“If I Can Do It, You Can Do It, Too!”

My First Adventure Run was the Manila To Baguio 240 Kilometer Run which took me 5 days, from February 9-13, 2010, 2 days after I finished the Condura Skyway Marathon with a time of 4:17:++hours.

The primary motivation why I did this run was to show to my readers that a runner who would venture to this kind of running can also “journalize” or document his experience on the road on a near “real time” reporting through a blog. My “pit stops” would include writing something on my blog so that my readers would know the progress of my run. My adventure story would be very detailed so that the reader is transported on the road and places where I was running. In simple terms, I was showing my integrity in doing this adventure run.

The second reason was to show and prove to my Cavalier colleagues/alumni and cadets of the Philippine Military Academy that I could join the yearly Alumni Homecoming in the month of February without riding a bus or a car. There seems to be a problem of Parking Areas in Fort Del Pilar/PMA every time there is an Alumni Homecoming of PMA. For obvious reason, there are Alumni who would join this event with lots of “support vehicles” in tow, from the Officer’s Aide, Family, and Security Detail. If you add up those politicians who are Honorary Members of our Alumni Association attending this event, parking of vehicles would extend up to the Loakan Airport!

As a result of my run, it became a topic of conversation among the Generals and Colonels of the AFP and Alumni of the PMA as it filtered down to the subordinate units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Army. I just hope that the Vehicular Traffic and Parking Space problems inside Fort Del Pilar during our yearly Alumni Homecoming had been solved (joke!)

Obviously, this Adventure Run was my recovery run after the Condura Skyway Marathon. It is also great way to travel by foot and see the places along the road in a very “slow motion” mode.

Fast Forward. On the last quarter of 2013, I thought of coming up with an ultra race from Luneta Park/Rizal Monument to Rizal Park in Baguio City and came up with a Facebook Event Page. I wanted to limit the number of runners to 30 only but I was surprised to find out that more runners were interested to joining the event. Just like what I did with the West Coast 200, I wanted the runners to experience a multi-day stage running event where they could rest every leg of the event. After 3 days since I posted the Event Page, the applicants for the race had exceeded 35 and more runners would request me to be included in the list after I closed the registration period.

The 250-kilometer distance from Manila to Baguio is divided into 3 legs where the 1st Leg is a 90-Kilometer distance to be completed in 16 hours; the 2nd Leg is also a 90-Kilometer with the same cut-off time; and Final Leg is a 70-Kilometer  to the Finish Line with a cut-off time of 16 hours. The total cut-off time for the race would add up to 48 hours which equivalent to 2 days!

@Rizal Monument, Luneta Park, Manila
@Rizal Monument, Luneta Park, Manila

At the starting line, I could see “new faces” to include Tan Ray from Singapore, Lito Malillin from General Santos City (Mindanao), Rhodz Cordora from Zambaonga City (Mindanao), Dhannie Tan from Manila, Benedict Ngo from Dagupan City, Jaylord Ballao from Team Ek Ek, and members of the Team Snail Runners. The “usual suspects” in my Ultra Races were there and I could see that they are entertaining and talking to the “new faces” in my events.

And The Race Started Before 1:00 AM of Friday
And The Race Started Before 1:00 AM of Friday

There were 42 runners who started the race in front of the Rizal Monument in Luneta Park few minutes before 1:00 AM of Friday, February 7, 2014.

Having declared this event as an adventure run, I am not that type of a Race Director that “spoon feeds” my runners by showing and instructing them very detailed route description and providing them with map, elevation profile, and deploying marshals on every intersection of the road. It is the responsibility of the runner to be observant on the signs along the road and find out the correct route to the Finish Line. It is either a runner would “google” the route or “test run” some portions or conduct a “window tour” while riding a vehicle in order to familiarize with the route.

The first leg/day was considered as a “disaster” for the other runners who were not observant on the signs of the road or they were simply ignorant of where they were on the road. Instead of going to Malolos City after hitting the Tabang Area, runners went straight to the Sta Rita Area (NLEX Entry/Exit for those Vehicles going to Cagayan Valley). Some runners would spent 40 minutes running just to realize that they were on the wrong track. Because of this experience for some of the runners, I allowed all the runners who finished the 1st Leg/Day beyond the cut-off time of 16 hours to still join the 2nd Leg/Day.

1st Runner To Reach Km #90, Jaylord Ballao
1st Runner To Reach Km #90, Jaylord Ballao
2nd Runner, Jael Wenceslao, @ Km Post #90
2nd Runner, Jael Wenceslao, @ Km Post #90

Km Post #90, Finish Line of the 1st Leg & Starting Line of the 2nd Leg,  is located 2 kilometers north of the center of Dau, Mabalacat. Dau is a famous Entry/Exit to and from the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and it has a lot of commercial establishments to include hotels, motels, pension inns and restaurants. This place is an ideal “pit stop” for the runners for their much needed accommodation and food/supply replenishment.

Four runners did not join the start of the 2nd Leg/Day as they declared themselves as DNF. Most of them were victims of the intense heat of the route. Four minutes before 1:00 AM of Saturday, the remaining 38 runners started their run for the 2nd Leg.

I also joined the runners after two minutes from the time I released them. I wanted to practice my nutrition on this time of the night as it became my weakness to be sleepy when running from midnight to the early morning time. Slowly, I was passing some of the runners until I reached Tarlac City. I had to stop when my GPS watch registered a distance of 32 kilometers. Later, while I was driving my car, I found out that I was one kilometer away from the main group of runners.

More Power Walking On The 2nd Day
More Power Walking On The 2nd Day
Self-Support Runner Rhodz Cordora From Zamboanga City
Self-Support Runner Rhodz Cordora From Zamboanga City

The runners were able to experience what I’ve experienced during my Adventure Run on this route. The intense heat of the sun and the road made the runners exhausted and would brought them to run slowly. It was a big test for them to endure as the stretch from Gerona-Paniqui-Moncada-San Manuel and the Pangasinan towns of Rosales, Villasis and Urdaneta were the hottest places along the course. Such stretch covers a distance of 60 kilometers of intense heat!

I decided to shorten the 2nd leg distance by 250 meters and made the famous Matutina Restaurant in Urdaneta City (Pangasinan) as the Finish Line. It was a very convenient place for the runners and their support team to rest and eat their snacks/lunch and dinner. I hope in the next year’s event, I will be able to get the said restaurant as one of the Race Sponsors.

Alfred Delos Reyes Arriving At The Finish Line On the 2nd Leg
Alfred Delos Reyes Arriving At The Finish Line On the 2nd Leg

I had to be strict on the implementation of the prescribed cut-off time on the 2nd day and it resulted to only 25 runners who would finish for the day. Runners were able to get accommodation within the city and most of the runners had more time to rest before the last leg of the event. Little did I know that there were some “drama” and/or “strategy sessions” being made by some of the top ten runners on how they would run the last leg of the course. However, one thing was sure as I’ve seen on the faces of these runners—they all wanted to finish the race and reach Baguio City on foot on the fastest time possible.

Runners from Pangasinan were at the Finish Line at the Matutina Restaurant to cheer the arrival of runners. Dennis Uy from Pozzurubio, Pangasinan, Head/Leader of the Pozzurubio Running Club was there to reiterate his invitation to stop by at his place at Km Post #195 for a “pit stop” for all the runners, support teams and to include my staff.

25 Runners On The Start Of The Last Leg/Day
25 Runners On The Start Of The Last Leg/Day

Few minutes before 1:00 AM of Sunday, 25 remaining runners toed the line and started the last leg of the race. After releasing the runners, I went immediately (aboard my vehicle) to Dennis Uy’s place at Km Post #195 and he established an Aid Station for all the runners with Ice Cold Water, Hot Coffee, local rice cakes called Tupig and Patupat, and Hot Soup #5 with Misua (thin rice noodles). After 24 runners had passed the said Aid Station, the 25th/last runner was having some digestive tract “issues” but he was trying his best to catch up with the group.

Dennis Uy (Yellow Shirt) With The Pozurrubio Running Club
Dennis Uy (Yellow Shirt & Eyeglass) With The Pozurrubio Running Club

Jaylord Ballao of Team EK EK had consistently led the runners from Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 and he was leading by two hours based from their aggregate total times from the rest of the runners. At Kennon Road, he was leading by almost 3-4 kilometers and it would be a matter of time before he would reach the Finish Line with a Course Record.

Jael Wenceslao of 100 Miles Cafe was trailing Jaylord Ballao from the start of the race up to the 3rd Day and he was already sure of getting the 1st Runner-Up position. The “drama” on the 3rd Day was a fight between Lao Ogerio, Alfred Delos Reyes, and Raffy Gabotero as who would be the 3rd, 4th and 5th Overall Top Runners of this Event.

Finally, Alfred Delos Reyes arrived at the Finish Line as the 3rd Runner of the 3rd Leg. Then, Raffy Gabotero came in as the 4th Runner to arrive at the Finish Line. Raffy Gabotero was surprised to know that Lao Ogerio was still on the road towards the Finish Line. Lao Ogerio, after running around the streets of Baguio City, realized that he was lost! It took him 30 minutes to finally find his way to the Finish Line. Despite such mistake, he landed 4th Overall with Raffy Gabotero as the 5th Overall Runner. Alfred Delos Reyes registered a faster pace on the 3rd Leg and eventually got the Third Overall Place for the race.

Podium Finishers (Left To Right: Alfred Delos reyes; Jaylord Ballao; Jael Wenceslao; RD)
Podium Finishers (Left To Right: Alfred Delos reyes; Jaylord Ballao; Jael Wenceslao; RD)

After the cut-off time of 17 hours for this leg, 24 runners arrived and they were declared as the First Official Finishers of the 1st PAU Manila To Baguio 250K 3-Day Stage Ultra Marathon Race.

I consider this Road Race Event as an Epic Run and I could personally assess it as the most challenging road running event race in the country today. My special thanks and appreciation would go to the runners and their teams; Benj Termulo of Our Kitchen Restaurant who established an Aid Station in Meycauayan, Bulacan; Dr Marco Christopher Montaos  of Valenzuela, Bulacan who provided an Aid Station at Bocaue, Bulacan; Juvy Pagtalunan for the Aid Station in Malolos City which served hot coffee and breakfast to all the runners; Dennis Uy of Pozzurubio, Pangasinan; Melan Ku Marquez of Baguio City for the post-race dinner to my staff; and to the BR’s staff. My snappy salute to everybody!

My friends (ultra runners) in Taiwan and South Korea are now telling me that they will train and prepare to join the next edition of this race. It would be a great exposure again for the country in terms of Sports Tourism and for our local ultra runners to mingle and develop friendship with the best ultra runners from our ASEAN brothers.

Two of the runners of this year’s event came all the way from Mindanao and they ran unsupported. Lito Malillin of General Santos City DNFd on the 2nd Day and he told me that he will be coming back for a vengeance on the next edition as he had learned a lot of lessons and experience during the event. Rhodz Cordora of Zambaonaga City, who ran also as unsupported, landed on Top 10 Overall and I consider him as the Most Hardcore Runner among the Finishers!

As I look for the future of this event, I can see great potentials in coming up with “side events” for this race. By next year, we will have a SOLO run for the distance, the multi-day stage (3 days) will still be there, and we will add also a 5-man relay competition (with one woman per team) event.

There are two things that I’ve proven in the conduct of this event. First, my past Adventure Runs can be easily converted as a Road Race Event because I was able to run and survive the distance at the age of 58 years old, and Second, the greatest lesson/experience we got from this event, it proved that we can travel by foot if we want to reach and visit the Summer Capital of the Philippines, Baguio City!

The next Adventure Run to be converted as a Road Race Event will be the “West To East”: Run Across Luzon!

Lace up, get out of the door and run! Keep on running!


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