THE first time I grasped the immensity of the countryside, I asked myself if I could survive living in it.

That was in 1981 when we hastily left our base, a house in the middle of a ricefield at the southern coastal hem of the Cebu City outskirts, and headed for the mountains.

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The bigger challenge in that jeepney trip was crisscrossing the length of the Mananga river. At night.

When night turned into morning and the curtain of darkness was finally rolled somewhere else, unveiled before us was a hut, a river fed by the Morga spring, and rough terrains wrapped in green everywhere. No highways. No taxis. And you go from point A to point B using your feet following footpaths that sometimes snaked upwards by 45 degrees.

But I loved the surroundings, and people have an infinite capacity to endure the difficulties and adjust to a hard life if they will it. That is one of the lessons I learned in my more than seven years of living in a rural setting, and it is what allows me to surmount other challenges—emotional, physical, mental—like mountain trekking and, the most recent, running.

I was among the 2,800 participants of the 5-kilometer run of the hugely successful Cebu Marathon last Sunday. Not that it was my first 5K. It was my third. And it should be no big deal for those who ran the full marathon (42K) and even the half-marathon (21K, of course). But it was enough to reaffirm that lesson I learned: we can expand our limits, if we want to.

I was actually on an exercise downslide when Sun.Star people caught the running bug in last September’s press freedom week celebration. The distances I jogged in the morning, if I ever did it, was getting shorter. But when I was “enticed” to run the 5K, I knew the only way I could evade the shame of quitting a race was to physically push myself harder again.

But don’t expect me to up the ante. I have a feeling I can run-walk 21K of flatlands (couldn’t I trek rough terrains weighed down by a heavy backpack and other burloloys for hours?), although 10K would be the more prudent next step. But I would never make running distances an obsession because I simply don’t have the time.

In the meantime, I will just have to hold on to the “inspiration” by following longer routes when I jog. If there’s one good thing this served me, it is that I have a renewed understanding of my physical limits and now have better knowledge of the place where I run around in.

(khanwens@yahoo.com/my blog: cebuano.wordpress.com)