Tuesday, September 27, 2005

words from Coach Rex

Friday, September 23, 2005; 9:45am

Dear Runbutans, MHF Board, and Community:

Thank you for the congratulations that have begun to fill my email. I love it. Although a couple of days late, I am writing to share with you the news of our victory in Maui. On September 18, 2005, thirty runners dawned the Runbutan red jerseys to represent the Manilatown Running Collective and our community in the 2005 Maui Marathon. Victory! Victory! Victory! Thirty runners set out for the 26.2 mile marathon and all thirty runners crossed the finish line.

September 18, 2005 will go down as one of the most historic days in the history of the Manilatown Running Collective. The 2005 Team were record setters. Here are the records that they established last Sunday:

a. Sept. 18, 2005 marked the largest number of Runbutans to cross the finish line on race day. THIRTY IN ONE DAY!

b. The 2005 Runbutan Team raised the largest amount ever raised by a single Runbutan Team. They are closing in on $40K (not including a match by the Banatao family). With the Banatao grant, Runbutans have raised over $100,000 in the last three years.

c. The 30 runners on marathon day made Sept. 18, 2005 the largest number of Runbutans to participate at a single marathon.

d. The Maui Marathon 2005, was the hottest most grueling marathon conditions faced by a Runbutan Team. With these hot and humid conditions, they showed the utmost courage, perseverance, and love.

e. The 2005 Runbu-squad was the largest number of Runbutans to complete at least one 20+mile training run. It was the most prepared team for marathon day in the history of the running collective.

f. The 2005 Runbu-coaching team was the largest and most successful coaches team to coach a team to victory. Kudos to Coach Alex, Coach Angie, Coach Cici, Coach Herb, Coach Patrick, and Coach Tiffany.

g. The Runbutan Coaches have a perfect record of 64 out of 64 success rate. 64 runners in the last three years have made it through the 30-week training program to race day, and all 64 who have participated in the marathons have finished. Yes! That is a 100% success rate. The streak continues thanks to all Runbutans over the course of the last 3 years!!! Go Runbutans.

h. The 2005 Marathon was the first time in the running collective's history that no one finished alone. I have never been more proud of a community of people than I was last Sunday. After a mild morning and after the steep hills of the Marathon course, the heat became dangerous and unbearable. The heat and humidity began to engulf the runners at the half marathon mark. If I were to draw an analogy of my experience of watching the team, I felt like the parent of a boxer (perhaps a Mango from Manilatown). As the heat swarmed the runners, I have never seen a group of runners take a beating from the elements as the 2005 runbu-squad endured. The heat was so bad that I would not have wished in on my worst enemy. Unfortunately, the team that I have grown to love over the last 30 weeks took a pummeling like I have never seen before. There were points on the course where like a parent watching their son or daugter getting pummeled in the boxing ring, I cried inside and wanted to toss in the white towel to end their pain.

Yet, amidst the unrelenting heat and humidity, an unbelievable thing happened. The team grew closer in rank. Unlike other marathon teams and runners, the 2005 runbu-squad did not take the route of individualism and a mentality of "every man for himself". Instead, each runner vowed that no one would be left to run alone. The adversity brought them closer. The heat rallied them to dig deep to find the best person within. The pace groups ran as one. No one was left alone. And with the pain and agony, the team withstood the elements and fought back. I have never seen anything more beautiful as the sight of the Runbutan red shirts rolling down the road fighting back the most difficult conditions that I had ever witnessed.

In the most extreme circumstances and adversity, our team found its finest hours. With the adversity, our running collective recalled everything that they learned over the past 30 weeks of training and bonded together like I had never seen. When one runner needed help, the rest of the pace group was there. When a runner needed to step up to help lead, the leadership came. When the heat came to torture the group, the pace groups cooled each other by showing love and caring for one another. No one was ever alone. The team was one. The 2005 Runbu-squad pulled together and fought the elements together.

As I saw the team of runbutan-red rolling down the road at the 26th mile, I broke down in tears. The team took a beating from the heat, but fought back with the unity and ferocity of love that I will never ever forget. The triumph of this 2005 Runbutan Team is not just a marathon victory. Rather, it is the triumph of love and community over adversity. It was a demonstration of the power of the human spirit.

The courage that this team displayed will always be attached to my soul. I have never seen a group honor their families, their community, our struggle, and their ancestors as this team did. I am so honored and privileged to have witnessed their victory. I am so lucky to have coached this extraordinary group of people. They have taught me so much about life.

As our heroes return home, I hope that we take opportunities to hear their individual accounts of their victory. Heroes are not just those who commit unbelievably heroic acts. Heroes are not only those who are heroic but also return home to tell the community of their heroism so that these acts will live forever.

Congratulations to the 2005 Runbutan Team. Thank you for showing me beauty. Thank you for showing me how to be stronger. Thank you for showing me love. As I have been saying for the past 30 weeks, Run..run..RUNBUTANS. Keep running, and don't stop.

Final Thoughts of the 2005 Running Season

The 2005 Runbu-squad is a collective of 30 unbelievable stories. Here are some samples of some of the stories of some of our runners:

We have a runner whose grandmother passed away a week before marathon day. Instead of returning for her grandmothers funeral and with her family's blessing, she ran the marathon with her grandmothers name on her back celebrating the years of life her grandmother graced the earth. In the irony of life, she crossed the finished around the same time her grandmother was being laid to rest in the Philippines.

We had a runner who was a cancer survivor who crossed the finish and ran for an aunt who has category four cancer in the Philippines. She returned to the Philippines the day following the marathon.

We had new and expecting parants. One year old Isagani watched mommy and daddy finish the Maui Marathon. Coach Angie and Ricky Nierva are expecting their first child in November. They shared that they were pregnant mid-way through training. As new and expecting parents, they showed the team why our work in the present is relevant for our future.

We had several runners who recently graduated from college and are transitioning into a new marathon of life after higher education. Their strength and courage show that the next stage of their lives are bound to be full of triumphs and blessings. Our community is in good hands.

We are a running team of heavy hearts. In the last three years, members of our running team lost special people in our lives. As we triumphed to victory, these departed loved ones saw us through.
We had runners who were not Filipino, but like all people of integrity, we share a yearning for social justice and equity for oppressed people. In running for Manilatown, we represented communities that are invicible. Through our running we make the invisible visible. The Manilatown movement has always been an inter-generational and multi-ethnic coalition of people in search for justice. The Runbutans ran in solidarity of this historic past.

We had runners who are currently students. Juggling the grueling academic calendar, they reminded the more senior folks in the group their past and a greater hope for the future. In running together inter-generationally, we are stronger and more wise than we were 30 weeks ago.

We had runners currently in graduate school whose life's academic work will transform and make relevant issues that tell our community story. Through publishing and teaching, they teach us about ourselves.

We are a team of coaches who give selflessly. Last Sunday, the coaches coached, cooked, drove, supported, nursed, provided wake up calls, facilitated community gathering, cleaned, and most importantly demonstrated love.

This is just a brief synopsis of the lives of the heroes/sheroes that make up our team. The marathon that we ran is symbolic of the beautiful journey of life that we continue to travel. Together, we made history. Together, we made our community better. Together, we exemplified what it means to be unified, courageous, loving, and agents of change. I wish our families and our community could have seen the marathon through my eyes because I have never witness anything more dramatic, courageous, and beautiful. It is my hope that as the days go by that the runners tell their stories. It is my hope that just as they embodied and honored the Manilatown/I-Hotel struggle that we continue to build and become stronger.

I will cherish what I witnessed for all of my days. I am so enriched to have been touched by the Runbutans who I have run with in the past three years. As I continue to run and become touched by this growing my team, I become stronger and become more complete. Peace be our journey. "For our bayani (heroes), for the Manilatown/I-Hotel struggle, and for our community, we runbutan!"

Much love and respect,

Coach Rex getting some much-needed and well deserved rest.

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