In my “peak bagging” activities throughout the country, I had some observations and information which I would consider as the “culture of road and trail racing” in the countryside. These observations and information gathered could be explained in details through the following topics:
1. No Prize, No Race. In the early times, racing has always a prize for grabbing. It is either money, property, position or any tangible object which one can sell or need in their daily lives. Running feats for faster times had been won by wagers and bets. In the countryside, the best runners don’t run if there are no cash prizes! For obvious reasons, they paid for the registration fee from their savings or had loaned from somebody else. The motivation for winning is to be able to regain what they have paid for and at the same time, earn some money for their basic needs. Bragging rights for them is not for the Finisher’s Shirt or Medals or Loot Bags. They simply need the money!
2. No Sponsor, No Run. Runners with talent and fast finish times always look for sponsors to finance their registration fees. Instead of getting a loan, they would prefer to look for somebody in their community to finance their participation in a race where there is cash prize. It could be their leaders (local government, barangay captain & officials) or somebody who is supportive to their passion/talent. Runners don’t need to pay back the Sponsor just in case he/she does win any of the cash prizes. If they don’t have any sponsor, they would not join any race.
3. Cheating Is Not A Big Deal. Runners in the countryside would finish the race at all costs, even if they cheat! To them, it is natural to cheat because they know that everybody cheats, from their leaders, business-owners, traders, vendors, parents and friends!
4. Running as Talent Is Normal. Most of the best runners were exposed to hardships and manual labor during the early stage of their childhood. Most of them lives in villages in the mountains and they have all the time to ascend and descend the area to look for food, fetch water, and cultivate some lands on a daily basis. Due to their environment and living conditions, they were honed to be endurance athletes since birth. Try to look for one elite runner and conduct an interview about his/her family background and you would know what I mean. And at the same manner, try to look for an elite runner who belongs to the upper class of our society and you will be surprised to find out that you are looking for a “dream”.
5. New Running Kit Is Alien To Them. For obvious reasons, they don’t have any opportunity to use the latest running apparel and shoes due to poverty. Most of their kits are used (second-hand or “ukay-ukay”) and given to them to protect them from the elements. They don’t have any access on the new technology of running in terms of shoes, apparel and accessories. If they have an opportunity to grab a “glossy” runner’s magazine, attention is more focused on the pictures and not on the articles written inside it. I am not sure if they can read or understand English or what is written on those pages.
6. Hydration & Nutrition Are Also Alien To Them. They drink if they feel thirsty. They eat if they feel hungry. They replenish the basic necessities for their body by feel. They only react to any problem when it is there. They usually drink and eat after finishing the race.
7. There Is NO Shame in DNF. If they think they could not place themselves on the ranking where there is a prize money, they simply stop and declare themselves as DNF and say lots of alibi and complaints. To them, finishing a race where they did not train properly is a punishment! They have to preserve their body from any exhaustion or injury and be “race-ready” again for the next race. In short, they don’t take the “extra mile” to persevere in order to finish the race. It is worthy to note that my Elite Team Bald Runner members are also like this in major races in Metro Manila. However, it took me sometime to change this kind of attitude.
8. Bragging Rights & Recognition. Among their friends, they would brag that they finished a certain race with a certain ranking but the truth is that he cheated along the route by riding a passing motorcycle or a public utility vehicle along the route. But for them, recognition of finishing and receiving an award is translated to the money that they received as a prize! So, if there is a cash prize in a race, the temptation to cheat is always there because it is a part of their training and preparation to finish the race. Very smart, indeed!
9. Race Organizers & Directors Are Businessmen. They organize and direct events for you for a fee! Of course, they should be! It is because they appear to be professional but in the end they will take advantage of you. Not all Race Organizers/Directors are elite runners as most of them are average athletes/runners. Those athletes think that if they finish one or two ultra marathon events, they have already the skills to organize one. Race Organizers try their best to invite runners through ads on the internet, radio and printed materials because for them, more runners means more income aside from the fact that they are being paid for P 85,000 per event, which is the lowest rate outside Metro Manila. But once the gun is fired at the starting line, his work is done!
In short distances up to half-marathon, their time to monitor the runners is up to 2 hours! After 2 hours, they packed up and just leave the last runners to cross the finish line on their own. Sometimes, without marshals, ambulance or water at the aid stations. Once the top 3 runners cross the finish line (Overall and Female Categories), the race is done. The results of the rest of the finishers are immaterial as the results of the race will not be published. Only the top 3 runners are awarded with cash prize and a simple tap on the back of the athletes is enough. The Race Organizer will just say, “see you on the next race!”.
I am writing this post for the simple reason that the nationwide 2012 MILO Marathon Races are about to start. Our best runners in the regions and provinces are now training for this much-awaited event because it is the most prestigious running event in the country and it offers a lot of cash prizes for our runners in the “grassroot” level and a free trip & accommodation in Metro Manila for the MILO Marathon FINALS. This makes me wonder again why there is NO Filipino Corporate Entity (Filipino-Owned) that could match or even start what MILO had been doing to promote running in the “grassroot” level for the past years! I just hope also that our best runners in the regions and provinces would be training properly and not prepare/train to cheat on the said races!
Does it ring a bell if I say that there were cases of cheating in MILO Marathon & Elimination Races in the past editions? Well, that proves my point, there will always be a cheater (or bandit) if there are cash prizes to be grabbed at the Finish Line.
On the other hand, I hope this kind of culture of road/trail racing in the running community would be removed in due time. There is a need to aware the runners that cheating has no place in running/racing events and it will eventually result to the end of their running carreer as they would be declared permanently “banned for life” in running events.
In life, like running a Marathon or Ultra Marathon Race, the opportunity to cheat is always there easily to be grabbed with or without any material rewards or prizes. Your actions will define the character you are made of and if you will fall to the temptation of cheating, there will always be someone who will see what you have done!
See you at the Starting Line!