The Bicolano Penguin survived its 13th ultra marathon when I crossed the finish line at Lucban, Quezon of the Laguna to Quezon (L2Q) 50K Ultra Marathon last August 24. Man, was I slow.
The run and walk from the start area of UP Los Banos passing thru the idyllic plains of Bay, Calauan and Victoria to the foothills of Mt. Banahaw in Nagcarlan, Liliw and Majayjay and to the religious theme park that is Kamay ni Hesus in Lucban seemed to take a long long time for me. So much so that I felt that I have grown a fresh batch of hair on my cleanly-shaven face in the course of the said ultra. The protractedness of the time was confirmed when I looked at the finish time – 9 hours & 17 minutes. Thank God the finish line was only in the gate of the theme park and not the top of the hill whose 300+ steps would have taken me another hour to waddle up.
|Thank God no need to climb the hill at Kamay ni Hesus.|
It really feels that the Bicolano Penguin is getting slower and I am not using age as an excuse. The finish time for my 50Km-ultras seem to be migrating northwards of 8 hours and even 9 hours when in fact, there was a time in 2012 that I did 7 hours & 32 mins for the Tagaytay to Nasugbu plus the 7 hours & 24 mins for the first 50 kilometers of my Bataan Death March 102K ultra.
|Tracking the speed (more like “lack of speed”) of the Bicolano Penguin in his 50-km ultras|
The Bicolano Penguin is currently wallowing in a mud of ultra running mediocrity. And the future seems bleak and slow.
But why continue running ultra long distances?
One of the delights for me in running ultras is that it is an opportunity for me to be of help, to be of relevance to another human being. Take this L2Q where it was the first ultra marathon of my office mate, Orly Jacob. He has been the driver of our support vehicle in our ultra adventures from the T2N to the BDM to the T2K to the R2L to the MAP and to the Sungay. He is also a good runner in his own right. But the longest he has done is a half marathon. He has expressed his interest to do a full marathon. Come the third week of August, I told him his that his wish would be granted and then some. I told him he would be running 50 kms in the L2Q. Good thing about Orly is that he is brave (being an Army reservist) and he was never cowed by the distance. He readily said yes to the adventure.
|Claiming our race bibs|
|Orly liked his race number “111” while my “72” reminded me of martial law|
|Inside Baker Memorial Hall in UPLB waiting for the pre-race program to start|
|Runners eager to start|
|The Bicolano Penguin, being a slow runner, likes to start at the last line so that he will be the one to do the overtaking rather than be the one being overtaken.|
|With a 3am start, it was still dark on the road where the Energizer headlamp proved to be helpful.|
|With 20 kms foreplay finished, the Bicolano Penguin changing to the Altra Paradigm for the balance of 30kms+|
|Orly happy with his first ultra experience|
|Entering Lucban, the last town of the L2Q|
Thus, it happened that there were 2 runners wearing the row5runnin shirt that lined up at the starting area of the L2Q ultra in Los Banos. More than 9 hours later in Lucban, 2 ultra fuckers from First Balfour raised their finisher trophies. Orly finished in 138th position while the Bicolano Penguin in 142nd place. We are still in the fifth row but I guess the classroom was a long one as there were more than a hundred more runners who finished after us. For the record, there were 262 ultra runners who made the 12 hour cut off.
|Orly’s 1st ultra|
|BP’s 13th ultra|
|Race results courtesy of runningmate.ph|
|The thrill of a collaborative finish|
A handful of plus points and a couple of minus points for the L2Q and its organizer – Run Mania.
+ The Pollution-free Scenery. The route from Los Banos to Lucban was decidedly pollution-free. While there was some traffic congestion in downtown Nagcarlan as it was the town fiesta on August 24, the runners of L2Q were blessed with a lot of green vistas from ricefields to coconut plantations to abundant green forestry trees by the many riverbanks. We were after all running thru the foothills of Mt. Banahaw and Mt. Cristobal. It was a treat for the ultra runners to pass thru idyllic and tourist-friendly towns like Liliw with its domestic footwear industry, Majayjay with its massive centuries old Saint Gregory the Great parish church and Lucban with its colorful Pahiyas festival.
|Having fun in front of one of the “YSL” stores in Liliw|
|Entrance to the old town of Majayjay|
|The L2Q run route did not pass thru in front of the old Saint Gregory the Great parish church but this chapel a block away from the big church looked old enough for some photo ops.|
|Too bad the L2Q run route did not include Luisiana, we would have gone straight to the Big Easy New Orleans.|
+ Pretty Finisher trophy. The trophy given out to the finishers in the L2Q was a unique one among the finisher trophies I have received in the past. It seems to be inspired by Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions and is usually depicted of having two faces as this god looks to the past and to the future. The L2Q finisher trophy has two faces: one side depicting the UP oblation while the other side depicting the main attraction in the Kamay ni Hesus park. The twin images look good. Kind of like winning two trophies as I would imagine the effort it took to conquer this ultra marathon was double that of the easier ultras out there.
|Two images for the L2Q Finisher trophy|
+ Alagang Run Mania. The L2Q continued to showcase the runner-friendly features (aka “alagang run” mania) that has characterized Run Mania ultras. There are the water/food stations every 10 kms or so with the 4th station offering some delicious drumstick ice cream by Creamline. There are the in-house photographers of Run Mania and Caliraya runners that are scattered throughout the 50-km route. And at the finish line, there is the background banner where all finishers get to strut their stuff ala celebrity. It was a also an inspiring touch for the Run Mania head Pat Maranan to acknowledge at the start of the race and to award certificates of recognition to a couple of runners for their own respective altruistic efforts using the fun run as a medium.
|Enjoying the ice cream at the Km 40 water station|
|Pat Maranan of Run Mania awarding a certificate to one of the altruistic participants|
+ The more the merrier. Because of this “alagang run mania” branding, L2Q like its Run Mania ultra brethren the T2K or the R2L are well attended with registered participants exceeding 200 or even 400. For the L2Q there were 300+ registrants with 262 runners actually crossing the finish line within the 12-hour cut off time. Because of the numerous participants, it is easy for a runner, even the shy ones like the penguin, to get to meet new friends and rekindle old ones. At the L2Q, it was my first time to meet and share a photo with a pair of top gun runners from the Paranaque Running Circle: Charlito Capison (3rd place) and Joseph “Noy” Gentoleo (12th place). Got to meet and share a Coke mismo with Mignon Ygnacio who was the pace buddy of Delmo Sullano, a classmate of mine at the Milo Apex a few years back in Bonifacio Global City. Likewise, runners I shared a smile on the L2Q road like Bobby Castillo, Peejay Herrera and Crispin Banares are now my friends in Facebook and will likely be donning some row5runnin shirts in the future.
|With the running studs of Paranaque Running Circle|
|With the ultra running addicts of Fort Striders|
Ironically, the influx of hundreds of runners in Run Mania ultras like L2Q is perhaps the critical factor why at times there is a feeling that the organizers are overmatched. And this negative aspect reared its head in the L2Q in two ways:
- RD not around to welcome all finishers. While ultras with smaller number of participants like the Malicboy-Atimonan-Pagbilao ultra or the Sungay Challenge Ultra or the Tagaytay to Nasugbu Ultra have the Race Director actually on hand to congratulate the finisher at the finish line, the L2Q did not have the Race Director available for all the 262 finishers. At least for row 5 runners like me. When I crossed the L2Q finish line at past 12 noon, there was no person looking like a Race Director that congratulated me. Perhaps the RD was already taking his lunch or was attending to something more important that needed attending to but it left a bit of an empty feeling for me that my effort was not worthy enough of a handshake or a congratulatory hug from the race director. Perhaps the Run Mania group may take some inspiration by how the NBA does its annual draft where the Commissioner is present to welcome all first round draftees and the deputy commissioner for the later round draftees.
|Nobody to greet the runner at the finish line except the clock and the photographer|
- Lack of escort for lead runners. This was a problem which was first-hand experienced by fellow PRC runner Charlito Capison. Entering the town proper of Nagcarlan, Charlito was leading but to his surprise there was no motorcycle escort to guide him thru the busy streets of this town. It happened that he took a wrong turn which led him to run out of the route by almost half a kilometer. By the time he realized his error, a couple of runners have already taken the lead ahead of him. Who knows, if there was an escort form him when he was leading in Nagcarlan, the top 1 finisher could have been a Paranaque runner by way of Surigao.
|Charlito leading eventual 2nd place winner Jomenson Sapitan before the Nagcarlan town proper. Note the absence of a motorized escort for the lead pack.|
The plus points far outnumber the minus points in L2Q. The Bicolano Penguin and many more ultra runners have enjoyed and will continue to run ultra marathons organized by Pat Maranan and his Run Mania group. My sharing these two minus points is more in the spirit of encouraging the group to improve some more for the win win benefit of all.
Overall, the L2Q was a difficult ultra but something that is awe-inspiring just like the mystical Mt. Banahaw in whose considerable shadow the 262 runners endeavored to conquer not only the 50+ kms but also their own selves. Orly, myself and many more are indeed blessed with the L2Q experience.
Congratulations to all finishers. Many thanks to Run Mania for a good one.
|Orly and the BP back at home base|
Special mention to the photographers whose photos I got to use for this article (Day Walker, FSTOP Creatives, Ferds Empalmado Lawas, Laguna Run, Run Ijo Caliraya Runners).