“WHAT was in those beans?” I chuckled to myself on my first pass by the Cansaga Bay Bridge on my way to Liloan early yesterday morning.

John Pages, the person responsible for my addiction to running, sent me a coffee brewing set because he wanted me to try preparing one using a French Press. I brewed one cup as soon as I woke up yesterday morning and proceeded to suit up to run for work.

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My day had already been planned: I was to run to work, write my column piece on Joel Garganera, perform my news desk functions, meet with the Visayan Electric Company (Veco) staff for lunch to discuss a fun run they were planning, and run back home at night.

I had formulated my lead for the Garganera column piece in my head but I felt something was amiss. I felt I knew Garganera based on the several occasions that I interviewed him, many times while on the run, but I was anxious I was incapable of doing justice to his story.

I had suspected Joel to be a kindred spirit—that, like me, he was, as author Christopher Solomon put it, running his demons hard until he “left them heaving by the roadside.”

There is a mystical air when Joel talks about the marathon. He seemed to be a changed man. Sun.Star Running Club muse Michelle So, in our talks, kept saying fondly, “Santos na gyud ka, Joel. Dili na ko kaila nimo.” (You’ve become a saint, Joel. I no longer know you.)

Joel, in our talks, credited all these changes to running.

To tell his story, I felt I needed nothing less than to grok Joel Garganera.

I kissed my wife—and injured running partner—Marlen and left our house intending to run about 15 kilometers—20 kilometers at most, depending on the route—to work.

But while walking toward our subdivision’s gate, I realized I wasn’t ready to write my column piece.

I needed a long run to think. I decided, on a whim, to attempt running a full marathon.

I knew I’d suffer through it.

It was fool-hardy because I did a 21-kilometer long run just last Sunday.

But I told myself at least I’d know, for certain, what Joel meant when he talked about his marathon experiences.

While I kept saying to myself I would attempt the full 42-kilometer route, I was still vacillating until I passed the beautiful Cansaga Bay Bridge.

“Free your mind,” Kevin Nelson said in The Runner’s Book of Daily Inspiration, “and your feet will follow.”

On Cansaga Bay Bridge, I decided, what the hell, I would run all the way to the Liloan municipal hall. While running, I kept asking people, “Noy, asa na man ko? Asa ang padung munisipyo?” (Where am I? How do I get to the town hall?)

There’s a certain satisfaction with unplanned runs, with not knowing where you’d end up or how you’d get there.

When I reached the Liloan town hall, I rested for a while and checked how I felt. At that point, I felt I still had enough in me to run to the Sun.Star office and complete my first marathon.

The way back was hell. It was hot because I started late, at 6 a.m. I kept telling myself, you should have started at 4 a.m.

But on the way, I was rewarded by the kindness of strangers—the Consolacion carenderia store owner who allowed me in her house so that I could splash myself with water. “Dili ka mapasmo ana, dong?” she asked me; the store owner who did the same thing in Mandaue.

On kilometer 38, I fully understood Michelle So and started speaking Spanish, “No mas, no mas.” I had to force myself to complete the last two kilometers (if I didn’t, I’d have to prematurely submit my Garganera column.)

Did my long run work?

No.

If only it were as simple as that, no? I still wasn’t satisfied with my column piece. But at least I got another week’s reprieve.

I ran, unplanned and unprepared, 42.2 kilometers yesterday. And as I wrote this column, I felt I could run forever. Believe me, we are born to run.

See you on the road.

(GPS record and photos of my unplanned marathon are available at www.CebuRunning.com )