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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..

April 25, 2016

2016 MAYON 360: Pilgrims on the Road

As defined, a pilgrimage is a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion. People who undertake a pilgrimage are called pilgrims. Although some pilgrims have wandered continuously with no fixed destination, pilgrims more commonly seek a specific place that has been sanctified by association with a divinity or other holy personage.  The institution of pilgrimage is evident in all world religions and was also important in the multi-deity  religions of ancient Greece and Rome.

Pilgrimage usually entails some separation (alone or in a group) from the everyday world of home, and pilgrims may mark their new identity by wearing special clothes or abstaining from physical comforts.  Frequently, pilgrimages link sacred place with sacred time.  The hajj always occurs on the 8th, 9th and 10ths days of the last month of the Muslim year.  Historically, Jews would visit the temple of Jerusalem during the Passover. 

A further common feature of pilgrimages is the availability of small souvenirs - relics, containers of holy water, icons and so on - that allow the sacredness of a shrine to be transported back to the pilgrim's home.  As populations continue to move around the  globe, pilgrimages have provided a way for migrant communities to retain contact with their homelands.     

Going thru the definition from Encyclopedia Britannica, it becomes apparent that a pilgrimage is a word that can be used to describe an ultra marathon.  Running under the intense heat of the Bicol sun last April 9, 2016, I could not agree more. The 2016 Mayon 360 ultra marathon sure is a pilgrimage for us.    

Just like a pilgrimage, the Mayon 360 is a long journey, covering more than 80 kilometers.   Just like a pilgrimage, participants of the Mayon 360  definitely abstain  from physical comforts and wear special clothing for the running under the heat of the sun.  Just like a pilgrimage, it  is linked to a "sacred time", in the Mayon 360's case, it ushers the start of the Magayon Festival of the beautiful province of Albay.  Just like a pilgrimage, successful finishers, or shall we say "survivors" of the Mayon 360 are given souvenirs in the form of finisher medal, finisher shirt and finisher trophy. Just like a pilgrimage, the Mayon 360 has provided a way for runners with Bicol roots to retain contact with Bicolandia.

Mayon 360 80km solo ultra mararthon route map. Unchanged since its first edition in  2011

2016 Mayon 360 Finisher Medal.

2016 Mayon 360 Finisher Trophy
For the pilgrimage to survive and prosper, there has to be fanatical  participants.  Similarly, the Mayon 360 has been blessed with zealous participants who keep coming back every year for the same dose of heat and pain,  and for the same dose of gratification and salvation. 

The Bicolano Penguin is blessed to be one of these Mayon 360 zealots.  I have had the pain and pleasure of surviving 4 editions of the Mayon 360 80km solo ultra marathon. In all of my 4 successful campaigns in Bicol's hottest ultra marathon, I have had the privilege of undertaking  it with devout  running friends.   In 2011, I joined my fellow running 83neans Bob Castilla and Ruben Fajardo  in finishing the very first edition of the Mayon 360.  It was brutal as the 2011 Mayon 360 was my very first distance event beyond 50 kilometers.  Ironically, my finish time of  13 hours & 20 minutes in the 2011 Mayon 360 continues to be my PR for the said event.    In 2013,  my  companion was another running 83nean Ric Lozano.  Both of us gutted it out under the heat of the sun on that election year.  It rained in 2013 but even with the rain, the Albay road continued to be baking hot. In  2014,  I ran with fellow 83nean Noel "Ghibz" Guevara and fellow blogger Mau Gines. It was an honor for me to romance the road  with these kindred runners who were tackling their first Mayon 360. Ghibz finished valiantly  but after the race, he had a shortness of breath situation and had to be  brought to a local  hospital. The indefatigable Mau crossed the 2014 Mayon 360 finish line in the adoring presence of siblings and relatives for her very first ultra in her native Albay. She would be back the next year   to conquer again the 2015 Mayon 360 , shaving an hour from her 2014 finish time. A Gabriela of a runner she is.
2013 Mayon 360.  Finishing with Ric.

2014 Mayon 360.  Running together. 

2014 Mayon 360.  At the finish line with Mau and Ghibz 

For the 2016 Mayon 360, I had the votive experience of finishing it together with fellow row5runner Aura Reduta.  The year earlier, Au missed the 16-hour cut off by 7 minutes.  The DNF outcome did not deter her from trying again. On the contrary, it steeled her resolve to come back for the 2016 Mayon 360 to finish some unfinished business. With coaching from fellow members of Camp Row 5, Au labored thru numerous LSDs and heat training runs for she knew it would be needed come redemption time. We devised the 3 + 4 + 4 + 4  strategy to tackle the 80+ kilometers that Mayon had to offer.  We divided the 80 into smaller pieces of 20 kilometers and if we remained faithful to the plan, we would have a comfy 1-hour buffer for the 16-hr cut off. Disciplined and reticent, she crossed the finish line in less than 15 hours.  She had no victory howls but modestly kept to  herself.  But in her mind, she said to herself - "Thank you so much Lord at di mo ako pinabayaan." 
2016 Mayon 360.  Running under the heat of the sun.
2016 Mayon 360.  Assistance from ...

...Support Crew is crucial.

2016 Mayon 360.  3 more kilometers to go and the runners and support crew have a group photo.
2016 Mayon 360.  With Au and Irah at the finish line. 

Indeed, an ultra marathon like the Mayon 360 is where you might  see the confluence of religion and running.  There are many runners who seemed to have developed a devotion for the Mayon 360 where these runners are coming back almost on a yearly basis to offer homage to the magayon that is Mayon Volcano.  The Mayon 360 ultra marathon, which is jointly organized by the JCI Legazpi and the Albay provincinal government, has become a pilgrimage to countless runners.  

Allow us to share the experience and words of a few of these pilgrims on the road:

Gia Estrella (Ayala Triads):

Finished the Mayon 360 80km solo in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016.  PR is 10 hrs & 27 mins (2016). Survived the 2015 Mayon 160km ultra.

"Running the Mayon 360 fascinates me a lot with the view of the Mayon Volcano. You will appreciate the beauty of nature.  Locals are so friendly and accommodating (especially during call of nature).  The provincial government of Albay is so supportive in this endeavour and the JCI Legazpi did a great job organizing Mayon 360. I like the concept that all barangays are actively participating in this event.  I am also thankful to my love, Zaldy Santillan, the one who introduced to me about Mayon 360.  I love the finisher's shirt, medal and trophy. For the 5 years I've been joining, I learned to be patient, to pace the course well, most important to hydrate and eat in every station for fuel and also be friendly to locals and co-runners. Will definitely join again."    

Ernie Badong (83neans & row5runnin): 

Finished  the Mayon 360 80km solo in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016.  PR is 12 hrs & 40 mins. Survived the 2015 Mayon 160km ultra.

"I am a Bicolano. Its  always been a pleasure and honor to run the Mayon 360.  My goal for Mayon 360 was to just run and finish the race.  After joining for 5 straight years, I felt I am more familiar with the race route.  I learned that conquering Mayon is not easy. I think this gave me an advantage. And this helped me finished safely.  Yes, I will run the Mayon 360 again next year.  Congrats to the organizers for a job well done! Wala na akong hahanapin pa."  

Nino Monte (Tri Team 300 & row5runnin):

Finished 2012, 2014, 2015 & 2016.  PR is 6 hrs & 39 mins (2014).

"The 2012 edition was my first official Mayon 360 finish.  In 2011, I ran and finished but as a bandit as I'm not yet qualified due to my age (17) at that time. 2012 was memorable as I finished the race Top 10 - sub 8 overall with a great finish surge as I caught up and defeated a Kenyan leading to the finish line. with all the race spectators cheering for a young gun and applause of "Go Philippines." 
I join the Mayon 360 because of a perfect cone volcano as the background.  Challenging. Race route in a sea level terrain and extremely hot. Humid weather.  Difficult competition, full of elite runners which motivates me to train.  Over-all, it is a well-organized event.  My learnings from the Mayon 360 experience are patience, run under the heat of the sun, run on the endless uphill and downhill. Despite all odds, finish the race.  There's no shortcut on training. Otherwise, sickness and injury may persist. Of course yes. I would love to be back. I will give ample time to prepare and train for next year."      

Brando Bueno (row5runnin):

Finished 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016. PR is 9 hrs & 52 mins (2016).

"I joined Mayon 360 dahil nakaka intriga yung layo ng M360. Dapat po yung home work mo gawin mo. Huwag kang sasali diyan na kulang ang training. Hindi yan walk in the park.  Andoon din po yung plano bago tumakbo at need mo na mag stick sa plano mo kasi minsan na wala akong plano during my M360 sunog talaga ako at nahirapan ako ng sobra. Yung hydration at nutrition din po dapat di yun pinapabayaan. Will I join again?  Siguro po. Di ko din masabi na ayaw ko ng tumakbo diyan, mabigat na kasi sa bulsa."

 Abner Corpus (Team SUBO):

Finished the Mayon 360 80km Solo in 2014, 2015 and 2016. PR is 11 hrs & 24 mins.               

"Why I run the Mayon 360?  Just for the fun of it.  And to taste sa tingin ko yung sakit ng katawan pagkatapos mo itong takbuhin.  My take away from the Mayon 360?  Haba ng pasensiya dapat ang pairalin pag tumatakbo ka sa M360.  May mga chance kasi na hindi maiwasan uminit ang ulo mo pag may mga nanonood  na nangangantyaw. Kaya dapat marunong ka magpasensiya. Hanggat may Mayon 360 tatakbo at tatakbo ako. Nakaka-adik ang pagtakbo.  Maiingit ka lang pag hindi ka na ulit tumakbo dito." 

Gracito Villaver (Caceres Runners Club):

Finished the Mayon 360 80km Solo in 2015 and 2016.  PR is 12 hrs & 45 mins (2016).

"Why run in the Mayon 360?  It is a personal achievement as a runner.  My take away from the Mayon 360 experience is I get to meet other runners from other places. My learning is to finish the race no matter what. Will I run again in the Mayon 360?  Yes with God's grace."  

Ronald Dela Rosa (Team Reformers BJMP5):

Finished Mayon 360 80km Solo in 2015 and 2016. PR is 12 hrs & 21 mins (2016).

"Why I join?  To support local ultra and the same time, test myself for this very challenging run.  My learning is patience is indeed a virtue. Other lessons are training hard and optimism that you can finish the run despite the struggles.  The support in the M360 is awesome.  Well, for an average runner like me, the goal of every runner is to finish the run.  It is every runners fulfillment to cross the finish line..  If given a chance, I will run again the M360. I will probably break my PR time."    

Doods Gigantoca (Team SUBO-1st Colonial Grill):

Finished the Mayon 360 80km Solo in 2015 and 2016.  PR is 14 hrs & 22 mins (2016).

"Why run the Mayon 360? Running the M360 is a calling to every Bicolano Ultra Runner.  The maiden is worth conquering every year and its more challenging because you want to beat your PR in every edition.  My learnings from the Mayon 360 experience  will always be respect the route and distance. Listen to your body.  Quitting is not an option.  I adopted this line - "Don't worry. Don't hurry.  Kiss all the flowers along the way."  Another learning is preparation for the M360 is very important. If you mess up, blame yourself. Two reasons that convince me to run again. My favorite tagline - Smile though it hurts. My running spirit - This is who we are, what we are and will always be - - - An Ultra Runner."

The pilgrims on the road are devoted to our beloved Mayon 360 but this is not to say that they do not have complaints and suggestions.  Here are a sample of their suggestions for improvement in the annual running of the most famous ultra marathon in Bicol.

1. "Ang gusto kong maimprove ng organizer ay ang tamang race results. Tamang ranking ng mga runners na dumadating sa finish line. Kasi takbuhin mo ang 80 kms tapos paglabas ng results wala doon name mo, diba nakakadismaya ang ganon?"

2.  "For improvement,  maybe to acknowledge all those loyal runners joining Mayon 360 (e.g. for 5 or more consecutive years, loyalty award in a form of token like shirt or Mayon 360 localty bracelet or ring, etc.)."

3.  "Improve on better  ultra race aid stations."

4.  "Race should start earlier.  Design of finisher trophy must be different annually.  Finisher shirt must be of good quality. More freebies."
5. "Revive the 160kms or maybe 100kms or 120kms.  We run for the medals and trophy as apart of our bragging rights. It saddens me to see that we got the same design , that of 2015 edition. Start of the race maybe moved to 12 midnight or 2am.  Red carpet finish like that of 2015 is very much welcome."

6.  "Siguro po yung hydration nila sa last 5kms.  Pag lampas mo ng Km 75 hydration station, malayo pa yung finish line (actually 8kms more). Lalo sa may banding tulay na init doon.  Nakiusap pa ako sa isang tindahan doon na maki-inom."   

Overall, the management  of the Mayon 360 has been done quite well by its organizers JCI Legazpi and the Provincial Government of Albay.  Both runners and the community are generally happy with the race. And there has been some awards coming its way.  In 2011, at the National Convention of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines held in Roxas City, the Mayon 360  got first place in the Best Tourism Event : Sports/Wellness Category Provincial Level.
BP with JCI Legazpi officials Martin Reynoso and Yves Yu. 
Well and good.  And  the Mayon 360 is evolving from an event into a pilgrimage.  More and more, Mayon 360 finishers and survivors will be coming back every year in the hot summer month of April to fulfill their devotion to  running in the shadow of  the fairest of all volcanoes all day long.

See you fellow pilgrims next year at the 2017 Mayon 360.

P.S.  Photos taken from the facebook pages of Run Lipa, Running Photographers, and Happy Panda.   


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