SOUTH to NORTH 280K Ultramarathon Philippines
Santander to Daanbantayan, Cebu
1:00 AM 11 July – 9:00 AM 13 July 2014
A few years back when ultramarathon was still in its infancy in the country, a question was posted asking what the distance was from the southern tip of Cebu to its northernmost part. I was unbelieving at the query but I remember thanking the person for what I thought was a pretty neat idea.
The notion of holding the race didn’t prosper until June 2013 when that question was partly answered. I conducted what was to be the longest single stage road ultramarathon in the Philippines, the SN250(http://frontrunnermagph.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/south-to-north-sn250/). Twenty men and women took on the challenge and after the smoke cleared, seven participants made the cut officially and five others went over the limit of forty eight hours but still made it nonetheless(http://frontrunnermagph.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/official-results-2013-south-to-north-250-sn250/). As a token of my appreciation of their efforts, they received the finisher’s loot with their names and accomplishments forever enshrined in the annals of Philippine ultramarathon history.
I never entertained the thought of holding a second edition in 2014 until I started receiving queries which appeared more like requests from the year’s previous participants. The difficulties of organizing a race of this distance and the absence of ample outside support(prospective sponsors frown at the “unpopularity” of such trailblazing event) which I could cascade onto to the participants kept me from saying yes, initially that is. Nevertheless, the idea of extending the distance all the way to Maya-Malapascua Ferry Terminal in Daanbantayan from the previous endpoint in Bogo City started to tickle my senses no end. I told the guys to gather at least five confirmed participants and if they were able to, I’d give it a go and conduct the baton once again. Sixteen eventually signed but for personal and health reasons, two backed out just a couple of days before the race and fourteen actually started the race. (from left) Kit Quiseo, Romil Garces, Rodney Cabahug, Yim Heng Fatt, Benedict Meneses, Lope Noay, Katherine Villaflor, Cilu Joel Ouano, Roger Villareal, Edwin Colina, Brian Guillen, Rex Gonzales, Tony Galon, Joel Cuyos
The race started at around 1:00 AM and from there, the runners took it all the way to the first cutoff point in Toledo City which was about 144 kilometers from Santander and for which they had to survive in twenty seven hours or less. As the day broke, I started recording their positions and distances covered. The first 50 kilometers traced the beautiful coastline views and old towns of Cebu’s western coast. The allure of the place was never lost in me even as I was seeing everything for the second time. Romil Garces and Katherine Villaflor Benedict Meneses Tony Galon Cilu Joel Ouano and Lope Noay Kit Quiseo Edwin Colina Rex Gonzales, Joel Cuyos and Rodney Cabahug Brian Guillen Frequent frontRUNNER event attendee, Malaysian Yim Heng Fatt Above are the times recorded and distance covered during the first unannounced route check which I personally conducted. Below are some pictures taken during the runners’ arrival at the first cutoff point in Toledo City.
Noteworthy is the help extended by the volunteers led by my good friend and perennial event supporter, Lulu Valiente and her friends. This stop was undoubtedly a welcome respite from a long, sunny and hot day on the road. Reflected above are the recorded times of arrival and departure of the runners at the Toledo City station. Most slept and rested for two hours before resuming their second day of running. Everyone was in high spirits and their crew composed of loved ones and friends kept them comfort and company for the long haul to the finish. I reached the endpoint in Maya Malapascua Terminal Ferry, the jump-off point to the famed diving island of Malapascua after driving for about 7 hours and extending encouragement and refreshments to the remaining twelve survivors along the way.
For my record purposes, I used a Garmin Etrex 20 as my measurement tool. I have used the same for about three years now and it has been especially reliable and helpful under any weather and even in the mountainous area of the Cordillera where I conduct my King Of The Mountain Trail Run series. It has yet to fail me. After making my courtesy call to the Barangay Chairman and setting up the finish line near the edge of the port, I waited for the finishers to come in one by one. This was my third 200-kilometer plus event, the longest to date, and this was to be no different as far as waiting time was concerned.
Experience has taught me that finishers will come in trickles and far in between given all the factors. The waiting time afforded me the chance to make arrangements for the post-race meal for which I chose a local delicacy, the humba, a pork dish with salted black beans, coupled with steamed rice.
At around 6:00 PM, it rained hard in the area and I was hoping the weather condition reached the runners for a much-needed relief(I later found out it was bone-dry all the way for them). In between mosquito bites which I had to endure all night and countless cups of coffee, I reveled at the full moon which showed all its splendor even as its light revealed a calm, wave-less sea. All through the night, I received calls from crew and runners updating me of their whereabouts and asking me how far they were relative to the finish.
By 1:00 AM, Lulu called up to say she was on the way once again provide arroz caldo. To the grizzled ultrarunners, a warm meal at this point of any race is always a welcome delight. As the third day broke, one by one, the runners arrived triumphantly.
As a Race Director, there is no other feeling that compares to seeing a participant and his crew check in safely. I will not be ashamed to tell you that I am always restless in most races I conduct, ESPECIALLY of this distance. I am like a mother hen always on the lookout until the last chick is accounted for. It is one reason why I personally feel bad whenever I hear runners complain of the very mundane things without even considering the fact that race directors have EVERYONE and EVERYTHING to think of. Whining is such a selfish thing to do because you only think of your own personal welfare.
Champion, Police Officer 1 Brian Guillen (51:13:38) First Runner-up, Rodney Cabahug (53:12:49) Second Runner-up, Joel Cuyos (54:25:44) Fourth Finisher, EDWIN COLINA (54:59:40) Distance and Finish time as reflected in Edwin’s watch Fifth Finisher, Lope Noay (55:02:24) Lope’s Battle Plan
In no uncertain terms, let me state that it is my joy and happiness(and relief) to see my runners finish. As an ultrarunner myself, I am aware and feel what they have gone through. Knowing only too well and seeing their efforts all the way melts my heart and I have nothing to show for my admiration of their efforts but my sincere handshake and embrace and of course, my simple tokens, a shirt and commemorative buckle.
It is because of this that I become flexible with the race rules and make the adjustments for the welfare of the runners.
I always have deep admiration for participants who, despite knowing that they will not finish within cutoff time, still forge on until they are done with the whole distance. The following are therefore duly recognized for their efforts.
\ REX GONZALES (56:01:26)
Once again, let me thank and congratulate all the participants and their support crews for making this event a reality. You are now part of Philippine ultramarathon history having conquered the longest single stage footrace in the country.
Let me also express my sincere gratitude to my friends who helped me out in many ways, Raffy Uytiepo, Lulu Valiente, Jenny Valiente, Lyra Valles and Josie Mejala.
I also wish to acknowledge the LGUs of Santander(Mayor Marilyn Wenceslao), Toledo City(Mayor John Henry Osmeña and Tourism Head Riza Rafols), Daanbantayan(Mayor Augusto Corro) and Barangay Maya(Chairman Elver Abucay) for allowing me the use of their facilities.
In closing, did you know that the circumference of Cebu Province based on the race route, from where I started and ended and on my measuring device is pegged at around 550 kilometers?
As a race organizer who pioneered ultramarathons in Cebu many years back, I have practically covered all of the island by road, be it East-West/crosswise(Coast to Coast) or South-North/lengthwise(SN280, SN250), North-South(Cebu Century Challenge via Bogo City to Cebu City)-and through its most difficult routes via Transcentral Highway and Emee(Hardcore Hundred Miles-Cebu). Just so you know.
As it appears, there seems only one thing left undone.