I was drained and spent as I pedaled the final five kilometers of a long bike ride last Saturday. I had just gotten out of a hairy set of downhills behind a large truck that had braked hard on all of them, which meant my arms and shoulders were extra tired from braking, too. While I had started out with a group, I had gotten left behind as the only girl. The road was starting to fill up with motorists who weren’t willing to give way to a cyclist, much less a female cyclist. I had even stopped by the gravel shoulder once to allow an election motorcade to pass.

A few minutes after getting back on the bike, I noticed a skinny teenage boy drafting behind me. I tried to keep the pace, but after a while I signaled for him to overtake me. Instead, he rode up alongside me and started chatting with me. Small talk, really, like was I a triathlete, where did I ride out from, did I know the head of their local cycling group?

I was glad for the company because it kept me alert; also, with him riding beside me, motorists had to give way to us. Then he told me, “Buti malakas loob mo. Kasi may nagnanakaw ng bisikleta dito.

I didn’t even get to ask his name as we parted ways. I could only imagine what kind of target I had painted on my back before he’d come along. A lone female cyclist on a lonely country road. *shudder*

But it got me thinking about all those other times during training or racing: I would be in direst need of motivation when suddenly a kindly person comes up beside me, strikes up a conversation, offers to pace me, and lightens the mental load. Or the two marathons I’ve run: cramping on the last three kilometers I encountered a friend who paced me to the finish (Ronnel Go and Jay Em, thank you again). I like to think of them as guardian angels of sorts.

I’m reminded to be grateful for everyone who takes the time and effort to help, whether they’re a friend or a stranger. I’m reminded that sport is about community and that we must look out for and uplift one another.

Will you be someone’s angel today?

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