Tag Archives: Long distance running

Team 7-Eleven Philippines Dominates Jeju International Tourism Marathon

Jeju Island, South Korea – “Race safe, enjoy and make 7-Eleven and the Philippines proud,” said 7-Eleven Run series project head Michelle Saludes to  Filipino runners on race day morning at the 23rd Jeju International Tourism Marathon Festival held at Gujwa Life Sports Park in South Korea’s Jeju Island.

Eleven Filipino runners of Team 7-Eleven Philippines competed in the recently held 23rd Jeju International Tourism Marathon Festival in Jeju Island, South Korea.

Eleven Filipino runners made it to the race courtesy of 7-Eleven Philippines as part of their prize for landing within the top three spots of this year’s 7-Eleven Run Series held in February. The runners lived up to expectations and grabbed top spots in the 21-kilometer and 42-kilometer categories.

The Team 7-Eleven Philippines delegation to Jeju Island, South Korea was composed of 11 Filipino elite runners and executives of the Philippine Seven Corporation.

Fresh from her training camp in Italy, Olympic medalist and marathon queen Mary Joy Tabal showed her winning form to dominate in the 21K race clocking at 1:18:44 besting Japanese and Korean elite runners who placed second and third respectively.  “I wasn’t able to break my personal record, but I am satisfied and happy with my overall performance. This race serves as an evaluation of my training and a good warm-up for me for the Asian Games next month,” said Tabal who left for Italy next day to continue with her training.

From left to right: Richard Salaño (2nd male), Ruffa Sorongon (4th female), Mary Joy Tabal (1st female), Christabel Martes (5th female), Prince Joey Lee (5th male), and Jerald Zabala (6th male) run the 21K race at the 23rd Jeju International Tourism Marathon Festival.

Ruffa Sorongon and Christabel Martes, who directly came from their successful 10K race in last week’s Philippine National Games, took the fourth and fifth podium spots of the 21K category to complete the Female Top 5.

From left to right: Richeel Languido (3rd male), Maricar Camacho (2nd female), Judelyn Miranda (1st female), Bryan Quiamco (2nd male) and Rafael Pestos (4th male). All made it to the podium of the 42K race of the 23rd Jeju International Tourism Marathon Festival.

Richard Salaño, Bulacan’s “Kenyan Slayer” settled for a number two finish in the 21K male category, clocking at 1:11:19.  Cebu’s Prince Joey Lee and Cagayan de Oro’s Jerald Zabala settled for the fifth and sixth place respectively.  It was Lee’s and Zabala’s first race outside the Phiippines.

Meanwhile, Filipino runners also reigned in the 42K category . Bryan Quiamco, who earned his slot by winning the third spot of the 42K race of the 7-Eleven Race Series in February, took runner-up honors by finishing at 2:37:03.  Richeel Languido grabbed third place while Rafael Pescos placed fourth.

On the distaff side, the Filipinas ruled as veteran Davaoeña runner Judelyn Miranda covered the challenging course in 3:16:03 to bag the crown and beat teammate Maricar Camacho who finished at 3:26:55 to settle for second place.

“Para sa akin amazing ang laro na ito kasi kapos ako sa ensayo pero naglakas-loob akong lumaban sa laro na ito dahil dala ko ang bandera ng ating bansa. Salamat sa 7-Eleven Philippines na nagsuporta sa aming lahat na makapunta kami sa South Korea,” said Judelyn Miranda when asked about her win. “For me, this race is amazing because even if I lacked training, I bravely went on to race because I am carrying our flag. Thank you to 7-Eleven Philippines who supported all of us in going to South Korea.”

“We are very satisfied with Team 7-Eleven Philippines’ performance here at the 23rd Jeju International Tourism Marathon Festival. 7-Eleven Philippines will continue with its program to nurture and support our Filipino runners who aspire to get the chance to represent the country in an international race. With that, we encourage them to prepare well and we’ll see them on February 3, 2019 for the 2019 7-Eleven Run Series,” shared 7-Eleven general merchandise division head Jose C. Ang, Jr. when asked about the team’s performance.

Team 7-Eleven Philippines posed for a victory photo together with 7-Eleven Philippines’ marketing director Jackie Lay (standing), general merchandise division head Jose C. Ang, Jr. (seated), and 7-Eleven Run Series project head Michelle Saludes (seated).

Since 2013, 7-Eleven Philippines have given Filipino elite runners a chance to compete in the international arena by bringing them to a foreign running race, all expenses paid  and needs taken cared of plus pocket money.  Runners who successfully finish in any of the top three overall spots in their respective category will not only get to bring home the race prizes, but also receive a bonus cash prize from 7-Eleven Philippines.

The participation of Filipino runners at the 23rd Jeju International Tourism Marathon Festival was made possible through the efforts of Philippine Seven Corporation together with the valuable support of Asics as exclusive sportswear partner, Smart and ESPN as media partners, and sponsors Selecta Ice Cream, Nature Spring Water, Gatorade, Summit water, Del Monte, Fit and Right, Active, Blue Flavored water, San Miguel beer, Le Minerale, SIP water, Sosro fruit tea, Safeguard, Kopiko 78, Aquafina, Cheetos, Pocari Sweat, and Evian.

Find Your Strong

I was out jogging around the neighborhood when a thought struck me.  “What is that sport that I can do at my own time, at my own pace, and not so expensive?” Running was the answer.  Well, I thought it wasn’t expensive, but it turned out I was wrong. It was sometime in 2007.

From finishing a three-kilometer benefit run to marathons to ultramarathons—be they road or trail races—it made me move forward to continuously challenge myself.  To be honest, I did not know I could run more than 42 kilometers or even more than a hundred kilometers at the same time, exposed to the elements, or running under the scorching heat of the sun, or running in the rain.   But my first love was swimming.  I first learned to swim late in life. In fact, I was already in my 20s when I first learned the basics of swimming, but it was never too late to try something new.

Combined with my ability to run, I experienced my first aquathlon race, a 400m swim-7K run-400m swim, in Corregidor Island in 2009.  The following year, I had the chance meeting in person at an event, one of the living legends in the arena of ultramarathon running, Scott Jurek.  At some point that day, he signed autographs for the attendees.  What I received from Scott was, “Running Diva, dig deep!” he told me.  I was impressed, and began to think what it meant. In the end, it took me five years to fully understand the implications of the value of what he wrote.  For in mid-February of 2015, I got my first road bike from two great friends.  Yeah, it was a second-hand bike from owners who like me were also runners.  Let us anonymously named these two as Maui and Coach Ige.  Owning a bike now, I signed up for the first time a 40-kilometer bike race having no formal fitness training in cycling.  More about this crazy cycling story here.  Later that same year, I signed up for 2016 Cobra IRONMAN 70.3.   It’s IRONMAN 70.3, Running Diva! It was my way of testing my limits to bring me closer to what Scott wrote.  Dig deep.  You’re in.   Daunting!

A triathlon (tri) is a multiple-stage competition involving three disciplines of swimming, cycling, and running.  The format is always like that.  Swim, bike, and run.  A triathlete trains and devotes time for each discipline.  Another important aspect of triathlon includes two transitions. Transition one or T1 swings from swimming to cycling.  Transition two or T2 changes from cycling to running.  And the time accumulated to change in these two transitions are included in overall time of a triathlon.  The usual progression of a beginner triathlete is to usually transition from Sprint distance to Olympic distance to Half Ironman to long course triathlon, and finally, to Ironman. Or, to some athletes they progress by joining multisport events such as aquathlon (swim-run) and duathlon (bike-run) before attempting triathlon.

In 2016, I trained and completed my first Half Ironman distance triathlon in Cebu City.  Prior to this, I only had completed (and won third place in my Age Group) a Sprint and two-kilometer open water swimming. I believe my background in running really helped me complete the competition. It was not perfect, not really fast, but I finished strong.  That was my goal.  And, I achieved it.

The races that followed after finishing the Half Ironman distance were Sprint and Standard courses. Earlier this year, I have run a marathon in Cebu City, and raced in a cycling event in Indonesia, a UCI Gran Fondo World Series Tour de Bintan that included stand-alone events like the 17K Individual Time Trial and the 144K Gran Fondo Classic.  Both of these cycling events were geared to finishing an Ironman in the near future.  Crossing my fingers.

Now talking of tri, this brings me to the exciting part of this post about this upcoming event happening this month, the TRI-Factor Asian Championship Series.  The action will take place  on May 25 to 27 at the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex. It features various tri distances to test the mettle of the veteran triathletes, beginners, and enthusiasts. This is such a huge boost for this growing sport across the Asian region since most countries such as ours, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and China have the best beaches ideal for a tri race. In our country alone, with so many to choose from, the islands have hidden coves and beautiful sandy beaches for such a demanding sport that requires courses for swimming, biking, and running.  I have known some friends who will be doing this tri race.  And, I wish them all the best of luck!

With tri getting so much attention, is it the new strong?  Maybe.  Possibly. So what your strong? Swimming? Biking? Or, doing other fitness sports? To “find your strong” means whatever sport you are in and as long you put time, and is passionately pursuing it, not one sport is stronger than the other.  In my IMHO, what makes the sport strong is because of you.  Yes, you, the athlete.

Having the strong mindset, the willingness to appreciate mental preparation training (at the expense of losing your social life, well, temporarily, of course), striking the right work life balance, learning techniques to improve performance, and dealing with stressors, setbacks including losses are what makes you strong. Almost all sports have these elements. It will be like this: 90% mental and the other percentage is for physical.

You are strong when you put your heart to it. You are strong when you stay committed and focus. You are strong that even when you fail or lost or knock down (or you crash, or you are in a cast because of a fracture), you get right back up.

A real winner doesn’t have to be a title holder or a gold medalist.  I have had my share of going up on the podium and collecting medals and trophies. To me, the real winner is when you do whatever it takes to achieve your goal, and be the best you can be, the Best Version of Yourself.   

7-Eleven Run 2018, 4 Feb. 2018

Once again, 7-Eleven country licensee Philippine Seven Corporation is hosting one of the most anticipated running events in the country on 4 Feb. 2018!

This year, 7-Eleven is not only happening in Manila but also in Cebu and Davao all at the same time!  In Manila, 7-Eleven Run 2018 features nine categories. From 500m Kids’ Run to full marathon or 42K. Meanwhile, the Cebu and Davao running events have eight and seven categories respectively.  Please note that the 500m Kids’ Run is only available in Manila.  Also, the 5K-Buddy Run is not available in Davao.

Run 2018 is also made possible with 7-Eleven’s unique system of self-selected wave starts which allows participants to choose their wave start and run either with friends or with challengers of the same pace!

Three winners in each category will be announced on race day, and will receive cash prizes and medals.  In addition, the top three (3) overall Filipino male and female placers of the 21K and 42K from all three locations will get a chance to participate in an international marathon in Asia all expenses paid.

To join, simply register online at Run711 and pay the corresponding fees at any 7-Eleven stores within 48 hours. Race kits can be claimed on the date indicated in the receipt and at the 7-Eleven store where payment was made.  Registration is only until January 23.

Having 20,000 registrants last year, Run 2018 event aims to be the biggest and most exciting of the series yet.

7-Eleven Run 2018 is held in partnership with Asics.  It is also brought to you by Selecta, Nature’s Spring, Summit, Gatorade, Del Monte, Fit ‘N Right Isotonic Drink, Cheetos, Aquafina, Pocari Sweat, Evian, Kopiko 78, Le Minerale, San Miguel Beer, B’lue, Sip Purified Water, Sorso Fruit Tea, Milo, Safeguard, Grab, and Caltex including media partners Cignal, Hyper, Smart, ABS-CBN Publishing, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Bulletin, Summit Media, ESPN, and Solar Sports.

With the continuous success of the 7-Eleven Run series since 2013, this favorite “kapitbahay” (neighbor) will once again bring families, runners, and people from all ages together for another day of freebies, fitness, and fun!  Follow 7-Eleven Run series on Facebook to get the latest updates.  Use the hash tag #711run2018 and join in on the conversation.

National Geographic Earth Day Run 2017

On 23 Apr. 2017 marks another milestone for National Geographic (NG), which celebrates eight years of holding Earth Day Run (EDR), raising consciousness on environmental issues and health including social awareness through fitness with special program features using the hash tag #8withEDR.

The event encourages and welcomes all types of Eco Warriors to take part—from fun runners of all ages to serious recreational athletes who regularly compete. The event will be held not only in Manila but also in the cities of Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, and Taichung, an initiative that was adopted last year to effectively spread the vision and advocacy of EDR across Asia.  EDR in Manila will be held at the SM Mall of Asia grounds where participants can choose a 5K, 10K, 21K, or 42K distance category.

“Earth Day Run 2017 will be the biggest version of the race yet, with more expected participants from Manila and four other cities across Asia. We’re also excited to look back on our eight years of environmental advocacy and share and celebrate with our runners the positive change that they helped make possible through the years by joining Earth Day Run. We hope that Earth Day Run 2017 not only brings communities of running enthusiasts together for the common cause of saving the environment but also that it amplifies the important message of doing your own part today to help stop climate change and commit to sustainable solutions to save our beloved planet Earth,” said FOX Networks Group Philippines director and head of content and marketing Charo Espedido.

Last year, EDR participants ran to support causes such as saving the Irawaddy dolphins at the Malampaya Sound Research and Conservation Project in Palawan; giving the Earth Hour or Gift of Life Village in Monreal, Masbate sustainable solutions to reduce carbon footprint; conservation of the marine protected area and coral reef in Apo Reef in Occidental Mindoro; and, beefing up reforestation efforts at the Ipo Watershed in Bulacan, which is one of Metro Manila’s sources of water supply.

Presented by the channel and its partners Cherifer Premium and World Wildlife Fund for Nature, EDR aims to continue the tradition of being one of the biggest running events in the country, expecting scores of running enthusiasts with the hopes of mobilizing all Eco Warriors of previous EDRs to register and run for the environment.

This year’s event welcomes all previously registered participants with VIP treatment and special loyalty perks to be enjoyed on the day of the run. They will be given priority placement in front of the starting line at the beginning of the race and can claim their loot bag and finisher shirt at a special express booth. They can also make use of a special warm-up and cool down tent before and after the race to condition them and recover in comfort.


To top it off, EDR will also be sporting new features for its runners. As a special treat, all race kits will come with LED shoelaces, serving as a badge of pride and as a safety precaution for Eco Warriors running at night or before sunrise. Prizes will also be given to costumed runners who showcase their creativity by coming in their best ensemble made from recycled materials.

Finisher’ medal and shirt

To make each Eco Warrior’s voice heard in this run for the Earth, advocacy banners will be hanging above the finish line so that each runner can grab them as they cross to make a shout-out for the environment, keep as a souvenir, and use for all their post-run selfies to amplify the message of acting now to save the environment.

New participants can also join the celebrations by visiting the EDR Gallery at the Race Village to learn what the event has accomplished over the years including its environmental and social initiatives, and how their participation will make a significant impact on certain communities in the Philippines and how their actions as individuals will affect the environment.

Runners at EDR will not only experience a fun day of outdoor fitness, but also be doing their part in contributing to NG’s environmental efforts.

Registration will start on March 1 and end on April 16.  For more information and other details on how to register, please visit National Geographic Earth Day Run website.

Guest Post: The Curious Case of Mary Joy Tabal : What it truly means for her to represent the Philippines in the Rio Olympics

Disclaimer: The views and issues expressed in this article are of the author of the guest post and NOT necessarily the views of RUNNING DIVA.

The curious case of Mary Joy Tabal:  what it truly means for her to represent the Philippines in the Rio Olympics / [by] Edward Kho

The running community recently celebrated the success of Mary Joy Tabal hitting the Olympic standard for marathon. Joy ran a 2:43:30-hour marathon time at the 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon, beating the 2:45-hour standard for her to join the Olympics. While the running community celebrates, there are mixed feelings inside the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA).

PATAFA is the national governing body for athletics sports such as track and field, road running, cross country running, and race walking in the Philippines. It provides guidance and support to select athletes to perform their best and represent the country.  PATAFA has a rich history of coaching, even enroling the help of athletes like the legendary Dick Beardsley to help with training its athletes. PATAFA is responsible for selecting the official track and field delegation of the Philippines to the Olympics. But it has a sad history with Mary Joy Tabal.

In October 2014, Mary Joy Tabal, along with other standout athletes, was recommended by the coaching staff to be included in the national team. Four months later in February 2015, PATAFA communicated Tabal’s official inclusion to national team. This means that she is now part of the privileged few who would receive coaching so that she can represent the country in milestone events like the SEA Games and the Olympics.

Part of PATAFA’s responsibilities would be to keep national athletes at their best.  It means helping them make choices on training, including the races to run. This is very important for long distance events like the marathon. In elite athletics, marathoners should not take part in more than two marathon races within a span of 12 months. Based on scientific studies, participation in a marathon taxes the body tremendously down to the cellular level.

From a layman’s standpoint, Elites may just appear as running effortlessly at a constant pace for 42KM. But inside the body of the elite marathoner running an average pace of 3:45min/KM is a totally different story. Running a marathon at this pace imposes a huge demand on the different physiological systems of the body.  It strains the bones and joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, to the extent that challenges the maximal limit of the athlete’s body.

PATAFA takes care of its long distance athletes that is why these physiological facts are explained to the athletes in detail. It is also why PATAFA requires agreement to rules and regulations that come with being part of the National team. This includes consistently informing PATAFA of athletic activities that may potentially hinder performance in offical events where the country is represented.

Joy Tabal was a special case. Because of her talent, she was granted certain exceptions. For example, while other athletes were required to relocate to the Philsports training camp and be supervised by duly designated national coaches, Joy was allowed to be based in Cebu. She received special treatment upon her request.  It was an assumption that her personal coach would be able to provide guidance, but with inputs from PATAFA.   Slowly, these exceptions, became a source of alarm to PATAFA.

Tabal began racing without discretion; meaning, she runs and wins events but with a long term negative impact on her legs. Prior to her inclusion into the national team, Tabal won the December 2014 Milo Marathon Finals. Apart from the cash prize she, she and the male marathon champion Rafael Poliquit were awarded an all expense paid entry to the 2015 Los Angeles (LA) Marathon. They were, of course, advised by the PATAFA leadership to forego the LA Marathon trip as it would impact their training for the forthcoming 2015 SEA Games.

Participating too soon in a race would also adversely affect their long term athletic performance. Aside from this, PATAFA had already developed a two-year program for both of them to reach their optimum potential as marathoners with the 2016 Olympics as the ultimate goal. This meant being selective with their races, to give the Philippines the best opportunity during the Olympic games. Unfortunately, both advice and explanation went unheeded.

Both Tabal and Poliquit raced the LA Marathon without sanction from PATAFA. Upon their return from the US, they were asked to submit a letter of explanation why they have disregarded the express advise of PATAFA.

Immediately, Poliquit drew up a letter of apology, citing error in judgment for his non-compliance and promised to abide with the NSA directives and regulations from then on. Poliquit’s case was then resolved and closed. Tabal’s case had a different twist.   Instead of writing a letter of apology, or explanation at the very least, Tabal wrote a lengthy letter of justification for her decision. She cited that Milo pressured her to join the LA Marathon as part of her “contractual” obligation in winning the Milo Marathon.

PATAFA sought the side of Milo; the latter denied that it ever pressured Tabal to run the LA Marathon. They maintained that the LA Marathon participation was actually a privilege for the Milo Marathon winners, and not an obligation. In short, it was up to the winners to take that privilege. They were disappointed that Tabal lied.   But the racing continued.  Even after the LA Marathon, Tabal went on joining local races, with 21K as minimum distances. She continued to disregard her obligation as a National Team member, disheartening teammates who abided by the PATAFA guidelines, and lowered her chances of peak performance at the 2015 SEA Games where she was to represent the country.  While disappointed, PATAFA retained their belief in Tabal.

Some officers saw Tabal’s potential and the missed opportunity if she won’t be able to compete in the SEA Games. With insistent prodding, Tabal submitted an apology message so that she can compete. Instead of writing a formal apology letter, she sent a short casual text message to PATAFA President Philip Juico.   Juico, in his genuineness, never took slight and believed in Tabal’s apology over SMS. He took it as an indication of Tabal’s sincerity. Tabal then competed in the SEA Games and as predicted, ran very poorly with a time of 3:15 hours. Her time was estimated to be at least 20 minutes better had she listened to the PATAFA and kept her commitment as a National Team athlete.   Right after the SEA Games, PATAFA learned that Tabal was again joining a string of local long distance races. This included a triathlon event that would severely impact the long term plans for the Olympics.

PATAFA leadership was very unhappy with Tabal’s decisions, and what they discovered to be her unmanageable and prideful attitude. They directed her to submit a letter of explanation for the unsanctioned activities and for continuing to disregard her responsibilities as a National Athlete.   Tabal responded on August 13, 2015: a 3-page, impeccably written, legalese sounding resignation letter. Saddened by the loss of potential, PATAFA President Philip Juico accepted her resignation.

All the while, as she continued winning races, Tabal remains a hero.  She is fast and strong, and there was never a mention of how she conducts herself outside of the races. She is portrayed as a hero. In fact, a Cinderella who trains on her own and blossoms into a winner in all the events she joins. This is the reason why PATAFA is having such a conflicted time with Joy’s qualification to the Olympic Standard.  Achieving the standard is an eligibility to be included in the competition; it is not an outright prerogative.

In order to join the Olympics, Tabal first needed to make herself be part of the national team and commit herself to the team and to the body that governs the team.  But she was unwilling to make that commitment and in fact, voluntarily resigned from the National Team in 2015. Everyone immediately presumes Tabal’s inclusion into the Philippine Olympic team. But that presumption is tantamount to penalizing all national team members who have toiled under the challenging conditions of being a national athlete and remained faithful to the sport and the association.

After all of what Tabal has demonstrated to PATAFA, it is now a difficult decision to endorse her as a representative of the Philippines, selected to mirror the ideals and attitudes of the country. This decision matters because Tabal will never win the Olympics.

Her participation is a matter of pride for the Philippines, and supposedly a personal honor for her.   Tabal’s qualifying time is 2:43 hours. She is far from the Women’s leading time of 2:19 hours, while the top 23rd women marathoner clocked in at 2:27 hours. “Team B” qualifiers for the US Team is 2:45 hours. By extrapolation, Tabal’s time will put her outside the top 100. If ever she makes it in the Olympics, right before she steps into the starting line, she’s already guaranteed to land on the tail end of the race. Also, by refusing to listen to PATAFA guidance, Tabal is sure to have destroyed her legs for the Olympics.  She has run two hard marathons in the span of one month in order to qualify. In all practical consideration, her participation will not even be felt by her competitors.

Tabal’s participation in the Olympics was never about her winning it. She was to be groomed as the representation of the Filipino athlete. Talented, driven, and passionate about the sport. PATAFA knows that she will never win, but does she truly deserve to represent the sport? The cost of her participation will be shouldered by taxpayers, and it is PATAFA’s choice to send her or not.  Sadly, it now seems like asking Filipinos to chip in to fund a millennial who wants to prove an egotistical point.  That an athlete can be undisciplined and disrespectful, so long as a qualifying time is met. People are celebrating, but what are they truly celebrating? It is PATAFA’s opinion that perhaps, with more maturity and humility, Mary Joy Tabal can represent the country for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

102 KM All the Way! : My BDM Experience


This post is dedicated to all the heroes and survivors of the Bataan Death March,
with thanks for their courage and sacrifice.

I know.  I know.  It took me so long to write about my Bataan Death March (BDM) race.  Well, writing about it was kind of difficult.  I so wanted to capture great moments, but every time I started to hit the computer keys, I found it hard how to begin my story.  Goodness!  It was a 102-kilometer run you know.  Not easy.  And if I would write it piece by piece, I was afraid I couldn’t finish it. 

Like what I’ve said in my previous post, the longest ultramarathon I did was the seventy-kilometer race in Ilocos Norte last year.  I was anxious really what would happen to me in the next 32 kilometers.  I was apprehensive of the unknown, especially, after seeing the route and the long road ahead. 
KM 102, Old San Fernando (Pampanga) Railroad Station
KM 00, Where the Death March in 1942 started
Mr. Arnel, our able and patient driver

Running 102 kilometers?





Mind you, I’ve asked myself many, many times, “

What did I get myself into?”

Saturday was cloudy. It rained hours before the race started.  It was for this reason why I brought a wind breaker. It was windy at the zero-kilometer mark.  I, together with my support crew, had a quick dinner at Jollibee, the only fast food near the starting line.  Surprised to see quite a number of BDM 102 runners.  I also saw some familiar faces, especially those who have finished the first 100-miler the previous weekend like Isko, who introduced me to some of his friends and wished me well.  Sixth placer Totoy was also there to bid me good luck.  Truly, when you’re in an ultramarathon, it’s one big family.  At around 10 PM, runners gathered at the 00 KM for sign in then a short program started with the saying of a prayer and the singing of the national anthems of Japan, United States, and Philippines.  Then the countdown began …

With Race Director Sir Jovie at the starting line

Having no specific strategy how to tackle the distance, my thoughts went back to what I’ve learned in my ultramarathon races.  That is, to not start too fast (the advice I got from an ultramarathon runner based in Germany), walk the uphill and run at a comfortable pace.

From starting line up to three kilometers I considered it as warm up.  I walked the succeeding kilometers up to KM 7.  It was dark.  And all you could see from afar were the reflectors worn by runners and, of course, those lights attached on their heads and bodies.

I could no longer remember how many times I recited prayers while walking. It distracted me from sensing that eerie feeling of being with someone when I had no one with me, or seeing something in front of me except those runners ahead of me.  My imagination perhaps was playing tricks on me.  I soon realized retracing the footsteps of the prisoners of war (POWs) and of those who perished during the infamous Death March in 1942 was no easy exploit.

The mood at KM 7 was somewhat festive as runners, one by one, reached the site where most of the support vehicles waited.  It was here that I requested my support crew to wait and meet me every five kilometers.  Running along the dark highway for quite sometime, however, had a different effect on me.  I felt so alone (and somewhat vulnerable to any danger). So I requested them to wait every 2.5 kilometers.

Since I didn’t use my GF 305 watch, I had no idea of the distance I was running and the running pace I was maintaining.  I listened to my body, observed my pacing and felt each breath I took.  I aimed to be at KM 50 by 6 AM.  If none in any of these would happen—cramps, feeling tired or sleepy, and other running-related problems—before reaching KM 32, then it would be a breeze.  I thought so, but I was wrong.

I was in deep thought, thinking of nothing in particular, when I suddenly heard a shout from the other side of the road. Initially, I didn’t comprehend what the guy was saying until I crossed the road. He was one of the marshals asking me of my bib number. “359!” I shouted. I didn’t even notice that I’ve reached KM 14, the first of the three road bifurcations.

Turning right, I saw runners ahead of me.  I found out later that one of them is a friend of mine, a 2010 BDM 102 finisher.  He ran this year to support and pace with his friends from a well-known mountaineering group.  It was also at this time when I bumped into fellow blogger Doc Toto a.k.a RunDMD8 and Wap, who were pacing well.  I wondered where Dave was.  Well, as far as I could remember, both Doc Toto and Dave were inseparable.  Turning to the next road bifurcation, I couldn’t see any more runners.  So I thought most of them were way ahead of me including Doc Toto and Wap.  Man, I thought, “they were fast!”  Then I heard someone calling out my name.  It was Doc Toto.  I really thought both of them were running ahead of me.  I slowed down and waited for them to catch up.  Doc Toto then asked me, “Have you joined any of the test runs?”  I said, “No.”  Then both of the guys told me to run with them as the road ahead would be kind of dark and somewhat risky for a lone runner like me.

I was deeply touched by their concern.  These are really real gentlemen!  So I ran with them.  The road was initially well-lighted but as you go along, you would be passing a dark road with no houses except for rice paddies on both sides.  Running with them cost me my running strategy.  Since both both guys were using the Galloway method (I haven’t used that one), I had no choice but run the way they did.  We were already approaching close to 30 kilometers at the time. When I saw a carenderia or eatery, I asked them to wait for me so I could do a kidney break.  It was timely since they, too, took a break when their support vehicle arrived. I made a sigh of relief when we reached the highway again.  Wap and Doc Toto were my guardian angels during that night.  I was truly grateful for what they did.

Surprisingly, I didn’t feel sleepy nor tired while running.  There were no cramps experienced yet so it means I was doing OK.  I was running alone again. Both Doc Toto and Wap went ahead to beat their target of reaching the town of Abucay, Bataan at 5:30 AM.  All I could remember was running steadily and noticing another female runner who, like me, was wearing a running skort.  She was a strong runner.

My target was to reach Abucay at 6 AM.  It was at this time that I had the chance of pacing again with my friend, Francis.  We ran together in the next five kilometers.

By the time the sun was up, I was already employing a fast walk.  Francis went ahead.  At almost 7 AM, I reached Abucay, which is KM 50.  The first thing I did was to change into fresh clothes and take a quick bite of what Raff prepared for breakfast.  I munched a sandwich filled with peanut butter, took a sliced banana and drank coffee.  Yes, it was nice of Carmen to bring a thermos (per my request) so I could have my fave hot coffee early morning of Sunday.  I didn’t stay long though after taking a few sips.

Looking at my watch,  I had barely nine hours left to beat the cut-off time.  I wasn’t so sure anymore if I could make it or not.  I just told myself to simply focus in the next 20 kilometers.

Running slowly from Abucay, though feeling refreshed, I started to feel some muscles tightening and my legs getting heavier.  It slowed me down.  Targeted a few kilometers by running slowly then walking again when I felt I could no longer sustain the pace.

By this time, the sun was already shining bright.  The sky was clear.  It seemed it would be a hot day after all and not the cloudy one predicted the day before.  I could feel the sun’s heat on my skin that in the next stop I changed into another running shirt with sleeves and worn my arm warmer.  At the same time, changed the white cap I was wearing to that of the green cap with flap neck cover.  I felt a lot better afterwards.  Wearing only ankle socks, legs were not covered and exposed to sun hence at 10 AM I could feel the skin of my legs burning from the sun’s heat.  That every time I stopped by at our support vehicle, I kept asking for Carmen to put a cold towel on my legs and spray my face.

I couldn’t imagine how the runners survived in the previous BDM with last year’s temperature at 41°C as compared to this year’s edition at 28°C-30°C.  I truly understood how difficult it was for the weakened soldiers in 1942.  They didn’t have any support.  Most of them were tired from defending Bataan, may be wounded while walking and didn’t even have any decent food to eat and water to drink.  What a torture that must be for them.

Back to the present. Our torture was running or walking along the highway, and battling with upcoming vehicles with less regard for the runners.  Imagine seeing runners traversing the left side of the road, on the white line of the highway and going down the unpaved part under the heat of the sun and exposed to dust, and inhaling smoke coming from vehicles.  I was running along the left side most of the time adhering to what the Race Director instructed us.  I noticed though other runners walking or running on the other side, which is more dangerous since they couldn’t see approaching vehicles behind them.

At the rate I was going, the possibility of not making it to the cut-off was another “torture”.  Here you are trying your best yet nature was also beating you out of your wits.  For those who have known me, I really don’t talk while running. This time however I welcomed those who just said “Hi” just to take away the monotony of running alone.  It’s not that I felt bored; it’s just that I just wanted it over and done with. No matter how strong your will is when the body can only take so much, you really don’t have to do any except do the best you can.  The will to finish must be strong enough to propel your body to follow.  When the will gives up the body follows.  I didn’t want that to happen.  I’ve trained for this. I’ve prepared for this.  The battle cry was, “no retreat no surrender”.  I reminded (and conversed with) my body to cooperate.  I told my muscles not get cramps.  I told my skin to bear the heat.  Yes, sounded crazy but that was what I did while walking along the highway.  And what a walk that was! The longest walk I’ve done. Both my quads were hurting.  Any small attempt to run slowly was already an effort.  To lessen the pain, I kept asking for liniment every time I stopped by at our support vehicle.  I also asked my support to meet me every 2.5 km.  If I remember right, I think I’ve walked the highway most of the time.

Though there were some attempts to run it slowly, but the heat beating your head and the heat surrounding you forced me to walk the next 15 kilometers.  On the last stop before my support vehicle took a detour, I think this was the part in Dinalupihan to Hermosa route, I took with me a bottle of Pocari and water in each hand.  This was a strong instruction coming from Raff and thankfully I heeded Raff’s advice.

This was the part where you will be passing a highway under major repair.  It was nothing but gravel, soft red soil, portions of finished cemented roads and the rest unfinished.  It was hot and dusty.  Armed with two full bottles, after passing Dinalupihan, I ended up with empty bottle in each hand due to heat.   I could have asked for a drink from other support vehicles that didn’t take the detour, but for no reason at all I just kept walking with head down so as not to be distracted.

I had no idea how long that walk took since I wasn’t wearing my Garmin.  But based on my calculation, the possibility of making it to the cut-off time was slim.  Though I had more than three  hours to run the next 18 kilometers, but with the constant walking, seriously I was apprehensive.  After almost an hour of walking, I’ve finally spotted my support vehicle up on the bridge.  To know I was done with Dinalupihan-Hermosa route, it gave me pure relief that the worst had passed.  Raff and Carmen were busy attending to me-cold towel to my legs, drinks, food, bandana with ice cubes around my nape, etc. when suddenly a car stopped by and the passenger was asking if everything’s OK.  It was Ma’am Rowena checking if I was OK.  I said, “everything’s fine Ma’am nothing to worry about.” I also kept reminding my support crew to eat.  Because I was worried of them, how they were faring considering that they, too, didn’t have any decent sleep.

Since they volunteered to be my crew,   the least I could do is ask how they are.  But nothing to worry about since Carmen and Raff are experienced runners plus they have the option to buy food along the way anyway.

By the time I reached the tail end of Lubao town, I could see runners ahead of me.  And, I treated each one as target to just pull me out from walking.  I strongly told myself, “You’ve walked enough, it’s time to run!”  But with the heat, I couldn’t.  For the nth time, after asking Raff and Carmen if I could still make it, after hearing Raff telling me I still have enough time, I resolved to walk fast and take big steps.  I attempted to run and when I felt my quads doing well with less pain this time, I was slowly running.

Vener a.k.a. Run Unlimited cheering on us runners (photo courtesy of Vener and Cristy)

It was at this time, to my surprise, to see Rico a.k.a. Sheerwill riding his bike, cheering on each runner.  The next surprise was when I saw another familiar face that of Vener a.k.a. Run Unlimited and his wife Cristy.  Amazing!  These two runners came all the way to Bataan from Manila to just cheer us on.  Vener was a BDM 102 finisher last year. 

Finally, seeing the kilometer markers leading to Guagua, Pampanga, I knew then that finish line is almost there.  How to reach the finish line, I really didn’t have any inkling with the heat continuously draining out my energy.  It seemed to be a long, long, long, endless run.  When I was about to turn at the bend leading to St. Mary’s Academy in Guagua, a marshal came out from nowhere handing out another string and cheering, Konti na lang Ma’am!”  My thought was, “I wish I could.”

At this time, I asked my support crew to meet me every 1 KM or worst comes to worst, maybe stop every 500 meters because it was becoming too much of an effort really to reach the support vehicle.  My targets were four runners ahead of me.  I admired them for their tenacity to keep on running even slowly done.  I just kept on following them.  I even talked with one of them and encouraged him that we might make it.  But I left them behind when they stopped at their support vehicle to hydrate and cool themselves with ice.

Running more than 80 KMs 

Upon seeing that most of the markers are now within KM 90 or so, I had only 10 more kilometers to go for the 100th kilometer plus 2 KMs. After all it’s a 102-KM race.  Given the remaining time, however, the only recourse is to run.  If not, walk really fast like the other lady runner ahead of me was doing.  Man, she could really walk fast.  That runner became my target.  It motivated me to tell my quads to work now and start to run.  So I did.  I believe it was my second wind.  I felt refreshed (somewhat having enough energy to sustain me in the next 10 KMs).  Sometimes I outran that lady runner but surprisingly with the fast walk she was employing she could easily catch up with me.

I had my final push when after seeing the last uphill part of the course I said to myself, “Wait till we reach flat part.”  I couldn’t help but smile silently that when the lady runner heard my footsteps she attempted to run but she couldn’t, and I ran past her.  She could only say, “Nak ng ang lakas mo!”  I could only retort, “Ikaw din kaya.”

Then off I went running ahead of her looking forward to beating the next targeted runners.  When I saw more runners walking, I knew then I was not really that far behind from those who started initially fast.  One guy runner, whose name I didn’t know, started to shout, “Pasok na tayo!”  And he started to engage me in a conversation.  Goodness, if this runner only knew what I went through to reach this far.  I think I responded in clip note, “Saka na lang po tayo mag-celebrate pag andun na tayo.  Malayo pa ito baka di pa tayo aabot.”

What Coach John taught me as a flashback, “Selle, as long as walang bukol na namumuo na cramps, di ka pa injured nyan.  Jog lang ng dahan-dahan kaysa maglakad. Maintain lang.”  I just continued running slowly (jog pace) and told my support crew to meet me at the finish line.  I banked on this thought.  I ran slowly not stopping this time, one by one I ran past those runners who were walking.  A few meters now from the bend to the finish line, two runners holding a tarp said, “Sige Ma’am mauna ka na, di na kami makatakbo, e.” I answered, “Pasensiya na pag mag-stop ako baka di na ako makakatakbo uli.”

Woohoo! I did it!
I really thought I was still far but some of those milling outside the bend, supporters of some runners, “Liko na po!”  And there, before my eyes not from afar, I saw the tarp with the “Finish” written on it.  I could hear the crowd clapping some shouting their cheers.  I even saw my friend Francis who looked so fresh as if he didn’t run a 102 KM race.  I was also scanning the crowd hoping to see the faces of my support crew to share this moment of victory.  I knew if not for them I couldn’t have done it alone.  I did it!  Then out of nowhere Marga a.k.a. Margalicious came out and shove the biggest bouquet of flowers I’ve ever received.  I felt like a true winner!  When Sir Jovie saw me, he gave me the required hug with the Race Director.  What a relief to finally reach the finish line.  I’ve earned finally the ever coveted kilometer marker trophy and medal.  (See Official Results here)
The required hug from the Race Director
Receiving the flowers Marga gave me
Yes, yes! A BDM 102 finisher finally! 
L-R: Rico a.k.a. Sheerwill, Carmen, Running Diva, Race Director Sir Jovie, Raff
L-R: Carina a.k.a. FlyingBoar, Cristy, Raff, Marga a.k.a. Margalicious, Running Diva, Carmen

But the story didn’t end here.

In my excitement, while animatedly recounted some tidbits of my experience to some of my Takbo.ph friends, I suddenly felt like I was about to faint and vomit.  They asked me to sit down and somebody gave me a bottle of soda but I still felt I was about to pass out.  I called Marga’s attention and asked her to accompany me to the ambulance. She was helped by Cristy, wife of Vener.  But when I stood up I couldn’t move my legs.  I felt numbness.  All I could remember Marga asking Rodel a.k.a. Argonaut to help carry me over to the ambulance.  A lady paramedic arrived while I could still hear the excited crowds cheering on the upcoming finishers.

I was so embarrassed to be seen while being transported to the ambulance.  I kept on rambling, “Where’s the doctor? … Please massage my legs.”  The paramedic right away took a blood pressure reading and gave me a bottle of Oresol to drink while the doctor with a soothing voice asked me to relax. Amazingly, my BP was normal!  I even smiled while in pain thinking how grateful I am with my body.  “Whaaat?  Normal blood pressure even after running for more than 17 hours?”  I uttered a prayer of thanks.  After a few minutes, I could feel sensation on my legs.  The doc explained what caused it—failure to cool down and take liquids which I normally do after each race.  I have totally forgotten to do it in my happiness to finally reach the finish line within the cut-off time.

It has come full circle.  My previous visits to war memorials such as in Hiroshima, Japan at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial commonly called as Atomic Bomb Dome or A-Bomb Dome, Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor), Mt. Samat in Bataan (2002, 2005), Lingayen Gulf Landing in Pangasinan (2003), Capas National Shrine (2005), and Bataan-Corregidor Memorial (2005, 2009, 2010) made me appreciate more of the role of those brave men during WW II.

The infamous Death March made a name in the annals of war history.  Truly, I agree with what Carmen had said in her article, “We dare say never again.”

Bataan Death March 102 Ultramarathon is not just a race but a greater appreciation of those who suffered, sacrificed, and died to defend their country.

The well thought-out catch phrase, “all the way” which was printed on the shirt of my support volunteers was an initiative of Ziggy.
To capture the moment, Carmen, aside from being a support crew, took charge of the documentation.  
Rico, Vener, Cristy, and Takbo.ph friends took time out of their busy schedule just to witness the race and cheer on us.
The race course recon and familiarization was realized with the presence of a former BDM support crew, Raff.
Many, many, thanks to those whom I failed to mention here. I’m forever grateful.  
What else is there to say?
  • Prepare, plan, and train well.  Remember it’s an expensive undertaking.
  • Discover the very reason why you want to run a 102-kilometer race in the first place.
  • Trust your support team.
  •  Trust God’s protection and providence.
  • Do get enough sleep before the big day.  It was part of my program to get a really good 8-hour straight sleep a week before the big day.
  • Follow your training program but also listen to your body during the course of your training.  I didn’t have any injury except for that common soreness here and there and swollen feet.  I just iced them and kept them elevated, took anti inflammatory drugs (as prescribed by a physician) to keep the swelling down.
  • Don’t depend much on what others can give but learn to be self-sufficient.
  • Schedule a visit to any of the war memorials for better appreciation of history and understanding of what happened during that fateful day of 1942 in Bataan.
  • Don’t underestimate what petroleum jelly can do.  I didn’t have any blister or chafing after finishing the race.  Use whatever works for you though.
  • Incorporate heat training in your program including running even during the wee hours of the morning.  This will allow you to get to feel how your body will adjust running even without sleep until next day.  Just be sure you have companions for your own safety.
  •  Don’t try anything new on race day.  If you’ve bought new running gears ensure to have used them during your training.
  • Bring along extra pairs of running shoes and socks just in case.
  • Stick to your game plan.
  • Prepare your logistics well.  Just like any soldier be prepared.
  • It’s more manageable if you are the only one being supported by your support crew.  The ratio of 1:2 (one runner: 2 support volunteers) works well.
  • You’ve put your body under so much stress; learn to rest for quick recovery.  After finishing my BDM, it took me a week after before I attempted to run a good 8 kilometers.  I even participated during the Women’s Health Athena All Women’s Run but I could still feel my body has not fully recovered yet.  I did swim instead as cross training.
  • At any point in the race, when you feel exhausted and is about to surrender, just remember your situation against those gallant soldiers who have walked with no support at all.  Make that your source of strength.
  • Don’t forget to thank to those who have helped you.  Finishing the BDM 102 is no reason at all to be pompous.  After all, what you have achieved is just but a speck in this big universe.  As what the song Tuldok by Asin is telling us. 
Ang tuldok ay may salaysay at may kahulugan
Na dapat mapansin at maintindihan
Kahit sino ka man ay dapat malaman
Na dito sa mundo ikaw ay tuldok lang
Kahit na ang araw sa kalangitan
Siya ay tuldok lamang sa kalawakan
Lahat ng bagay ay tuldok ang pinanggalingan
At kung masdang mabuti, tuldok ang uuwian
Tingnan mong mabuti ang ‘sang katauhan
Maraming nag-aaway, tuldok lang ang dahilan
Sa aking nakita, ako’y natawa lang
‘Pagkat ang nangyayari’y malaking kahibangan
Kaya wala kang dapat na ipagmayabang
Na ikaw ay mautak at maraming alam
Dahil kung susuriin at ating iisipin
Katulad ng lahat, ikaw ay tuldok rin