For the past nine (9) months, I have considered this trail route from Roosevelt National Park in Dinalupihan, Bataan up to the peak of Mt Natib as a personal obsession to explore an all-trail route as a part of my training playground. I can personally call this the Mt Natib’s North Trail Route.
After the PNOC made some testing and exploration up to the peak of Mt Natib in the ’80s in order to discover geothermal energy source in the Bataan Natural Park, the government left a dirt road and some gravel road from the Roman Highway in Orani, Bataan up to Barangay Tala and then further up to the base camp (Camp 06) before the final assault to the peak of Mt Natib. Through the years, the road from the highway to Barangay Tala was paved/cemented as part of the development in the area. What was left was a 7-kilometer trail/dirt road from the trailhead to the peak of Mt Natib. This is the traditional and well-known route for hikers and mountaineers who would like to camp and visit the peak of the said mountain. I personally call it the South Approach to Mt Natib.
I’ve used this traditional route for two times: first, when I went to peak bag Mt Natib with escorts from the Philippine Army; and second, when I brought some of my ultra running friends to conduct an “Operation Linis” to collect the trashes left by visitors and campers at the peak of the mountain and the trail that leads to it. It was a successful event wherein I tied up the effort with the Philippine Army operating in the area.
Fast forward. After two years since my last visit to the mountain, I’ve started to concentrate more of my running workouts/training in trail running. It was in July last year (2013) when I started trying to explore the possibility of coming up with a trail route coming from my first playground area from the North Approach going to the peak of Mt Natib. And it was only in November of last year that I was able to trace the trail that connects to the place called “Binutas”, considered as the Gateway To Natib.
The distance is measured, through my Garmin Watch, as 20.7 kilometers from the place I started my trek up to Binutas, from an elevation of 40 MASL to 900 MASL , with a Total Elevation Gain of 8,000 feet. From Binutas up to the peak of Mt Natib has a distance of 5 Kilometers with a Total Elevation Gain of 1,500 feet.
I would make the trail course from the trailhead up to “Binutas” as my long trek on weekends (at least, once a month) and named this course as my “Playground Bravo”. With a “pit stop” in my friend’s place, Weeler Orogo, on my way up to “Binutas” and then going down to where I’ve started, I would register 11-12 hours workout in the mountain. I would bring my lunch and some bite foods in my pack and would have our resupply of water at Weeler’s place and at Barangay Mabiga.
I came up with an Event Page on Facebook about a trail running event which I dubbed as the “Playground BRAVO” 50K Trail Run (1st Mt Natib 50K Trail Run) but I made sure that only those who are well-seasoned trail runners are accepted to join the event. The final requirement to join this race was my personal knowledge on the capability of the participant. I really did not care if I had ONLY ONE participant for the event. What was important was the fact that a proof that this trail route is doable and find out whatever feedback (positive or negative) I could gather from the participants.
Four runners registered for the event with a registration fee of P 900.00 for each runner. I came up with three (3) water resupply points, to include an Aid Station at “Binutas” where Jollibee packed lunch was available to the runners with Soda, Gatorade, Ice Candies (Joy-Joy), Ensaymada, Hard Boiled Eggs, and Rice Cake.
After serving the participants with coffee and full breakfast, the race started at exactly 5:30 AM with four (4) participants, 3 males and 1 female.
To ensure safety and confidence to the runners, I provided a “pacer/guide” for the leading runner/s and a “safety marshal” for the last runner. I also gave specific instructions to the runners to be extra careful and deliberate in their footing and trekking on the final assault and descent to and from the peak of Mt Natib as there will be “rappelling” portions to be done on the rocks towards the peak.
As the race progressed through the day, the first 3 runners with the “guide/pacer” arrived at the “Binutas” area in 6:00 hours, to include a 40-minute “pit stop” at Weeler Orogo’s place as the group waited for the last runner. The last runner with the safety marshal arrived after two hours and I advised the runner not to proceed to the peak anymore. For the safety of the runner, I declared the runner as DNF.
After nine (9) hours, the three (3) runners with their guide arrived at “Binutas” after coming from the peak of Mt Natib. They were still strong and determined to finish the race. Their last 20 kilometers were all downhill with about 3-4 kilometers of uphill and I would expect them to be arriving at the Finish Area at nighttime!
The following is the Official Result of the 1st Mt Natib 50K Trail Run:
RANK RACE BIB # NAME TIME (Hours)
1 160 Ronnel Go (Champion) 13:44:45
2 1 Graciano Santos (1st Runner-Up) 13:45:23
3 8 Jon Borbon (2nd Runner-Up) 13:52:50
Aside from the “forest” section of the course which is 2-3 kilometers before reaching “Binutas” where the participants encountered sharp blade of grasses, thick vegetation along the trail and thorny vines and plants on each side of the trail, the trail could be runnable or could be negotiated with faster hiking speed.
The finishers told me that they hiked the whole course except for the downhill portions on their way back to the finish line. They were fully satisfied that they have finished a very challenging trail course. One of the runners had also strongly suggested that I could submit the course as a UTMB qualifier. However, unanimously, all the tree runners would like to return to do another race event on the same course for them to improve their finish times. But they suggested that trail course is not really for “first-timer” trail runners.
Included in their post-race dinner/buffet is a Finisher’s T-Shirt and Podium Trophy for each of the Finishers.
Personally, I consider the trail event as a success even with only 4 starters with 3 as finishers. I was able to prove that with a seasoned trail runner, the North Trail to the peak of Mt Natib is doable and runnable. I would be happy if I will have at least ten (10) runners for the next edition of this event.
Officially, this is the First Edition of the Mt Natib 50K Trail Run! Congratulations to all the Finishers!