When the 1st Pangasinan 360 70K Ultramarathon event schedule was announced by Prince Multi Sports Event, Inc., I saw an opportunity to accomplish my desire to complete the list of provinces forming a continuous line north of Manila that I had already ran in. So far the list is composed of Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, (Subic) Zambales and La Union. This is apart from the other provinces in the Cordillera that I also ran at composing of Baguio, Benguet, Ifugao. If successful, along with three other events I hope to join in September and November, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte would be added to the list. Maybe by then I can focus on completing the southern portion of Luzon.
Just like in Trans Cebu Ultramarathon when the 1st Pangasinan 360 70K Ultramarathon was held last August 8, 2015, most of my running friends were at the 21k Mt. Marami Silyang Bato FKT Trail Run held in Maragondon, Cavite. Seeing them having fun in spite of being soaked wet with rain and merrily sloshing along muddy trail, I almost felt quite left out and envious. To me this was another trail running event missed in favor of ultramarathon, which I hope will buy me a ticket to running my first 100k. In Pangasinan, I and a few of my running friends namely, Mignon Ygnacio, Delmo Sullano, Nancy Buenaventura, Tess Templado, and Sherman Manuel helped filled up the 60 plus runners who registered in the 1st Pangasinan 360 run event. Pangasinan was supposedly one of the more difficult place to hold run events at because being located in the great plain of northern portion of Luzon and lies near the sea, it is expected that the climate there to be quite hot and humid. But the schedule of the Pangasinan 360 run event coincided with the possibility of the southwest monsoon being enhanced by a passing typhoon north of the Philippines. Rain was expected to ease the usually hot temperature of Pangasinan. However, come the actual event, the rain came only at the latter hours of the run around the last 10 kilometers after the runners had already had their fair share of exposure to the sun’s warm welcome of the participants.
The race route, which began in front of the Manaoag Municipal Hall covered 8 municipalities whose route when traced formed a shape of a Bangus or milkfish which is staple in Dagupan. The Bangus also figured in the trophy design, although I felt the image of the Our Lady of Manaoag was a more appropriate to appear in the trophy. The municipalities covered were Manaoag, Urdaneta, Sta. Barbara, Calasiao, Dagupan, Mangaldan, San Fabian and San Jacinto. The route was predominantly leveled which make it easier for those who want to establish new PR or run the route in Milo International Marathon qualifier pace more likely to succeed. I on the other hand, after losing steam earlier in the race and fell behind most of the participants had given up any notion of establishing PR. I settled instead to run in a pace that would at least guarantee me of having a few other runners running behind me by the time I finished the race to at least give me the satisfaction to gloat about not being the last runner to cross the finish line.
The route was supposedly straightforward hitting all the mentioned municipalities as one reaches the main intersection of the highway where ideally marshals were expected to be present to further guide runners. But in reality there were forks on the road where marshals could not be sighted for directions. Since the race route was a 360 there were roads along intersections that run back to where we were previously came from. So, aside from the need to remember the instruction given during the race briefing about landmarks to seek out and where to turn to, runners really need to ask the locals around for directions. On the way to Urdaneta some of us made a wrong turn in one of the fork along the road and led us into one of the secondary road. A timely appearance of a motorcycle-riding marshal saved us from heading to either a shorter route or from totally wandering off the route. A couple of runners in front of us were no longer turned back and disappeared like phantom. Along Sta. Barbara I broke running solo and joined the company of fellow runners Sherman and Noel Carreon of Team Cabalen. We separated only when we reached San Fabian and I decided I wanted to catch up with some of the runners I saw ahead of me that seem to be straggling like wounded animals.
While the 1st Pangasinan 360 70k ultramarathon was going on with barely a couple of weeks after the death of the runner Marvic Reyes at Milo Marathon Manila Leg, in another part of the country, in Cebu, another runner loses his life. He was a Canadian runner whom I met in front of the Family Mart along Ayala-EDSA while waiting for a service shuttle that will take us to the event, Aguinaldo to Bonifacio Ultramarathon. He was Anthony Dean Borg, 52 years old. When I met him he says he had been running for about a year in the Philippines with 106 kilometer as his longest distance, which he completed last December 2014 in the event Bonifacio ultramarathon. After the AUB Ultramarathon he flew to Cebu and participated the Cebu 360 70k Ultramarathon. At the time he died he was running in another event, a 12 km fun run event dubbed, R399 Run where at 2km after being released from the starting lane he collapsed and died on the spot. On-line news account reported of Dean having hit his head on the gutter when he fell from his motorbike while waiting for the gun start. It is sad that in spite of the benefits runners tell they get out of running, the sport is still steep with danger and may be compared with crossing a highway, one could get killed by an incoming vehicle when one is not wary of the vehicle. This is primarily why every time I run, especially in ultramarathon whenever I feel something awry I try to reduce my pace and try to sense if I should proceed at all with the race. That’s why most of the time I lagged behind. On the other hand, accident is altogether another matter that even the most cautious runners could not avoid from occurring. In an accident unforeseen forces, some calls it fate, come into play. Thus, this is just another way where running becomes a metaphor for living. We could not predict when our time is up but while the road to the finish line is still there one should keep pursuing it for in finishing a race one could still appreciate the sweetness of finishing pain and all while in death even the honor bestowed upon you does not even blow the candle that lit your grave.
Nearing the last 13 kilometers I began passing other runners whom since they were not within my eyesight, I thought had already gone to establish vast distance that gravely hurt my ego. However, I kept the hope that they were just somewhere near but beyond my sight. When I pulled away from my companion, among those whom I saw ahead and soon overtook were the runners Mignon and Delmo who both ran 100k in TransCebu Ultramarathon. Accompanying them was another runner I did not caught the name and the 60 + year old Tatay Potania, who ran 100k at Ibtur. I was able to close gap with them when they were actually taking a rest somewhere between San Fabian and San Jacinto. But as soon as they were able to get back on the road they proved to have unlimited stored stamina that they easily wrestled the lead from me again. I came close running just barely behind them at San Vicente about 7 kilometers from Manaoag but I just couldn’t sustain the pace. I dropped behind them further and further until I could not spied anyone of them along the road. With only 2 to 3 kilometers left, I gained upon 3 more other runners namely Tess, Thezz and Allan. Tess and thezz decided to walk along Allan the remaining distance to the finish line because Allan was already disgruntled with the proceeding of the race had wanted to take a ride back to the finish line. Tess who was my classmate back in the Elementary school days swayed him to just walk his anger off. By the time we finally made it at the finish line I ranked 43rd out of the 53 runners who actually finished the race within the 16 hours cut-off.
1st Pangasinan is the 3rd 360 run events I participated under the Prince Multi Sports Event with Makiling and Bulacan as the two previous events.