HOW far would you run for your child?
For Vladimir Hernandez, it’s as long he can for Kevin, his developmentally disabled son.
During the recent Cardimax Clark Ultramarathon, SPIN.ph caught up with the father and son duo, collectively known as Team Never Run Alone, shortly after they finished their 50-kilometer race in almost nine hours.
“Masayang masaya ako kahit mahirap. May mga sections na matarik na mahirap magtulak kasi medyo mabigat si Kevin pero sulit,” said a smiling Hernandez, who ran in a gladiator-inspired outfit with running sandals in lieu of regular shoes while pushing his 22-year old son on a modified three-wheeled racing wheelchair.
According to the 42-year old director of a humanitarian non-government organization (NGO), he derives more satisfaction not in crossing finish lines but in seeing his son enjoy the race, particularly being around other runners and the fast pace.
Their running journey all started five years ago.
Kevin, who has cerebral palsy and autism, enjoys being taken by his dad to places such as malls and the outdoors. In 2009, they brought him to the sprawling UP Diliman where they would go on a walk around the sprawling campus.
“Parang na-enganyo siya. Nag gesture siya na bilisan ko yung pagtulak! Tumakbo ako ng kaunti, nagustuhan niya! So tumakbo kami ng isang ikot sa Oval. Hindi naman ako runner talaga," said the dad.
"Pagkatapos ng nagustuhan niya, ang sabi ko sumali kami sa mga fun run, yung maiigsi lang, 3k, 5k. So doon kami nagsimula. Nagustuhan namin so tuloy-tuloy na, from 5k, 10k, 21k tapos naging full marathon. So far, this 50K ultramarathon is our longest.”
Hernandez said he talked to Tahanan Walang Hagdan which helped him design a specialized racing chair after the standard wheelchair they used toppled during one of their early races.
During last weekend’s run, Vladimir said his son was awake all through the race, considering it was 50 kilometers and it started at midnight. He became animated when he saw the finish line. Both men received medals and drew applause for their efforts.
“Natutuwa din kami kasi ibig sabihin 'yung mga tao meron silang nakukuha sa ginagawa namin na nagugustuhan nila. Nag-iisip din sila, ‘Uy, puede pala yun!’” the tired but happy father said.
Hernandez said he now runs as often as he could.
“Parati naman kaming tumatakbo. Kapag weekends o kapag nakakasingit ako ng pagkakataon sa trabaho. So iyun na din ang training namin.”
On a personal basis, the cheerful dad said he also benefited from the physical exertions on many fronts, notably his health.
“Parang lumakas yata ako (laughs)! Pangalawa dahil kasama ako sa pagtakbo at kasama ko (si Kevin) na nag-eenjoy humaba din yung pasensya ko kasi lalo na sa long distance run, kailangan patient ka. Naging mas compassionate din ako sa tao.”
But he said the most important thing is what the two of them share: “Pinakamalaki sa amin yung bonding naming dalawa.”
Apart from the joy of running, Hernandez said they also embraced an advocacy.
“When we started wala talaga kaming advocacy kung hindi gusto lang naming tumakbo. Later on dahil (sa attention we were getting) magandang vehicle siya para sabihin sa mga tao na hikayatin ang mga pamilya na may mga miyembro tulad ni Kevin na huwag nila itago sa bahay. Isama nila sa mga regular activities natin kasi nararamdaman nila iyan at magiging masaya ang buhay nila. Dapat kasali sila.”
According to Vladimir, Team Never Run Alone is actually a family affair and that Kevin’s support group is “yung nanay niya, kapatid niya, lola niya at yaya niya. May mga kanya-kanyang role sila sa pag support sa amin.”