mind chooses to focus on.
He also changes his stride while running to prevent injuries. A natural heel-striker, he switches to mid-foot after a few kilometers, for instance, so that other muscle groups will be working. In other words, he makes full use of every muscle group from his legs to his thighs with each run, rotating them throughout the day.
Global Run has also endeared to him the many Filipinos and foreigners who showed support. Once, during his Finland to England leg, an inn in Sweden gave them a discount when the manager learned he was running with a mission. He also recalls a time when the Filipino community baked him a cake designed with Global Run’s logo.
Guarin said he has been fortunate to receive support and sponsorships, among them GMA International. He also hopes to raise funds for the Batang Pangarap outreach program.
Guarin said he doesn’t see himself ever retiring from running, not even after the completion of his Global Run. He knows there will always be a reason to keep going.
Visit www.globalrun.org or The Global Run on Facebook.