What’s your excuse?

There are a thousand excuses that we can come up with to avoid working out.   I've lost count of the number of times I told myself or my teammates:

"My (insert name of body part here) hurts."

"It's too hot."

or my favorite:  "I'm recovering from (insert name of race or previous workout here)."

It becomes especially easy now that summer has reared its ugly head and stepping outside feels like stepping into a furnace.  Excuses come easy.

I'm guilty of it. You probably are, too.

A few weeks ago, I participated in a 24km trail run at Tagaytay Highlands.  It was, without a doubt, the toughest race I had joined at that time.  Steep downhills and killer climbs, narrow chutes littered with loose rocks and runners jostling for position on the trails were some of the challenges we had to deal with.  I crossed the line with two blisters and a dead toenail--my first one in more than a decade of running!  The pain was bearable but it was enough for me to consider writing off the next two weeks and call for a hiatus in my workout schedule.

That was until I saw someone truly amazing at the finish line.

Aga is relatively new to running.  He only started running last year.  His reason was just the same as everyone else's--to find out just how far he could push himself.  He began by accompanying a friend who was training for the Milo Marathon Eliminations.  What started as weekly runs around the subdivision turned into more serious training runs that would take him farther than he had run before.  He didn't let lack of experience stop him.

His friend took notice of his newfound passion for running and offered to introduce him to another runner friend who could offer him proper guidance in the sport.  Sir Gado, as Aga calls him, paid him a visit at his home and upon the request of Aga's dad, willingly accepted the opportunity to coach Aga.

They would meet every weekend.  Gado and Aga trained religiously.  Being the more experienced runner, Gado unselfishly handed out suggestions on how to improve Aga's running form and technique. During one training session, Gado noticed that Aga didn't own running shoes. But this didn't stop Aga from training every weekend.  Through the help of a non-profit organization, Gado got Aga his first pair of proper running shoes.

Aga never missed training sessions.   He took in all of Gado's advice and never made excuses not to train.  He began to see for himself just how far he could push himself.  His first race was the Adobo Run After Dark 15k, where he clocked an impressive 1 hour 21 minutes.  He didn't stop there.

He joined race after race, kept on training and never made excuses.  By now, you're probably wondering what's so remarkable about Aga.

It isn't the impressive time at his race debut.  It isn't his interest in running.

It's the fact that he's completely blind.  And he doesn't make any excuses for it.

Aga was born two months premature, hence his nickname (aga in Pilipino means early).  At birth, he was diagnosed with Retrolental Fibroplasia.  Doctors prepared his parents for the harsh reality that Aga would eventually lose his eyesight.  He lost the vision in his left eye at age 11.  Eight years later, he became completely blind.  While he knew that it would eventually happen, he took it hard and fell deep into depression.  He and his family moved to the province as a way to help him cope. Accepting fate wasn't easy but Aga realized that he had to move on.  After spending years in their provincial home in Aklan, he told his parents he wanted to move back to Manila to find something to keep himself busy.  This was in 2010.   It was in Manila that he discovered running.

Nowadays, he and Gado are regulars on the running circuit.  They train and race using an effective yet low tech navigation method--a rope.  One end is secured around Gado's wrist while Aga hangs on to the other end.  Gado calls out all the things and people that may lay ahead--potholes, aid stations, slower runners and in the case of the trail run they'd just joined: terrain profiles, ravines, ruts and water crossings.  I'd heard and read of athletes with disabilities before but seeing one in the flesh was like seeing a rockstar in person.

Seeing Aga at the finish line (of a trail run at that!) made my list of excuses not to exercise seem so petty, so trivial, so...inexcusable.  Here I was with 2 blisters, wanting to take the next 2 weeks off.  There was Aga, beaming with pride, already looking forward to his next race, determined to keep moving on despite not seeing the roads or trails on which he runs.

Whenever I feel the urge to go easy, to skip a workout or quit a race, I look back to that moment where I first saw Aga.  He doesn't make any excuses.  I hope I can do the same.

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