Running North

261 kilometer north of Manila is San Fernando City, La Union. With its hilly contours that could be capitalized to offer challenging race routes, proximity to beaches and surfing area and not to mention it being the gateway to Ilocos Region and Benguet province, La Union has a potential to become an annual running event hub north of the Philippines.

From last year until just last month of this year, I have already experience running in La Union when I participated in four running events organized there. What could, however, dampen the reception from Manila runners of that potential bid previously aforementioned is probably the lack of able and effective organizers for these annual run events. This opinion came from my personal experience and seems to be supported by feedbacks coming from the previous Manila participants in the last run events organized there.

Just to mention again, last year I had a chance to run in the 1st Ku Ikaika Run which earlier I already wrote a little piece about. This year, the organizer of that event, Irunner headed by Randy Abasolo teamed up with the United Architect of the Philippines to give us the 1st UAP-LU Explore Run held January 19, 2013. The venue of the event was Wallace Air Station. Yes, La Union airport. That was the beauty of this run an interesting venue, new angle. I ran in the 16 k category of this race. The race route took the runners from running end to end of the runway to The Cliff Golf and Beach Resort to Thunderbird Resort, Philippine Navy compound then circle around Poro Point Light house then back to the airport.

This event did not have much negative hitch in it except that the invitation was poorly received in Manila. The much belated 711 Run 800 was finally pushing through the day after the Explore Run and many had already long signed up for the 711 run. Thus there were only a handful of runners coming from Manila.  I think another worth considering also in relation to this run and reception it could have gotten with, was the distance of the race. I think 21K to 42K would be more attractive to runners hailing from Manila. Normally, “certified running addicts” were the ones who would go to great distance to run on attractive and challenging distance.

The next run event in La Union I found myself participating was the 2nd Ku Ikaika Run held February 23, 2013. This time the event was handled by Renderfarm Graphics headed by Philip Pacle who organized last year’s Baguio 21K. Unfortunately, it seems that Philip Pacle was probably quite busy with his organizing the 2013 version of Baguio 21K run scheduled to be held about three weeks after this event. With this and the fact there was lacking of communication about the race details coming from Mr. Pacle, it was quite obvious Ku Ikaika 2013 was just an unavoidable task entrusted upon him. It now became apparent that the actual event of Ku Ikaika was even more lackluster compare to its maiden run.  For one thing, there wasn’t much difference with the last year’s race route with the current one except that the gun start was done at 4:00 a.m. with so many parts of the road were still bathed in darkness. To think the road were pockmarked, uneven and cow dung littered.  With this event you would expect FB Fan Page to be put up by the organizers to answer queries from the participants about important details of the race. But this was not the case in this race. As a result of the “if- you-build-it- they-will-come” attitude of the organizer, compared to last year’s two busloads of contingents of runners from Manila alone who attended the event, for this year in the 42K category there were only about 30 runners while in the 21k category had only about 73.  Both aforementioned categories participants count already included the local participants. Last year time keeping was done with RFID, this year’s was manually done. But the positive note though, was that the race result came out earlier with a little sleuthing done to figure out where it would be posted. For this race I finished 2:34:43 a little better than the last year’s 2:45:22 official time posted.

The last La Union run event I joined was the La Union Unity Marathon 2 dubbed as “Super Marathon” held March 16, 2013. The organizer of this event was Irunner. What attracted me to participate in this run event was that, since I was not able to run up to Bacsil Ridge in Ku Ikaika for the route was not included in the 21k category of the latter race, and was now the main u-turn of the 21k category of LUUM2, I thought, I might as well signed up for this race just to see what was there to see in this much promoted ridge by the Ku Ikaika organizers. Bacsil Ridge is one of the most famous site in La Union which commemorate the heroic deeds of the Ilocanos against the Japanese in World War II.

But as it turned out, in LUUM2 Bacsil Ridge was not even the most challenging part of the race. It was Barangay Puspus or Agpuspusipus a Danum and the road going to Barangay Baraoas which were reserved exclusively for the 42k and 50k runners.  Both routes promised to be the most challenging uphill run that can rival a certain part of Tagaytay Ridge which was featured in Nathan Ridge Run and Salomon Xtrail Run 2013 which I thought was the toughest I have tried so far in terms of uphill road run. This detail was able to pique the interest of the challenge hungry run addicts of Manila and Southern Luzon.  In spite of the Unilab Run United 2013 Leg 1 happening the day after LUUM2, two buses where quickly filled by Manila runners and more caught up later before the midnight gun start.

The LUUM2 had almost had a great start with more runners from Manila still expressing desire to join the events long after the registration period was over. But then I started reading in the fan page about additional fees to cover for finisher shirt for the 21k runners, also raised in the fan page was issue about the finisher medals may not be enough and race briefing that doubled as carbo-loading party but the food was not going to be free.  then at the bus station in Manila the buses departed late again. The during the briefing the organizers was not quite certain how to distinguished those registrant that should be charged extra for medals and finisher shirts. The aforementioned issues were boding bad vibes about the race.

At pass midnight the 50 k runners had their gun start. This was followed an hour later by the 42 K runners.  The 21K runners were given their gun start at 4:00 a.m. there were only few of us in the 21K maybe about 30 the most. Some of the route like the uphill road towards Bacsil Ridge, in spite of a us having a later gun start, were still too dark. I can’t just imagine how it was in the 50K and 42K categories. Soon we heard from them that the route was pitched black even with their head lamp on.  With no marshal to assist them along the way there were runners who either got lost along the route or had chosen to take short cuts.

By the time runners began crossing the finish line another setback occurred. The finish times of the runners were not recorded because a power failure occurred. It did not dawn to the organizers to do the recording manually when it came to the point that they could not rely on the power coming back. They just allowed things to happen as it was. There were a lot of staff with pretty much noting else to do except to wander around like headless chicken who could not even answer a simplest query where to proceed after the race for the loot bag – The loot bag that contained only air and the finisher shirt I paid for.

By the time I was traveling back to Manila I posted at my facebook account via SMS that I have seen my last run in La Union. But then, as I read the post of the runners who participated in LUUM2, they have expressed some form of disappointment but at the same time also expressed desire to run again on LUUM3. This only goes to show that La Union had already made its mark on runners. It won’t be quite unthinkable that the tales that these participants weave through their blogs and brag would even attract other runners to take another crack at La Union. I myself is likewise contemplating if I could possibly give it a try one of the longer distance run in the future.

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