The flight here was horrendous. Thirty hours door-to-door. One 16-hour flight in the middle, during which both of my legs cramped up. It meant I was really looking forward to my run this morning in Manila.
I’m staying at the Makati Shangri-La, a five-star hotel surrounded by malls on all sides. There’s a triangular-shaped park a few blocks away – I can see it from my 14th floor room. It doesn’t look so big, but it may be my best bet. A doorman pointed me in the right direction and also talked about going into a neighborhood “past the park.”
That’s the trouble, and the opportunity, when it comes to running in a place for the first time. I have been to Manila once before, in 2008, but I stayed in a section of town along the bay, about five or six miles away. It might as well be another country for this city of 12 million.
At first light, about 6 a.m., I found the park easily and started running around it. It took me seven minutes for the first lap. That meant it was too small. I want to run 40 to 50 minutes a day here, and I can’t imagine running around this park six or seven times a day. It’s leafy, it doesn’t have any traffic, but who wants to run in circles?
So after two trips around, I branched out. I crossed a busy road for a smaller one and ran straight for a half mile until I came to a line of cars waiting to get into a gated community. I ran past the guards without saying a word, appearing like I was staying at the place. That’s one of my rules of running, No. 18: Never ask permission to go into a gated establishment unless a) It’s an African game park; b) it’s a military installation; or c) You are in a country run by a dictator.
This was none of the above, and I had found a small version of running heaven in the middle of a crowded humid city. I ran along the perimeter, passing large homes, men sweeping the streets with long-handled, heavy-straw brooms, and an occasional walker. One walker, an Aussie, was kind enough to tell me how to stay on the perimeter all the way along by talking a tiny alleyway that led to a bridge that led to a small pass-through, and then, he said, I would be able to run 2.5 kilometers (about a 1.6 miles) around.
The run took me 45 minutes. I arrived drenched in sweat at my five-star hotel, found some free tea by the front desk, and hustled to my room. For a first-time run in a city, it was top-rate. I wouldn’t be running in seven circles every morning. I had found my gated community – not quite like my inner self, but not bad.