Culture Of Road & Trail Racing

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!


Decision Is Final

1. Weeks and days before last year’s BDM 102 (1st edition),  I included a warning in my rules and regulation that “cheaters” will be disqualified. Some of the runners made a comment why I have to include such instructions in their race packets as according to them this warning was not necessary. I just smiled and did not answer their comments. However, on race day, I was a witness of so many cases of “cheating” among the runners. Did I approach them and tell them on their faces that I saw them cheating during the race? NO! But I remembered their names and faces. In my RD’s Report, I admitted that there were cheating as I personally observed plus the fact that I received also information from my marshals, staff, and from the other runners and their respective support crew. Most of my marshals then were the members of my Elite Team Bald Runner and I really believed in their reports. Their reports were collaborated with the information coming from other runners and their respective support crew. I did not expose them but they know that I know that they cheated. It is for this reason that I declared the Results of the 1st BDM 102 as Unofficial. Case closed.

2. This year’s BDM 102 was a perfect race because there were no reported cheating or making some “shortcuts” of the route as we implimented time stations/checkpoints along the way where each runner were listed with their elapsed time/split time as they passed in many points along the route. Those who were reported to have allegedly cheated on the 1st edition were able to redeem themselves in this year’s BDM 102 by registering a much-improved finish times as compared in last years edition. Did I congratulate them for redeeming themselves in this year’s race? NO!

3. In the 1st PAU 50K Run in Tanay, Rizal last May 9, 2010, one of my marshals reported that one of the runners rode a vehicle with the intention of declaring himself as DNF but he alighted from the vehicle after riding a considerable distance and resumed his race until he reached the finish line. I removed the name of this runner from the Official List of Finishers in the said race and banned him from my road races. This runner contacted me and questioned my decision why I had to remove his name from the list. I stand on my decision based from the reports of my marshals and collaborated by other runners. The runner did not insist to defend himself and I told him that he is banned from my races. Case closed. Most of the finishers in this race knew his name and one of his running friends tried to defend the culprit but I just listened to his reasons and appeal. Did I expose his name? NO, but I kept on informing in my blog and in my race instructions that “cheaters are disqualified in my races and they forever banned in my future races”.

4. After the “P2P” PAU 70K Run in Ilocos Norte, I received reports from my marshals that some of the runners did not pass in one of the checkpoints where each runner must get a string necklace. To be specific, some runners did not pass along the trail road that goes to the Bangui Windmill Project and my marshals potively identified the runners. In another incident, one of my marshals reported also that one runner was seen alighting from a “jeep/multicab” some hundred yards away from the Finish Line. This runner was seen by tricycle drivers in the locality coming out from the vehicle and my marshal overheard some unsavory comments from them due to the incident that they have seen. My marshal positively identified the runner from the pictures I’ve taken at the Finish Line. Before I left Laoag City, I started receiving reports, stories, and observations from the finishers/runners and such reports supported the observations/reports of my Race Marshals. These additional information collaborated with the reports coming from my race marshals.

5. Do I have to call the attention of these reported “cheaters” and let them explain? NO. The reports of my race marshals are enough to pin down these people as I have delegated to them the authority to make sure that the race is conducted honestly and with its integrity intact. These marshals are members of my Elite Team Bald Runner and they know the “do’s and dont’s” in conducting road races. These are the very same people who have been my staff in my road races for the past two & half years and I personally know them since the time I was designated as the Project Director of the DND-AFP Gintong Pangarap for Marathon six years ago! These elite runners do not make-up or create stories of cheating. For what purpose? Bottomline, I trust my elite athletes and they did their job well in my races.

6. Now, ask me how do I feel with these reports of cheating in my races? I am already fed-up and angry about such acts. For the past two years, I am frustrated that there are still reports of cheating in my races (except for 2nd BDM 102) and this is an act of disrespect to the sports, to the Race Director and its staff/marshals, and to the rest of the runners competing in my races. Let us not be legalistic on this matter. But if these runners want to challenge the reports of my marshals, then the burden of proof rest on the shoulders of those who think that they should be innocent or not guilty of cheating.

7. My exposure of ultrarunning events in South Korea and United States as a runner-participant gave me the confidence to conduct more ultra road races in the country. In those countries, I’ve observed that the Race Organizers do not deploy race marshals along the route and there are no reports of cheating among the runners. It is my objective to reach this kind of situation and level of perfection in the conduct of ultra races where every runner should be honest and responsible for their actions. But somewhere towards this goal, a “wake-up” call is needed to remind the runners that I am serious in seeing to it that the integrity of a race should always be intact.

8. If you think I am gaining from these road races financially and for popularity, you are wrong! The registration fees we are collecting from each race are not enough to support the race. We are bringing our logistics from Manila to Bataan, Pampanga, Rizal, and Ilocos Norte and the effort we give just to ensure that each event is successful is not personally rewarding to us as the Race Organizer. The planning, preparation, coordination, bus trips, stress, and discussions among my staff and marshals were all very tiring as if we are also preparing as runners for the race. As you know, our PAU Races are not supported by corporate names or government sports institutions and most of our additional support come from the donations of the runners themselves and good friends who believe in my advocacies. So, I am appealing to everybody that each of the runners of my races should always maintain the integrity of the race and should give respect to us as the Race Organizer and to the other runners. Always remember that we organize these ultrarunning races because we simply have the love and passion to promote the sports. On the other hand, popularity for what end? None! I am already contented as a runner-blogger and enjoying my retirement with a plan to run more miles/kilometers here and to other countries. My blog serves as my one and only marketing tool for my races. At wala kayong makikitang product ads sa blog ko!

9. Now, if you are banned from my races, then that is my decision and I will stick to the reports of my marshals. I really don’t care the implication and result of my decision. My staff and I will continue promoting ultrarunning in this country and spreading the “good news” about running to include honesty in races. Going back to what I always said when I started the BDM 102—“It is better to conduct a race with only 10 participants who are honest than getting as much as thousands of runners in a race which is tainted with dishonest runners”. Lastly, our races define what you are made of, in terms of your attitude, character, personality, and physical and mental capabilities.

10. This “issue” boils down to Integrity, Respect and Obedience. All my races are covered with Rules and Regulations/Instruction and all runners who join my races abide by these rules and instructions. A runner in my races submits himself/herself to these rules from the starting line up to the time he/she crosses the finish line of the race. However, if he/she commits infraction or violation of any of my rules & instructions during the race, then I have the authority to decide to disqualify such runner even without informing the runner in question. It is harsh but, in simple terms, that is the Bald Runner’s Rule!