At the Acad Oval

It’s been a week since I started walking and jogging in the University of the Philippines’ Diliman campus. Yesterday I went there early in the morning instead of late in the afternoon.

At 6:30, the scorching heat hadn’t yet touched the air. It was nice to feel cooler temperatures for a change. I started walking across Malcolm Hall, where some friends studied Law. As always, I enjoyed this part of the exercise as I let my muscles warm up. I breathed in the fresh air and absorbed the sight of Acacia trees. Although I still felt groggy, I gave myself a pat on the shoulder for getting up early as planned.

A number of joggers and bikers were already tackling the 2.2km Academic (Acad) Oval. Their presence is always a motivation, but I knew it wouldn’t matter later on.

My goal that morning was to walk five laps or 11km around the Oval without stopping. I could also run if my body felt like it. Two days before I did four laps. I knew I could do one more.

I started brisk walking again to get back into shape, not only physically but also mentally. Exercise has always helped me stay calm and put things in the proper perspective. Getting a slimmer body would, of course, be a welcome by-product.

I’m also preparing for a major climb up the highest mountain in Luzon. It will be a long, exhausting trek, but I’m determined to reach the top, and I want to enjoy every minute I will be on that mountain.

Besides, I love walking, and doing it in a place that is almost like home is a special treat everyday…especially yesterday morning. The sun was just casting its rays across the trees.

The smell of freshly cut grass also filled the air. The University was preparing for its 101st Commencement Exercises on Sunday. April 22. That would be 10 years to the day of my own graduation. How time flies. And here I was, still feeling like I never moved past my 17th birthday.

I started to jog when I reached the College of Music’s Abelardo Hall. My lungs felt like bursting almost a kilometer after, near the annex of Palma Hall. I slowed down to a walk to catch my breath and veered away from the Oval to the Sunken Garden, where a few kids were playing football.

Last weekend, the atmosphere was more festive at the Sunken Garden. Families were out on picnics while friends played frisbee and dodgeball. Some simply took pictures or sat on the grass.

The Acad Oval was closed to traffic and was packed by runners. It was as if there was a marathon going on. Parents taught their kids how to bike and skateboarders flew over makeshift obstacles, sometimes sailing through the air alone and skidding to an awkward stop at the feet of joggers.

Some people were there just to see the country’s premiere state university. I overheard one of them saying the campus was “scary” as she pointed to the group of student-protesters dismantling sound speakers from the Arts and Sciences steps. Her comment made me smile as I walked past her that Sunday. It echoed the impression of many parents about studying in UP. I’m glad mine got past their fears to let me pursue my dream. I can’t imagine being who I am now without those four years.

The sunflowers are in bloom in UP.

At the end of the fourth lap yesterday, my legs were ready to literally break and I considered not doing another round. But the aim was to do five, so I dragged my body through another lap. I was hungry at this point, and an image of the big breakfast I was going to have floated in my head. But even that faded away as I focused on finishing the last stretch. Why is it that it always seems toughest when the end draws near?

When I finally completed the fifth lap, I wanted to dance and yell, “I did it!” I felt like I achieved something great. Even cooling down with some stretches felt fulfilling. I sat on one of the benches at Sunken Garden and sort of meditated for a while, saying “thank you” for completing my goal and for everything that crossed my mind at that moment.

The sun was blazing by the time I made my way home. My leg muscles were getting sore by then. Today, they still ache a little. But I’m already looking forward to going back to the Oval, see if I can walk and run five laps again.


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