About Me

My photo
I am a Bicolano by birth and choice. By any standards, I am a slow runner but I like it that way. I look at running as a healthy and exciting way to make a difference. Together with my fellow runners from our family, school, office and the community, we use running to give back..

September 17, 2012


Running is generally considered as an inexpensive, convenient, egalitarian  and increasingly popular sport.  

In the past couple of years, the Philippines has been inundated by a preponderance of funs runs from 3kms to the half marathon.  And there are the ultra runners, including half a dozen 83neans, who are hard core in gobbling up hundreds of mileage in tackling ultras like the Bataan Death March 102Km & 160 km.   But we are reduced to liliputians when compared to the ultra “crazies” of the world who  take it to the limit, running in sub-zero conditions in the polar fringes of the Artic and Antarctica and  the intense heat of the  multi-day Sahara Marathon.

This is the feeling I get as I read the book given to me as “pasalubong” last July by our Batch 83 classmate, Bitoy, who was on vacation in Manila from his job in the Lion City.  Entitled “Extreme Running”,  the book is written by Kym McConnell & Dave Horsley, two Britons who have actually finished 7 ultra foot races  on 7 continents.  

The  book  takes the reader on an amazing world  tour of ultra foot races, profiling 24 of the most challenging,  exciting and notorious long distance running  events in the face of our Planet Earth.  The 24 races in the book can be categorized as follows:

1.Ultra-marathons: Badwater (217 kms in Death Valley, USA), Comrades (90 kms in South Africa), Sparthathlon (245 kms in Greece).

2.Ultra-trails: Ultra-Trail du Tour du Mont-Blanc (163 kms in France,  Italy & Switzerland), Kepler Challenge (60 kms in South Island, New Zealand), Wasatch Front 100 Miler (160 kms in Utah, USA), Verdon Canyon Challenge (100 kms in France), Le Grand Raid (143 kms in Reunion Island, Indian Ocean), Trans 333 (333 kms in the Sahara Desert),  Yukon Arctic Ultra (160 kms in Yukon, Canada), Te Houtaewa Challenge (60 kms in North Island, New Zealand), Bogong to Hotham Trail Run (64 kms in Victoria, Australia).

3.Trail/Mountain Marathons: Everest Marathon (Himalayas, Nepal), Antarctica Marathon (King George Island, Antarctica), Inca Trail Marathon (Andes Mountain, Peru), Pikes Peak Marathon (Colorado, USA), Lake Baikal International Ice Marathon (Russia), Antarctic Ice Marathon (Antarctica), North Pole Marathon (Arctic Ice Cap).

4. Multi-stage Footraces:  Marathon des Sables (240 kms in Sahara Desert, Morocco), Jungle Marathon(200 kms in the Amazon Jungle, Brazil), Gobi March (250 kms in  Gobi Desert, China), Atacama Crossing (250 kms in Atacama Desert, Chile), Transalpine-Run (230 kms in the German, Austrian, Swiss & Italian Alps).

Marathon de Sables, Africa

Antarctic Ice Marathon, Antarctica
Everest Marathon, Asia 

Kepler Challenge, Australia & NZ

Verdon Canyon Challenge, Europe

Badwater, North America

Jungle Marathon, South America

The terrain, the weather conditions and the total mileage are both amazing and dizzying but there are  thousands  of intrepid individuals in the world that do this kind of extreme stuff. They are referred to as “extra-ultramarathoners” by Dean Karanazes. A rare breed indeed. 

Would anyone of us 83nean runners be able to tackle any of the aforementioned extreme foot races?  It would be an incredible feat indeed if it happens to anyone of the 83neans but don’t count as out.  

To my mind,  there are  a couple of   long distance running events in the list that are plausibly possible for any of us 83nean runners to conquer: The Te Houtaewa Challenge in New Zealand and the Comrades in South Africa.    

Te Houtaewa Challenge is the least challenging of the 24 races given that it is on a flat course (a long, single stretch of hard flat sand on a beach), the weather is not cold or too hot and the distance is only 60 kms.  The race starts at 7am, after the tide has turned to go out.  The timing of the event is designed to optimize conditions, combining both firm sand and a sand track close to the water to permit the runners to benefit from the sea breezes. How hard can a run on a sandy beach get? The challenge is finding a Batch 83 classmate based in North Island, New Zealand who can be a source of critical lodging accommodations. Not much need for outside logistical support as aid stations are set up every 3km providing water, bananas and first aid.  Incidentally, the finishers’ success rate of Te Houtaewa is 95%, the highest among the 24 foot races. 

Comrades Marathon is the largest ultra-marathon in the world. Started in 1921 to commemorate the South African soldiers who died in World War I, it has grown in popularity around the  world   and has regularly seen fields of 11,000 ultra runners every year.  There is a strict time limit of 12 hours for the 90-km ultra. No doubt this is daunting for a penguin  like me but among the 83nean runners, we have two, Bob Castilla (10 hrs & 21 mins) and Ruben Fajardo (11 hrs & 59 mins), who have finished the Mayon 360 ultra (80 kms) in less time than that.  Plus, I think the running conditions in the Mayon 360 ultra is harsher than Conrades. In the 2011 edition of Mayon 360, an American lady runner who has finished the Comrades several times, failed to finish.             

There is indeed a glimmer of hope for us “old men” of Ateneo de Naga HS Batch 1983 to take a bite at one or two of these world class extreme foot races.  

I guess Bitoy had a purpose in buying this book for us - - that is to challenge us to aim for more. For us to push the limits of our human endurance and imagination;   and see how far it would take us. To paraphrase from the Comrades Constitution - -  “let us celebrate mankind’s spirit over adversity.”

Photos taken from the book “Extreme Running"


  1. hhhhmmmm...pwede tayo dyan sir Vic hehehe dun muna sa NZ kasi mas lighter hehe sarap managinip:)

  2. Yup Ernie. Masarap ang managinip. But remember, finishing a marathon was just a dream for us prior to 2010. Two years after, finishing a marathon is a regular occurence for us 83neans. One has to dream it first before one can achieve it. Sweet dreamin for all of us.

  3. "extreme running" (83nean version) = Luneta to Naga

  4. Interesting and intriguing idea. Bob has been talking about this too. There is actually a historical connection for this extreme running journey. It was in Luneta Park (known then as Bagumbayan) that the Bicol martyrs were shot by a Spanish firing squad, a few days after Rizal's execution. The same Bicol martyrs have the Kinse Martires memorial park in the downtown of Naga.