The catchy tourism slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines” is indeed true for locals, balikbayans, and visitors. This is the place for you if you want value for your dollar (50.50 Philippine pesos to 1 US dollar in July, 2017), where everyone is friendly, helpful, and speaks English. US$8 for a one hour massage in Makati City, anyone? I won’t even begin talking about the must-visit places in the country.
Running a race in the Philippines gives me the feeling of being home. Unlike in my European races, there is always an old friend or two in the crowd toeing the line, and new friends made when we cross the finish line. I made new Facebook friends doing this race, including Vicente de Lima a.k.a. The Bicolano Penguin. He is a prolific blogger, runner, and the brother of a Philippine senator. Check out his blog here where he generously wrote about me and my running obsession.
I was in Tacloban City to visit my parents this summer and what do you know? There was a 50K nearby and conveniently scheduled that weekend! My mother scheduled the blessing of a completed school building of our private college on Friday, July 21, 2017. It was a busy day for everyone but by 8:00 PM that Friday, Richard and I were in the van for the five-hour drive to Catarman, Northern Samar.
We arrived at the starting line in front of the Catarman Cathedral in plenty of time. The bib distribution was at 2:00 AM so after I picked mine up, we all went back to the van to catch a few minutes of sleep. I needed my support crew – my husband Richard and the family driver Jason – to get some rest for the long hours ahead.
There were 73 runners from all over the country registered for the race.
The official race support vehicle was a colorful jeepney, unofficially considered as a symbol of Philippine culture, history, and the art. There were no aid stations along the race route but the jeepney provided water and other emergency items for runners.
Everyone signed in early. After the race briefing and a short prayer, we were off at 3:50 AM, 10 minutes early than the published start time.
An early start time for an ultra marathon in the Philippines is a must. The tropical sun shines early in this part of the world. Running a few kilometers in the cool and quiet streets helps participants bank time and mileage for the slow down due to the merciless heat and crowded roads during the day. The drawback to an early start was not being able to see much of the scenery in the dark. The fun began when the sun was up and we distracted ourselves with what was going on around us.
The national highway from Catarman to Allan was paved and generally flat. The roads alternated between stretches of isolated areas followed by a few kilometers of hectic activity in the town centers.
I ran by a village church where Richard took my photo with the parish priest.
I was running and walking, pausing for a drink or a bite, and moving on. Runners had to check in with the organizers at the 25K mark.
It was only a 50K but the distance seemed infinitely longer than a marathon. I passed the time thinking about the food and drinks I can eat when I reach the van. Richard found two sari-sari stores that sold avocado ice candy and extra ice to replace the melted ones in the cooler. I also found that drinking ice-cold milk helped settle my stomach and I did not need to eat as much. Drinking the Zest-O Dalandan Fruit Soda was also a good idea. I was lucky to have a support crew who not only monitored what I ate and drank, but also patiently dealt with my changing moods. While Richard and the other support crews also tried to help other runners with water and food, self-supported participants bought theirs from the various sari-sari stores along the way.
My mood perked up when we crossed the arch welcoming visitors to the Allen Town Fiesta on Monday. That meant the end was very near! Richard scouted the area ahead and told me there were just a few hundred meters more to go.
I turned right into the plaza where the local school band was practicing for the fiesta.
It felt good to finally reach the finish line!
Registration fee was P2,000.00 pesos (approximately US$40) and each finisher received a race shirt, a medal, and a customized trophy. Loved the great value for money!
The added bonus to finishing the race was finding out I placed third or second runner-up in the female division. I received the second runner-up trophy from the organizer, Griv Brown.
We left the finish area immediately to check into our hotel for the evening, Birmingham Allen Resort a few feet away from the plaza.
The hotel only had four rooms and ours was modern, clean, and cool. Our balcony overlooked the San Bernardino Strait.
Everyone immediately fell asleep as soon we reached our rooms. We woke up hungry around 5:00 PM. We walked around the plaza to check out restaurants but we ended up going back to the hotel for dinner and made it an early night.
We were up early the next morning to eat breakfast and check out of the hotel for the long drive home. It was a productive trip!