This article is in Sunstar newspaper (print and online) on August 20, 2017.
My husband joined the recent Mapawa Trail Run last Sunday. He asked me if I wanted to go but I had a bunch of excuses ready. When he got back, he talked animatedly about this amazing man who finished the 42k marathon barefoot.
I was aghast and thought it was a joke. The possibility of spiky twigs, sharp rocks, and broken glass imbedded in mud piercing the soles of the feet makes the story quite difficult to believe. Others, like me, aren’t even motivated to run with shoes on.
But there he was, Jeremy Fabela, with his picture prominently displayed on the Mapawa page. He proudly finished the 42k trail run with plain feet. It was no mean feat (pun intended) so I was impressed. I was compelled to tell his story in the hopes of inspiring others to ‘run for their lives’ (good health).
Jeremy narrated he started as a mere walker five years ago. In his routine, joggers would pass him by, so he was challenged to incorporate a faster pace. This 46 year old father of 2 was then inspired to join the Kagay-an Marathon 5k division. He had his family’s full support and he aimed to make them proud.
He said: “I was ecstatic to have the bragging rights having completed the 5km. My family was happy to meet me at the finish line. I also posted a picture on my FB page and it garnered a lot of likes and comments. These motivated me to continue what I was doing.”
The aspiring runner then met Coach Allan Gelsano Canoy who urged Jeremy to join Team Happy Finish. He shared: “Coach Allan was the one who encouraged me to train and consider long distance running. Actually, I never did a half-marathon (21km). Coach asked me to register straight for the Camiguin360, which was a 64km UltraMarthon. He signed me up for the 32km relay. I thought I was going to fail, but with God’s grace, I made it to the finish line.”
After his stint in Camiguin, he met a local team of UltraMarathoners who went as far as doing 300km foot races. He eventually joined them, the Timberland Ultra Runners (TUR), which is still his team to date. He said: “I was inspired to join Timberland because they don’t just do road running. They did a lot of trail runs too. And I am a real nature lover and I am most comfortable outdoors so we were a good fit.”
He added: “The thing about long marathons, I noticed that with each race, the moment I take of my shoes, all my toenails would fall out. Patay na kuko (dead nails)! On top of those, I had blisters on my soles and my big toes. The blisters were huge; I could actually prick them with a needle and a lot of water would come out. I’m not going to lie. At times, they can be painful. Antos gyud!”
Dare to Go Bare
It was in the Trans Cebu 105km Ultramarathon of 2015 where he ditched his overpriced running shoes. He recounted: “It was here that I experienced a knee injury at 10km. To add insult to that injury, all the blisters on my soles and toes came out with a vengeance. I didn’t want to give up, so I took off my shoes and bought Spartan rubber slippers at a sari-sari store along the way. I had to finish the last 95km in pain, with only survival instincts pushing me to the finish line.”
After several months of rest, he joined Camiguin 64km with nothing but slippers. He noted: “It was my first long marathon that I finished without any blisters and dead nails. Now, I call running shoes foot coffins. Later on, I also joined trail runs with just my slippers. Hard to believe, but I was even faster than some of the other folks who had their shoes.”
Jeremy was researching on the benefits of running with slippers when he stumbled on the concept of “barefoot running”, also called “natural running”. Just as the name says, people run on bare feet with absolutely no shoe cushion. He was amazed that it had so much benefits like: strengthening the feet and ankles, reducing the risk of injury, more spring in each step, longer strides, and more. From then on, he has not looked back.
No Kubal (Callus)
This self-employed businessman has gotten a lot of flak for his passion. People have said he is crazy for running without protection, they’ve raised their eyebrows hinting he is an attention-seeker, or they’ve alluded that his feet are disgusting with calluses. He takes all the comments in stride and uses their words as motivation to excel because this kind of running makes him happy.
He said: “A lot of people don’t take into consideration that our feet are perfect for barefoot running. Since time immemorial, the animal hunters have foraged for food all over the forest with no slippers and shoes. I implore everyone to read up on barefoot running and you’ll be amazed at the many benefits. There are of course a few naysayers, but the emphasis here is very few.”
Jeremy is happy to have finished the Mapawa Trail Marathon, being the first to run the course barefoot. “I had to prepare not just physically but mentally. The trail terrains are rough with thick mud, thorns, and stones. I am thankful my feet were able to endure. No cuts, no blisters, no bruises, or whatsoever. My brave soles really make me feel the earth move under my feet,” he concluded with a smile.
I give Jeremy my heartfelt congratulations. The amazing part in his journey is not that he finished the race, but he had the courage to start. May his story inspire many others to pursue what truly makes them happy!
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