Taking My First 50 K Ultra-marathon in Strides



I end the year 2013 with me finally accomplishing my first 50 kilometer ultra-marathon. The Cavite 2 Laguna: Hero to Hero Run held close to midnight of December 29 was the second part of my “Hero” run. The first being the 42K run at Cavinti was in time for the commemoration of Andres Bonifacio’s birth. The C2L which started at Aguinaldo’s Shrine in Kawit, Cavite was in time for the 117th death anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal with the run culminating at the huge Jose Rizal statue at Calamba, Laguna on the 30th of December. This event was organized by the Run Mania Philippines Promotion under Pat Maranan. Run Mania had previously organized Rizal to Laguna and Tagaytay to Kawit and was set to have Laguna to Batangas as the next run event.


The C2L was anything but a walk in the Rizal Park for me even though I literally walked most of the way because of painful left heel due to plantar fasciitis. Blisters also wrought havoc on both my feet due to my breaking one of the most important rule in running: DO NOT RUN ON RUN EVENTS WITH BRAND NEW SHOES.


As part of my preparation (if not my only one) to this run, I bought a pair of shoes that would supposedly help lessen the impact of my left heel ailment which for a week had been quiet and therefore made me believed my heel was already healing. I thought cushioning shoes would be appropriate since such shoes are supposed to absorb the impact of ground on the feet. But I got talked into buying instead shoes for stability, supposedly to correct instead my running stride that may have contributed to the injury.


Before the actual run event I had a bout of doubt about going ahead with C2L. Although my left foot seems to be feeling fine for a week, I felt I might be sacrificing my future running if I run the C2L by ending up aggravating the injury. Then on the day of the event itself before leaving home, I learned that I was not at all included in the service van that will be picking up participants at Taft, Manila. I was pretty sure this was a sign telling me not to push through. But the stubborn part of me prevailed upon me to go to the race event venue for adventure sake since I haven’t gone there via public transportation. I arrived at Kawit, Cavite a bit too early, so I sought for a place to while away the time thinking there might be a Starbucks there somewhere. I ended up in Noveleta walking for about 4 kilometers. After taking a dinner of two-piece chicken and extra rice at Jollibee Fast Food I was again feeling I should hop on a bus and head back to Manila but instead ended up alighting at Aguinaldo Shrine. Destiny waited for me to do this.


Two hours before the distribution of the race bib there were already other runners milling or settling around the Tiangge filled plaza fronting the well festooned Aguinaldo Shrine to wait for the bib race distribution. One of the running teams there early was the Team San Lazaro who gotten its name because its members jog around SM San Lazaro. Their most prominent member is the 69 year-old Master Victor Lim from Tutuban. Mang Vic’s popularity also enabled him to be adopted by various other running groups like Team Harot, Team Flying Aces, which was there represented. Later Mang Vic was busy having his picture taken along other running groups and individuals whom he had met from other running events he had participated. Being from Sampaloc myself, the team San Lazaro members were cordial with me and welcomed me to hang out with them for the time being.


Other recognizable groups that soon were making their presence felt were from Team Soleus, Pinoy Aspiring Runners (PAR), Ayala Triad, Team Ultra Mountaineer (TUM), Team USB and Team Ekek. Running Photographer’s Papadyak who was celebrating his birthday that evening was taking snapshots of everyone. He too will be running in this event while FSTOP Creative will be the one doing the photo-documentation of the event. Finally, the race bib distribution was announced open. Luckily, I was among those who got into the queue early and got my race bib fast. This long queue of runners will last until around the supposedly gun start time and therefore the organizer had to delay it for another thirty more minutes. This was the only negative comment most would be relaying later by satisfied finisher of this event. 


When finally the gun start was fired the 674 runners which initially were in close compact formation found themselves hitting Tirona Highway heading towards Binayakan Public Market where a drunken fellow high-fived some of the passing runners. Then the runners proceeded to Bacoor proper running against the traffic flow. The runners began thinning out which means many of the runners picked up speed to lose the crowd while those of us slower folks dropped behind them unceremoniously. I began noticing that some of the runners especially those running in groups or teams have support vehicles either cruising along them or meeting them at some point ahead of the runners. These support groups not only provide their runners with hydration and other nourishments but also took photographs of them as they run or made stops at some interesting landmarks.  These support groups provide valuable services especially at the time when the official hydrations along the race began running out of supplies. But what I think was the most important services these support groups gave out was the company that kept the runners motivated and in high spirit. For us solo and unsupported runners who were lagging behind, we could only hope to reach the next water station after 10 km for hydration that is, if we can still manage to get some leftovers after the station had been swarmed by great armies of locust-like runners ahead of us. Otherwise, you either had to carry everything you need right in your hydration pack or rely on stores you happened to pass by.


By the time the runners reached SM Bacoor we turned left to the Aguinaldo Highway then right to Molina Boulevard. There was a long stretched of dimly lit road ahead where the first official hydration station was situated. This was the 10th kilometer mark of the race. The runners then proceeded to Daang Hari Road, which was also a long dark road. At about the 13th kilometer my left heel began to hurt. My plantar fasciitis reared its ugly head and came to spoil the fun. My right heel decided also to join the melee. Thus began my walkathon.  Somewhere between Daang Hari and Daan Reyna the 20th kilometer and the next official hydration station was situated. I just missed the last bottle of Gatorade. But I managed to get banana. The next road we took was Victoria Avenue. At some point because the pain in my left foot became too bothersome I purchased 2 capsules of Ibruprofen. It kind of eased the pain a little. We came across a flyover bridge that took us to the other side of SLEX and into Magsaysay Road. We reached San Pedro Laguna.  Soon we were hitting the Maharlika National Highway and was on the way to Biñan, Laguna. At this juncture the whole of the National Highway served as the theater of war for this leg of the race. With the pain partially relieved from the medicine I took, I momentarily regain some will to run. I was even overtaking some other runners including a team with Soleus and Milo jerseys whom previously were running close by me but because they were running all through out were able to gain some distance from me until I lost them before San Pedro, Laguna.   Somewhere in Biñan was the 30th kilometer marker of the race. There were sandwiches, salt, water, candies, chips and Gatorade to be found. Like a long missed lover the pain on both my blistered ridden feet resumed.


The sky was beginning to light up as day had finally begun to arrive. I was still confident that in spite of my condition I can reach the finish line at least an hour before the 10 hours cut off time. There were other walkers I caught up with.  Soon they became my constant companion until down to the last 4 kilometers of the race when I decided to dump walking and stride until the finish line.  With the pain becoming again too bothersome, I began looking for pharmacies that were open in order to purchase again pain reliever but none was to be found. I even tried every 7-11 stores along the way. At Santa Rosa, Laguna just before SM City I managed to buy two capsules of Alaxan FR at a sari-sari store along the road and swallowed one immediately along with my Salt Stick capsule. Somewhere in Balibago was the 40th kilometer.


I was pretty much sure I could finish this race with only 13 kilometer left but the big question bugging mine and my companions mind was whether we will make it before the cut off time. This created a sort of anxiety on one of my walking companion.    I thought with my walking most of the way there must be only few runners behind me. Maybe about 10-15 including a guy with a huge afro hair that I often saw in other running event. He usually lagged much farther behind me therefore I felt much relieved and still retained some piece of pride in myself.  After walking for some time we stop by at a hydration station which not only gave us drinks but ice cream as well. We mistakenly thought this was the 45th kilometer and therefore we were thinking of maybe about 8 more kilometers to go before the finish line.  We were somewhere in Cabuyao when my walking companion called his friend who was among the member of the organizers to get an assurance that we can still make it to the cut off time. But the 8 kilometer seemed to stretch on and on. Every time one of my companions asked almost everyone along the way about how much further to Calamba everyone gave out an answer that it was still too far ahead.  We caught up with another group of walkers and for a moment our merry band of walkers were contended looking for SM Calamba. But soon other runners overtook us including the afro haired guy who usually was at my back in other races. I began to worry too. As soon as we passed by Liana’s Mall my feet regained some strength. The pain became insignificant and therefore I again could make running strides initially slower then became faster and faster. I began to make some distance between me and my companions. I run until I overtook about three more runners ahead me. I crossed J.P. Rizal where SM was looming behind some other buildings. But after passing SM Calamba the road to the finish line was still farther ahead. But I was told it lies right of the first traffic light I will meet ahead. Time was almost winding down. I saw two more runners making a dash at Chipeco Extension which was the last road to the finish line. Soon I was also at the slightly uphill Chipeco road. A runner coming from the venue encouraged me to run faster. Soon, I saw the finish line arch with the official time hanging that say 9:54:05. I made it to the cut off time in a nick of time. Finally I crossed a 50k distance. I am an ultra-marathon walker.


With this feat successfully in the bag, I believe I could fare much better next time. This kind of encouraged me to see myself taking on more 50 k run in the future (in fact might be too soon as Laguna to Batangas is slated on February 23, 2014) keeping eye on participating TNF100 50 k category. In fact, this year will be a real marathon year for me.  I have already signed up with Subic International Marathon (SIM) and also planned to participate in Quezon City International Marathon (QCIM). However, my main concern now is whether my feet could heal soon enough to allow me to run in the next event which will take place on January 19th.  Perhaps with two weeks of abstinence from running might allow my plantar fasciitis to heal or again contend myself with finishing the race at the bottom end of the race.