Chilly WonderRun: the Baguio Race

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)