What better way to celebrate the 1st year of my Bicolano Penguin blog than to have a long run with close buddies in a special place. Such a venue exists in my home region of Bicol. This is the long and winding Tiwi-Sangay Road.
For many months already, I have been dreaming of running the whole stretch of this relatively new road that connects the municipality of Sangay in Camarines Sur to the municipality of Tiwi in Albay. It is long, going for more than 40 kilometers. It is winding, with lots of curves that follow the contours of the seaside topography. The road offers some fantastic view of the Lagonoy Gulf (the northern point is the Caramoan Peninsula while the Tiwi-Sangay Road is situated in the southern belly) which opens up to the Pacific Ocean. In a bit of macho hyperbole, the local government dubbed this area the Partido Riviera. But believe me, this road is special and will be evident as you look at the photos.
|A dreamy run in the mist|
|Early morning along the Tiwi-Sangay Road coastline (photo courtesy of Anton Manzano blog)|
The dream turned into reality last November 2 with our 1st Bicolano Penguin Anniversary Run (BPAR). And key to making sure that this dream did not turn into a running nightmare is to recruit a lively squad of running buddies. The more the merrier and I had 8 last November 2. Running is free, I told them. No registration fees. No bib numbers. No running singlets. No water stations. No cut- off time. No waivers even.
The 8 included 2 of my fellow Manila-based 83neans: Ernie Badong and Ed Balcueva. Ernie had to travel from Manila more than 12 hours the day before to join this run. He is always ready with his killer smile and his positive spirit is a big factor in making this long run an easy one. Ed accompanied me on my trip to Bicol a couple days back. A resident of the area, he was the most decisive among the 83neans in nudging me to have this Tiwi-Sangay Road Run push thru. The other Manila-based running 83neans were not present due to various reasons: Bob Castilla (participation in multi-day West Coast 200km ultra), Ruben Fajardo (official engagement) and Noel Guevara (family consideration).
Participating, too, in the 1st BPAR is my batchmate Allen Tolledo. He is coming off a redemption run at the Penafrancia Marathon where he got back his running mojo. Allen asked permission to invite his gym buddy Kevin Moral, who despite his youth (being a school friend of Allen’s eldest son), has been part of some memorable 83nean running experiences last year (i.e., Camsur International Marathon). It is great to see my batchmate having some positive influences on his kid and friends.
Close friend Naga-based 83nean, Ric Lozano, was automatic. He became a convert to the Galloway way when he joined me in the Mt. Asog Adventure Run last June 30. He will surely be looking forward to mastering the Galloway which is an effective counterbalance to his aggressive running style. Ric brought along 2 old school marathoners from Naga: Lito Atento and Joji Asis. Both have been running for decades already, dating back to Martial Law years. Of the 2, Lito or Tolits is the colorful one starting with the Bob Marley-inspired tattoos on his biceps and legs. He is a great story- teller and comedian, talking in jest of his running exploits during the heydays of the Philippine Airlines International Marathon in the early 1980s. The silent type but no benchwarmer, Joji recently qualified for this year’s Milo National Marathon.
Completing the cast of BPAR running pioneers is Mariano Basagre, Jr. He is an upcoming talent in the Bicol running scene. Without the Kenyans, this 19-year old from Nabua would have been the overall champion at the Penafrancia Marathon. His finish time of 3 hrs & 13 mins, the best of all Pinoy participants, was good for 4th place at the said marathon. What is even more amazing is that the 2012 Penafrancia Marathon was his first. I met him last year in one of my solo runs in the foothills of Mt. Iriga. He promised that he will join me in a long adventure run. He is showing, at a youthful age, to be a man of his words.
|BPAR pioneers in front of St. Andrew Church|
At a quarter to 5am (November 2), the 9 of us kindred runners, together with our support crew of fellow 83nean, Joel Tresvalles and driver Jan Jan, gathered in front of the Church of St. Andrew in downtown Sangay for the customary group picture taking. After distributing the running gels (thanks Ernie), Gatorade (courtesy of fellow 83nean Noel Gascon) and checklisting the environmental guidelines (No littering; all litters in black garbage bag), we said our prayers. Then, without fanfare, the runners were off. No need for fireworks, as the meat of the fun is in the running.
|Start at 5am in the streets of Sangay|
The first handful of kilometers reminded me of the first 7 kms of the Bataan Death March 102km ultra. Lowland road giving way to an uphill climb. The difference is while the uphill in BDM stops at the Km 7 marker, the run at the Tiwi-Sangay Road is a lauriat delight of uphill and downhill for close to 6 hours. I stopped counting at the 3rd incline and this was only on the 2nd hour of our run.
|One hill conquered, many more to follow.|
|A good thing about an uphill is it leads to a downhill.|
|But downhill leads to uphill. This will go on and on.|
Not that we are complaining. Running in a provincial road along the coast has its benefits. Foremost among them is the spectacular view it gives us runners of the sea and the nearby Atulayan Island. The cool breeze of the sea powered us to gobble up a lot of mileage even before the sun came out. The fresh air is liberating.
|Heading straight for Atulayan Island|
|Running fast seemingly being chased by sunlight|
When the sun actually showed its face at around 8am, we were cruising and then I noticed that all of us were running side by side, occupying the whole road. This was possible because there was rarely a motorized four-wheel vehicle on the road. It would turn out that we would have more encounters with dogs (2 dozens) than cars (a dozen) along the whole stretch of the Tiwi-Sangay Road. For a Manila-based runizen like me, this extreme rarity of traffic is a big big big blessing. No smog pollution. No honking. No sound of screeching brakes and the subsequent cursing from irate drivers. No pain from the constant looking over the shoulder to check for danger. No danger of being ran over. For half a day, we were Kings of the Road, literally and figuratively.
|Kings of the Road for half a day|
|Left to Right: Tolits, Mariano, Ed (partly hidden), Bicolano Penguin, Kevin, Ernie, Allen, Joji and Ric|
Physically, we aim to get something out of this long run. The uphill and downhill terrain will no doubt boost our endurance. Local (Noy Jopson) and foreign (Jeff Galloway) running experts swear by it. Nothing builds running strength better than a hilly terrain. Running inclines force our muscles to work harder with each step; as we grow stronger, our stride becomes more efficient and our overall speed improves. As we neared the 4th hour of our run, it was doubly obvious that Tiwi-Sangay Road had an abundance of hills and we valiantly nibbled at them for breakfast and brunch.
|We eat hills for breakfast. More like brunch.|
|Going up another hill|
|It is fun reaching the top of the hill.|
|Atulayan Island to the left|
Five kilometres before the provincial border between Camarines Sur and Albay is a tourist stopover ideal for picture taking. Here we encountered a group of lovely local tourists. We did not miss the opportunity to ask them to join us in the photos. Finally, we have muses for our pictures. We have fun here in the Philippines, any way we can.
|An encounter with local tourists|
|Pointing to the Caramoan Peninsula|
The lovely encounter boosted our running, adding a joyful bounce or 2 to our stride. We were soon galloping for the road arch that marked the demarcation between the 2 provinces. Finish with 26 kilometers, 14 or more to the church in Tiwi.
|It is more fun to run free in the Philippines.|
|Danger in Running Paradise: Entering landslide prone area|
|Charge of the Blue and Gold cavalry|
|The strong runners gave me the courtesy of crossing first the Provincial Border Arch.|
The Albay side of the Tiwi-Sangay Road has relatively more human habitat and we thought the running would now be less uphill. We were wrong. Ten of those last 14kms was still in uphill and downhill country. But we gamely trudged on, despite the El Nino heat of the sun. It is at this point that the group of 9 runners split into 4: the lead pack of Lito, Joji and Ernie; solo-running Ed; the chase trio of Ric, Mariano and me; and the sweeper duo of Allen and Kevin.
|Lead pack of Tolits, Joji and Ernie|
|Chase trio of Ric, BP and Mariano on newly asphalted road in Albay|
It was a game of chase. Try hard as we might, employing fartlek, my trio failed to chase Ed and the lead pack. But I was happy. Running with your buddies gives you that bliss. Running is free.
Our chase pack of 3 reached the Church of San Lorenzo in Tiwi a few minutes after 11am. The Timex read 6 hours 8 mins. We were 2 minutes behind Ed. The lead pack finished with a time of 6 hours and 1 min. A half an hour later, Allen and Kevin sweeped thru downtown Tiwi. Allen informed me that his Endomondo app embedded in his Nokia cell phone pegged the total distance of the Tiwi-Sangay Road Run at 42.3 kms. My pleasure got doubled with the knowledge that I ran the equivalent of two full marathons (RUPM last October 28 and BPAR today) within a single week.
To celebrate our conquest of a virgin running territory, our group had lunch of lechon kawali and cocidong isda at the DJC restaurant. Our dessert was the best-tasting halo halo in the world. Sweet reward for all of us.
|A dozen of the best tasting halo halo in the world|
|Showing off the yellow Banana Boat shirts|
I also distributed the BPAR finisher shirts and the yellow Banana Boat muscle shirts.The participants were all smiles.
Good thing I wore my Mizuno Wave Rider 15 for this run we just had was one Mezamashii.
To my mind, the special reward we got from the BPAR experience is knowing that we ran in a special place. A place worthy to be categorized as a rave run with the likes of the coastal highway in the Ilocos region, the zigzag Kennon Road in the Cordilleras and the Mayon 360 circumferential road. The Tiwi-Sangay Road is an addition to the places that make running more fun in the Philippines.
I am happy and already dreaming of the next place in Bicol we will run free. Do I hear a “B”?
Indeed, there is truism to the words of flamboyant ultraman Dean Karnazes - - - “We runners don’t need a lot. It is not what we have but what we enjoy that constitutes our abundance.”