Before we look back at the year in its entirety let us first review the Philippine running scene for the last six months. This period saw highs and lows as far as races were concerned. Races reached all-time high in terms of participants while inversely its quality fell to all-time lows (since August 2008 when I started joining races). We’ve also seen race fees skyrocket to outrageous levels but there were still great races from good organizers that gave free races.
July marked my marathon debut on one of the best organized race of the year with the 33rd Milo Marathon Manila Eliminations. It was at a caliber unseen before locally and although it fell a little short it served as an epitome on how races should be organized. Globe’s Run for Home was also a milestone as it introduced disposable timing chips while being virtually a free race when prepaid loads served as registration fees.
Personal achievement: First marathon and half-marathon PR
Kenny’s Open Urbanite Run introduced the first organized night race in the Metro with disposable timing chips to boot. It could also be credited with starting the steep rise of race fees that would ensue throughout the year.
Personal achievement: 10-mile PR
Mommy Milkshake was one of the most organized fun run of the year and the only one to be really free! It puts in question organizers’ “reasons” for putting up expensive registration fees with races. It was also during this month when race distance accuracy became a serious issue when RotaRun’s 21K was 3K short.
Personal achievement: First provincial Milo race
International Marathon (IM) season has begun with Quezon City International Marathon (QCIM) followed the following weekend with Subic International Marathon (SIM). The use of the words “international” and “prestigious” became in question when races that used these didn’t live up to their promises. This month also started the “Kenyan invasion.”
Personal achievement: First marathon pacer duty; first back-to-back marathon (second and third)
The Philippine International Marathon (PIM) ended the “IM” season and was also highly criticized for not rewarding marathon finishers with a medal (the only one to do so thus far). It was a month plagued with poorly organized races! The month seemed to turn for the better when Timex Run came but was derailed when Fit ‘n Right Fun Run didn’t turn out to be fit or fun for many disappointed runners. Fortunately Run Ahead in Laoag, Ilocos Norte reminded everyone of how races should be with a well-organized, fun, generous, and charitable race making Metro Manila-based organizers look very greedy.
Personal achievement: Fourth marathon; 5K PR
Corregidor was a breather for many local runners and although it wasn’t trouble-free it was definitely unique. There were still plenty of races for the month but personally I’ve had my dose of preposterous registration fees with mediocre races so I decided to be in abstentia for the month.
Personal achievement: Fifth marathon and new PR (via Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon)
Lessons and Tips
There were a lot of lessons both runners and organizers can learn with these period. As long as these points were taken we have no reason not to improve next year. Personally here are some tips I can give to fellow runners especially those that are just beginning to join races here in the Philippines:
- Time yourself. Not all races we join are “reliable” and if you intend to monitor your progress get a watch. You don’t even need one with a stopwatch, you just you’re your common sense. Buy an über cheap children’s digital watch for P20 (from sidewalk vendors; no reason not to have a budget), remember your time when you start and look at it when you cross the finish. You should get a rough approximate of your time which not accurate but it’s much better than nothing (what do you expect for P20?). You may validate it later when the race results come out. If you have some dough buy a stopwatch, but if you have some serious dough get a GPS watch!
- Bring your own water/sports drink. You need not buy a hydration belt; just bring a small flask or bottle of water or your preferred sports drink in case the organizer didn’t fulfill his obligation. Consider investing in one though but ask around fellow runners first before purchasing.
- Don’t be a distance freak! A few meters off the mentioned distance doesn’t mean you’ve been ripped off by the organizers. Here’s my point: try to make an accurate 1K route using any GPS device. Run that same route at least twice and see if you can get an accurate 1K every single time. If you do try to make routes in 5K, 10K, 21K, and 42K and do the same. If you still have an accurate distance every time you can make yourself a race route director.
I hope that newbies don’t get intimidated by bad experiences from previous races and continue joining reputable races, especially those with a “real” cause. Before signing up for a race, don’t just join because everyone else does—ask fellow runners about the reputation of the organizers or the conduct of its past races. Even the “pros” have “bad days” while on the other hand everyone deserves a second chance. Best of all follow your heart—regardless of what everyone says it’s up to you to decide where you’re investing your hard earned cash. Remember that we are not only paying for our right to join their race, we are also paying for the experience.
It was a “one step forward, two steps back” half for the year. Disposable timing chips definitely placed Philippine races forward at par with races abroad but the proliferation of unbelievably disorganized races with outlandish registration fees were really traumatizing especially to newcomers to the sport. Even race results became optional as we saw some races with no official race results, and those that do have inaccurate, very much delayed, or alphabetically-sorted race results! Common sense wasn’t very commonly applied as far as this half was concerned!