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I am a Bicolano by birth and choice. By any standards, I am a slow runner but I like it that way. I look at running as a healthy and exciting way to make a difference. Together with my fellow runners from our family, school, office and the community, we use running to give back..

December 14, 2016

I LEFT MY RUNNING HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO



It was perhaps revelatory that when I opened the October 2016 issue of Runner's World,  the page that greeted me was ""America's 50 Best Running Cities" and there on top of the list was the fair city of San Francisco, CA.  I just purchased it from the SF Chronicle News store at the SF International Airport after concluding my 1-week visit to Northern California.  

Upon reflection, I truly was blessed to have had the chance to savor, albeit a brief one,   on that 4th weekend of September the runningest city in all the 50 states of the star-spangled banner. Am so glad that when I was going to California to attend the Verge 16 Conference on Sustainability, I did pack a pair of running shoes for only a fool of a runner would go to San Francisco without running.  

The BP is  no fool of a runner.        

The BP got to taste the running vibe of San Francisco and fell in love with it.  Allow me to elucidate on the matter by writing about three  running-related experiences in the city by the bay. 

A Visit to A Runner's Mind store.

Truth be told, the first thing on my mind when I reach San Francisco an hour before noon on Sep 23 was to go visit A Runner's Mind, a local running store which was included among The 50 Best Running Stores in America for 2015 by the Competitor magazine and Running Insight trade magazine. 

But that had to wait for a couple more hours as my good friend and grade school classmate Magen together with her daughter Rachelle, sister Jeanne and friend Joanne deigned it appropriate that  I should  try first the best cheesecake in town.  This was to be had at the Cheesecake Factory on top of Macy's in front of Union Square. After tasting the Hershey's chocolate flavored cheesecake, I sure agreed that it is sinfully delicious. But the gastronomic delight could not satisfy my craving for another experience.
The Bicolano Penguin dining in the company of four lovely ladies at the Cheesecake Factory. 
Hershey's Chocolate flavored cheesecake.


And that is the experience of visiting an honest to goodness running store.  Here in the Philippines, running stores are  a dying breed.  A couple years back, we had A Runner's Circle, Riovana, SecondWind and Runnr in Manila.  Both ARC and Riovana have closed shops while Secondwind is down to a single store (from 3 stores).  Only Runnr remains and even this store does not seem to have the running community feel that I enjoyed when vising the ARC store along Roxas Blvd or the Secondwind store in UP Village.  

So it was in this breathed state of expectation that I excitedly waited while the car driven by Rachelle navigated the streets of San Francisco and pulled over to the address 3575 Sacramento Street. Entering the store, I could say I was at home.
Map location of A Runner's Mind 
Excited to enter an honest to goodness running store. 
To the left was the shoe rack with an abundant display of running shoes of established brands like Nike, Brooks, Mizuno, Hoka and Pearl Izumi. In the middle was the display of running shirts and shorts. To the right was the cashier and at the back of the cash registry were a couple of blackboards showing the various running events like group runs and organized races being handled by ARM. 
The gallery of delicious-looking running shoes at ARM. 
Two backboard full of run-related events being organized by ARM. 


Waiting in the cashier area was Carlos, the store manager.  He politely asked how he could be of assistance. I told him I was looking to buy a long sleeved running shirt which is suitable for the cold weather. Then I added if there was some pair of Pearl Izumi trail running shoes I could try on.  Immediately he had some Mizuno shirts available,  showed me the fitting room and promised that he would have some trail shoes for me to look at after I've done fitting. 
With store manager Carlos.  
Inside the fitting room, I could not help but take photos of the walls as they were filled with words of wisdoms from such running greats as Jesse Owens and Steve Prefontaine. Later on, I would find out that even their comfort room is running inspired. 
Words of wisdom from running greats like Steve Prefontaine and... 

...Jesse Owens.
After the shirt, I got to choose a pair of Pearl Izumi trail running shoes.  He congratulated me on  a good choice and that made me feel good despite parting with a few hard-earned dollar bills for the purchase. 

Pearl Izumi
Hoka Stinson
In addition to my purchases, I had to inquire if they had the latest offering of the Hoka Stinson. My running buddy Ernie back in the Philippines was looking for one at US Men's size 11.5.  He truthfully told me they have the Hoka Stinson 3 but their SF shop did not have the size required.  He suggested that he could have the right size pair available in the store on whatever day I can come back.  I readily said yes and it impressed me that the right pair was indeed waiting for my pick up when we came back on Sunday.  

Looking back at my experience in my visit to ARM , I could appreciate more what  the Competitor magazine and Running Insight trade magazine are looking for when they go about naming every year the top 50 running stores in the US - "A great running store is the cornerstone of a healthy running community.  It not only provides the latest knowledge on shoes and gear, but also fosters a passion for the sport by building a thriving community around it.  Only through exemplary customer service, insightful industry knowledge and well-organized provisions of run programs and events can a store be considered one of the best - especially in an era dominated by online shopping.  A great store is so much more than just a place to buy gear."

Truly, ARM is that kind of a running store.  I sure do hope we have that kind of a running store in our beloved Philippines. For the record, San Francisco has 9 running stores within city limits.

ARM Summer Lights Friday Night Run Series (Sep 23)

In the RW's article , it was written that San Francisco boasts of 246 races in 2016.  In my very brief stay in the city, I was very fortunate to have joined 2 races, thanks  to Magen who registered me for a couple of 5km fun runs.

My very first race bib of a US fun run.  
The first one was a night run and it was part of a multi-race series that takes place on Friday nights at 7pm in July, August, and September when the San Franscisco Giants are out of town.  It is called the Summer Lights Friday Night Run Series.  The start and finish area is at the Yard at Mission Rock which is in the shadows of the mighty AT&T Stadium, home of the Giants.
Race route 
A night run in cool windy city by the bay?  The Bicolano penguin must be crazy as I am perfectly acclimatized to the balmy and humid weather of  the tropics.  In San Francisco, even at noon time, it is 8 to 10 degrees cooler than Manila.  Semper fi.  Gotta prepare for it.  That is why I bought the long sleeved Mizuno running shirt at ARM earlier.  Plus, I had with me a beanie to protect my head from the cold.


More importantly, there was the warmth of welcome from the organizing crew of ARM for this race.The Summer Lights Friday Night series is organized by the good people of ARM who believe in the running store being the lifeblood and center of the local running community in San Francisco.
Magen  and BP with the race marshal.
Magen and myself were excited to join this race.  Her daughter Rochelle brought us to the starting line by China Basin Park overlooking the massive AT&T ballpark. We only had a few opportunities to have some photos as races here in America start on the dot. After a short briefing from the race crew, the runners were corralled into the starting block.  It was quite apparent who the funny strangers from out of town  were as I and Magen were fully and doubly garbed while the locals were like on their way to a run on a sunny beach.
At the starting area in China Basin Park. 
With AT&T Stadium at the background. 
At the foot of the statue of Willie McCovey, the San Francisco Giant first baseman who is a Baseball Hall of Famer. 

The runners gathering around the race director.
Lining up for the start. The local runners were not feeling the cold. 
The start was a walking one for me and my buddy.  But after more than a kilometer, Magen cajoled me into running and leaving her behind as she did power walk. I decided to test myself if I could run with no walk breaks for almost 3 kilometers.  The cool clime sure did help and I was cruising along Embarcadero. In the process, I was able to overtake more than a dozen of fellow ARM Summer Lights participants.  With 10 meters away from the finish line, I looked up the timer and it read 33 minutes.  Wow.  The slow and waddling Bicolano Penguin would be bagging a personal record (PR) for the 5kms. Instantly, my face had a smile as I crossed the finish.  The Horace Greeley message was not lost in me - "Go West Young Man and run a PR."

The after race activities were fun as well in the ARM Summer Lights . First time 5km runners were treated to free beer.  The rest of us runners got Mizuno visors and  bobbleheads of San Francisco Giants Madison Bumgarner, the 2014 World Series MVP and 2014 Sports lllustrated Sportsman of the Year.
The top runner  receiving the prize.   
The newbie runners lining up for their much-deserved free beer. 


All finishers received a bobblehead figure of SF Giants pitching great Madison Bumgarner. MadBum was both the  MVP of the 2014 World Series and 2014 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. 
Finisher's loot.
Going back to our hotel, me and Magen decided to go on foot and walk a couple of  kilometers. Great decision on our part as it allowed us to enjoy the sights and sounds of night in the City of the Bay.  It never fails - enjoying a place is best done on foot.
At the foot of another SF Giants hall of famer - Willie Mays.  It is said by another baseball great (Ted Williams) that "they invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays."  
The lighted splendor of the Oakland Bay Bridge in full display. 



SF ALOHA RUN

Running indeed has many benefits.  One is it allows a person to tour a place in a more intimate way as what I experienced a night go at the ARM Summer Lights.  Another benefit is running  affords one an opportunity for a more intricate bonding  with good friends.  And this is what  I eagerly wished for as me and my grade school classmates Virlita de Lima, Gigi Apostol, Sofia Tolidanes, Judith Simbulan and Magen   motored via uber to Crissy Field - the venue of a fund-raising run.
At the Crissy Field entrance. From L-R:  Sophia, BP, Magen, Judith, Virlita & Gigi.
This is the SF Aloha Run. Now on its 6th year, it is a Hawaiian themed fun run with proceeds to benefit children and youth services of the Japanese Community Youth Council.  It offers the 5km and 10km distances.  The 5Km is the distance me and my friends registered for.

As we neared the starting assembly area, the imposing facade of the world's most iconic bridge loomed. Excitement was in the air and it was certainly in our hearts.  At the starting area, the runners clustered among  several pace groups:  Extra Fast Kine (6 min. mile); Wiki Wiki (10 min. mile or less); and Hang Loose (walkers).  Surrounded by many runners, I could not help but feel the cool running vibe from the runizens of the Bay area with all its varied colors from strong elite runners to weekend run warriors to running parents with strollers to high school kids.

My grade school classmates wearing the row5runnin shirts.
Special row5runnin shirts with "Ohana" at the back.


Extra Fast Kine pace group (6 min mile). 
Wiki Wiki pace group (10 min mile or less)
Hang Loose pace group (walkers)


Stretching exercise before the start.
When the gun started, we scampered  along the Old Mason Street and soon the runners were turning left twice which led to the San Francisco Bay Trail. Running parallel to the water, this trail gave a great view of some of the more quintessential structures in the area like the Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. In no time, we found ourselves approaching Fort Point which is located beneath the bridge. As we neared this fortification, the runners were now being dwarfed by the bridge and I could not help but stop my run to have a handful of photos with this magnificent structure.
The runners are off to a fast start.
With many in Hawaiian-inspired running attires.


On the San Francisco Bay Trail with Alcatraz in the background. 
Runners approaching the Golden Gate Bridge. 


The imposing beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge had many runners, including the Bicolano Penguin, stopping their run to have a photo memorabilia.  
After the U-turn at Fort Point, runners head back to Crissy Field where the finish line is located.


After making the u-turn at Fort Point, runners were on the way back to Crissy Field where the finish line awaits.  The atmosphere at the finish line area was very festive with the finisher treats like the finisher medal, shirt and bountiful food awaits.  With this convivial backdrop, my grade school classmates crossed the finish line and I was filled with a lot of joy knowing that we have done something both positive and transformative.  Perhaps after this fun run experience, there would be many more runs to come for my grade school classmates. We are all at that age where an active exercise lifestyle is key to a life of well-being.
Magen and Virlita crossing Crissy Field.
In full stride, Virlita eyes the finish line.


Thumbs up for Judith and Gigi as they cross the finish line.
La Consolacion grade school classmates proudly showing the ...  


...SF Aloha finisher medal.
The tired yet satisfied runners enjoying the drinks...


...generous serving of food at the finish line area.
My classmates proudly showing the Philippine flag.


Our bonding for that morning of Sep 25 continued even beyond the finish line of the SF Aloha Run as we all proceeded to do some shopping at the Sports Basement. The Bicolano Penguin  was so ever lucky as I got gifted by my classmates with a pair of brand new Altra Lone Peak 3.0 and a New Balance running shorts. Plus, they toured me in another iconic landmark in the Bay area -  the Palace of Fine Arts. Much delight in have photos with these group of lovely ladies.
Brand new Altra Lone Peak 3.0 courtesy of the generosity of my grade school classmates. 
Running thru the dome of the Palace of Fine Arts


When one is feeling the runner's high, one got to do the Usain Bolt "To Di World" pose. 
Very thankful for my classmates for making me feel very special. Too bad, my stay was a very brief one. But despite the short duration, I could feel that my running heart indeed fell for this wonderful place of San Francisco. How I long to be back, just like the lyrics of the iconic song of Tony Bennett.

I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me
To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
The morning fog may chill the air, I don't care
My love waits there in San Francisco
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come home to you, San Francisco
Your golden run will shine for me


                   

           


          




   

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