Abbott Spotlight On Health

Running stronger and longer

Chris Aguilar has a busy life in the bustling city of Manila, working in marketing and sharing his life with his wife and ‘six amazing kids’.

“Without my wife who’s incredibly supportive, I could never achieve any of my crazy goals.”

Lockdown in the Philippines has been quite strict. Vaccinations have begun for senior citizens, so Chris and his wife are in line, but it will take a while before they’re vaccinated.

For Chris, like many others during the beginning of the pandemic, his priority was trying to cope with working from home and schooling his children. He tried to maintain a base-level of fitness at home but didn’t have the same drive when there was nothing to train for.

“I've always been a believer in training versus working out, and because there was nothing to train for - no races, no football or basketball tournaments or pickup games - I was always lacking a goal. As restrictions started to lift a bit, my wife's former colleague invited us to join their weekly running group. Those weekly sessions were just the challenge I needed to get me back into training for a goal, and I began structuring my daily trainings around them.”

That community feeling transformed Chris from a keen sportsman to a converted runner and the return to a more normal routine is not stopping him from staying on this new road.

“My ambition was to train and run my first marathon before my 40th birthday. Being part of the community and being able to interact with other people, that got me going. Not to mention the joy of hitting new goals and seeing myself improve.”

Chris more-than-met his goal. In the last year, he’s run three marathons and four ultra-races (50km twice, 70km and a 90km) -- all in a virtual setting, which brings even more mental and physical challenges.

“I decided that I wasn’t going to wait around until the world went back to normal, so I wanted to start chipping away at my goals. Virtual, and mostly solo racing, has been tough. But, I love seeing that I am getting stronger and faster when I really set my mind to something.”

His first marathon adventure was the TCS New York City virtual marathon in October 2020 where he suffered with cramps from the tropical temperatures in the closing stages but still managed to clock a finishing time of 4:50. He ran his second race a month later with his wife who completed her first marathon in five years. They used it as important training for their first 50km ultra in the December.

Fast-forward to May 2021, and Chris joined us for the Global Marathon running solo and collecting a new personal best of 4:12.

“This was my first event as part of the Global Run Club, and I was very pleased that I hit a PR. I feel that if I focus just on marathon training, I can shave more time off that too. I am ready to join more challenges in the club and to gain some extra motivation from there.”

Getting back into running during a pandemic is one thing, but jumping into marathons and ultra-races is a big accomplishment. So, how did he do it?

“I'm really a 'don't-think-just-go' type of person. A little impulsive and a little crazy, but most people who choose distance running tend to be a little like that.  Really at the core of it, I love being able to challenge myself and find where my limits are.

“I was feeling very unfulfilled at work and wanted to find something I could really sink my teeth into, something that would push me to the edge, and naturally running was that thing. When one distance was conquered, I was always looking to what was next, a further distance or a faster time - usually the further distance won out in the end.”

Chris has been lucky over his athletic years and has been in good health with no serious injuries. But the climate of the Philippines and the extreme distances (for training and competition) have meant he’s experiencing more cramping and also developing some iliotibial band (ITB) issues due to the high mileage.

“I've never been good at treating the problem and just tended to focus on the symptoms. I've tried every brand of muscle tape, creams and gels but this year I have committed to focusing on the problem. I started a daily stretching and mobility routine, taking 30-50 minutes daily to stretch no matter what other training I have scheduled for that day. This has helped to ease my ITB, and has overall given me so much more strength especially in my hips and ankles.” 

Through the last year and more, Chris has really found that running not only makes him feel good physically, but the mental wellness it brings is huge.

“I guess that what I love about running, is when I’m out there I really have time to listen to my body, identify what’s working and what’s not working well and then take the time to tweak and improve. But it has also given me a chance to reconnect with myself, focus on meditation and challenge and push myself to achieve things I never thought possible.

“There are always going to be new and exciting, albeit scary goals, ahead but your mind and body are powerful things. When on a long run, it’s a time when I’m totally disconnected from devices and the digital world. I’m out there on the road with myself and that’s it.” 

Like we have seen around the world, running in the Philippines has increased in popularity during the pandemic.

“It is so wonderful to now see runners or all kinds getting out there. Lots of beginners, friends getting together and families sharing that time. As a sport and activity, it can give you so much back.”

What’s next for Chris? Maintaining that focus on strength and overall health, while preparing for his next challenge: “I am preparing for a virtual Comrades Marathon. I've mapped a route that simulates that same elevation gain as an ‘up-year’ (an 87km ultra-marathon.

"I would love to do some in-person races, but that’s unfortunately not going to happen in the Philippines in the near future. Until then, it’s just training and planning my own solo runs and staying positive.” 

Note: Always consult a physician and get a full health evaluation prior to marathon training. Even if athletes appear healthy, or to have a disorder under control, underlying medical conditions could exist.  Stretching the Iliotibial band can help prevent injury; however, if the condition persists, please consult a physician for an evaluation and treatment.

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