Category Archives: volunteers

Bataan Death March 102 Ultramarathon Race Through the Eyes of a Support Crew

I was not the one who wrote this article.  But Carmen, one of my support volunteers, did.  This blog post is the fruit of a request to let the readers catch a glimpse of how a volunteer support works during an ultramarathon race.  Read on …

Trails and Thrills: My BDM 102 Journey
by Carmen Cabiles
Photos by Carmen Cabiles

Preparation time

As soon as Roselle said that she was doing BDM 102 right away I offered to be her support crew. Much has been said about the race, the same token I have heard a lot of tell-tale stories from former support people. And since this was no ordinary race, doing support for an ultramarathon was volunteer work big time. But it was three months after when this realization started to sink in.

I remember sending her a text message, “if in your heart and mind you have no doubts about this race then go for it”. I had confidence in Roselle that she was doing the needed preparation and we need not worry.  And I had no doubt that she was strong enough to finish the entire 102 km in one piece.

Three weeks prior to race day I insisted that we meet up as a team. Busy as we were with our respective jobs, we had to find time for this. Aside from myself, there was Raff who I have fondly tease “the Hall-of-Famer BDM support crew” and you will find out later why. The first meet up was to think and list down the essentials needed for Roselle and the support crew which includes the driver. This came in easy especially for us girls since it was like second skin to plan and organize.
The group’s second meeting at Seattle’s Best, Bonifacio High Street 
The next weekend again another meeting this time to discuss our game plan. Complete with notes and race route map, we had to plot from 0 KM to KM 102 the stopovers and Roselle’s needs. We were joined by Ziggy (who designed our shirts, a gift from Roselle) and Dhenz a.ka. Running Pinoy, who shared a heapful of suggestions from his own BDM experience. Since Raff was a previous BDM support crew we agreed that he was in charge in taking care of directions and coordinating with the driver; while I was going to oversee the food and drinks of Roselle.

Race weekend

KM 00, Starting point of the infamous Death March

We arrived at San Fernando around 11:00am. First things first, we agreed to check out the entire race route not just for Roselle’s sake, but also to familiarize ourselves with the markers, gas stations, intersections, convenience stores, sari-sari stores and other possible spots and landmarks we would be needing during the race. Again, Raff’s familiarity with the area came in handy to actually give some tips to Roselle like where to turn, which road to take and all that. During the day it was all too easy to take note of all these. But keeping in mind that race starts at 10PM and the landscape might look a bit different.

We finally arrived at the inn around 4:30pm. Worried that Roselle had barely three hours to rest and sleep became a concern. And we still had to organize our things and do last minute cooking for our rice and boil water. We also had to make sure our driver can still have some power nap since we need him to stay alert for the whole race period.

Roselle and I shared the room and we both couldn’t sleep. After resting for an hour we started getting ready. She was in good spirits except for the occasional “Carmsmatapos ko kaya ang race?” (Carms, can I finish the race?) Roselle refrained from replying to her text messages so that she could start focusing on the race. She did not want to carry her cellphone while running but I had to be firm and insisted she should. The moment I said that I felt I was now wearing my support crew hat. We were not there to baby her, but to look after her.  

On our way out for dinner en route to the starting line, it started to rain and felt chilly. Good thing it didn’t last for long by the time we reached KM 0 it was merely drizzling.  We escorted Roselle to where all the runners gathered and as expected, a lot of them wanting to do photo ops and pose at the starting line with Race Director Sir Jovie a.k.a Baldrunner. After taking a couple of shots of Roselle we hurriedly left for KM 7. As a race policy our first meet up with our runner was at that point. There was a handful of support vehicles already parked when we got there.

KM 0 – KM 50

Raff and Arnel (our vehicle driver) handing out Pocari drink

The support crews around us were just as energized as the runners themselves. Cheering broke the silence of the cold night when the first runner arrived. The thrill of waiting for your runner pass by was equally exciting as we watched the others breeze through. One after the other the parked vehicles started to move again after meeting up with their runners.


It was rather easy to locate the kilometer markers because of the swarm of cars and vans parked on the side. As each vehicle opened its trunk you can tell we all had the same stuff: gallons of water, ice chests, bananas, Gatorade, rubber shoes and towels.

The cool wind of Bataan blew through the night almost lulling us to sleep, but from 10pm till 12midnight we were up on our toes and resisted dozing off. Roselle requested that we meet up every 3km from the planned 5km because of the dark. We realized it was unreliable to watch out for the markers because there were missing ones. There was one time I saw an almost submerged marker I had to get down from the vehicle, stoop and take a picture to figure out which marker number it was. While at it, I started feeling something crawling on my feet ….ants! I jumped and dashed to the van. Raff was not spared and we were both scratching the next 10 minutes. 
Tarp placed at the back of each support vehicle

In between our meet up with her, our entertainment came in the form of watching Karate Kid and Raff’s harvest time for his Smurf’s Village game. One time, we were so engrossed watching the movie we didn’t notice she ran past us!

We choreographed an ala-Broadway-left-right kick while chanting “all the way” as we welcomed her at several points. Aside from keeping our energy up, we were trying to keep her in a good mood, too. At times we had bits and pieces of the story behind Bataan Death March. To say it was an interesting conversation piece is an understatement.

By 2am everything slowed down. We were seeing less and less support vehicles, and our adrenalin was starting to crash. As the lone female, I was challenged to relieve myself since I didn’t have the luxury of options. My first stop was at a “bar”, not the Makati-kind of bar, with a few ladies sending off their male customers out the door. Our driver had to come with me so he could use his charms while seeking permission for my free use.

I needed to go again 2 hours after, this time at a police headquarters near a municipality office. What else can I say but, “when you gotta go, you gotta go” even if it means having to close your eyes and shutting off your sense of smell.
Roselle telling Raff her Nike Lunar Glide is causing her some discomforts
Around this time, she was approaching her KM 42 and no major complaints yet, except for a change in her running shoes plus, “Pagod na ako.” (I’m tired.) All we had to say was, “Selle, done with your first “mary”, isa pa OK ka na!” (Selle, done with your first “mary”, one more time then everything’s OK!) We were planning on buying decent breakfast but we couldn’t find any. No choice but to wait at KM 50 where all runners and support crew meet up once again. While waiting for her, we started making our hot drinks plus the peanut butter with banana sandwich courtesy of Raff; our “little kitchen” got busy. First thing she wanted to do was change into fresh clothes, but with that, only had little time left to eat breakfast. Raff was constantly calculating her time vs. her pace and we had to cut short her break time if we want to meet the cut-off time. 
The little kitchen at the back of the car


KM 51 –KM 80

This started between 7am-8am. The weather was the opposite of the day before. It was bright and sunny which translates to h-o-t, which is not so good. We were hoping to have some drizzle and rain showers but the sky was too clear and far from cloudy.

Roselle on her way to the Municipality of Samal,Bataan 
We had to prepare our stock of ice and fill up our chest to prepare for the long, humid day ahead of us. Out came the hand towels and spray bottle as we soaked them in a separate pail. From KM 50 – KM 65 we were meeting her every 5 KM. But after that, she requested to meet up every 2.5 KM. The heat was starting to feel unbearable.

When we reached KM 70 (around 10 AM) our meet ups became more frequent at every 1 – 1.5KM.  It was obvious the heat was draining her. Raff placed a rolled-up bandanna with ice cubes in it around Roselle’s nape; while I sprayed ice-cold water non-stop on her face and legs. She has been complaining of her sunburned legs plus some discomfort on her thighs she kept requesting for liniment. She was no longer running or jogging. She walked slowly the next 10-15 KMs. 
Busy as a bee every time our runner stops

We did not wait anymore for her to approach the van. As soon as we saw her, Raff and I took turns in running towards her, either with the cold drink or spray bottle. It was also necessary that many times both of us had to run to her aid. It was becoming more and more tedious to feed her, she was resisting even her GU. At this point, we had several food trays with different variations of food  which we kept switching. It was only Jelly Ace she feasted on and never turned it down. Sometimes she would not even want to sip her drink. 

KM 80 – KM 90

No matter how much we pushed her, it was evident she was wrestling from within. Her weakened voice, with the same question over and over, “Kaya ko pa ba? Abot ba ako sa cut-off?” was getting into us. (Do you think I can still make it to the cut-off time?)

How else to cheer her on? Raff asked me for new lines to say but I replied, “What else do you say when she keeps asking the same thing?

This is the area where support vehicles had to take a detour and leave their runner for about 7 KMs. It was almost 12 high noon, air was dry and dusty everywhere. We felt helpless not being able to be with Roselle. As Raff made another time computation, we almost surrendered to the idea she might not meet the cut-off time and instead he said, “Let’s pray…”  At that moment, all I could think of was for her to finish the race in one piece with no serious injury.  The three of us were quiet, Raff and our driver took a quick nap, while I stared into the distance. Feeling poignant as I recalled again Bataan Death March, and under these circumstances gave me an idea of what the soldiers struggled with… 
Waiting ...
After waiting for almost an hour, we finally spotted Roselle. Without telling her of our time computation, we went about the usual routine while still cheering her on. We were faking our emotions like seasoned performers! Raff couldn’t have said it any better when he told her to “just walk faster and don’t stop”.

KM 90 – Finish line

Roselle slowly started to pick up her pace. It was a combined walk-jog-walk this time. We had this target runner and she kept an eye on this one.  Funny that she would still remind us to take our lunch and finish off the food we had. Without her knowing that we had skipped our meal, we simply said, “Yes” whenever she would check on us.

With the sun beating down on us, Raff and I were spending more time now on the road than inside the van. We played it by ear and disregarded any KM reading. Cold drink plus cold towel compress on her legs was what we gave her with forced small bites of banana or choco bar. She kept asking, “Malayo pa?” (Is it still far?) and our usual reply was, “Sus, konti na lang.” We made it sound as if she had just a few hundred meters to go! She had her second wind, and we just have to give that final push. At the rate she was going, we knew she was actually going to meet the cut-off time as long as she refrained from walking.

Roselle’s drive at this point was to get it over and done with. For us, it was eager anticipation as well. Just as she was drained, we were exhausted. With the remaining 5 KMs, we decided not to get in her way so as not to lose her momentum. She kept flashing her thumbs up sign as we cruised past her. 
Roselle’s walk-jog-walk strategy … almost there

And finally, after more than 17 hours, we made our last turn. Raff and I got down from the van, and walked on the left side of the road as we waited for Roselle from the bend to cross the finish line. The crowd cheered on.  I took a shot of her before crossing the line. She did it! Raff and I were silent. Our mission accomplished we can now start relaxing.

She did it!
(L-R: Carmen, Roselle, Race Director Sir Jovie a.k.a. Baldrunner, Raff, and Dhenz)

Post Race Insights

1.       I now have a deeper appreciation for Bataan Death March and why it is a significant part of our history.  Every Filipino should get to know this story.

2.       Being a support crew is a lot of work! And you take this seriously. Do not volunteer if your intention is to simply have a field trip and take pictures. It is work.

3.       Be ready not to get any sleep, nor have a decent meal. Most of all, you can’t complain.

4.       Stay alert at all times and move fast. You make proper coordination with your runner every meet up; you watch out for the markers or synchronize your vehicle’s odometer; you plan ahead and prepare the food before your runner reaches your vehicle. This goes on non-stop for 18 hours.

5.       It pays to have at least one experienced BDM support crew in the team. Hats off to Raff for good planning, I’ve learned to put balance in preparing an ultramarathoner’s food tray.

6.       As the support crew, we are our runner’s number one fans! *We let them ramble, complain, cry but we stay strong and positive for them. We don’t give in to their negativity.

Raff and I had to put on our happy faces and a cheerful disposition every time we would meet up Roselle.  Despite the fact that we were also running low because of no sleep and limited food intake. It was almost scripted and routine whenever we say, “Madami din naglalakad; keep going steady lang!” in an animated fashion. And the many times Roselle would lament, “Kaya ko ba ito?” we were quick to catch that with, “Sus, madami ka ng nalampasan!” As soon as we retreat to our vans we would calculate and start to worry about the cut-off time. In fact, when we reached the 12th hour (around 10am next day), we hit critical point because she was slowing down due to heat and exhaustion. Raff said a couple of times, “Start to pray.
7.       Volunteer at least once in your running career lifetime for BDM 102. It is not just a race, but a remembrance in honor of our fallen soldiers. It is a glimpse into our dark past. And we dare say never again.
The inscription at the back of KM 102 marker


Behind Every Runner’s Success…

My way of saying “thank you” to those who made my PAU ultramarathon experience in Ilocos Norte possible.

Every runner’s success are people who support fellow runners in whatever they can without asking for any reward. They are also our cheerers and source of strength. Their job is ensuring needs are met during the race. They share our victory as we reach the finish line.

Our support volunteers, our heroes, from L-R: Pepsi, Jai, Maan, JR, and Joy

There are those who do the legwork ensuring that we get the best yet cheap and comfortable accommodation and even design our itinerary so we could maximize our stay in Ilocos Norte. Carina aka Flying Boar, an ultramarathoner herself, prepares well-organized travel plans–from booking reservations to designing our itinerary.

There are those who, without being told, help in buying the supplies needed during the race. They act as our treasurers in the group. Thanks to Pojie (2nd from right) and Gab (next to Pojie).

There are those who make our visit worthwhile. The parish priest in Pasuquin makes us feel so welcome in their community. I also discover the strengths of Takbo.ph runners and lucky enough to witness these.

There are those who are nice enough to send photos they took of me during the race. Super thanks to Doc Toto, Pepsi, Doc Topher, Dhenz, Craig and Michelle Logan, John Jeff Avellanosa, Dan Callanta, and Carina.


Thank you Takbo.ph runners! Never a boring moment being with you guys.

Until next time!

Needed Volunteers for Relief Efforts

Just doing this to help out in my own small way.

RELIEF GOODS

Angel Brigade Drop Off Center needs more volunteers to repack 1000 bags. Rizal Drive corner 4th Street, Bonifacio Global City (across Pacific Plaza Towers). It is open from 7AM-10PM. Let’s continue the Bayanihan spirit!

San Antonio Church Makati needs help loading relief goods tonight. Please proceed to San Antonio Parish Center rooms 1-4.

If you are in the Makati area, you can drop off your donations at Santuario de San Antonio, McKinley Road. They are packing the relief goods also for RC. A summary below of how the relief packs are made by the RC so if you can already pack what you are donating that would save the RC volunteers time. Please mark your plastic bags so that RC volunteers will know what’s inside.

Bulk of the work there is in segregating the donation of clothes, linen, towels and mats and packing these into small plastic bags in the following manner:

Pack A: (packed in plastic bag then rolled in a small banig and tied by string/lubid)
– 1 small banig
– 1 towel
– 1 set, adult clothes
– 1 set, child clothes
(rolled bundle is about 24 in. in length-like a lumpia)

Pack B: (all packed in plastic bag)
– linen
– 1 towel
– 1 set, adult clothes
– 1 set, child clothes

Please segregate and pack in this manner to save the RC the trouble of sorting and repacking.

The Shaw office hasn’t started segregating the food donations as of 5pm, so just bring the boxes there as you will.

Recommended donation for food:

small canned goods (sardines, corned beef, luncheon meat)
instant noodles
mineral water

Here’s the type of food that they will be needing:
– bottled water
– instant noodles
– biscuits
– canned goods

Others: clothes + linen + towels
Pls make sure that clothes are wearable
balikbayan boxes also and blankets and banigs

Ateneo is still open for donations. We are much in need of canned goods. Please proceed to the college covered courts if you are near the area. You can also volunteer in the clean up operations in Provident Village, Nangka in Marikina, and other Gawad Kalinga sites of Ateneo. Contact Mark Lawrence Cruz of GK-Ateneo 09178933003. Let’s all do our best to help out in anyway we can.

Cainta, Rizal is one of the worst hit municipalities by the typhoon outside of Metro Manila. Right now, they really need cooked food. This is an emergency measure for the time being because some of the victims haven’t eaten the past couple of days and have no way to cook their own food. The relief goods that you can send immediately apart from food are warm clothes, blankets, medicines. If you can send immediate help please contact Rica Cuyugan at 09172700392 and 09228838972. The roads to Cainta are still flooded so they will also need trucks to transport the relief goods there. If you want to volunteer, you can also contact Rox Oquendo of KIDS Foundation at 09228543733. Please spread the word.