L-R: Bryan, Mon, yours truly, Ellen (won 9th place), Carlo, and Judah
New Balance was supposed to be my last race for the year. But being asked by Ellen a.k.a. Kelcy33 and Master Mon, to go with them to Baguio, I just couldn’t say no.
Besides, a 30-km race on hilly slopes would improve leg-muscle strength and performance. Just a few days before the race, I learned that quite a good number of us, both Happy Feet and Takbo.ph runners, would be joining the race.
Happy Feeters Judah, Mon, and I, left on Friday night by taking the midnight trip to Baguio. It was a chilly morning when our bus arrived at past 6 AM. We ate breakfast, bought some groceries, and stayed at the dormitory to rest. Later in the afternoon, we claimed our race packets and met Takbo.ph runners Bryan, Doc Eire, Ellen, and Carlo for dinner.
I woke up to a chilly Sunday morning, a bit colder than the previous day. Baguio temperature dipped to 11°C. Brrrr!
There were already runners when we arrived at Lake Drive, Burham Park. I could see only one or two familiar faces at the starting line, Jonel a.k.a. BugoBugo85 and some elite runners.
Photo op with Cris Sabal (blue singlet), Doc Eire (wearing red bandana), and Rai (red singlet)
While the race director was giving instructions as to where to go, what road to take, la la la, we had the opportunity to chat with Cris Sabal, an elite runner, who decided to be in this race as part of his preparation for full marathon races next year. Guess what? I didn’t listen much to the instructions (my bad) for I was not also familiar with the roads of Baguio. My only strategy then was to follow a runner running ahead of me.
The race started at exactly 5:30 AM with a six-kilometer downhill run. I paced with Carlo. During the down hill, I was extremely careful on my legs. Running downhill can be very hard on your body. Then the route was followed by grueling uphill run along Loakan Road. That was where I left Carlo.
After reaching the first turnaround point and on my way back, I stopped to my heart’s content to enjoy the sight of early Baguio morning–watching the sun rising up, the foggy mountains and the deep ravines and cliffs. “Wow, it’s like being on top of the world!” I said silently to myself. “My feet brought me in this spot because of running,” I added silently again. That was the time when I saw Carlo running towards the first turnaround point and I waited for him.
We were the last two runners. After sometime, the marshal who waited for us at the turnaround point rode his motorbike to accompany us. It was in that moment that Carlo asked the marshal where Mount Pulag is. He pointed a spot. Then, from a distance, to our delight, we saw a sea of clouds surrounded by mountains. Amazingly beautiful!
I paced with Carlo up to Camp John Hay. It was already a run-walk-run strategy for the both of us. But time was running. There was a race to finish. That was where I left Carlo again. I ran on my own seeing no more runners ahead of me. It was only the road, the bike support, and I. Edel, the biker, pedaled his bike slowly, and tried to warn vehicles passing our way to slow down. At some point in time, I said to Edel that I was sad for not making it to the cutoff time. To appease me, he just simply said, “Baguio terrain can be quite difficult because most of it are hills.”
My legs were already tired. But I just continued to run. Walk. Run. While running, I bombarded Edel with questions like how many more uphill to conquer, how long were they, how hard could they be, la la la. Then I remembered a fellow runner, a good friend of mine, who asked the famous question, “Are we there yet?”
As I was running slowly the uphill road which led to Mines View, a van driver passed us and stopped to ask Edel if he was guiding a 10k runner. When Edel responded I was running the 30km race, the driver said, “kaya mo ‘yan, Ma’am.” (You can do it, Ma’am.) I just said my thanks and in my mind I silently said, “I hope I can.”
Going up Mines View was another challenge for me. In short, an uphill run again. As I was on my way, I was so glad to see more than three runners, may be on their way now to the finish line. Sigh. Good for them. Then, on my left, I saw two runners who were walking. Tired? I guess so. Then, another pack came with one familiar face, that of Jonel, who was running fast. Thanks Jonel for the cheer! It helped.
I continued to run but resorted to walking again when I saw another uphill run towards Mines View. Reaching the top, I couldn’t even admire the view and the stores. Edel told me that it would be a downhill run again. Good! A downhill run indeed! Four more kilometers then finish line. Almost there.
Another biker joined us and told me that it would be another 5-km run to the finish line. Huh?! Meaning, in terms of distance, this wasn’t a 30km race? But my Garmin registered 30km already. Anyway, during the additional two kilometers, there was a support van that accompanied us. I was thinking, “Are they going to pick me up?” “Are they going to stop me and bring me to the finish line without allowing me to run the whole stretch?”
I realized this must be how the last runner would feel if being followed by an ambulance or a support vehicle. On the other hand, I felt so special and so “elite” as if I were the first to finish. (Smiling while typing this).
Where would you see so many marshals stopping jeepneys, taxis at the crossing with the van’s siren telling them to give way to a runner on her way to the finish line? Ey, that was me! Kudos to them for doing their job so well. One more thing. Hydration wouldn’t be a problem as most of the passengers in that van, if I was not mistaken, were the staff of each water station. I was in good hands, eh?
Last few meters, as I took the right turn going to Lake Drive, Burham Park, seeing from a distance the Start/Finish banner, expecting no runners to welcome me but I was wrong. Takbo.ph and Happy Feet runners as well as the other runners who finished way, way, long ahead of us were there.
They waited, clapped their hands, to welcome and cheer on the runner upon crossing the finish line. I was not a winner but I felt like one. I finished the race in 4:09.06 and overtook two more runners. Whew!
Doc Eire paced with me as I crossed the finish line. Thanks, Doc Eire!
Then, we heard the loud siren of the van, signaling the last runner to arrive. All of us clapped our hands. But wait! One more runner arrived and crossed the finish line. It was a good race.
Saint Louis University Boys High School organized the race dubbed as 30 for 30 Road Race for their 30th Anniversary. Che A., a marathoner herself and a Boston qualifier, was the race director.
(Photos Courtesy of Bryan Rivera a.k.a. Planetrumania)
The word reminds me of a VSO friend’s funny experience as a volunteer in Zambia, Africa. In her blog, she related how she, as Filipino, was mistakenly identified as Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, Irish, Russian, etc. There were some who used Filipino (finally!) but spelled as Philippino. The worst case was when she was called as Philippian. I really find that so funny.
She was fortunate though to meet a couple of friends who knew about our country but they pronounced the name of our country as PhilipPINES, the trees of which Baguio City is famous for.
The word also reminds me of hills. I visited Baguio the first time in the summer of 2002. It was disappointing to note that Baguio wasn’t the same anymore. Gone are the hills rich with pines.
Hills—the very word evokes fear. Yet after conquering Antipolo Hills and McKinley Hills (Fort Bonifacio), knowing the right form as suggested by one of the Masters, I learn to love them. It was for this reason why I went to Baguio—to enjoy the run and conquer its hills.
In the bus, while I was looking for my seat number, someone recognized me. She was a schoolmate of mine during my high school years whom I haven’t seen since 1989. After we exchanged pleasantries, they decided to come with me since, just like me, they too didn’t have any hotel reservation yet. However, to our disappointment, the hotel where I stayed the last time I was in Baguio, was already full. Together with her Mom and younger brother, we looked for a hotel in the city and ended up staying in an affordable transient house recommended by the kind taxi driver. The place was comfortable enough but not conveniently located near the city proper. Transferring to a hotel was our main goal the next day. That night, it was also the time for me to meet some of the takbo.ph runners for the “carbo loading” hosted by Craig Logan and family.
Before Race Day
I spent the day touring great sites in the area. An early swim in one of its hot springs made it a fine day! I bought some woodcarvings along Upper Asin Road and got a good deal. Strawberry farm in La Trinidad was OK but I enjoyed scouting some of its stores nearby. Baguio Botanical Garden showcased the best outdoor environment. Took some photos at the Mansion House, official summer residence of the President of the Philippines.
Tam-Awan Village, home to many works of art, authentic Ifugao huts, crafts and souvenir shops, cultural shows, and eco-tourism was the best site I’ve ever visited.
Another worthy of notice is the former Diplomat Hotel believed to be a haunted place. It used to be a rest house and a seminary in 1911 before it was developed into a hotel. A number of religious persons were beheaded during World War II and it was for this reason some people claimed seeing headless apparitions and hearing strange sounds at night. The last site we visited was Mines View Park before we parted ways and went to our respective hotels.
Later that night, I met Master Mon, Sir Ipe and Ver, a veteran runner for dinner. My treat this time.
I couldn’t sleep well the night before the race. Was disturbed with the loud music coming from the hotel’s restaurant turned-into-a-bar for the Saturday gimmick night. Sigh…
I woke up earlier than possible and slowly ran from the hotel to Burnham Park, the venue for the race. There were not too many runners. The biggest delegation came from the police group. Mostly police trainees. Since most of them ran the 21k event, there were just a few of us who did the 10k race. Surprisingly, though we didn’t agree among ourselves nor talked about it, we wore the takbo.ph singlet. As if we were another delegation from Metro Manila! There were also three children who participated the 10k event. The race wouldn’t be complete without the photo sessions with fellow takbo.ph runners.
21k route was really a difficult one. Thank God I didn’t register for it! First five kilometers (for 10k) were mostly up hills and after the turn around point, they were mostly down hills. Not a legitimate 10k, approximately 9.6 km. But who cares? Reached the finish line not a PR but still considered a good time.
I left the park with enough time to check out from the hotel, eat breakfast and hear mass. And what a mass it was! I came out from Baguio Cathedral not understanding any single word uttered by the priest except when he spoke in English for the service was said in Ilocano. Hahaha!
Later that morning, while in the bus on my way back to Manila, I received a text message from Queenie informing me that she accepted a medal on my behalf for I won 13th place, top 15 Women Division. Whooa! Number 13 can be lucky, eh?
What a way and a gift to celebrate life!
Yes, I raced on my birthday!