Pattaya Marathon 2018

The Pattaya Marathon on July 15th was one of the highlights of our 2018 summer break in the Pacific. I was excited to visit Bangkok again after the race, and Richard was looking forward to connecting with a former colleague and fellow retiree who chose to make the Thai capital his home.

We took the two and a half hour Philippine Airlines flight from Manila to Bangkok on Friday, July 13, 2018 and paid 120 baht bus fare per person for the one hour trip to Pattaya. At the Pattaya Bus Terminal, a taxi driver wanted to charge us 300 baht to Hard Rock Hotel. A fellow passenger who was a seasoned visitor to Pattaya advised us against the taxi. Instead, we took a songtaew for 20 baht each, a local mini bus that resembled the Philippines’ jeepney. The driver dropped us a corner away from our hotel. We stopped at a 7-11 convenience store to get some drinks and continued the walk for about five minutes to reach Beach Road and the pool entrance to the hotel. We quickly checked in and was in for the night.

The breakfast buffet the next morning was sumptuous, just a tad too noisy.

We booked a car and a driver with the hotel to take us to sightseeing. Our first stop was the teak Sanctuary of Truth.

The next stop was a brief one to get our photo with the Pattaya sign in the background. It was so hot we couldn’t help squinting!

Next stop was the Wat Phrai Yai Temple with the Big Buddha.

We spent some time checking out the goods and enjoying the action at the Pattaya Floating Market.

With the major bulk of sightseeing musts done, we finally made our way to Central Festival Pattaya Mall to pick up my bib. I was already pre-registered when the online registration opened on June 19, 2018. Marathon registration is 1,000 baht. The race kit included the bib, singlet, and a drawstring bag.

The mall was located along the Beach Road, the major tourist hub in the city. There were many sidewalk vendors selling race-related merchandise.

We walked back to the hotel to cool off.

The sunset view from our hotel room was beautiful.

We were out again in the early evening to walk the famous Walking Street and get some dinner.

We settled for dinner at one of the restaurants. We were pleasantly surprised that the dining area opened out into the sea.

The Walking Street was hopping with action by the time we finished our dinner. It was a reluctant walk to the hotel for an early night.

I set the alarm for 1:30 AM to be ready for the 3:00 AM start time. The start line was thankfully just a few meters away from our hotel.

There were some product samples available at the starting area. We could also get some water, bananas, and power drinks already.

We were off at 3:00 AM. We ran through the Walking Street for the first few kilometers. I was surprised the clubs were already closed at 3:00 AM but there were still some straggling tourists walking back to their hotels. I was thinking they were open all night!

The aid stations had water, bananas, and the sports drinks. It was windy and overcast, and I took my time to finish the race.

I crossed the finish line in 5:50, slow but still in good shape. Richard and I immediately walked back to our hotel so that we could take a shower and get breakfast at the hotel.

We checked out at noon to take a cab to Pattaya Bus Terminal and ride the bus back to Bangkok.

We were booked at Movenpick Hotel in Sukhumvit Road.

Richard was scheduled for a medical check-up so we skipped the breakfast the first morning.

I got to meet Richard’s friend who is a long-time Bangkok resident.

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Our Thailand trip was all too short. It was time to go back to Manila before we knew it.

 

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55K TransCebu Challenge 2018

Cebu City, the Philippines’ Queen City of the South, is undergoing a construction boom. The trip from the airport to our hotel was longer than our one-hour flight due to the traffic, and there seemed to be more buildings lined along the streets since the last time we visited in 2016.

We took one of the Cebu Pacific morning flights from Manila to Cebu on Saturday, July 21, 2018 so that I can run the 55K TransCebu Challenge 2018. It was my second time to run this event after my initial participation in 2016.

I can still feel the deliciously steep altimetry of the infamous Transcentral Highway and my unexpected first runner-up finish in the women’s open division. Frankly, I wasn’t too keen in running this stretch of the race again.  Knowing what to feel and expect now at least prepared me for the ordeal ahead.

We stayed at the same hotel as the last time, Best Western Lex Plus Cebu, located at the corner of Escario and Osmena Extension a few blocks away from the Provincial Capitol. We were too early for check-in so we decided to go sightseeing. We took a cab to visit Magellan’s Cross, one of the most popular tourist spots in the city. The cross marked the exact spot Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan planted the Christian cross when he arrived in the Philippines in 1521.

We went to Robinson’s Fuente Osmena next, a shopping mall located at the city rotunda. We shopped for some race support supplies and visited our favorite restaurant Casa Ilongga for some crab meat, grilled squid and binignit.

The hotel was ready for our check-in when we got back. Took it easy the rest of the afternoon and had an early dinner.

The alarm woke us up at 2:00 AM. It was too early to eat so I just got dressed for the race. We took a cab to the pick-up point and finish line, the Barangay Busay Multi-Purpose Building. We were told to be there by 3:00 AM for the 4:00 AM departure and the 5:00 AM start time. Richard dropped me off. He was going to catch up to me at 9:00 AM and would serve as my mobile support station.

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The van was late in picking us up, delayed by fog and low visibility along the Transcentral Highway. We finally left at 5:00 AM, arriving a little after 6:00 AM at the starting line at Barangay Balamban Multi-Purpose Building. Each runner paid the P120 fare to the driver.

The 105K participants started at 9:00 PM the previous night; our start line served as their 40K checkpoint. We passed several runners on our way to our start line.

They provided us rice and ham breakfast with coffee and gave us our bibs when we arrived. We took a group picture before our  flag-off at 6:30 AM. I was actually surprised at the number of countries represented both at the 55K and the 105K. There were runners from Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, and France aside from the local runners. I represented the USA and the Philippines. There were some runners that did not get in the picture here.

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As I remembered, the incline started at around the 5K mark and continued all the way until the last 10 kilometers. The route was different this year. We had to go off the Transcentral Highway twice. The first one took us to Mount Manunggal, the site of Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay’s crash site. The race trophy and medal is modeled after the engine of Mount Pinatubo, President Magsaysay’s ill-fated plane.

The second trail off the highway was just 400 meters away from the first trail, a five kilometer out and back that was pure trail. We caught the tail end of the day’s fog along this trail.

We stayed on Transcentral Highway for the rest of the course.

There were marshalls at intersections and turning points. They took our pictures as proof we reached the checkpoints. I stopped at a couple of aid stations to rehydrate and eat boiled eggs. Richard and the driver leapfrogged me and provided everything I needed.

The day was thankfully overcast, even raining for a few minutes here and there. I reached the finish line in 10:40:23.95, more than an hour faster than my previous finish and good enough for a second runner-up finish in the women’s open division. Yay!

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They were chopping up lechon to serve to finishers but we didn’t stick around for that. We stopped at Robinson’s Fuente Osmena again for some takeout food at Casa Ilongga before heading back to the hotel. Richard and I took a long shower and ate in bed that night.

We flew back to Manila the following morning on Cebu Pacific Air. Finishers received a finisher shirt, trophy, and a medal. I also received a plaque for my podium finish. This was a good trip!

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42nd National MILO Marathon 2018

The MILO Marathon series is probably the oldest and the most popular foot race in the Philippines. I’ve heard of the races ever since I was a little girl in Leyte and that was a long time ago! Back then, I thought the races were only for the very fast and the very few. Now, I’m glad to see thousands of new and seasoned runners at the national elimination race every July. Many, like me, just want to run the race. More competitive runners aim to finish with the qualifying times needed to run the national finals in December. Runners may also get into the finals by qualifying through the half marathon distance in other cities held on several dates.

This was my third time to run the National MILO Marathon. I was racing MILO after four other marathons over four weeks so I was realistic and knew my finish time would not be ideal. I was also still nursing my sore quads and a swollen left ankle, results of the beating I took at the 55K Transcebu Challenge last weekend. No matter; I was here to enjoy the races in my birth country.

Registration for the marathon is P1,050 (approximately US$20) with a P100 (US$2) delivery charge. MILO requires a Fit to Run medical certificate to be emailed to the organizers before they will deliver you the race kit. The race kit included the bib, the disposable timing strip, the singlet, a MILO sachet, and the drawstring bag.

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I woke up a little past 1:00 AM of Sunday, July 29, 2018 to eat a sandwich and get ready for the 2:00 AM assembly time at the Seaside Boulevard at SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City. Rain was in the weather forecast for the morning. Nice! It will help us cool down.

We started right on time at 3:00 AM! The route was different this year. The course took us past the Philippine Senate complex before we got on Buendia Avenue and on to Bonifacio Global City until few kilometers past the Heritage Park on C-5 Road. There were seven u-turns several inclines as we got on and off the overpass. Water with ice was plentiful, with Pocari Sweat at a few of the stations. One of the fire stations along the race route had its hoses out to spray and cool runners as we raced our final few kilometers.

Although it was dark when we started, the streets were well-lighted. There was nothing much to see and no entertainment along the way to distract you. We were running on national roads which we shared with buses, trucks, and private cars. We stopped at intersections to wait for the marshals to clear us to cross the roads. It rained on and off the whole time so I did not take out my iPhone to snap photos along the way.

The cut-off time for this race was six hours, and I shuffled to the finish line at about 5:49. They have not posted the overall race results at this time. The medal is a Sub-6 Finishers’ Medal. From what I understood, those who did not finish within six hours were denied the finishers’ medal. Ouch!

The finisher’s loot was bountiful! Check out what I got. The most coveted entitlement was the sleeveless hoodie.

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Richard waited for me patiently at the finish line. We went home to take a shower, get some breakfast, and have a massage.

We flew back to Belgium the day after the race. I’m back at work now, and I must say that our five week summer vacation was very productive!

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40th EDT ASICS Stockholm Marathon 2018

 

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Gamla Stan, the Old Town of Stockholm, Sweden.

Stockholm weather the second time around was still not ideal for marathons. I ran this race the first time in 2015 when it was raining and windy the whole time. It was so cold that I ran with a space blanket in the second half of the race! This time though, it was blisteringly hot that race organizer emailed an advisory to the 20,000 runners to give up any specific time goals for the 40th EDT ASICS Stockholm Marathon 2018. The Scandinavian part of Europe was in the middle on an unseasonably hot streak during the last few days of spring. The forecast predicted lots of sun between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius. Officials wanted us to enjoy Saturday and take it easy in the heat that the marathon’s time limit was extended by half an hour to six hours and 30 minutes. Fine by me. I won’t have the pressure to run fast at all this time.

We flew out of Brussels South Charleroi Airport on the 14:55 Ryanair flight to Stockholm, Skavsta Airport on Friday, June 1, 2018. Our flight was delayed by more than an hour. Upon arrival, we took the Flygbussarna bus bound for the city’s main train station. The bus ride took 80 minutes; fare was 556 SEK . It was already past 8:00 PM when we arrived, too late for picking up the bib at the race expo which closed at 8:00 PM.

We decided to proceed directly to our hotel a few meters away from the bus stop. Radisson Blu Royal Viking Hotel is one of eight Radisson Blu hotels in the city.

We had our own carbo loading dinner a time the restaurant chain Vapiano nearby.

We tucked in early and woke up for a leisurely breakfast.

The subway brought us to the Gärdet station. It was an easy walk to  get the bib at the Expo at Kungliga Tennishallen (Royal Tennis Hall).

From there, we walked down the street to the starting line by the Olympic Stadium. The marathoners took off in two waves: 12:00 and 12:10.

The elite runners were running in fine form but the back of the pack runners like me took their time by alternately running and walking, and staying under the shade where possible.it looked like there were a lot more cooling stations this year, areas where a fireman hosed us with cool water, or stations with tubs of water you can dunk your sponge in.

Richard found me at the 16K mark.

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The finish line was inside the Stockholm Olympic Stadium. I was slower than my 2015 Stockholm race, clocking in at 5:57:42.

Richard was waiting for me at the finish line. We took the subway back to the hotel to shower and get a proper post-race photo.

We decided to do a bit of sightseeing after the race.

The sun finally set around 10:00 PM that night, our cue to head back to the hotel.

We flew back to Brussels on the Ryanair flight on Sunday afternoon at 12:35 PM, arriving in plenty of time to do some weekend chores.

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Marathon de la Baie du Mont Saint-Michel 2018

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Le Mont Saint-Michel at low tide, one of France’s most distinctive landmarks and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Le Mont Saint-Michel takes your breath away the first time you glimpse it from afar. It is an intriguing and popular tourist attraction in France, its spire seeming to pierce the sky. The rocky tidal commune is off the shores of Normandy surrounded by water and only accessible by a kilometer-long bridge. The feudal structure represents God (monastery and abbey) above, and man (the great halls and the stores, farmers and fishermen) below.

It took us five hours and 15 minutes to drive 536 kilometers from Belgium to our hotel’s parking lot in Le Bays Pays in the mainland on May 26, 2018. But before we checked into our hotel, we took  a detour to stop by the race registration site in 2 Place de l’Hotel de Ville in Pontorson. Only bibs for the Marathon de la Baie du Mont Saint-Michel 2018 were sent by post and I wanted to be sure that I am in the official list of the runners taking the 12€ bus ride to the starting line in Quai Duguay Trovin in Cancale.

No cars are allowed in Saint-Michel. We parked our car at P3, the reserved parking lot for guests staying in hotels in the island. We got on the free bus shuttle that ferries passengers to and from the island. There is a bus that runs every four minutes; we hopped on the bus full of Japanese tourists just as they were about to leave. Visitors can also pay to take the more leisurely horse drawn carriage to the island.

The narrow streets on the island were packed with people walking about, similar to the hustle and bustle of the streets of Cannaregio in Venice. Thankfully, Hôtel Restaurant La Croix La Blanche was only a few meters away from the island gates. It is advisable for tourists to bring only hand luggage because of the amount of walking involved in the trip.

Our hotel was on the fourth level, above the restaurant and accessible only by five flights of stairs. The hotel was small, but the view from our window could not get any better than this! Richard took photos of our view at various times of the day.

We unpacked our luggage and left the hotel to attend mass nearby.

We walked about after the mass, taking in the sights from the island and the bay.

It was cloudy when we arrived. Fortunately, it cleared up enough to get some good souvenir photos.

We found a new friend in Jim, a Filipino-American who flew in from New York to run the race.

We had an early dinner of pizza margherita and seafood pasta  at the sister restaurant of our hotel before calling it a night.

We took some photos of the streets with the crowd gone.

Sunday morning came too fast. We woke up early to catch the 6:15 AM bus shuttle to P7 parking area where the buses were waiting to take us to the start line. We arrived in Cancale after an our. I met up with Jim and his other new friend and waited for the 8:30 AM start time.

Richard took more photos of the views around the island at sunrise.

The course was beautiful. We ran along the coast for a few kilometers before venturing inland and passing through several communes. We could see Saint-Michel at the 37K mark.

Entertainment was provided along the way.

We finished at the dam, right before the start of the bridge to the island. It was hot, and I staggered to the finish line in 5:37:22, a few minutes shy of the six-hour time limit.

Of course, the highlight of this race was posing in front of Mont Saint-Michel with the finisher’s medal.

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I changed into clean clothing at the Visitors’ Center of the parking lot while Richard paid the 11,70€ parking fee. We were on the road back to Belgium in less than an hour.

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24th Acea Maratona di Roma 2018

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The Trevi Fountain is the largest and most famous Baroque fountain in Italy. People love to toss coins into the fountain. 3,000 euros are recovered every night and given to the Catholic charity organization Caritas to support its many services for the poor.

All roads led to Rome on April 8, 2018 for the 24th Acea Maratona di Roma 2018. 11,395 runners registered for the race that worked its way around the eternal city past more than 500 historical structures and monuments. The highlight of the race was definitely running across St. Peter’s Square and pausing to listen to Pope Francis officiate the Sunday morning mass!

I first ran this race in 2015 when it rained the whole time and I didn’t get to enjoy the scenery much. This year’s race was blessed by a sunny 23 degrees Celsius weather. There were so many distractions that I was grateful for the seven hours and 30 minutes time limit.

We got up early to catch the 7:00 AM Ryanair flight to Rome Ciampino from Brussels South Charleroi Airport on Saturday, April 7, 2018. It was a 35-minute Terravision bus ride to Roma Termini Station where we took the Metro B line to Cavour. You can pay for your Terravision bus ticket online at 4€ per person one way or directly from the dispatcher. When you get to the Roma Termini Station, you can buy a 24-hour metro and bus pass for 7€ each. This is more cost effective especially if you plan to go around the city and see as many sights as you can in 24 hours. Otherwise, a single trip is 1,50€.

We stayed at The Inn at the Roman Forum near the Colosseo. The boutique hotel has a very discreet front. You won’t know it is a hotel unless you are actually booked here.

We planned to just drop off our luggage and go pick up my bib. We knew we made the right choice with the hotel when we were ushered into the receiving room to be served tiramisu and glasses of excellent wine as our welcome.

The hotel impressed us even further by letting us know that our room was ready before the 14:00 checkin time, and they upgraded us to a room with a jacuzzi! The hotel is part of the Roman Forum ruins but the interiors were extremely modern with all the luxury amenities.

Bib pick-up was at the Rome Convention Center The Cloud. We were back at the Cavour station to get on the metro and got off at the Eur Fermi nine stops away.

I lined up at the claims area only to be told that my registration was incomplete! I almost panicked at the possibility of traveling all the way here and not being able to run the race. I was transferred to the Pending Subscriptions desk where I found out that the French medical certificate I submitted online did not conform to the Italian template and my registration payment was therefore not processed. The line to this desk was long. The race organizers were probably used to people like me who assumed but did not check online that their registrations went through successfully. I assumed that my Italian Runcard membership ensured all requirements were met.

We had to race back to the hotel to get the proper Italian medical certificate and come back to the same desk to submit the document, hope it got approved, and allow me to pay the 90€ registration fee. Fortunately, the lady was very helpful and accepted my late papers. Whew! This was a lesson I will never forget. Always, always check online a few days before the race that you are officially registered for the event! You will normally get a confirmation letter by email if you are. I did not, but assumed I was confirmed.

Crisis averted! Check our relieved smiles here! I didn’t have my name printed on the bib but that did not matter now.

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The race kit included the race shirt, Vitamin E capsules, sports detergent, an Arts Card providing free entrance to 10 museums and galleries, and the highly coveted New Balance backpack.

The incident took the whole afternoon and wore us out emotionally. We trudged back to the hotel and decided to order takeaway dinner at one of the small pizza places near the hotel.

It was fortunately a good night’s sleep. We woke up early to have breakfast at the terrace restaurant.

The indoor and outdoor areas were extravagantly designed and the view was amazing.

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The start and finish was in front of the Colosseo, just a few meters away from the hotel. I went to my corral to wait for our turn to start at 8:52 AM. Elite runners started at 8:40 AM and the 5K runners were starting after us.

The race was epic! There were many pacers according to the runners’ targeted times from 2:50 to 7:30. The historic sights were simply awe-inspiring.

I could not help myself when I got to the 17K mark. I stopped and took a selfie with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square. He was officiating the Sunday mass.

There were many hills too. Rome, after all, was built on seven hills. Aid stations every five kilometers provided water, Powerade, blood oranges, apple slices, and crackers. Sponge stations were 2.5 kilometers away from aid stations and helped cool us down. Various groups entertained us along the way.

Richard took pictures of various scenes around the hotel while waiting for me.

I finished in 5:51:03, a minute slower than 2015. Finishers received a bottle of Powerade, mineral water, blood oranges, and apples.

A quick rest and a shower and we were off again to be tourists. The Trevi Fountain was a 10 minute walk from our hotel.

From the fountain we got on the Barberini metro to Ottaviano to see the St. Peter’s Square again after the race.

We took the metro back to our hotel, stopping to have Japanese cuisine for dinner. We were in bed early to rest, recover and wake up at 5:45 AM to make our way back to the airport for our 9:30 AM Ryanair flight on Monday, April 9, 2018.

 

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Utrecht Science Park Marathon 2018

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The city of Utrecht in The Netherlands was declared by CNN as “the new Amsterdam” and by BBC as “one of the happiest places to live”. There are lots of things to do in the city that appeals to its student population too, the largest in the country. We were here for the Utrecht Science Park Marathon 2018 on March 18, 2018.

Richard and I took the intercity train from Jurbise to Brussels to Rotterdam to Utrecht in the afternoon of Saturday, March 17, 2018. It was rainy and cold when we left Belgium. It was this and more when we arrived in Utrecht; it was very windy! I knew then this would be a challenging race, but I’m up for it.

We went straight to Hotel NH Utrecht Jaarbeursplein in front of the train station upon arrival. It was too late in the afternoon to pick up the bib at Sportscentrum Olympos; we decided to just pick it up before the race started on Sunday.

We met up with an old friend and her daughter at the train station before we strolled around the new mall. Dinner was excellent at Wagamama! We fell in love with the food the first time my sister took us to this restaurant chain in England last year.

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An early night is a must before the race.

There were lots of choices to be had for breakfast. Lots of excited runners too, coming from all parts of Europe.

We took the U-OV bus 28 to the Sportscentrum to pick up the bib and walked to the start line in Cambridgelaan. The 5K started at 9:45 AM and the 10K at 10:45 AM. We hung around the area before the marathon started at 12:30 PM.

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The Dutch runners must have the genetic and homecourt advantage with this race. Look!

The race required two loops, with the second loop starting no less than two hours and 45 minutes after the gun start. I finished the first loop in 2:25:40 and completed the race in 5:24:18. Richard took a photo of the frozen river and the buildings by the start line.

There were only 353 runners in this category, probably due to the cold and wind. The race had a 5:30 time limit which made it more challenging. Finishers who did not make the cutoff time were not included in the official ranking. I took the bus to the train station afterwards; it was free for runners on Sunday. Richard waited for me at the train station with our luggage and we hopped on the next available train to start our journey home.

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