RD’s Report: 4th Mt Pinatubo 50K Trail Challenge

Five years ago, I went to Mt Pinatubo together with a group of ultra runners where five of us were training for the 1st BDM 102. While the 5 of us were having our “pit stop” at the edge of crater lake, I started to discuss with the group about my plans in promoting ultra marathon events in the country. And the rest is history. The ultra runner’s group whom we asked to join in our trek to Mt Pinatubo just completely “vanished”. I wonder why.

Every edition of the Mt Pinatubo 50K Trail Challenge has a unique story and experiences to every runner as the landscape of the route would completely change every year. In short, there is a different story for every runner every year. And the challenges brought about by the landscape, the river, the lahar, the rocks, the elevation, the heat and the rains make this event totally different from the other trail running events in the country. This is a trail running event where you need agility, quick thinking, smart running strategy and orienteering skills in order to run safely back to the finish line.

If you look closely on the elevation profile of the race route, this could be the first ultra “FKT” (Fastest Known Time) event held in the country. The fastest recorded time was 5:35:09 hours by Marcelo Bautista while the Lady’s Course Record is 8:00:59 by Majo Liao. These course records stand up to the present.

Mt Pinatubo Elevation Profile
Mt Pinatubo Elevation Profile

For this year, the event was held after a day when Typhoon Santi’s strong winds had devastated the towns of Tarlac, Pampanga, Bataan and Zambales. The roads to the starting area, Barangay Santa Juliana in Capas, Tarlac had been filled with fallen trees and debris but with the immediate response from the Local Government Disaster Committee, the roads were cleared for traffic.

Much to my desire to personally recon the route on the day before Race Day, I was advised by the local authorities that It would be best to wait for the river’s depth to subside and start the race when there would be natural lighting as the sun arises.

I was expecting only 52 runners to join this race. I guess, 3 of the runners who requested to be included in the list of registered runners decided not to join the race as a result of the typhoon. I decided to run the race as the “sweeper” and safety marshal for the last runners.

Most of the runners arrived at the assembly area few hours before the start of the race and they were surprised to see the devastation brought about by Typhoon Santi. I made clear to all the runners that the race start would be delayed for us to wait for the day’s sunlight to appear. At exactly 5:35 AM, the race started in front of the Barangay Hall of Santa Juliana, Capas, Tarlac with 49 runner-starters. My salute goes to these runners who braved to be at the starting area.

Runners who had their first time to join the race are always surprised with the first river crossing which is about 1.3 kilometers from the starting area. It is always the same feeling and apprehension for all the runners. The river had been wider and some portions are deep and the current is strong. Runners would cross the river deliberately in groups trying to test the depth and current of the flowing river. At a distance, every runner would see the road that leads to the cogon/tall grasses and that was the target of all the runners.

Due to the loose and unstable ground brought about by the typhoon, the first 4 X 4 vehicle to serve the runners as the Aid Station had been stalled at Km 8. The 2nd 4 X 4 vehicle move on to about a few kilometers.

I started to run the race after 5 minutes from the Gun Start time. I purposely made myself as the “sweeper” and safety runner for the runners at the rear. After one hour of hiking and running, I was able to spot the stalled 4X4 vehicle and the last runners leaving the Aid Station. I immediately called my staff at the Starting Area to send another 4X4 vehicle to reach Kilometer 17, if possible.

I have to wait for about 45 minutes for the replacement 4X4 vehicle to arrive at the stalled vehicle. Once it arrived, I continued my run with the instruction for the replacement vehicle to move forward closer to Km 17 if the condition of the ground and the river permit. The replacement vehicle passed me somewhere in Km 10 and I could still see the last runners in front of me with a distance of about 500 meters. However, the driver of the replacement 4X4 vehicle had to stop the vehicle about 1-2 kilometers ahead of me due to loose ground and deeper parts of the river.

The race marshals and volunteer that I requested to be positioned at the Crater Lake had to walk for about 6 kilometers but decided not push through to the peak of Mt Pinatubo due to the lack of time. With this situation, the runners who will be reaching the turn-around at the Crater Lake will not be able to see my Race Marshals.

I was amazed and surprised to see the landscape to have completely changed after a year! Gone are the temporary trail where the 4X4 vehicle would run through. Another landscape of rocks and lahar had appeared. The temporary waiting area for the 4X4 vehicle at a place called “GMA” is completely gone. Most of the runners at the rear were lost at this portion but with the presence of the Race Marshals and Volunteer, they were advised to go to their position and were able to get their proper direction.

When I reached the “GMA” area, I was able to catch up with the last runner. The distance to the peak is still 7-8 kilometers from this point. From here, I pushed the last runner to continue the race and be able to reach the turn-around point. The first runner going back to the finish just dropped by at the “GMA” as we started our trek to the peak. After about 500 meters, we met the 2nd runner, Robert Watson and the third runner, July Oconer was 200-300 meters behind. After 15 minutes of hiking, we met the 4th runner, Graciano Santos. As we reached the Waiting Sheds at the foot of Mt Pinatubo, we were able to meet a group of 5 runners coming from the peak. More runners would be going down from the peak as we were trying to trek the last 2 kilometers to the peak of the mountain.

As we reached the peak of Mt Pinatubo, we were able to catch up with the last 4 runners who just came from the Crater Lake. After a brief “pit stop” at the Crater Lake, we were ready to move on for the last half of the course.

Coming from the peak and going back to the finish line could had been very easy if not for the numerous rocks to step on, more time spent on looking for open ground to land your feet, and the river to cross. After a few kilometers, the last runner, Joel and I were able to catch up with the 4 last runners.

It was already noon time and the sun was already on top of us as the sky went clear from clouds. It became hotter and we tried to conserve the water we had in our hydration bottles and tried our best to reach the Aid Station at Km #11/49. Three of the runners of the last 4 runners went ahead of us and the 4th runner, Allenstein joined us as the last 3 runners.

After hiking, jogging and telling some “running” stories with my companions, we were able to reach the Aid Station. This is where we ate boiled eggs and bananas; refilled our hydration bottles; and drank lots of soda drinks sponsored/provided by our ultra runner and friend, Jun Padilla.

I was surprised to see that the river had subsided and became narrow. More lahar grounds were exposed as a result of few hours of sunshine but some were not stable as our feet would sink for a few inches when walking. At one point, I would remove my shoes and clean them from the accumulated lahar/sand with the flowing river. The flowing river carries a lot of sand/lahar and they ultimately gets inside the shoes and accumulate on the toe box/sole portion of the shoes.

After a few kilometers, we reached the last Aid Station and we were able to catch up with the rest of the runners as some would eat, refill their bottles and wash their shoes from the lahar/sand. It was the last 8 kilometers to the finish line but some runners have the tendency to be lost on this part of the route.

I was with another runner-friend, Many Ocampo, from this point as I tried to encourage him to run with a faster pace and by taking the shortest route/trail to the last river crossing. After some “hit and miss” and “bushwacking” on tall grasses, we were able to reach the 2nd to the last river crossing that would lead us to the trail to the last river crossing.

At this point, I became the “guide” for the rest of the runners at the rear on the last 3 kilometers of the course. I felt strong and faster with my pace from this point. It is just a matter of time and I know I would be able to finish the race in less than 12 hours!

The following were the observations made and some adjustments to be implemented on the next edition of this race:

  1. Despite the more challenging situation of this year’s edition, all the starters were able to finish the race. I could see that our runners are becoming braver, stronger and smarter.
  2. Runners attempting to join this race must have some knowledge on orienteering. Some skills on tracking would also be needed. A runner is smart if he/she tries to look for marks/foot prints or signs of runner’s track along the rocks and trails.
  3. Most of the runners are “repeaters” in this event and I am glad they were able to act as guide/pacers to other runners. This is the essence of trail running—everybody helps each other to overcome the challenges along the route and be able to finish the race safely.
  4. Integrity of the race was maintained and the runners went down to the crater lake despite the presence of eroded portion of the stairs. Next time, I would advise that handheld digital camera will be required for each runner and for them to submit a “selfie” picture of themselves with the Crater Lake as the background as an evidence that they reached the turn-around point. This is an “out of the box” way just in case the Race Marshals would not be able to reach the Crater Lake.
  5. Since I included a First Aid Kit as a required equipment carry-on for each runner, this will be thoroughly inspected before the race. I am glad there were no serious accidents during the race.
  6. Runners must be always vigilant and observant with the course features that they would pass on their way to the peak. These land and river features would be needed for the runner to guide him/her back to the finish line. There are steel towers along the left side of the open space/river as the runner would run towards the peak. The same towers would be seen on the right side of the runners as they go back to the finish line.
  7. Last year, we had time to prepare for ribbons tied on bamboo sticks but on race day, most of the sticks were taken by Aeta kids and made as souvenirs. What is worse was that most of the runners were not able to see these ribbons that we placed along the route on the first 5 kilometers as most of the runners followed the trails. For this year, we were not able to place those ribbons but runners were smart to follow the river and made their run with due direction towards the South.
  8. The Aetas/local tribe in the area were very helpful that they made some access trails on the steep banks of the river for the runners. They even see to it that they give instructions on where to go to avoid the deeper parts of the river. Nobody from the tribe asked for any food or money from the runners.
  9. If not for the typhoon, we could have pushed the 4X4 vehicles to reach “GMA” where runners would be able to replenish their hydration before their final trek to the peak of the mountain. I know that some runners were asking for some water after coming from the peak but they persevered until they reach the stalled 4X4 vehicle on the last 12 kilometers. On the next edition, we will see to it that every runner must be able to carry at least 2 liters of water on the last Aid Station before their trek to the peak or before reaching the turn-around point.
  10. All Finishers were able to receive new versions of the Finisher’s T-Shirt and Finisher’s Medal.
  11. On the next edition of this race, we have to add some amount for the registration fee in order for us to offer Cash Prizes to the podium finishers. We will adopt what we will do with the next edition of the Tagaytay To Nasugbu 50K Ultra Marathon Race.
  12. We will continue to announce the details of the next year’s edition through our Facebook Event Page.
  13. Every year, we have Foreigners in this race and we hope to continue accommodating them in our next editions.

Official Results can be seen here:


Pictures of the Event Can Be seen Here:



Pictures at the Start & Finish Can Be Seen Here:


Mt Pinatubo's Peak & Crater Lake
Mt Pinatubo’s Peak & Crater Lake

Official Result: 2nd Mt Pinatubo 50K Trail Challenge

2nd Mt Pinatubo 50K Trail Challenge

5:00 AM September 4, 2011

Sta Juliana, Capas to Crater Lake & Back

Rank Name Time
1 Alfredo Ocampo 6:29:03
2 Rodel Gajol 6:29:05
3 Rayman Delos Angeles 6:34:10
4 Roel Olimba 6:43:07
5 Jerome Lagumbay 7:12:09
6 Jonel Mendoza 8:04:19
7 Godfrey Gozo 8:07:43
8 Ariel Briones 8:15:33
9 Ronel Mondedo 8:19:32
10 Joel Korea 8:20:30
11 Graciano Santos 8:22:10
12 Vergilio Leona 8:32:48
13 Edwin Gajol 8:39:06
14 Randy Rubio 8:40:45
15 Meljohn Tezon 8:50:53
16 Alexander Cenzon 8:55:42
17 Ian Esquilong 8:56:06
18 Angelo Lagumbay 8:57:15
19 Paolo Osmena 8:57:26
20 Andrew Balaaldia 9:13:28
21 Frederick Quitiquit 9:27:14
22 Jay Sabido 9:27:23
23 Samson Ocampo 9:28:28
24 Keshia Fule (F) 9:29:07
25 Toots Moratillo 9:33:33
26 Mark Villafuerte 9:35:38
27 Jael Wenceslao 9:36:15
28 Ronald Yllana 9:44:34
29 Arlito Masamoc 9:52:03
30 Jake Pescador 9:52:04
31 Benedick Meneses 9:59:02
32 Chito Carreon 10:00:51
33 Jazz Paringit 10:04:52
34 Mel Severino 10:10:05
35 Lester Jerome Chuayap 10:10:06
36 Chips Dayrit 10:16:47
37 Gil Ocampo 10:28:00
38 Raul Roco 10:28:24
39 Luke Mark Odon 10:41:19
40 Carl Ocampo 10:41:24
41 Ronaldo Sulapas 10:42:39
42 Ronnel Go 10:49:05
43 Nelson Mallillin 10:49:58
44 Emiliano Burgos 11:07:27
45 Audi Samar 11:09:18
46 Bong Alindada 11:13:49
47 Arman Garcia 11:15:28
48 Sherwin Botabara 11:23:54
49 Ray Batino 11:25:24
50 Robert Reyes 11:28:36
51 Maria Angela Stefanie Hefti (F) 11:28:38
52 Conrado Teodoro 11:28:45
53 Orlando Ylana 11:46:35
54 Philippe Arenillo 11:55:42
55 Bien Soberano 12:04:43
56 Zaldy Santillan 12:09:27
57 Garry Garcia 12:39:49

A total of 66 trail runners started the race with 9 participants declared as DNF. Congratulations to everybody for having the courage to join this trail running event. The stories and experiences of the runners will prove that this event is considered as the “toughest and most challenging” trail run in the country today. That is why it will remain as a CHALLENGE to everybody.

Congratulations to the Podium Finishers and to all the runners who braved the “sudden landslides” of lahar mountains; scorching heat of the sun in the early morning; heat from the lahar sand at mid-noon and early afternoon; more number of water crossings from wider rivers with flowing sands; strong downpour of rain in the afternoon; bigger and slippery rocks along the route; quicksands; and “flush flood” from the rivers.

For those who DNFed and got “temporarily lost” during the race, you still have a chance to redeem and improve your times for the next edition of the race.

See you next year!!!

Official Result: 1st Mt Pinatubo 50K Trail Challenge

The following is the Official Result of the 1st Mt Pinatubo Challenge (MPC) 50K Trail Run.

I would like to specifically mention that the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines gave me the “GO” signal to push through with the trail run as the Balikatan Exercise (Proper) is scheduled to start yet on October 14, 2010 with the AFP components and the US Armed Forces Counterpart. I did not want that the race would be cancelled, re-scheduled, or terminated when most of the runners are still on the trail. I have the impression that the Philippine Air Force scheduled a practice run on the events/activities that they will be performing during the said military exercise with our US counterparts on the prescribed scheduled dates.

However, the top runners who were fast and strong were not affected with the practice runs of our Philippine Air Force and I have decided that their Finish Times will be upheld as the prevailing record for a solo run finish time from Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac up to the Crater Lake of Mt Pinatubo and back. As I could not determine the exact elapsed time for each runner who were directed to stop in one of the Aid Stations due to the helicopter-airborne firing from a MG helicopter, the finish times reflected below will be considered as the official time. Guys, you will have your chance to redeem yourselves and improve your finish times on the next edition of this trail race!

Due to this predicament, I decided to remove the prescribed cut-off time of 10 hours and allowed everybody to finish and awarded each one who crossed the finish line with their “finisher’s trophy” and Finisher’s T-shirt.

My congratulations to all who started and finished the race. You have finished what I consider as the “hardest and most challenging 50K trail race” in the country.  

1st PAU Mt. Pinatubo 50K Trail Challenge
October 09, 2010
              NAME TIME  
1 Hermogines Olvis 6:33:36 Champion (Male)
2 Jonel Mendoza 6:45:56 1st Runner-up (Male)
3 Moses Moreno 6:46:18 2nd Runner-up (Male)
4 Chito Vegim 7:05:13  
5 Graciano Santos 7:10:13  
6 Noel Hernandez 7:43:20  
7 Marcos Lontoc 7:47:13  
8 George Dolores 7:47:57  
9 Mon Marchan 7:57:20  
10 Dindo Diaz 8:34:47  
11 Camilla Brooks 8:37:46 Champion (Ladies)
12 Rufino Morimonte 8:37:58  
13 Melvin Pangan 8:38:06  
14 Don Ubaldo 8:49:21  
15 Earl Warren Navor 8:50:54  
16 Christian Oting 8:53:45  
17 Ian Colendra 8:54:53  
18 Allan Bandiola 8:55:52  
19 Christian Neil Pioquinto 8:55:52  
20 Paolo Osmeña 8:55:52  
21 Saturnino Camamongan 8:57:51  
22 Gil Brazil 9:01:41  
23 Mark Adrian Hernandez 9:04:39  
24 Simon Pavel Miranda 9:06:35  
25 Dennis Ravanzo 9:22:05  
26 Vicky Ras 9:22:05 1st Runner-up (Ladies)
27 Grimaldo Anecito 9:26:10  
28 Marie Anne Constantino 9:29:29 2nd Runner-up (Ladies)
29 Joey Baladad 9:30:54  
30 Ronnel Go 10:52:09  
31 Raul Tapia 10:57:27  
32 Allen Gaspar 11:01:05  
33 Jose Lorenzo Mina 11:03:55  
34 Marcelino Tomas 11:04:19  
35 Bong Bernadez 11:04:54  
36 Ed Yonzon 11:05:09  
37 John Jeffrey Avellanosa 11:05:15  
38 Precy Hernandez 11:08:42  
39 Emma Alvarez 11:14:39  
40 Kian Vicera 11:05:08  
41 Wellington Yao 11:05:10  
42 Carlos Nobleza 11:18:44  
43 Christian Paul Forbes 11:18:48  
44 Roberto delos Santos, Jr 11:18:52  
45 Greg Mana-ay 11:24:32  
46 Sherwin Tommy Botabara 11:25:02  
47 Vans Camanong 11:27:59  
48 Leigh Arnel Biscarra 11:34:15  
49 Larry Daliwag 11:38:18  
50 John Allan Maigue 11:51:20  
51 Ian Ferrer 12:20:50  
52 Mark Fer Castillo 13:06:59  
53 Ruben Acebelo 13:10:52  
54 Jinkee Guerrero 13:10:52  
55 Norberto Mortel 13:14:58  
56 Marco Christopher Montaos 13:15:06