Next year will be the 7th edition of the Bataan Death March 102K Ultra Marathon Race (BDM 102) and I firmly believe that this running event opened the awareness of our local runners on the possibility to finish a running event more than the distance of a Marathon Race. Its historical significance and the experience of past finishers had lured a lot of new marathon runner-finishers for them to train and finish the race. And slowly it is becoming more prestigious that you can not call yourself as a “full-blooded” ultra marathoner among the local Filipino runners if you have not finished this race. Better yet, if you consider yourself as a Race Director/Organizer of a local ultra running event.
Almost yearly, the course record of the BDM 102 had been broken by what we consider as our “elite runners” and nothing happens after that for them to be exposed to other ultra running competitions abroad and find out how they would compare themselves to international runners. With the help of ultra running friends and former comrades in the military service, I was able to expose some of these elite runners in three instances but these were the notable results: (1) Alquin Bolivar, an active Philippine Army soldier set a National Record for 100K with a time of 9:04:23 hours and placed #6 among the fast ultra runners of Asia in an IAU-sanctioned Asian 100K Championship Road Race in Jeju, South Korea in 2010 and (2) Marcelo Bautista, a 9:45:59-hour finisher of BDM 102, who placed #15 in the 2013 Hongkong 100K Trail Ultra Race among 1,250 runners coming from different countries with a time of 12:08:42 hours making him a qualifier for the prestigious Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in California, USA.
Due to different factors and reasons of which I don’t have any control, I could no longer afford to send such “elite” athletes to international ultra running competition. If TNF Philippines could not even afford to send the Champion of its yearly TNF100 to any of the Southeast Asian TNF100 events, how much more for a “pensioner” like me who does not have any profit from having less than 100 runners in my regular ultra races.
There are potential “elite” ultra runners among us who would like to be exposed to international races but I have the observation and personal opinion that they lack two of the most important considerations or attitude which are very paramount for me aside from the fact that they lack the financial resources: Loyalty and Humility.
Loyalty? Do I need to define what is loyalty? Humility? Do I need to define this word also? If you are one of the local ultra runners who know me personally or had been reading my blog since the time I created this, you would know what I am talking about. If you are new in this blog and don’t know me personally, you can always “search” for my rants and random thoughts in my past posts.
So, if you have the influence or the capability to send our elite ultra runners to international competition, you can do also your share in this effort. If you are one of the “Big Shots” in the Government Service or in the Private Corporate World, you can be a great help to these potential elite runners making sure to test them of their “loyalty and humility”.
For those who have the time, money and resources to participate in international races and considered as our “elite” ultra runners, the whole local ultra running community will be behind you to cheer and pray for your safety in your travel and for a competitive resolve to be faster and stronger than the other runners.
This brings me to a more focused observation to our “elite” ultra runners who are competing (not participating) in an international ultra running event. It is assumed that if you are an “elite” ultra runner, you are supposed to compete with the best of the other international runners. There is no doubt that your sole purpose and focus in this race is to be able to finish the race as fast as you could within the confines of your skill, talent, training and mental fortitude. It is assumed also that you have figured out, through your training and preparation, the best race and nutrition strategy for such event. There is NO point of thinking that you are there to simply to FINISH the race event. The ultimate aim of an “elite” ultra runner is to be able to land and place as one of the podium finishers (top 3 or top 10), period!
For the “middle-of-the pack”, their purpose and goal is to be able to pass or overtake as many runners as they can before they cross the finish line. These are the ultra runners who keep on coming back every year to improve their Personal Best or PR times for the event. They find satisfaction to beat a friend or an opponent or a training partner, whether their satisfaction is for bragging rights among other runners or silently praising himself/herself that he/she could improve some more. These are serious runners who always find ways and means for them to be faster, stronger and smarter ultra runners. They keep on improving with the end view of someday joining in one of the international ultra running events as part of their “bucket list” given with a well-balanced family and job/professional career. I can say in my opinion that these are the “Silver Medalists” in the past BDM 102 editions.
The “back-of-the pack” are mostly “whiners”, “fakers” in their training, pressured by their peers to join, old and aging runners who would like to put a tab on their “bucket list” before they fade away (that’s me!), non-believers to accept that they are little heavy in weight and very slow in running and ask a lot of unnecessary TLC in Aid Stations, those who don’t accept that they are injured in their training, and those who always have a laminated printed copy with them of their targeted split time in every kilometer post along the route in order to avoid being cut-off from the race. I call these runners as “hit or miss” ultra runners.
As more ultra running events, whether road or trail, are being organized in the country, there is a possibility of more runners being lured into joining ultra running events and you can easily distinguish them as the “elite”, “middle-of-the pack” or “back-of-the-pack” ultra runners. I just hope that their interest will not end once they finish the BDM 102. As for the elite runners, I am still confident that private individuals and/or corporate brands will be able to support and send them to prestigious international ultra running events, whether they are in Asia/Australia, Europe or in the USA/Canada, in the years to come.
If former President Marcos was able to invite past Boston Marathon Champions and Marathon Olympic Medalist in the past to be as special guest/runner and if MVP can bring a whole NBA Team to the country to play with our National Basketball Team or send our Basketball Team to play tune-up training games to a popular and former NBA Champion Team in the USA, I have the strong belief that our ultra runners will soon be running side by side with elite ultra runners worldwide or for these world’s elite runners to be running in our local ultra races.
I hope and pray that these things will happen before I finally fade away from ultra running as a “back-of-the-pack” runner!
Mountain Hiking, here I come!