She ran for the Philippine Senate in 2004—and won the top sixth slot making her the youngest female Senator in the country. That is no mean feat, but for Senator Companera Pia S. Cayetano, that is just one of the many achievements she can tuck under her belt. You see, aside from her work in the Senate (which I’m sure comprises majority of her time), she was in the training pool of the Philippine National Duathlon Team, a Series Champion in the Ladies Division of Clark Duathlon (2004), and a finisher in the San Francisco Marathon (2002), ITU World Duathlon (2005), and the more recent Venice and New York Marathons. (Phew, just typing that out made me lose 1,000 calories!) Aside from that, Companera Pia finds the time for advocacy work in which she supports issues that are close to her heart. Oh, did I mention she is also a mother of two?!
– Sen. Pia sprints to finish her 10k at 50:40 –
I met Pia in 2002 when I started writing for Maxibulletin, the newsletter of Maxibear, Maxitoylab, Maxiworks, and Just Born, the chain of retail stores she built as an entrepreneur. Together, we would write and edit the articles every other month. When she became Senator in 2004, I continued to work on the bulletin alone. While Pia championed her causes for the nation, I battled typos and grammatical errors—mind you, my job was just as honorable…NOT. We only saw each other again in the Pinay In Action (PIA) Fun Run, the race she organized, which was the first race that got me hooked into running.
With work, training, family, and her advocacies, I was foolish enough to ask Companera Pia if she could find the time to be interviewed for this blog. Fortunately, she was gracious enough to accept this email interview so many of us runners can take a peek into her life as an athlete:
TBR: We know you’ve been into sports ever since you were young, like volleyball in your college days. When did you start running and joining marathons?
Pia: I started running as part of our training when I was part of the UP volleyball varsity team. We would run around the academic oval in UP which was 2.2km. That was already long for me back then. When I was 16 and a sophomore, I started running longer distances cause I felt I was putting on unnecessary and unwanted weight. So, I started joining 5k fun runs and running 2-3x around the academic oval.
If I remember right, I joined my first 10k and eventually half marathon much later, like after college..That was because I was so fat! Seriously, I had gained so much weight (living and working in NY for a while) and I needed to do something about it.. and that’s how I became a long distance runner…
I enjoyed joining races ranging from 10 to half marathons, but it took a while to do my first marathon…I did that in my senior year in law school in 1991, the PAL marathon.
– Sen. Pia at Mekong River Race where she did an olympic distance duathlon (10krun-40k bike-5k run) on Saturday and a sprint tri on Sunday (750 swim-20kbike-5k run) –
TBR: You organize marathons as well, “Run-Walk Bike For a Cause in Memory of Gabriel” and “Pinay In Action,” why do you think is this a good way to celebrate your cause?
Pia: First of all, I like to bring awareness or celebrate causes in a way that is close to my heart. Some people chose to do benefit concerts, others sponsor a play or a movie. I do what I do best, running, biking and stuff like that…Not only does this become an enjoyable process for me (its not easy raising funds) but it gets people involved in a healthier lifestyle.
– Sen. Pia promotes cycling as an environment-friendly means of transportation during the 6th Bike For Hope –
TBR: You already ran the dream race of most runners, The New York Marathon. How did you prepare for this? How did you feel during the run and after?
Pia: How did I prepare? I made the decision to join in May, I think. That gave me 6 months to prepare. At that point, I was doing around 14k as my once a week long run. I worked with my coach Rob Pickard, and figured out the distance I had to cover backwards…meaning starting in the last two weeks before NY, I wanted to be running 30-35k comfortably. That would mean, I had to slowly build up to that distance. In July I was doing half marathons comfortably, working on both my speed and edurance. In August and September I slowly built up the distance to killer 30k plus long runs every other week. I died of boredom but I knew I needed to do it..Because doing a 30k is so long, a couple of times, I joined a half marathon and then ran 10k more after passing the finish line.
NY was meant to by my 3rd marathon (I say meant to be because may “nasingit” na marathon 2 weeks before. When I was finalizing my training program, I realized I would be in Europe for my conference with Women Parliamentarians during the time I had to do the crucial last long run. I looked if there were any 21k races that would serve as my last long run. There were none, but there were a few full marathons. To make a long story short, I decided to join the Venice Marathon but just do half…except that the night before the race, we realized I would be stranded in the middle of nowhere if I just stopped at 21k…so I completed it..and ended up running two marathons 2 weeks apart. Not a good thing to do, but I did PR both times..I did a 4:06 in NY.
How did I feel during and after? I was worried when I started NY because 2 weeks is not enough time to recover from a marathon. But 5k into the race, I was psyched and energized because I was feeling really good…I ran the last few miles with friends Fernando Zobel and later Paul Casino and that was really a good feeling… NY was my best race because I had trained well. My triathlon coach Rob Pickard was instrumental in working-out a doable albeit at times, grueling program. He made me do horrible horrible 1k repeats and long tempo runs.
TBR: How do you balance your roles as Senator, mother of two, and athlete? How do you find the time to train?
Pia: The short answer to that question..I just have to wake up earlier and not stay up too late to sqeeze in my work-out. The long answer…I’ve always been a busy person. I think being a breastfeeding mom, set the tone and gave me the training for balancing life between family, work and other things..I’m not a morning person, but I had to become one to squeeze in training..so I guess I’m now a reluctant morning person. Sometimes, I wonder why my sport was not an indoor sport like badminton where people play late at night (I do play badminton but not regularly these days).
– Sen. Pia speaks against child discrimination and violence at an international conference in NY –
The key is planning. My training is like any other appointment that is booked in my calendar and that should be respected, meaning not cancelled or bumped off, unless absolutely necessary. From there, I know if I have to wake up extra-early or just in time to do the planned work-out for the day before my work week starts. If its a busy week, then I just have to do the harder/longer work-outs and catch up on my sleep on the week-end..
Session ends in the evening, I rarely get home before 8pm, usually too exhausted to work-out by that time.. And that’s my time for my kids. We do indoor activities on school days–anything from just hanging in our room, playing sungka (our favorite these days), reading, sometimes artwork when we are feeling creative. They go to a Montessori school and rarely have homework which is a good thing, if you ask me.
I also try to get my kids involved in sports, that way we can all enjoy what we are doing. I’ve started bringing my girls to a short-off road trail for mountain biking, just here in the village. i stink at it, but its good for bike handling skills and my 12 year old daughter likes it and is getting better. She also has done 2 triathlons na! Proud mom! My 8 year old, likes doing a few laps and playing in the pool when I swim sometimes.
– Pia runs with her 12 y.o. daughter, Maxine, and best friend, Amanda, during their 2nd triathlon –
TBR: How does a week of your training program look?
Pia: Well, it really depends on what Im training for. I join triathlons, duathlons and running events year-round. So, I swim, bike and run during the week. I join as many races as I can. They destress me.
This is the general program, subject to tweaking depending on the upcoming race:
> MON – bike ride or brick (bike and run) if there is a triathlon or duathlon coming up) and if Im not too lazy. Sometimes swim in the evening, if and only if I get off by 7pm.
> TUE – long run (every other week) med distance in between weeks and yoga
> WED – long bike (every other week, if possible)
> THU – run intervals and swim (badminton too if I have time)
> FRI – REST
> SAT – brick, if not bike and swim or tempo run
> SUN – either a race, easy run or whatever I’m up to. Easy swim after the race or in the early evening.
– During the 6th Bike For Hope –
TBR: What other races do you plan to join this year? Do you have other goals in sports that you want to achieve?
Pia: I join any 10k I hear off when Im free. Im working on my form and my speed. My goal is to get my time comfortable under 50mins. Not easy:(
TBR: What is your dream race?
Pia: As a runner, my dream race has always been the NY marathon. That’s why I made myself do it last year when the opportunity came about..So, I guess, I have fulfilled my dream…I wouldn’t mind joining races in different countries. I try to look for races when I travel, but lately, its only the Venice Marathon that I’ve done out of the country.
TBR: Why do you love running?
Pia: Oh, that’s a separate interview all in itself! But well, I love running because it helps me keep the weight off, I feel good after, usually during but defintely after. Haha! And it really is my time for myself, I’m used to running alone, I dont need a running partner or group to get out and run. But it is so much more fun doing it with friends and I take any opportunity I can to run with a friend.
TBR: Any advice for beginning runners?
Pia: Don’t force yourself to run far and fast. Go at an easy pace and don’t hesitate to take walk breaks. Unless you are the self-motivated type, do join a group or run with friends…
Be patient, the weight will come off, for those of you trying to lose weight, which is probably most of us… You will get fitter and faster and you will feel absolutely great.
If you have any comments/questions for Companera Pia, visit her here.
Photos courtesy of SenatorPiaCayetano.com, CayetanoFoundation.com