Running with Pacquiao: Excuse his dust, swallow your pride
HOLLYWOOD—It was 6:30 on Thursday morning and the Kayote Boyz had gathered on the street, stretching and warming up in front of Manny Pacquiao’s house in West Hollywood. They were waiting for the champion to come out for his short run to a nearby park and they were to make sure that nothing bad happened to him along the way, especially on the busy Beverly Boulevard.
The Kayote Boyz are California-based retired Filipino boxers training with Manny Pacquiao, led by former Asian Games bantamweight gold medalist Roberto Jalnaiz and former world featherweight champion Reynante Jamili. The Inquirer was there to run with them, or so we hoped.
Along with Inquirer photo chief Rem Zamora, I ventured to join the short morning run with Pacquiao to find out firsthand how he trains and how far he had gone in training. We were briefed by Pacquiao’s security chief, George Tañon Edillor, on some safety “protocol” when running with the champion.
“This is a $300-million fight, you know, and we don’t want anything bad to happen before that,” said Edillor, a 45-year-old elite martial artist from Virac, Catanduanes province, who was recently inducted into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
The protocol calls for Manny to be flanked by two of the Kayote Boyz and followed at a safe distance by the rest of the group, such that if the runner behind him stumbles and falls, he won’t land on Manny’s million-dollar legs.
In other words, I was to keep my distance, preferably behind the group. What’s so hard about that? This cocky “veteran” of many international marathons and triathlons wondered.
What’s ‘slow’ for Manny
One by one, other running mates of Manny arrived. One came with a familiar face and a familiar shirt—a Cobra Ironman shirt. Instantly, I recognized Ironman triathlete Jun Regalado from a flight to Cebu where we both competed in the Cobra Ironman 70.3 triathlon last August. An avid supporter and friend of Manny, Jun seemed surprised I was a journalist with a real job, not just a triathlon freak.
After a 30-minute wait, the champion finally emerged from the house, clad in different shades of blue—light blue beanie, dark blue shades, a navy blue sweatshirt and royal blue shorts. His neon green running shoes stood out like a sore thumb.
He greeted everyone, posed for photographs and started stretching. We’ll go slow, he told this elderly interloper reverently.
And off we went, Manny taking his place in front of the column, his dog Pacman taking his place alongside his master and me forced to take my place at the tailend.
“Slow” meant a 5:30 minute pace off the blocks. That’s five and a half minutes per kilometer, 53 minutes for 10K, 1:52 for a half marathon or 3:45 full marathon. That’s nothing to sneeze at, even for the serious runners who join him regularly for a run.
But he was just warming up. He picked up the pace after a few hundred meters and as he rounded the corner to Beverly Boulevard, he pushed even more. It’s as if he was trying to knock me out in the first round. If this is the furious pace he’ll take when he faces Floyd Mayweather Jr. in Las Vegas on May 2, the unbeaten American would be gone in the early rounds.
The Kayote Boyz kept pace, but not me. My heart started pumping at 140 beats per minute, according to my heart rate monitor. That’s 90 percent of the threshold for my 62-year-old engine.
As the group crossed Wilshire Country Club in Hancock Park, Manny hit full stride, his Nikes pounding the pavement with increasing cadence until I fell back on a downhill curve.
Meeting of icons
Mercifully, as my heart revved up to a 100-percent full throttle, the traffic light turned red and cut me from the main group. That gave me the excuse to stop. I ran solo at my own marathon (slow) pace the rest of the three-and-a-half kilometer run, and by the time I got to Pan Pacific Park, Manny and the Kayote Boyz had completed a loop around the park.
I was bent over and trying to catch my breath when Manny came. He asked me how I was (how thoughtful of him).
“I almost died,” I told him. As I said that, his bodyguard pushed me out of the way and almost killed me.
The next day, Manny set out to Griffith Park high up in the mountain overlooking the city of Los Angeles. At the last minute, Pacquiao decided to skip the Griffith Park Observatory and instead tackle the harder Bronson trail to the iconic Hollywood sign on Mt. Lee, more than 1,500 feet above sea level. This would be the first time in many years that he would be tackling this rugged side of the mountain to the iconic Hollywood sign.
What a photo op: Boxing icon meets Hollywood icon. Rem Zamora was excited. Not wanting to be left behind and miss the photo op, we decided to take the long, winding and dusty trek ahead of Manny.
Halfway to the top, a ridge offered a breathtaking view of Los Angeles, but this was no time to dawdle and take pictures. We moved on, braving the dust and horse droppings on the rugged terrain. We reached the end of the trail with the Hollywood sign still a few hundred feet up and my Garmin watch showing 1,350 feet in elevation.
Suddenly, we heard footsteps and as we turned around, Manny, Pacman and four other runners stormed past us and, just as quickly, disappeared around the bend. Rem managed a few shots, but he could not put Manny and the barely visible Hollywood sign in the same frame. (So much for the photo op.)