Friday night, I was all set for my first trip to Bataan and while my things are ready I still was anxious about this test run since I had no decent run since returning from Singapore.
Bataan Death March (BDM) 102 Ultramarathon was a dream race for me since it started last year. I was running for only a few months then so I had to wait for another year for my turn. Now that it’s finally here, I was in ruins—I just lost all urges to run!
For some weird reason, the invitation letter I got from Baldrunner about the registration and the test run “kicked in” and spurred some sense onto me. The “old” me that signed me up for the BDM was speaking to the lazy “new” me, and I realized that there were only a select few that are willing and able to do this, and I was one of them. It’s not instantaneous as I still wasn’t running as much, but the “fire” is back. The test run would mark my return to running—this is my evangelion (rebirth).
A Family of Runners
Up until the last day I was clueless how to get a support vehicle for this test run. Fortunately I was in a family of runners known collectively as takbo.ph, and they made what I thought was impossible, possible! Who needs Santa Claus if you have a family like this? Not only did we who’d be running have our support vehicle, we also had supplies, pacers, and morale boosters! Thank you Gail, Marga, and Tere for all these! You’re all Godsend to us “test runners.” Thank you as well Carina for accommodating me before our trip to Bataan, and of course our “ultra-drivers” Angel and Kuya Eric.
At around 2AM I and the rest of my running family were off for Bataan. It was a good chance to meet new faces, and re-acquainted with old ones. Not before long we were all dozing off and before we knew it we were in Bataan.
Cool and very windy, that’s how Bataan greeted us early dawn. It was much cooler than Metro Manila even though it was practically just on the other side of Manila Bay, and the strong winds made sure that we felt it.
One by one, as the sun slowly rises, runners gradually arrived. We were in the presence of veteran ultramarathoners which was a bit humbling as a newbie (to BDM at least).
We were assembled in front of +Km00 (I’ll be prefixing a “+” sign to reference the Death March’s marker) and after some important instructions we were off at around 6:35AM.
As a BDM newbie I had no idea what to expect but I did have an idea on where we’d be heading as we passed Death March markers on our way to +Km00 in Mariveles, Bataan—and it wasn’t good!
The first 7K was pure steep climbs on zigzag roads which was really challenging. After reaching the top, the strong winds were the challenge as it blows against us forcing us to slow down. What a test! Afterwards it was gradually downhill and alternating rising and declining elevation. While the wind had gone by that time, a stronger element, the sun, replaced it. Despite being still in January the sun of Bataan was unforgiving. Bataan was showing its other side—while it was pleasantly much cooler than the Metro at night, it was much hotter at daytime! Suddenly I wasn’t a fan of blue skies.
Look for the Ribbon!
For the sake of first time BDM participants who weren’t able to join the test run, there are three critical places to watch out for: +Km14, +Km23, and +Km32. At these points runners must turn right, and at these points ribbons will be placed (as with the test run) and marshals on race day.
As part of our lessons learned, don’t rely too much on the Death March markers as many of which is inaccurate, starting particularly with +Km21 which was actually +Km24 or 3K off (based on both GPS and odometer readings). Most markers following it are at least 1K off but at +Km45 it gets corrected (only a few hundred meters off) and at +Km50 it is incredibly GPS-exact. I had asked for my support at “+Km23” based on my GF405 as no markers were in sight. My support was actually “there” but we didn’t saw each other and to my surprise I passed by +Km21! Looking at my GF405 it was +Km23.98 already and thankfully my support also realized this based on their odometer so they returned for me. If you were to ask your support to wait for you with certain intervals it would probably be best to use your odometer/GPS devices as reference.
I can safely say that this test run for me was soda-powered. Because of the heat anything cold is a pleasure, and since ice cold bottled water are a rarity in rural areas the next best thing that’s widely available would be sodas (a.k.a. softdrinks). I consumed eight bottles of sodas for this run, both the typical and the clear from the two leading brands—all of which having an “interview” portion before I was able to get my change, the most common were “from where did you start?” and “where are you headed?”. You can just imagine how much time I spent for each one, and that didn’t include “futile” attempts.
The last two kilometers of this race was one of my longest—it was hot, I was hungry, and it was lunchtime! I was thankful that there wasn’t any fastfood during this segment or I may have stopped to eat! My motivation was simple—“get it over with so I may have lunch!”
Markers from +Km45 were about 300 meters off so I was surprised to see +Km50 at exactly where it should be. I was planning to sprint the last hundred or so meters but since it came early I didn’t finish as I wanted (but was instead seen walking hehe).
Doing the test run brought me back to my senses, and it gave us first timers useful lessons how well to survive the “Death March.” It may not be the real thing but it’s anything but easy. I was glad to have joined as it was fun, at the same time dreadful. I was able to witness the veterans and hardcores in action, and it also gave me a glimpse of our past. With Sir Jovie’s guidance I know that this would be an exciting and memorable race.
I noticed that most Death March route markers are not well preserved and some are really dilapidated (not to mention off-distance). I sure hope that there would be good Samaritans out there that will help improve these reminders of our heritage, particularly +Km00, +Km50, and +Km102 (which I haven’t seen yet but is possibly in the same situation). We need these markers so we won’t forget our history, or do we want to repeat it?