2009 is my first full year of running and with the first half completed its time to have a look back at some of my highlights for the first six months of the year.
The year started with “bi-polar” races: one was well praised and the other went in infamy. Of course I’m referring to TNF Thrill of the Trail in Nasugbu, Batangas and PSE Bull Run in Bonifacio Global City, respectively. While people can’t stop being enthusiastic about their wonderful experience with the trails of Batulao and the race overall (including myself), it was the complete opposite on the other side of the track—I’ve never heard of so much complaints about a race and it probably had the record of the longest queue at the finish.
It was also during this month that I acquired my Garmin 405—just a day before we were off for Batangas for the TNF Thrill of the Trails where it had an excellent stage for a debut. Also having a debut on this race was my first trail shoes, New Balance 811.
February was the first month since I started running that I had zero races. This was the first of two months that I was in Ohio, USA and in spite of being race-less I was not run-less: the below freezing temperature wasn’t enough to stop me from running outdoors—an experience that I suggest everyone try at least once in their lives. While I was “chilling” on the other side of the world the race scene in the Philippines ensued the love month. There wasn’t much high-profile races for this month making my craving for races more bearable.
Before leaving for the US I managed to have my first LSD (Long Slow Distance) run along one of the dreaded routes in the Metro—EDSA, from North Ave. all the way to the SM Mall of Asia grounds.
By the time race season was starting in the US due to the arrival of spring I was unfortunate enough to be packing my bags for home thereby missing the opportunity to participate in races stateside, but on the bright side I was back for one of the most anticipated races of the year—Condura Run. This race was one of the rare opportunities to run on the SkyWay and was also my first half-marathon and first race medal. Also first for this event was the Carbo-Loading Party of takbo.ph which they say was a first for a half-marathon race.
This was the month of LSDs for me as there were only a handful of races set. Among these routes were Commonwealth Ave. to Bonifacio High Street via C5; Commonwealth Ave. to SM Mall of Asia via Quezon Ave., España Ave., and Roxas Blvd.; and my first LSD on trails in Montalban.
Arguably the highlight race of this month was the Greenfield City Run in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. With its free shuttle service many runners were given chance to run outside Metro Manila and experience the fresh landscape of the rural areas.
May boasts the longest and one of the most difficult races in the country, The North Face 100 (or simply TNF100). Many underestimated the trails of Sacobia, Clark before they even embarked on it so it was a shock for many, even seasoned ultramarathoners, on how difficult this race was this year resulting in only a select few proud finishers. This was my first attempt at an ultramarathon and I am very proud to be one of the few finishers of this race. It was also my longest distance-wise at 100K, and time-wise at 30 hours (raw time that includes eating, resting, and some dozing off).
May also sparked my return to trekking with our initial climb to the summit of Mt. Maculot in Cuenca, Batangas. This became a “team-building” activity for me and my takbo.ph friends and because we had taken an unexpectedly difficult trail it also served as my training for TNF100 that followed two weeks after.
The month was ended by a rivalry of two high-profile races: The Earth Run at McKinley Hill and Microsoft’s IE8 Run at Bonifacio Global City. It was a difficult time for runners on which “side” to choose but in the end The Earth Run came out with being more competitive and having more attendance.
The month kicked off with another high-profile and highly anticipated race, the Mizuno Infinity Run. Coming from a popular footwear brand, this race has a good set of followers which were not disappointed with the race outcome as it became the first race to have a “Time Challenge.” This year’s participants had their finish time recorded for next year’s race where they can challenge their previous record for a chance of a prize.
The second week of June was the Independence Week with the 12th of the month being the Independence Day of the Philippines. For a change I left my running shoes home and put on my trail running shoes for the first Freedom Climb—40 summits nationwide simultaneously having flag raising ceremonies to commemorate the occasion. It was the first official climb of our takbo.ph offshoot group, the RunHikers as a group, in Pico de Loro, Cavite.
If May brags of an ultra-trail race, June is not far with an ultra and trails. More like a month-wide split of the TNF100, June had an ultramarathon road race: Botak 100, and two trail run (and bike) races: King of the Mountain (KOM) in Timberland and Men’s Health All Terrain in Sta. Elena, Laguna.
The All Terrain race was a good race overall especially for introducing trail runs for beginners. The race was well-organized flawed only by the fact that the trails were a little dull. This was salvation for Men’s Health reputation from their abysmal past races.
Finally to close the first half of the year was Botak 100—the first ultramarathon road race in Mega Manila. Despite Botak’s attempt to salvage their reputation from the last race that plagued them, it was “A” (H1N1) viral issue that hampers their efforts. That issue led them to postpone the side events of this race to the dismay of some runners (myself included). Fortunately enough the ultramarathon road race pulled their reputation forward that Botak could be proud to say that they “pulled it off.” Surely there were still a lot of shortcomings but as an “active spectator” all these issues were negligible. Welcome back, Botak!
Truly it was a roller-coaster ride for the first half—events fell on either side of the poles. From the best to the worst these races and other side events really made the first half of 2009 quite remarkable. Now that the second half is about to begin, will it be able to outshine the half that was? Or will the race organizers sit on their laurels and stop innovation? I guess we’ll all find out soon enough.