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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..

November 25, 2015

PHILIPPINE MARINE CORPS MARATHON: The World is Flat - To Them!


Blogger's Note:  To my mind, any self-respecting Pinoy marathoner should run in the Philippine Marine Corps Marathon.
 A partnership venture between the bravest fighting force of the country -  Philippine Marine Corps and the premier running magazine of the country - frontRUNNER, the PMCM has got a challenging hilly terrain and a patriotic advocacy.  The race is for the benefit of Filipino troops deployed in the disputed Kalayaan Islands and for the Marines' Wounded Warriors Program. Thus, when announcement about the PMCM was posted already, I encouraged all my running buddies to sign up.  Given the hill terrain, we knew we had to train hard for this and we made plans to have a recon run a few weeks before the run itself on Nov 15. As fate would have it, we were not able to do the recon run and I myself was not able to run the PMCM. But  my beloved running 83neans and row5runners soldiered on and had a grand rollicking time in running the 25 kms and 42 kms races of the PMCM.  I requested my good friend Noel "Ghibz" Guevara to put in writing their rip-roaring run. Of course, he said yes and he has not disappointed.  If writing is to be compared to the art of boxing, Ghibz is a rare mix of Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran.  Ghibz' pulsating rendering of the action reminds us of the legendary footwork of 1980s Boxer of the Decade, while Ghibz' concluding written words evoke the potent power of the right hand of Panama's greatest boxer.  This leaves the readers of Ghibz' asking for "uno mas" of his writings.               

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It is a bit difficult to organize your thoughts on how to put justice and excitement altogether the unique experience we had in the just-concluded 1st Philippine Marine Corps Marathon (PMCM) last Nov 15, 2015 in Camp Gregorio Lim in Ternate, Cavite. Like a race journal, allow me to give the readers a blow by blow account of various sub-topics I hope will not only inform but to reflect on what these kindred runners have done and continue to passionately do as if on auto-pilot mode - the voluntary pursuit of happiness through running. 

How I Got Involved in the First Place   


My last long distance run - full marathon (42 kms) as bare minimum that is, was last March 2015 offered by 7-Eleven Store celebrating their 300 branches.  I remember the owner of this blog - our highly  respected 83nean and row5runnin group's founder Vicboy de Lima finishing ahead of me after pacing him up to the last 8-km home stretch.  After that, it was just sporadic weekend runs in Camp Aguinaldo as I can only watch in Facebook their regular run-around-the-camp regimen. And then, for whatever motivation, after a few months of hibernation, this event came into view after a few announcements, dares and the usual prodding you expect. Nothing much fanfare about 2 months to go of the race.


Then, while doing the usual training which was done on solo effort, Vicboy, now using the BP Runner pseudonym, suddenly posted the terrain profile of the route.  I was forced to think twice. From  just a so-so runs topping only 16km weekend runs, I said to myself - "Fuck, I'm dead if I don't simulate  uphill and downhill routes."  I did some catch runs as I rushed against time that my leg cramps would kick-in always after my last longest run.  4 days before the race, I only logged 25 kms! I know if I get careless come race day, it will be a limping walk to the finish line!  Worst case - DNF! That image I wish would not come true.      


Bicol Contingent Surprise 


A few weeks before the race, I got to chat with Por da Lab-chant founder Allen "Bong" Tolledo. He sounded so exuberant he announced an 11-person running contingency!  Wow! This race must be so special I wonder if BP Runner or Bong promised something only a 2nd-hand car salesman can do.


The Bicol row5runners are a smorgasbord of old and new members. Special mention to Cyril Tolledo, better half of Allen who came confident to run 25 kms side-by-side with her hubby!  This is a pleasant surprise for me.  For the rest, I'm honestly distracted to recall their names because of the overwhelming kaleidoscope of colors they wear during their training runs as posted on facebook! Literally they are a bunch of colorful runners!


Finally, when they reached my house to host their overnight stay, they are now a "dirty dozen" full of bright expectations.  The "scent of happiness" was genuine and nothing is expected but fun in return for their long, tiring trip to race and back home.  All were even more motivated when they finally got hold of their race bibs and the newly printed camouflage row5runnin shirts c/o batchmate Norman Baturiano.  The quality of image branding of row5runnin has resulted in more runners being sucked like magnets to join this running tribe. 

The row5runnin contingent motored more than 400 kms from Naga City to the Philippine Marine Corps Marathon in Cavite.
The row5runnin delegation had a stop over in Ghibz' house where they were warmly received. 



The "Dirty Dozen" from Naga City -  Standing L-R:  Aura, Sherrylou, Mafe, Kevin, Cyril, Allen and Liana.  Squatting L-R:  Ric, Juritz, Naddy, Cyrus and Joji.
The ladies of row5runnin in the camouflage version of the row5runnin shirt. 

Route Recon Drive - Feeding My Curious Mind


The images of the intimidating route forced my curiosity to drive the venue and find out first-hand before the race.  It's the fear of the unknown and I want to erase any race surprises.  I met at the Camp Gregorio Lim the wife of the Marine commandant - Ms. Lulu Tanalgo and her co-organizer Ms. Anna Marie Pareno as I surveyed for the first time our very own Phil. Marines training camp.  Nice spartan place.  It is nestled in a jungle more akin to an eco-tourism destination rather than a terrifying place for gory and toruture-like training camps for the hardened and brave marines.


As I snake through the winding roads, passing thru the Kaybiang Tunnel, I was mesmerized by the quality of the running route and wondered in amazement how picturesque the shoreline, the calm blue ocean on the horizon of what is now a privately-owned property and resort complex called Hamilo Coast.  This is indeed worth the extended pain you will endure as a consolation behind a real brutal ascent and descent posture of the marathon route.

'Tres Marias' - Our New row5runnin Lady Runners Recruits        

As I drove home just to be on time to welcome the Bicol running contingent, I remembered that i just recruited 3 eager lady runners who will be in the 25-km race. One of them is an officemate, Marianne, who by sheer determinationto lose weight and get back to her former athletic form, decided to be briefly mentored by this writer. Not to be left alone, she prodded her two friends, Sharmaine and May, to join the evening training runs. Before I knew it, all three were already training on their own as I was left looking after my own pacing to build up distances.  They booked a place to stay near the camp.  


The Real Battle Begins! 


After dinner and a few chit-chats, we rested and woke up past midnight as all donned their running "battle gears."  Good thing I did a recon. Otherwise, we will surely lose our way in.  It was already warm-up time when we arrived and I for one, used up remaining time to "lock and load" and got ready for the gun start. I still felt sleepy. But, as well say, no excuses!  Running in pitch dark with no street lights in an uphill chargeis a one of a kind experience.  While runners like me with headlamps carefully trod the winding road, I was thinking other runners running solo with no lights are just plain gung-ho.  They couldn't care less if they stumble on potholes or step on crawling creatures crossing our path.  Except for the case of Kevin Moral, whom I spotted and about to overtake in Km 4.  Either he was left behind by a pack of runners or he just realized he has to slow down upon learning running under zero light is running like a headless chicken.  This was an opportunity for him to pace with me, leveraging on the Energizer headlight given by the BP Runner I wore at the race.
The few, the brave, the marines getting ready for the warm up exercises.

Stretching first before the assault on the hills of Ternate and Nasugbu.

Combined task force of row5runners and running 83neans.

Varying degrees of smile from the running 83neans:  Ernie, Allen, Ghibz, Bob, Ed and Ric.

The Race Director - Jonel Mendoza of frontRUNNER magazine.

The very capable RD in action before the start of the race. 

row5runners eager to start

The 105mm howitzer - the biggest starting gun in all 7,000 islands+ of the Philippines.  

Gung-ho exuberance of the 42km race participants. 

Ghibz taking it easy at the start. Running like the hunter and not the hunted.
It's quite discomforting and almost cowardly that we refused to assault the slightly upward but snaky route leading to Km. 9.  We were playing it safe and reserving energy to a more brutal steep uphill roads ahead.  Call it lame excuse but we prefer to be smart rather than gung-ho now but end up disabled warriors come finish line.

Upon reaching Km. 9, after tasting on how marines do their training regimen, we were rewarded with a 30-degree downward hill that would span 4 kms leveling only almost halfway upon reaching the newly opened Kaybiang Tunnel.  We knew the counter reward is the unforgiving and near torturous ordeal akin to a fraternity initiation.  When we reached Km 21 (half-marathon distance), we knew payback time to hurdle the return route will be a walk-in-the-park,   as in park of hell!!!
Sherrylou exiting the Kaybiang Tunnel.
Naddy enjoying the downhill.



Por-da-lab couple Allen and Cyril showing how it's done. 

Mafe enjoying a pre-birthday half marathon.

Aura exulting. 


Ed at the 21-km U-turn of the 42-km race.
And hell it was.  This is where you appreciate or curse why runners call it 'up-hell.'  From afar you see a flat road then you envisage a sudden incline.  I imagine the incline like a giant dragon's mouth blasting fire out of it!   And you have no choice but to enter into the dragon's mouth and get incinerated like a corpse about to be turned into ashes!

But what the heck!  This is what we came for.  As the organizers have said - if it is easy, what's the point?  So, head-on we walked!  Yes, we walked and started to analyze why our leg motors are behaving like 1,000 cc cars who hardly move to the uphill roads via Kennon in Baguio. This was an embarrassing contrast to Philippine Marine soldiers who by platoon ran the route as if it was flat. Adding insult to injury, they were doing it while heartily shouting cadence chants you normally hear in their morning military jogs.  We looked like senior citizens when they passed by us - a breeze then gone.
Marines running in platoon formation. 
Already aware of the grinding ordeal, we have to come up with things that would briefly escape boredom and monotonous sound of our heavy breathing and murmur-cursing.  We started wading our sights to trees, expecting monkeys to show up, eagles gliding from afar and gaze in amazement the beauty of ocean's canvass along the horizon.  When we spotted concrete barriers along the roadside, they looked like chocolate bars waiting to be chomped. But they taste much better when we rested our butts on these passive concrete. They are such refreshing refuge after getting extended beatings on those up-hells you feel like your legs were unlocked from vice grips of metal workshops. 

On the last 8 kms going to the finish line, it was a general sense of relief and feeling like newly-minted 'Kings of Pains.' However, our 83nean running buddy Ed Balcueva who paced with me and Kevin from Km 23, finally lost control of his call of nature. After a few kilometers assessing the best spot to do his 'woodstock', he found tge perfect 'landing' spot at Km 35.  A few minutes or so later, we saw our running friends Mark Hernandez and Naomi Tan Mabasa passing by with pace rushing like they were competing in a race. Later on we realized they were trying to outpace another group and competition heated up.  Mark and Naomi later confessed they saw Ed bouncing from crouch to upright posture - not yet aware what Ed just went through.

After getting a brief rain shower and some sunshine heat, we finally crossed the finish line.  It felt like an 8km too long!  We thank God we finished strong, no injuries and had enough energy to still socialize and go thru the usual photo-ops and group selfies.  We did it!  Another feather in our running cap.  Another mental to actual creation!  Another check in the bucket list!
The finish line had gala-uniformed Marine soldiers handing over the finisher medals to the participants. This is priceless.

Cyrus is the first to finish among the row5runners in the full marathon.

Followed by...

...Joji. 

Sherrylou, 

Liana, 

...and Aura getting their 25-km finisher dog tags. 

Bob and Dick sharing a photo with the RD.  All 3 are accomplished ultra runners.


A rare treat is the exhibition from the award-winning Philippine Marine Corps Drum and Bugle team. 

Lunch was via a boodle fight...

...Cyrus eagerly participated in. 

Another treat was the beach near the finish line which our Camp Aguinaldo fellow runner Candy enjoyed.

With Ghibz's 3 running recruits - May, Charmaine and Marianne. 

More spunk even after 25 kms and 42 kms of uphells and downhells.

Bottom-line and Acknowledgement

Voluntary action is difficult to mobilize in this world of "what's in it for me" selfish assessment of return on investment. It takes special leadership skills, aura and,  most of all, trustworthiness of a person who is trying to sell any idea - however mundane or enticing. The "instigator" of this PMCM adventure by the running 83neans and row5runners has already earned what it takes to mobilize a force ready to show unconditional support when and where needed.  His influence extends not only on running events but even on "asking" this writer to craft a narrative for his blog where as you read this, has been posted.  What can you say?  He did not earn the "maestro" and "guru" monikers for nothing.  It's almost an automatic "yes" every time he asks for something in such a soft-spoken manner.  But make no nistake, he is exactly the opposite-self when he is in his most competitive, never-say-die running mode.  Salute to you, Vicboy "BP Runner" de Lima for bringing  the running 83neans, Row5Runners, and friends alike to a new level, a new indelible, memorable experience in the lifestyle of running and fitness in general.

The Philippine Marines showed us we should be proud of their bravery.  We showed the strength and solidarity to support without fail BP Runner's fitness advocacy. And we all ended up happy!  Agree? 

A Band of Brothers.  That is the inspiration I get from looking at our soldiers which we hope to imbibe in our running tribe.   
            
Happy to see the esprit de corps exhibited in the finish of the trio of Ed, Kevin and Ghibz.   

P.S. Photos taken from the facebook pages of frontRUNNER Magazine, Aura Reduta, Mafe Santiago, Candy Pastor-Balaba,  Cyrus Nacario and Noel Guevara.
        





3 comments:

  1. BP..."What a HELL of a run!"...Despite of the hardships in uphill and downhill route, we (Cyril & I) are determined to finish the run to make it more meaningful and memorable for us.... 25k at 25 years of our married life....More power padi sa blog mo.

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  2. Wow Allen and Cyril. Way to celebrate 25 years of married life. Your choice of venue is symbolic - sama sama sa buhay, hirap at ginhawa at hirap at ginhawa. Walang iwanan.

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  3. Hello Sir. I'll be joining the PMC Marathon this year and I was wondering if you could recommend a place to stay where we can relax and unwind before the race? Thank you!

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