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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..

August 7, 2016

TN2N: Pioneering Uragons

A couple of hours before the break of dawn of this glorious Labor Day (May 1, 2016), 46 intrepid souls gathered in front of the Sto. Nino Church in the hilly barangay of Tierra Nevada. Many are members of running clubs (Caceres Runners, Isarog Runners, Team SUBO, Runconada, Pepsi-BRO ) and running tribes (row5runnin, 83neans)  while a few are independent freelancers.  They are all about to make history as the 50km race they have signed up for is the first official ultra marathon in the province. Yup, the Tierra Nevada to Naga (TN2N) ultra marathon is the first of its kind in  Camarines Sur, snaking its way from the rugged town of Tinambac in the 4th district of the province to the heart of Bicol - Naga City.

TN2N route map

TN2N elevation profile
Runners with roots from Camarines Sur were itching for this event for years already.  With the onset of the 2nd running boom in the country (the 1st was in the late 70s early 80s),  marathons and ultra marathons were sprouting like mushrooms all over the archipelago. From Ilocos up north to Davao down south, local runners enjoyed the preponderance of these long distance running events.  In Bicol, the Cam Sur International Marathon had two editions (2010 & 2011) while the Mayon 360 ultra marathon became an annual event in Albay starting in 2011. It took some time for the province of Camarines Sur to have a legitimate official ultra marathon.  After years of waiting, we finally have one in Cam Sur - the TN2N.            

For this trailblazing feat, the participants have Mhentz Manaog and his hard working high school batch - AdeNubenta - to thank for.  It is not a walk in the park to organize a fun run, much more an ultra long distance running event.  But the members of the Ateneo de Naga High School Batch 1990 were determined to pull off this historic feat.  A great impetus on their part was to give back to the community, specifically the coastal communities in Tinambac  and Calabanga where AdeNubenta plans to use the proceeds from the event to fund a series of mangrove planting activities.
Ateneo de Naga HS Batch 1990 ("AdeNubenta") members on a round table discussion for the TN2N preparations. 
Despite this being their first time to organize an ultra marathon, AdeNubenta was well prepared. Surely, they wanted to put their best foot forward.  The day before the May 1 race, there was the pre-race briefing conducted at Avenue Hotel, the best hotel in Naga City.  The briefing was well attended and it was a venue for the various runners and running groups to mingle and bond. AdeNubenta also provided shuttle service for the participants from Naga to the starting line in Tierra Nevada come race day. There at the starting line, the runners were warmly received by the barangay chairperson and her barrio councilors and tanods.  And just before the gun start, the parish priest was on hand to lead the prayer and bless all runners.
Pre-Race Briefing at a premier venue

AdeNubenta leader Mhentz Manaog conducting the pre-race briefing

Selfie within a group photo session.

Group photo at the pre-race briefing

Jeepney  shuttle for the TN2N participants

TN2N participants in a huddle in front of the Sto. Nino parish church.  

The Barangay Chairperson (in orange shirt) with the barangay tanods at the TN2N assembly area. 

The Sto. Nino parish priest giving the all important blessing and prayer to the TN2N runners. 

The able runners eager at the starting line. 
The 50-km run itself was a good one.  A big portion of the route was thru rural landscape not yet spoiled by urbanization with its twin sins of pollution and traffic. The starting line of Tierra Nevada is actually in the verdant foothills of Mt Isarog and it was all downhill to the coastal towns below. Running from Tinambac to Calabanga provided the runners with a view on their right side of the waters of San Miguel Bay. Fishing villages interspersed with mangrove forests.  Beyond downtown Calabanga, runners traveled thru  old sturdy churches dating back to the Spanish time centuries ago - Quipayo, Bombon and Magarao.   It is after  the town of Magarao that the runners get to feel the pollution spewed by numerous vehicles travelling to and from the commercial heart of Naga City. This is actually where many of the runners slowed down as the all mighty sun was making its presence felt. Zapped by the heat, many of the runners trudged their way into downtown Naga  and into the straight Avenue road which leads to the finish line at the very steps of the iconic Four Pillars of the d Ateneo de Naga University. For TN2N participants, the sight of the Pillars was almost nirvanic that some indeed fell on their knees to kiss the hallowed ground where the finish line lay. Others exhibited displays of reverence and exultation.
With the sunlight slowly coming out, we find ourselves in the company of mangroves between Tinambac and Calabanga.
The BP and Aura climbing up the hill facing Kawit Island. 

With support team members Allen, Michelle and Ed at the water station manned by AdeNubenta members.

Bob on the flat road leading to Naga City 

Alagang AdeNubenta:  Mhentz lending a cooling hand to a TN2N runner on the hot road.  

Ernie waves to a crowd as he nears the Four Pillars

Two amazon runners sprinting  towards the finish line 

Getting down on hallowed ground

Kissing Nirvana

Prayer pose for home is the runner 
Another ultra marathon survived by the Bicolano Penguin with his trusty pair of Altra Olympus.

Exulting  to high heavens for the human spirit to endure. 

All in all, 44 of the 46 that started out in Tierra Nevada crossed the finish line at the Four Pillars. Pioneers all.

row5runners:  Ernie, Brando, BP, Aura, Bob and Joji.

Pahabol for another row5runner - Tony

There were more than half a dozen row5runners counted among the pioneers. Many other Bicol-based running groups  were well represented in the very first ultra marathon in Cam Sur and we have taken the opportunity to get their insights on the TN2N:

1.  Why join?
2.  What is your take away from the experience?
3.   How would you rate the TN2N compared to others?

Here are the thoughts from a handful of the pioneering uragons of TN2N:

Lhara Oaferina of Caceres Runners. She placed 24th overall.

1.  For me, interesting race route and 1st Ultra in Cam Sur that I should be proud that I'm one who joined and participated with the other finest and  strong ultra marathoners in Bicol.  "Uragon."

2.  I like the ambiance of the nature. I feel free.  The people and children who cheer along the way and keep cheering that I can do it.  "Kaya mo pa yan." That gives me motivation along the way, and beating the heat of the sun, then at kilometer 34, I already feel pain in my left ankle, that has been injured a year ago.  Thought I could not make it to the finish line.  But thinking I already got this far and only 16 kms away.  I pray and ask for more strength and decided to continue by power walk. Running every 100 to 500  meters then walk again until finish line.  God is really good and I thank Him for guiding me.

3.  Just a BIG THUMBS UP!!!

Irah Hernandez, an independent runner.  She placed 25th overall.

1.  Firstly, as a self-proclaimed "environmentalist", my interest was piqued when I learned that the run is for "coastal environment protection awareness."  Secondly, I want to be one of the pioneers of the 1st ever ultramarathon in Cam Sur.  Lastly, the TN2N is part of my training for a 50km Cordillera mountain run in June.

2.  Its always "respect, honor and pride."  Respect given by your comrades in running and honor from those you inspire by your grit.  The pride you get from finishing strong and proving that you can make the impossible possible if you try and never give up.

3.  I will give an "average" rating.  For the improvement of the next TN2N, here are my comments/suggestions. For an ultra route like that of TN2N, there must be an aid station every 5 kms. There must be km markers and reflector signages for the safety of the runners.  Additional marshalls next time.  More cold shower (especially on places where temp is on its highest point) and cold drinks.  Maybe next year, we can camp on the vicinity of Tierra Nevada instead of waking up as early as 12am to catch up the 1am assembly time at the pick up point. Since we are campaigning for coastal environment protection, next time we should "walk the talk". Limit use of disposable plastics and instruct runners to be responsible of their waste, especially plastic cups or bottles.  And put a garbage can beside the water container for the trash. To avoid using plastic cups instead let the runners bring their own water bottle.  I hope organizers will put this kind of thing on their priority list. Congratulations to the organizers for the successful event. To all winners and finishers, always run confidently and with a happy heart. Congratulations.

J.T. Ryan Quinto Bautista of Ateneo HS Batch 2001 runners.  He placed  26th overall.

1.  Before, I want my 1st ultra to be unforgettable that's why I joined the Mayon 360 last April 9 (2016).  In this event, I want to be part of the pioneering batch for the 1st ultramarathon here in our province which is memorable.

2.  Runners treat other runners as family.  In just a single day, we shared laughters, joy and pain that make us one.

3.  Hats off to the organizers - AdeNubenta for this event.  Experience is much different from my 1st. Water stations are the most important thing for an ultra event.

Rumel Banares of Caceres Runners.  He placed 29th overall.

1.  Simply because I want to be part of this big event .  Being a pioneer, new route, new experience to test my endurance.  Nag enjoy ka na, nakatabang ka pa.

2.  Running ultramarathon is definitely not a joke.  @ Km 15 my right heel start aching.  Its very hard to run due to lack of sleep.  Dapat physically and mentally prepared ka talaga. They said the show must go on, you need to finish the run.  A veteran move usually apply, eventually you finish safe and strong.

3. Organizing like this event is not easy but AdeNubenta did the best.  Kahit 1st time palang nila mag host. Although meron pa kaming hinahanap along the way so far ok naman. All runners finished safe and strong.  Credit to sir Mhentz Manaog.
Emmanuel Manaog of Pepsi-BRO running team.  He placed 42nd overall.

1.  I joined the TN2N to try the ultra, besides I already have 4 marathons.  I started running 5 yrs ago encouraged by my brother Mhentz.  Started walking because of my 105 kgs weight but now I am weighing 86 kgs.  I started 5km fun runs, 10km, 15km, 16km, 21km Dalagan Uragon series 28km and 32km then Penafrancia marathon, Condura marathon, Bombon marathon and Speed Run marathon.  I take it like climbing the ladder of running one at a time.

2.  Like my other previous runs, I take one kilometer at a time coz if you think of the whole distance just thinking of it will not be good for me.  Like our dreams in life we take it one dream at a time until we successfully fulfill our dreams in life.

3.  This is my first ultramarathon so I will rate it excellent .  Even if my brother was part of AdeNubenta he did not spoil me as he managed to be a supportive brother and an organizer.  I questioned him on the distance.  I told him it was over 50kms if we will take Paz Street near Philam, taking Santoja Street will do.  He told me that if I will not pass through Paz Street I will be disqualified.  He said it's up to me.  So be it.

- - -

More or less, we share the same sentiments of this quintet of ultra marathon participants.  In this day and age, surviving an ultra marathon is the closest thing to an apotheosis of sorts among us weekend warriors..  In the words of Montreal Olympian Don Kardong - "Perhaps the attraction of ultrarunning lies in the simple distillation of this:  the ability to envision a distant goal - another time and place when things will be better - and to survive the worst until then.  This vision embraces both the survival instinct that unites us with other creatures and the imagination and willpower that catapults us above them."

There are places with a lot of positive energy. The Four Pillars is one such place.  

The 2016 TN2N finisher medal. Looking forward to the 2017 edition.

A big bonus if you are part of a group of runners to tackle the ultra route for the first time.  And this we certainly did in that  glorious and laborious day of May 1, 2016.  The Bicolano Penguin is happy and proud to be part of the pioneering uragons of TN2N.

TN2N row5runners with their support team enjoying the post-race lunch at Feliciana Kuchen. 

Something to celebrate with dear friends, on and off the road. Priceless.

P.S.  Photos taken from the facebook pages of Rumel Lazy Banares, J.T. Ryan Quinto Bautista, Aura Reduta, and TN2N. 


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