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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..

January 11, 2014

2014 FAT ASS : A Paradox of A Run

EmoticonThe word "paradox" is defined as a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true.  

A good example is the paradox that standing is more tiring than walking. After engaging in the 12-hour category of the 2014 Fat Ass, we would like to testify  to the  paradox that walking is more tiring than running.

First, what is a Fat Ass? It is pretty much   summed up in: NO FEES, NO AWARDS, NO AID, NO WIMPS, NO WHINING, NO PRESSURE,  NO HASSLE. Allow me to quote from Matt Frazier who wrote in an article (http://trueslant.com/runningshorts/2010/01/05/fat-ass-ultramarathons/)    an engaging opus on this running phenomenon.

""Fat Ass" is the name given to a race of this style, usually an ultra marathon and almost always on trails, with minimal on-course support or other such luxuries.  The Fat Ass phenomenon started back in 1978, when a guy named Joe Oakes had so much trouble finding a 50-miler to qualify for the Western States 100 that he had to enter a 50-mile relay, designed for teams of seven, all by himself. According to the story, he had to make up seven different names to sneak in as an individual.  After Joe started his own "Fat Ass 50" the following year, the idea of free, no-frills ultra races spread, and Fat Ass swelled to what it is today.

If the Fat Ass idea isn’t most people’s cup of tea, that’s partly by design. The stripped-down format of the races undoubtedly serves to sift out less committed runners, especially those who have jumped on the fast-growing marathon bandwagon and who take little else from the accomplishment of running 26.2 miles than a t-shirt and a medal to show off to their friends.  To enjoy this style of race, one must truly relish the pain of running so far, so alone, and with so little to show for it. (Other than, perhaps, a skinny ass.)"

Here in the Philippines, the Fat Ass was started by Atty. Jon Lacanlale (http://jon-ultra.blogspot.com/ and his ultra running friend, Don Ubaldo in 2010.  Now, in its 5th edition, Fat Ass Philippines has attracted hundreds of passionate runners who have grown to love the 2.2 km-oval at the Clark Parade Grounds (Pampanga) which has served as the venue for 5 years straight. 

The 83neans with Jon and kid

The guidelines are simple. You simply run around the 2.2-km oval for as many loops you can manage in a specified number of hours. There are 3 time categories:  24 hours, 12 hours and 6 hours. The start time for this year are as follow:

          24 hours: 
6AM of January 4
         12 hours: 
6AM or 6PM of January 4
        6 hours: 
6AM, 12 noon and 6PM of January 4 
or 12 midnight of January 5

There are no registration fees. The participants simply have to sign  a waiver before they start the run. Fat Ass runners are required to provide their own unique bib with their nickname (not bib number). There will be only 1 checkpoint. Runners' loops will be recorded on log sheets. Log sheets will be the official records. All runners will log in their time/loop every time they reach the checkpoint. Runners are also encouraged to donate foods and fluids. There is a table at the checkpoint that will accept the donations.   

Signing in the log sheet

Simple.  So it seems.

From our running group of the Ateneo de Naga HS Batch 1983, we had Bob Castilla, Ernie Badong, Ed Balcueva, Ruben "Fards" Fajardo, Noel "Ghibz" Guevara and me (Bicolano Penguin) registered for the 12-hour category of the 2014 Fat Ass.  The "runnin8 m3n for others" choose the 6PM (January 4) start. Due to the death of a close relative, Ghibz was not able to join us. I came in late, actually arriving 7PM but my running buddies were kind enough to wait for me.  It is the first time for Fards and me to run the Fat Ass while for Bob, Ernie and Ed, it is their second.

After dropping the box of Summit bottled drinking water (courtesy of my favorite bank officer at PNB) at the donation table,  all 5 of us went on our Fat Ass adventure together and we kind of decided to walk first to help us warm up.  Guys our age, we run on diesel fuel (more like diesel fumes). The walk allowed us to observe the atmosphere of the Fat Ass venue.  It was like a jamboree of the Boys Scout of the Philippines. Dozens of tents were set up in clusters near the checkpoint. Around these tents were members of various running clubs and running barkadas, some of them grilling some meat,  others engaging in some drinking and many cheering on the runners/walkers as they ambled on. The organizers guaranteed CAMARADERIE and FUN and the Fat Ass participants endeavored to prove them right.

This festive atmosphere lured us to set up our own chairs and coolers by the side of the running path so that we could also engage in the good time after every loop that we finished.  Thus, the pattern was set that for every loop that we walked, we would sit down and grab a bite of the fruits (melons and oranges)  and snacks (Chippys and chocolates) and guzzle up the Gatorade, Mountain Dew and the red wine.  The MGM running group camped in front of us was neighborly to share some shots of Bacardi with us.

Cheers as we neared midnight

A fun way indeed to celebrate. But the progress of the loops suffered. By 12 midnight, I counted my tally and I just managed to finish 10 loops in  6 hours.  My fellow 83neans had the same meager total. That is roughly half a marathon distance.  Pretty slow and disappointing for our taste.  Hell, the BP has been known to do a marathon in less than 6 hours. And in those 6 hours, we barely ran. Given the food and drinks we were ingesting in our stop-overs, we had to resort to walking. And you know what, my feet, despite being clad in Hokas, were hurting from all that walking.

Walking  felt  even more tiring than running. Walking was harder on my knees than running and the physiological basis could be that the time it takes to transfer your weight from one foot to the other while walking  is longer (than while running) and so the descending pressures last longer and apply more strain on body parts. Walking requires you to spend more time with the weight of gravity on your hips and legs, which can be painful,  especially if you are overweight or out of shape (for more on this, check out the work of Shiatsu therapist Grace Graham in http://www.get-fit-not-injured.com/walking-and-running.html).

With all this hurting and tiring from the walking, my folding chair at our stop-over was more and more acting like the mermaids of old, enticing  me to sit longer and perhaps  sleep till dawn, thus resulting in the doom of my Fat Ass running. This seemed to be an appetizing option given that quite  a throng of  runners were also retiring to their tents.

The temptation of the folding chairs

No way Jose.  I had to dig down and get some motivation to continue with the Fat Ass. I got to be not happy with just 10 loops. Another paradox in this Fat Ass is that you might think it is easy as you can always have the option to rest or walk but trying to finish more loops require more mental discipline to continue. Motivation, for me,  came in the form of setting a target for the second half of my 12 hours. I needed a guide post.  And that target was to go for a negative split in the next 6 hours. The 2nd half target was set for 11 loops. This time I mixed in the  running with the walking. At first glance, the 2.2 km loop looked flat but actually there were  descending and ascending portions and you get to discern it as you went around the loop several times. I concentrated my running on the descent and walked on the ascent.

By 3AM in the morning, I have covered 6 loops of the second half (16th overall) but I was already a bit sleepy. My eyes were closing as I trotted thru the Clark parade grounds together with Ernie and Bob who were still at it. I decided to take a 30-minute nap, joining Fards and Ed who had earlier succumbed to the sirens of snoozeland. Waking up at the prescribed time, I felt rejuvenated and went on my way to finish a handful more of loops to hit my objective. I did more runs than walk this time. 

Nailing the GOAT

With 1 more hour to go before the end of the Fat Ass, I already got my 21st loop thereby nailing my objective of a negative split.  But this further spurred me on to go for another target.  How about going for the GOAT or 23 loops? 23 being the number of Michael Jordan, the greatest of all time. With a new goal, I declined to sit down in our stop over where I saw Fards and Ed already awake, and went for two more loops which I did accomplish with 15 more minutes to spare.  Could I go for another loop? This time the 24th loop as tribute to Kobe.  I decided not to go for it as mathematics told me I would be short by 4 minutes as the fastest time for me to finish the 2.2 km route is 19 minutes. I focused instead to take photos of the activities around the checkpoint.

Jon starting the countdown for the conclusion of the 2014 Fat Ass

2014 Fat Ass souvenir shirts for sale

The log sheets, many of them water-logged by the fog

A peek at the 83neans’ log sheet

Ernie exulting at the finish

The 24-hour category frontrunner – Rocky Taylan
Speaking of GOAT, Rocky Taylan is starting to  build up a rep as one of the formidable "Fat Assers"  in the country as he broke the course record of 71 loops for the 24 hours which he set last year.  This 2014 Fat Ass, he finished 73 loops for a total of 160.6 kms.  He is one mean stoic running machine and he is the Rock. The only time I saw him smile was at the end of the 24 hours. 

The Kings and Queens of the 2014 Fat Ass that went up at the "podium" at the recognition ceremonies are the following:

24 hours:

KING: Rocky Taylan - 73 loops = 160.6kms (new record)
QUEEN: Tess Miranda - 46 loops = 101.2kms

12 hours:

KING: Dhannie Tan - 36 loops - 79.2 kms
QUEENS: TIED Annaly Alojado and 
              Rosselyn ____ - 28 loops - 61.6kms

6 hours:

KING: Wilnar Iglesia - 30 loops - 66kms
QUEEN: Tricia Serios - 17 loops - 37.4kms

Jon with the Kings and Queen of the 2014 Fat Ass
Rocky with the 83neans

BP with Jon
We truly enjoyed the 2014 Fat Ass  and we have the hardworking Atty. Jon,  his family and the volunteers to vigorously thank for.  It is not easy to organize a 24-hour event, much more when there are no registration fees to defray the cost of such an undertaking. It takes a genuine passion for the  sport and it clearly showed in the way the Fat Ass was handled. Jon was out there in ground zero making the first-timers, like me, feel at home. He likewise was visiting the various groups in their tent settings and encouraging them to cheer for the runners as they passed by.  

My  take-aways from the Fat Ass  experience are two-fold.

One, I got to meet kindred  runners and talk to a few passionate ones while doing the loops at the Clark Parade Grounds. In the solitude of the Fat Ass, one tries to contribute to the solidarity of runners as what Jon was trying to lead by example.  There was the husband and wife team of Jun and Ana whose support vehicle was parked beside ours. Ana is a batchmate with the TBR Dream Marathon (2010). Good news for a Hoka fanatic like me as I learned that there is now a Hoka One One Club Philippines (https://www.facebook.com/Hokaclubphilippines).   The facebook admin is a runner with the call sign "Dagul" and he was very pleasant in sharing the good attributes of the Hoka as we power walked together at midnight. A  hardworking  runner that caught our eyes was a 6-hour category participant by the name of Enrique.  From the onset, he was running full blast and was still strong after 4 hours. I guess he was trying to put up a challenge to Iglesia the frontrunner in the category. Imagine that -  Enrique and Iglesia duelling under a lovely  "crooner’s" moon.  Julio would have been proud. I also had the pleasure of talking while trotting with  Johann who is one of the leaders of Team EKEK. Originally from the northern Ilocos region, he does most of his runs south of Metro Manila and he explained that the word "EK" is derived from Enchanted Kingdom where his running club first got to congregate. There were more than a handful of Team EKEK members who endured  in the 2014 Fat Ass and one of them was a lady runner who exhibited fine form and steely determination in gobbling up the loops. Turns out that "Rodell" (the nickname on her bib) is a nurse in Asian Hospital who comes from Calabanga, Camarines Sur and graduated college at the Universidad de Sta. Isabel. Oragon ining Bicolana.

83neans with Team EKEK’s ‘Rodell’

Two, the importance of having an objective in tackling a running endeavor such as the Fat Ass.  It is no fun to be running or walking aimlessly. Nakakapagod ang palabuy-labuy. Having a goal in mind was what powered me to run a few more loops despite the sleepiness and the tiring muscles in those early morning hours. Truism indeed in  the words of David Wiley, the Editor-in-Chief of the world’s leading running magazine - - - "We generate our own progress according to our definition of success."

See you again at 2015 Fat Ass. Emoticon

The 83neans will be back in 2015...

This time we will have our own muse and not borrow one.


  1. I enjoyed reading this post in one sitting. One of your longer posts I reckon!

    Yes, I agree it takes mental determination to be running in loops for several hours and perhaps, that is the lesson to be learned from running Fat Ass. Most ultrarunners use this event as a training venue for longer ultras minus the registration fee and pressure.

    What makes runners keep coming back is, I think, because of the camaraderie and fun. Those are the unique qualities that set Fat Ass from other running events. Not all grunting, huffing and puffing like in real races. Our motivation when we initially organized this was two-fold - get in some huge mileage while having some fun (i.e. bearable). Paradoxical indeed! There is no running event in the Philippines equaled to this. Another keys are the location and lay-out of the place, the basic amenitites and of course, the weather (except noon time), appeal and timeliness of the event (who does not want to lose weight after holidays? :)

    Yes, it is not easy to organize one but I'm getting the hang of it. The key is taking a nap during the ungodly hours so I have enough energy left to smile during the recognition ceremony and to restore the place to its original location. As to costs, there are some obvious necessary expenses and I always have the fear that I might have to fork my own juice to tide it over.

    Overall, I agree with your points of observation. Again, thank you and your group for swinging by. We'd love to have your around next year! Congratulations for the negative split!

    Jon (attending to his own personal races now)

  2. Thank you Atty Jon! It was fun running the Fat Ass. Love the run, love the place, love the people and love the music! We will be back next year. Congratulations and more power!

  3. Congrats and thank you Atty Jon for the successful Fat Ass run. Agree with you that runners came back yearly for this run due to camaraderie & fun. Truly, no other running event here in the Country can match this one. Thanks again and more power to you and your team!

  4. Fat Ass, like our beloved Mayon 360, is a running event we will continue to join on a yearly basis. It is great bonding and great training. Atty. Jon, may you and your team never tire in organizing the Fat Ass.