By Arlene Castro
Memories of our childhood are filled with those carefree days playing out in the backyard, where we made up our own rules for dodgeball, baseball, freeze tag, and of course, the exhilarating, unpredictable game of hide ‘n seek. No video games or smartphones to hold us down, just the wind and the sun while we ran to our heart’s content, or until Mom and Dad gave us their signal — a holler to come inside. Sometimes we’d play long after the sun went down. We ate our dinner and slept by curfew. It was easy to knock out once the light went out. Our only care in the world was, “Next time, I’ll run my fastest.”
Now that we’re older, our kind of play comes in different, more composed forms. Some of us dance Zumba, lift weights, wrestle on the mat, cross-fit, but most of us just run. Some of us want to, but can’t find the time or the motivation to do it. Guam has recently become a running hotspot in the Pacific, providing numerous events for people to challenge themselves, people who have found themselves running farther than they ever imagined physically possible. In marathons, triathlons or school competitions, there’s something different that keeps them going and many agree it’s how a run makes them feel afterwards.
A Natural High
There wasn’t a term for that euphoric feeling felt back in our childhood after participating in intense physical activity, but today it’s known as the runner’s high. According to an article in the New York Times, researchers in Germany using advances in neuroscience helped substantiate the “endorphin” hypothesis by proving that running elicits a flood of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are brain chemicals that relieve pain and stimulate relaxation, producing a sense of calm and well-being. But during extreme physical effort, endorphins lower the perception of pain, making signals transmitted by the body indiscernible to the runner. This can have negative consequences, therefore it is important that we have balanced physical exercise so that endorphins released at such times provide a positive effect, and not mask any warning signals from our own body.
Of course, running isn’t for everyone, and it’s always wise to consult a physician before engaging in any strenuous physical activity, especially if you have a pre-exisiting medical condition. However, when the doctor gives the green light, don’t hesitate to start with walking then gradually pick up the pace to a nice jog. If you run on and off and want more motivation or to take your fitness goal to the next level, read on to find out how other local residents accomplished their goals.
Some people ask, What is the point of running for long distances, entering those races, putting your body through that pain and strain? Who says you have to be a super athlete, super lean and in top physical condition to be able to run? People of all backgrounds, walks of life, and ages have found something that running provides — a wholesome feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment seeing small goals through onto bigger ones, literally done step by step and at their own pace. Most importantly, it has given endless benefits to their physical and mental health, and emotional well-being.
In a Q&A interview, here’s what runners on Guam leading ordinary lives have to say about how this exercise activity has inspired them to do extraordinary things. Why they started, and why they keep running, farther and farther.
Q&A with Guam Runners
Age 35, operations specialist, retail luxury brand
Joyce admits that it is difficult to find a babysitter so she takes daughter Thea in a jogging stroller on runs in Tumon with her
Age 31, language arts middle school teacher, cross-country and track and field coach
Christian has been running consistently for the last five years.
Age 41, health educator, wife and mother of two
Likes to run in Tumon, Tamuning-East Agana Marine Corps Drive early in the morning or evening
|How far do you run and how many times a week?||4 x a week, 3-5 miles each time, mostly in Tumon||3-4 x a week, 4-7 miles each time, around Tamuning Marine Corps Drive, Upper Tumon and Tumon Strip||3 x a week, 5-7 miles each time|
|What made you choose running as part of your fitness goals?||I used to be a gym rat, enjoying workouts such as boxing and light free weights. It’s not as challenging when you go on cardio machines versus running outdoors. I ended up preferring the challenge outdoor running gives. When you start to run you cannot stop the urge to run more. It’s a whole new world and feeling when you start running||I choose to run as my main extracurricular activity because it is inexpensive and can be enjoyable depending on other people’s availability. It is a non-contact/low-impact sport — compared to basketball and soccer — so I’m able to continue exercising with minimal chances of injury.||To lose weight and be fit. I love being able to run outdoors with friends and enjoy the scenery. Running also provides me a great sense of accomplishment both mentally and physically.|
|How has it benefited you?||I was able to break my weight plateau. It also improved my endurance and stamina. I realized when my runs lasted longer and breathing became easier, I was able to run long distance without stopping to walk or rest.||Maintaining my weight since I have a tendency to indulge myself whenever there is a party or outing||Running has helped me lead an active and healthy lifestyle. It helped me improve my endurance. It makes me feel younger and stronger than I felt before. I also have hypertension which runs in my family. Running helps me keep my blood pressure under control.|
|What is a memorable moment in running?||Completing a half marathon||When I ran the full marathon (GIM) in 2013, I recall the intense morning heat and knee pain during the last six miles, then as I crossed the finish line, I asked for a bag of ice, found the nearest patch of grass, and iced my knee for at least thirty minutes.||When I did the Hafa-Marathon in Feb. 2015. I was able to improve my time by 30 minutes. It gave me more confidence and I felt proud of myself.|
|What is your most challenging event? Why did you decide to do it?||The half marathon. A friend asked me to join with her.||The Guam International Marathon full marathon in 2013. I decided to participate in it because I wanted to cross that off my bucket list. The fact that I had a couple of friends who have been entering a lot of athletic competition (triathlons and Spartan races) pushed me to do it.||Was the previous 2015 GIM. I wanted to improve my time by 15 minutes. In doing so, I think I pushed myself a bit harder that completing the last two miles of the race was a bit painful for me.|
|What/who inspires you to keep running?||The challenge, the endurance and staying fit. I want to continue to keep my momentum. They tell me it’s a runner’s high. Once you start, you can’t stop.||When I see my friends or family members run races or complete their routine runs through social media, keeps me inspired to run.||My friends and the Guam Running community. Sharing the same passion with others motivates me to keep running. Seeing the dedication of so many runners on Guam running on the weekend as early as 5 a.m. just amazes me.|
|What advice would you give a person who doesn’t enjoy running, wants to but hasn’t found that push to start, or is hesitant to take it to the next level?||Just do it. Pace yourself. You know your body’s limit. Start by hitting as many 5K’s as you can. 5K’s motivated me. Then challenge yourself every time. Run as many times as you can in a week. Start off with a mile and slowly increase your distance. You will learn to enjoy it.||Run relaxed, pace yourself, and enjoy the scenery.||Run with a buddy. Running with a friend makes it more fun and enjoyable. Be consistent and really commit to your goals. Everyone has to start from somewhere.|
Christine Pama Theisen
Age 29, choir teacher, local singer and part-time voice coach
Likes to run in Tumon and Tiyan
Age 29, mechanical engineer, NavFac Marianas
Started training for for triathalons since 2008, enjoys hash runs on Saturdays
Age 41, high school health educator
Mother to one son, Ivan. Running buddies with Wencel. Enjoys running in Tumon
|How far do you run and how many times a week?||During training, 4-5 x a week||Just about every area in the island||Long runs one time, short runs three times per week|
|What made you choose running as part of your fitness goals?||I wanted to accomplish a new goal and prove to myself that I can do it and stay healthy.||It was a new challenge and I was making new friends in the triathalon community. It allows me to eat guilt-free fried rice and to hang out with friends, maintain my health and my weight. It’s also the cheapest medicine.||I first started running to combat depression, to lose weight, and to stay active. I decided to run to challenge myself, and entered my first 10k in the 2014 Guam Int’l Marathon.|
|How has it benefited you?||It helped with my endurance. I learned how to pace myself and discovered my strengths and weakness when it came to pushing myself.||Through signing up for longer triathalons my endurance increased. I’ve travelled all over the world to compete in races, made many good friends and memories through my experiences.||Running has helped me on my overall health-mentally, physically and emotionally. It has helped me with maintaining my weight, prevented me from being depressed, and I feel better about myself which increased my self-confidence.|
|What is a memorable moment in running?||I loved how I progressed from complaining about a 2 mile run to looking forward to a 5 mile run.||Crossing the finish line after running the Marathon section of Ironman New Zealand.||My first marathon. I never thought that I’d be able to finish it. That’s when I realized I could 0overcome anything as long as I put my mind to it.|
|What is your most challenging event? Why did you decide to do it?||The half-marathon only because I am by no means an athlete or in great physical shape. I really just wanted to see if I could actually do it. And I did it.||For harder workouts I’ll try coordinating with friends to at least start together and make it more fun. I like hash running through the jungle with people.||The GRC HAFA Marathon. This was our first tie running this event. We did good. In fact, our time just keeps on improving.|
|What/who inspires you to keep running?||My husband who encourages me to stay fit and make health a priority and long time friend, Litasha Babas, who is a mother of three. We shared some good sweat and tears running the half-marathon for the 1st time.||There is a pleasant solitude in running by yourself but I can’t do that all the time. It gets more difficult without the motivation of running in a group. If you make a social thing out of running that’s what gets me through the workout.||Friends who have been running. I see the physical benefits in them and now that I have started, I am inspired to keep running because I not only improve on my time in races, but it also helps me deal with the stresses in life.|
|What advice would you give a person who doesn’t enjoy running, wants to but hasn’t found that push to start, or is hesitant to take it to the next level?||Start slow. You won’t like it at first. Your body will ache and you will want to give up. When you’ve completed three weeks of training, you will notice a difference in your body that will make you feel sexy and make you want to keep doing it. Mix your workouts like lifting weights or yoga so you don’t plateau if your training is based on losing body fat and toning up.||Try and find running with a group or make new friends while running. Running with a group is a good way to stay motivated. Go online and find a free running plan to work with.||Just start running. You may start slow at first to gage yourself, but you just never know what you are capable of until you get out there to run. Once you get hooked, it becomes a habit and your body will be asking for more.|
Age 21, bank account service rep
Runs Tumon strip or beach side from Westin to Hilton Hotel and Agana-Tamuning Area to Alupang Beach Tower. Running for 5 years
Age 29, mechanical engineer, NavFac Marianas
Started training for for triathlons since 2008, enjoys hash runs on Saturdays when time permits
Hope Delos Reyes
Sophomore, high school student
Enjoys dancing, biking and walking. Chose running to help maintain health and weight
|How far do you run and how many times a week?||2 x a week, 3 miles||6 x a week. Everyday I run I do a different activity||Once or twice a week, three miles each|
|What made you choose running as part of your fitness goals?||A lot of my friends were doing 5K’s and other running events and so one day I tried it and loved it. It motivated me to improve and make it part of my routine.||I really enjoy running. I strive to get better at it every time I can.||I chose running as my fitness goal so I may increase my endurance and also to lose excess weight.|
|How has it benefited you?||Running has benefited me in many ways, but I think the most important thing is it keeps me in shape and I also feel a lot more energized.||Before I joined our school’s cross-country team, I never knew I was capable of running as well as I do today. Running has brought me closer to nature, and has helped me become fit. It also helped me better my endurance as well as my speed.||It has benefited me by increasing my endurance and making me lose water weight.|
|What is a memorable moment in running?||When I did my first half marathon a couple of years back. It was a real challenge to train for it having a strict diet and running schedule but at the end of the half marathon I felt like it paid off.||My very first track meet. I didn’t think I would do great, doubting myself constantly. As I started running, those thoughts went away. I got 1st place in my races and I made my coaches very proud. To this day, I rarely doubt myself because once I set foot on the track, nothing else matters, all those thoughts go away.||When I ran this big hill (the one on-base NCTAMS) nonstop was a moment I won’t forget. I felt I was going to have muscle failure.|
|What is your most challenging event? Why did you decide to do it?||Back in April when I did the XTERRA relay. I did the running portion. It was something I was really new to since it was on a trail for most of it. I decided to do the event because I wanted to try something different and challenge myself but I couldn’t do it without the support of my relay team.||The 1,500-meter run. That is the longest race in middle school, track and field. It’s almost a mile and very hard to master because you have to pace yourself, breathe correctly, and have a certain running form. I chose to do that event because I enjoy it. And because I want to beat a girl who always gets first place. Other than that, I do it because I want to make my team and coaches proud.||Running that hill. It looked like a steady climb for about fifty feet. I wanted to try running nonstop.|
|What/who inspires you to keep running?||It really feels good and is an addiction. It gives me time for myself and also a getaway from the stressful daily life.||What inspires me is my team! I love my team because no matter what place I get, they’re always there for me and they congratulate me. They motivate me everyday at practice, and I learn something new from them everyday. Each and everyone of them has a passion for running and they look up to me when they need advice. They motivate me to keep going no matter how tough it gets.||Myself, my friends, and boyfriend because they make me want to keep fit and I get motivated when I think about them.|
|What advice would you give a person who doesn’t enjoy running, wants to but hasn’t found that push to start, or is hesitant to take it to the next level?||Give it another try and think of the health benefits in the long run. Also, it would help to find a friend who loves running and they will really motivate you.||It takes hard work and dedication to become great at it. Running requires you to have a mindset that you want to get better. You have to want to achieve it. Once you set your mind to it, and to get better, all you have to do is train, and you’ll get there.||Running is good for your health. It’s a mindset, and it’ll make you feel good about yourself. It may hurt or give you pain, but pain is temporary.|
Popular Outdoor Running Spots in Guam
BARRIGADA: Tiyan , Route 8
TUMON: Beachside or Pale San Vitores Road
HAGATNA: Paseo de Susana Park behind Chamorro Village, Route 1; or Governor’s Complex (Adelup) Route 1
ASAN: Beach Park, Marine Corps. Drive, Piti
DEDEDO: Iglesias Circle near Santa Barbara Church or Dededo Sports Complex – Harmon Loop Road, Route 27
Running Clubs and Organizations
Visit these websites for more information on membership or annual running events:
10 Helpful Reminders When Running
- Always properly stretch before and after every run
- Always drink plenty of water to stay hydrated during the day especially when running long distances
- Pace yourself
- Run with a buddy, in well-lit areas where people are present
- Mix up running routes and activity to prevent boredom or plateauing
- Always give someone location and time of your run, in case of an emergency
- Wear shoes designed for running, replace every so often when signs of wear appear or shock absorption changes
- Discontinue running if you feel dizziness, or if pain doesn’t subside after a period of time.
- Follow pedestrian rules when running along the sidewalks
- Keep track of time and distance to improve on the next run.
“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” — John Bingham, running speaker and writer
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