Posts Tagged ‘Mariveles


Top Five Most Recommended Races in the Philippines

The Philippines, particularly Metro Manila, is just a haven for races as there’s always at least one practically every weekend.  But amongst all of these races, there are some that stood out, and here are five that I highly recommend.

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2nd BDM Ultramarathon 102 (Part 3: First Half)

March 6, 2010, 9AM, our team met in a parking ground in BHS for Bataan.  Aside from the slow traffic that greeted us on our way to North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) everything was good and it had that “summer outing” feeling.  It was somehow, especially when many of us met in the resort we were staying in in Bataan.  Last time to familiarize everyone with the plan.

While we had several hours of time to rest I wasn’t able to get any despite being sleepy.  Then I had a headache (due to lack of sleep?) which was a bit worrisome considering it was just hours before the race.  Good thing our support was there to make sure everything was alright to the best they can, although I still had that headache until gunstart.

Together in our villa before leaving for +Km 00: Gab, Mar (The Forefoot Runner), Rod (Rod Runner), Doc ‘Topher, Me, Sam (The Running Ninja), and Tina

We arrived at +Km 00 in Mariveles quite early for pictures.  So early in fact that we got a little bored (too much flash is quite straining on the eyes).  Gradually the place got crowded with all the runners, their support crew, and vehicles.  Then the national anthem of USA and the Philippines were sung…  Bang! It was gunstart.  This is it!  The moment we have been waiting for for so long arrived in an instant.  It was 11:28PM.

At +Km 00 before most participants arrived, courtesy Brando Losaria

The first 3K was quite slow at more than 8 minutes per kilometer pace resulting in a much slower than our planned first 7K.  It was pretty fine then but it lead to some “misunderstanding” within our group by +Km 15 (we were off by just a few minutes, based on my GF405) as our differences in pace separated us unintentionally.  No one was intended to be left behind but as we all know things happen.  (I think it was my fault since I made the plan to set the pace at 6:30 during the downhill portion which apparently was too fast in an ultra.  For that I sincerely apologize to everyone concerned.)

Our team in the darkness of the road

Our journey towards +Km50 was anything but close to plan.  Our pace went from as slow as 12 minutes to below 7 minutes per kilometer, even going as fast as 14.7 kilometers per hour at some point (just over 4 minute per kilometer).  There goes the plan! At least it still holds true as far as support needs were concerned.

Humidity was a big surprise for us.  During both our test runs it was always cool early morning but during race day it was quite the opposite—hot and humid.  Along our route Sam (The Running Ninja) and I stumbled upon Rodel (The Argonaut) who was already running bare-chested.  I was convinced that it would get cooler as dawn approached, but when it didn’t we got tired of waiting and “followed suit.”  I’ll admit that running “half-naked” came across my mind before but was unable to because I get burned easily under the sun.  Its absence plus the weather factor pushed me into doing a “boldrunner” from before +Km 34 all the way to +Km 50.

Can’t get any cooler than this

It was just barely halfway and we were already far-fetched from plan.  For the record I was just six minutes ahead of projected earliest time of arrival at +Km 50, or about 35 minutes behind my test run record (which veterans say was too fast).  The next 52K should be interesting as the sun rises and heat things up!

+Km 00 – 50 route via GF405

2nd BDM Ultramarathon 102 Index:

  1. Background
  2. Ultra-SPF
  3. First Half
  4. Conclusion

2nd BDM Ultramarathon 102 (Part 2: Ultra-SPF)

Aside from being physically and mentally prepared you need one more thing if you were to survive Bataan Death March Ultramarathon—support—more than just the morale but actual support vehicle and crew!

Rule #2: Every runner MUST have a support vehicle

A year ago this would’ve been quite a challenge as being a newbie then I only had a handful of willing and able friends in the community.  This year the situation was much different—I now have the overwhelming love and support of my running family!  It was even so much more than my wildest imagination!


Our team was unofficially founded after the test run by Tina.  Having a dedicated support person and vehicle would be ideal but quite expensive (not to mention leaving a much heavier carbon footprint) but as stated in the rules a support vehicle can support a maximum of four runners (Rule #2:2).  Tina figured that Glen, Sam “The Running Ninja,” and I had practically close paces (which I highly doubt because of her training with “hardcores”) so we could form a team.  I knew she had so much potential to place and naturally we didn’t want to slow her down.  Humble as she was, she agreed with us “just to finish” runners and so the rest was history.  I won’t mention the name we suggested for our team as she might chase me with a chainsaw hehe. 🙂

Our team hours before the race


“Kung ganyan ba naman ang support mo kahit anong distance ata matatakbo mo.”

Busy as we were we didn’t realize that some members of our running family (not running BDM) had something up their sleeves—planning their support!  Aside from the normal well-wishes many gave cash and goods, and many even went all out by giving their time and effort!  All these without us asking and without asking for anything in return!  Don’t these acts bring back our faith in people, that there are more good people out there than we realize.  More than just volunteerism—it’s about caring for family.  If you get that level of support you’d feel like you can run any distance!


Mind and body, checked; medical clearance, checked; support vehicle and personnel, checked; all systems green and go!  Wait, where’s the plan?  The plan detailing our pace strategy and our support needs?  “Ideal” as our plan was but BDM “veterans” would say it rarely gets followed on race day.  It would serve as guide for our “just to finish” goals, and for our support crew to figure out what our “planned” needs were.  At least that was the plan.

With all systems good to go, there’s not left to do but wait for D-Day—we can only prepare for what we know, or what we think we know—as for everything else, that’s a different story altogether.

2nd BDM Ultramarathon 102 Index:

  1. Background
  2. Ultra-SPF
  3. First Half
  4. Conclusion

2nd BDM Ultramarathon 102 (Part 1: Background)

Like many Filipinos, I don’t know much about the real forced death march our forefathers went through during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II.  All I know was that it was one of the darkest chapters of human history, and it should be remembered so that we are not bound to repeat it.  Sadly as one by one our war veterans depart, so too are their memories—all that’s left are symbols and monuments which not many cares so much for.  Bataan is arguably more commemorated in the United States than here in the Philippines as in New Mexico an annual marathon event is staged in memoriam whereas in the Philippines where Bataan is, nothing remotely close is done!

The dilapidated and seemingly forgotten old railroad station of San Fernando (not in service)

Last year was the first time the Bataan Death March (BDM) Ultramarathon was staged—in line with the Day of Valor (Araw ng Kagitingan) which also served to help commemorate our history.  It was the first time I encountered the word “Ultramarathon” (even our favorite word processor’s dictionary is not versed with the word) and I was fascinated by such feat.  I thought then that the marathon was the apex of distance running!

Bataan Death March historical marker near the old railroad station of San Fernando, Pampanga: “At this railroad station of San Fernando, the Filipino and American prisoners of war who had been marched all the way from Bataan to Pampanga, in one of the ghastliest forced marches in history, were loaded like cattle on boxcars where, because every compartment was packed to the limit, many suffocated or were crushed to death during the trip to Capas.”

I really wanted to join then, not because of fame, fortune, or anything similar but for its historical significance.  Upon looking up how to prepare for such feat all I got was “months of training” is “required”—much more than all the time then that I was running so I said to myself “one day I’m going to run BDM”—thus a dream was conceived.  Little did I know then that a year hence I’d be able to, and my dream would be realized.

Old San Fernando railroad station (translated): “Erected in 1892 as part of the Manila-Dagupan line of Manila Railroad Company. José Rizal alighted here during his visit to San Fernando. Also in this railroad station, in April 1942, prisoned soldiers included in the Death March were loaded on trains bound for Camp O’Donnell, Capas, Tarlac, to be incarcerated.”

Several races, an ultramarathon, and six marathons later (yes, all that in just a year) just about everything was ready.  BDM would set the record for my longest distance race at 102 kilometers, fastest ultramarathon with 18 hours cutoff and most expensive ever!  (My Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon technically is still my most expensive in terms of total cost only because of airfare, cost of living, and side trips)

Death March Km 102 marker

During the holidays of 2009 I had a series of “runner’s low” spanning two months wherein I had absolutely no motivation whatsoever to run. Fortunately I had already signed up for BDM earlier before this lethargic episode.  When I got the invitation email from Baldrunner I really was in a pathetic state as far as running was concerned—I even considered skipping the race!  Yes, even runners that regularly join races get “those” moments as well.  What did I do to break this spell? I recalled my “dream.”  I called upon my “old self.”  I rejoined the company of my “running family.”  Somehow their energy is contagious (running fever?) and little by little I started getting back into running and eventually racing.  After snapping back to “reality” I admit I still wasn’t 100% of my old self but it’s a start—and I had a deadline!  You can’t come to BDM unprepared—and you can’t do it alone!

2nd BDM Ultramarathon 102 Index:

  1. Background
  2. Ultra-SPF
  3. First Half
  4. Conclusion

BDM Test Run 2: Recon

February 21, 2010 together with some fellow BDM participants we returned to Mariveles, Bataan to continue where we left off from our last test run.  Most of the group weren’t able to join the previous test run so we started at +Km00.

Single-file as stated in the rules 🙂

Bataan Economic Zone

On the way to the base of the mountain

The start of the steep ascent (with one of our support vehicles)

Right: Km 3 BDM marker

Common sign around this area

There’s also this one

Still climbing

To BR: Sir could we request that you ease the rule about staying on the left side of the road, particularly between Km 4 to 6?

It is much more dangerous to stay on the left side from Km 4 to Km 6 as these were the steepest part of the route, there are no areas for pedestrians, there’s a deep ditch, and it has a lot of blind curves.  It was very dangerous during daylight, what more during night time?

Close calls

For everyone

We initially planned to run just the first 7K of the route but due to good weather we extended it further until +Km10.  Cramming for mileage?

Downhill after +Km7

From +Km10 we headed off to +Km50 to take some pictures, and after a brief stay went on our way towards +Km87, the final 15K of the BDM route.  We decided to run this final leg to give us some idea and feel of the route.  But before we got there a lot of unexpected twists greeted us.

Group shot at +Km50, courtesy Jet Paiso

Under Construction

Unexpectedly a lot of road works greeted us on our way to +Km87.  What’s alarming was that typical of Philippine construction sites there’s not much room for pedestrians as half of the road was being constructed and the remaining half for vehicles.  This was in +Km68 and +Km82.

To BR: Would the “keep left” rule remain even if there’s no space on the left?

Road works; taken from the back seat of our vehicle

More road works, +Km84

+Km87, still under construction

To summarize road works are in +Km68 followed by one before +Km82 all the way to +Km90.

Expect roads to be like this

Beyond 90

After managing the confusing roads at +Km90 it’s pretty much “easy” on the way to +Km101, in fact if it weren’t for the blazing sun and the shade-less road it would’ve been nice.  Finding +Km102 (San Fernando, Pampanga) gave us some interesting challenge and arriving there gave us some idea of what to expect on race day.  Hopefully during D-Day itself we arrive in a good condition as we were during this test run.

Former San Fernando Rail Station: the finish line for BDM102, the beginning of the ordeal for Death March prisoners, the end of lives for many.

Death March historical marker

Brief history from the historical marker: At this railroad station of San Fernando, the Filipino and American prisoners of war who had been marched all the way from Bataan to Pampanga, in one of the ghastliest forced marches in history, were loaded like cattle on boxcars where, because every compartment was packed to the limit, many suffocated or were crushed to death during the trip to Capas.

San Fernando Railway Station historical marker

Why so serious?

After everyone arrived and got settled it’s time for some group picture with the BDM +Km102 marker.

Presenting the Bataan Superbods! 😀

Of course you probably know by now that right after that shot we all “scrammed” towards the nearest restaurant for lunch!   It was already about 3PM so you have some idea how famished we were!  Ahhh, the ultra-life!


Bataan Chronicles: The Test Run

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).

Wouldn’t you be inspired to run an historic route like the Bataan Death March?

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, 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. (courtesy Carina)


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.

The BDM Test Runners (courtesy Vener)


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).

Great views from Mariveles, Bataan

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.

Bataan Death March Marker Km00

The Test

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 start of the ascent

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.

The most difficult segment of the test run

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.

Unbelievable Markers

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.

A very challenging terrain


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.

Last Two

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).

Sir Jovie “Baldrunner” with some of the gang at +Km50 (courtesy Carina)


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.

With some of our loving support crew (courtesy Gail)


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?

Not even halfway of the full 102K! Hanging out at +Km50 (courtesy Vener)

Special thanks to Carina, Vener, and Gail for some of the photos featured here.


Bataan Death March Test Run News Flash

Just a quickie post about the great adventure we had with Bataan Death March Test Run last Saturday, January 23, 2010.  There were 70 participating runners, 54 of which successfully completing the 50K test run from Mariveles to Abucay, Bataan.  Surprisingly I was able to finish 16th overall despite the heat (beginner’s luck?).  The complete test run results can be found here.

BDM Test Run Route: Mariveles to Abucay, Bataan (50K)

BDM Test Run elevation profiles

My partake on this adventure coming up shortly. 🙂

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