ENLIGHTENMENT came on kilometer 38 of my spur-of-the-morning full marathon, past the smiling and cigarette-smoking pair of a twenty-something prostitute with a makeup made garish by the harsh late-morning light and her 40ish client waiting for a cab outside a North Reclamation Area motel.

At that point in my unplanned 42-kilometer run last March 2, I fully understood, “Free your mind and your feet will follow.”

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I haven’t read Kevin Nelson’s The Runner’s Book of Daily Inspiration but I kept repeating that phrase on that day, when, after leaving my house in Lapu-Lapu City for a scheduled 21K run on my way to the Sun.Star office, I decided to complete a full marathon.

It was excruciatingly hot and there were instances on the way to Lilo-an that the thought of just turning back and not completing the run occurred to me.

But I kept mumbling my mantra.

Free your mind. Like astral projection, I saw myself running the last few meters to the Sun.Star office, taking a soothing bath and eating a delicious lunch during a meeting scheduled that noon with Visayan Electric Co. officials who wanted to discuss the organization of an exclusive fun run for their workers.

And your feet will follow. I never ran farther than 25 kilometers in one go before that day. I ran 34.34 kilometers during my birthday but the distance was cut in two sessions, going to work in the morning and running back home at night.

But on that day, the kilometer reading in my GPS watch kept ticking toward my goal.

When I reached that point where the couple was waiting for a taxi, I knew I wouldn’t be able to run a direct route to the office because I still lacked four kilometers to complete the marathon. I knew I would have to run loops on F. Ramos St. It was hot and I wanted to stop but I also knew I would be able to finish a full marathon.

Mantras are powerful. In Hinduism and Buddhism, mantras are ritualistic incantation of mystic power.

For runners, mantras are as mystical and as powerful. Runner’s World says mantras help runners “stay focused and centered.”

“One way to develop your inner cheerleader is to remember thoughts you have while running well. If you’re feeling especially strong or light on your feet, recognize those sensations and try to translate them into a saying,” said Runner’s World’s “Guide to Road Racing.”

For Dr. Humility Igaña, it’s “if others older than me can run, why can’t I?” She took it as inspiration that an older colleague could complete race distances. She was also inspired by the sight of a 77-year-old man overtaking younger runners.

Donna Cruz-Larrazabal, on the other hand, has a lot of mantras in her arsenal. Her favorite quote is by 1980 Boston Marathon champion Jacqueline Gareau, “The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong.

You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy...it is not age, it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.”

But when she gets tired or suffers during a run, Donna has a backup mantra, “Quitting hurts more than this.” For really tough times, she repeats either of these phrases of power: “pain is temporary, pride is forever!”, “I’m healthy. I can!

I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again!” or “The mind controls the body, the body does not control

the mind.”

Abroad, she recites part of Bebot by Black-Eyed Peas “Ako ay Filipino, Kaya ko ito! Filipino! Filipino! Filipino!”

Sheila Colmenares, meanwhile, keeps telling herself, “I am willing to put myself through anything; temporary pain or discomfort means nothing to me as long as I can see that the experience will take me to a new level. My age and my weight should not be a hindrance for me to achieve my goal for a longer running mileage.”

“One small step at a time to the finish,” ultra-runner Jonel Mendoza keeps telling himself as he tries to avoid racing with foolhardy eager-beavers at the start of an ultra.

But as mantras go, nothing beats Coleen Digman’s favorite, “I run because I can’t give up my beer.” If the going gets tough, Coleen counts the beers she’s entitled to drink after the race.