Three days after the Smart Mayon 360 80k Ultramarathon held April 9, 2016 at Legazpi, Albay, I am still suffering its effect. Chaff that turned into gashes in both of my thighs near the crotch area rendered me walking bow-legged once more for three days and a huge blister at my right foot that had my right foot swelling for two days. I am not even sure anymore I could run 42k at the 2016 National Geographic Earth Day Run come weekend. Still I am feeling pretty much jubilant in having conquered one of the toughest ultramarathon events of the country. The same date that the Mayon 360 held its gun start the country commemorated the heroism of both the Filipino and American soldiers who fought valiantly before finally capitulating to the Japanese invaders in Bataan. Something close to being valiant must have rubbed the runners to be able to finish the race.
Last year I could not imagine the Mayon 360 Ultramarathon could ever take place since the event would run smack with the National and Local election campaign period, which usually awash in violence hence a possibility of skipping holding the event this year. However, not only the Mayon 360 happened at the literally most scorching time the El Niño was ravaging the country, the event also coincided with the weeklong celebration of the Dalagang Magayon Festival and the 59th Palarong Pambansa. Thereby the event entered a sort of historic moment in its 6th year of existence.
Another reason that I thought would have prevented me from ever conquering this event happened a couple of week prior to my flying to Legazpi. After running 42k at Clark Animo Run 7 last March 6, 2016 I had a 3 weeks off from joining any running events. To my mind the reason for this was to have my body fully recover after running mostly marathon weekly before facing up Mayon 360 Ultramarathon. Actually the real reason for the latter’s decision was due to the comment given to me by another runner while we were running at the Sagada Marathon. After learning that I run on events on a weekly basis, he told me that I am pushing myself into a situation that could render me crippled soon. This kind of stuck into my mind and worked its way into becoming fear that eventually had me deciding to give myself a holiday from running in run events. During the time I was in hiatus, I kept busy with trying to secure myself a medical certificate declaring that I am fit to run ultramarathon. This was part of the Mayon 360 Ultramarathon application requirement. This turned out to be not an easy thing to do. I went to my employment’s Health Service since the last time I ran in Milo National Marathon I got my medical certificate from one of the Health Center’s doctors. I was however, told to I get an endorsement first from my College’s Dean. But the medical certificate has nothing to do with my teaching job and thought that I was just being given one of those bureaucratic run about. So, I went to a private hospital along Espana Boulevard. The Cardiologist who attended me advised me to undergo Stress Tread Mill test and 2d Echo and cough P900.00 for the ECG. The two test actually cost about P7,000.00 plus but since I had it charged through my employment’s medical benefit allowance, I paid zero amount. Having secured the result did not guarantee my being given a medical certificate. The Cardiologist was balking on giving me a bill of good health because he was simply too cautious of signing me up to what he thought might be my ticket to the list of less than .1 percent who had experience sudden death during run event. He wanted me instead to undergo two more testing in another hospital just to make sure I am in my best form to run. I left and sought another hospital. Only at first I ended up going to Jose Fabela, which turned out a government hospital for laboring women. I learned from one of the staff that I should go instead to Jose Reyes Hospital. At Jose Reyes I was told that I should pay P1,600.00 for the medical certificate and submit an X-ray and ECG result. Both the Xray and ECG cost me P450.00 in another clinic and could have probably cost me less than Jose Reyes a medical certificate have the doctor was there at the time I was getting my results. It was a good thing that finally the doctor at Jose Reyes Hospital gave me my certificate and told me just to watch out for any chest pains. My final obstacle to running the Mayon 360 Ultramarathon finally hurdled.
A week before the Mayon 360 event, I ran in the event, Guagua Half Marathon held in Pampanga. Having not ran in distance farther than 2.5 kilometers I performed badly in Guagua. I finished it with a time of 3 hours and 9 minutes. This made me worried whether I am ready to tackle the 80 kilometers Mayon 360 Ultramarathon event, which was happening in one of the places in the country whose heat index was hitting 51 degrees.
Soon I found myself in Legazpi City at last and attending the Smart Mayon 360 Ultramarathon race bib claiming at Ayala Mall Legazpi City. It was easy to make the mistake of thinking that the event was just another run event happening in Manila since many of the people I saw queuing were familiar faces that I encountered with in many run events in Manila. According to the race organizers at the race briefing there were around 260 + participants in the solo 80km category alone while 20 teams in the 2 man relay and 35 teams in the 4 man relay categories. This contingent of runners would soon be joined by delegates from other regions of the country participating in the 59th Palarong Pambansa, thereby swelling the number of people being host by Legazpi close to 50,000 people. The race organizer also told the participants that on gun start on the following day, the Mayon 360 event will also featured the second day of the torch relay for the Palarong Pambansa. The relay started from Agos, Polangui and had touched down at Legazpi City in its first day. In its second leg it will travel the route of the participants of the Mayon 360 ultramarathon event. Upon claiming my race bib I had my photographs taken with a fellow runner whom I will be running along with for the most part of the race the following day. It seems nothing anymore stands in the way of my accomplishing this race. Deep inside do I was filled with a sense of foreboding.
Gunstart was given at 4:00 am at Peñaranda Park, Old Albay, about 2 kilometers from where I was staying. The route going to Daraga was an uphill concrete asphalt road, which peaked at the 5th kilometers. As usual I took my queue at the rear end of other runners careful not to exhaust myself early since I was mindful of my lack of longer run and practice prior to Mayor 360. So far, it seemed all my acquaintances were either ahead of me or were lagging far behind me. One of the runner running along me was the same runner I saw in Hungduan Marathon wearing the Bib number 1 who finished last. Appearing from the middle of darkness coming from the opposite side of the road, traveling in various interval towards where we started from were silhouettes of giant sometime nude female effigies. The whole experience was pretty much like meeting various images of the Poon Nazareno being pulled, carried or pushed by devotees on January 1 and January 9. Soon an Aid Station with tarpaulin saying 10 kilometers met us. We were at Cabangan, Camalig and 73 kilometers more to go. We were tracing the route of bus going to Manila until the 20th kilometers, which lies in Giunobatan-Mayon Road marking the end of the National Road. Around this area I caught up with RDF whom from henceforth I will be running along with. Actually we walked most of the way since RDF was feeling some issues affecting his calves. At the 25th kilometer we turned right towards Ligao-Tabacco Road heading towards Tabaco City and Legazpi City. As expected the temperature was blistering hot. Thankfully almost every barangay dotting the race route provided the runners with ample hydration for drinking and dousing ourselves with. At around the 30th kilometers we caught up with another runner who was acquainted with RDF. He usually runs on barefoot but this time he was in slippers. He was also in Guagua Half Marathon. 7 kilometers before hitting the 35th kilometers in Tambo was mainly uphill. There wasn’t much to tell during the whole trip really which was actually uneventful. Even the perfect cone of Mayon Volcano had not peered through the cloud hovering around it to give us something to talk about. There was a portion the Race Director told us rain never fails to occur during the Mayon 360 run events. As if a switch suddenly triggered it upon us setting foothold on the area a brief rain shower occurred.
Tambo was the highest elevation this race had. Nearing 40th kilometers we aided a female runner who was running the 2-man relay category. She was experiencing cramps and felt she was not going to complete her end of the relay. Some good words and spray of BMS had brought her back to her feet. Soon she was able to take steps again. We ran with her until the 40th kilometer in Barangay Buang where the 2nd runner of the relay took over the remaining half of their journey to the 80km race route. The 45th kilometers which lies at barangay Quinastilohan was the designated drop bag area where RDF had a change of attire while I munch on a power bar dipped in Nissin’s ramen soup. At the 50th kilometers lies San Vicente at this point we were closing in with a couple more runners while at the 60th kilometers in Malilipot I was terribly bothered by chaff in both my thighs near my crotch area. Somewhere at the 65th kilometers in Santo Domingo I thought a tiny stone had entered my right shoe and was causing a considerable annoyance to me. It turned out I had developed a blister. This was my first time to experience or at least being aware of a blister during the course of a run event. Otherwise I was really pretty much cruising well towards the finish line. If not for the fact that we were walking and was in danger of not making it in time of the cut-off time I could say I got this race wrapped up under our hands. Darkness crept up upon us with a little of 6 kilometers left to go. RDF was soon lagging farther behind. When he caught up with me he complained of being nauseous with 3 kilometers to go. I decided to pace ahead but not after I alerted one of RDF’s friend, who was supporting another runner. At that time he and his support vehicle were positioned along the route were RDF would be passing by. I soon was passing by the road near my accommodation at Barangay Gogon. I know Finish line was almost within reach. But the last 1.5 kilometers seemed to stretch on. Traffic build up due to the governor’s night program for the Daraga Magayon Festival was at its fever pitch signaled that the finish line was just a couple more breath away. I once again passed by other runners including Sherman. Upon finally crossing the finish line at the area now swallowed up by the Daraga Magayon Program, I saw that in the official time I finished at about 15 hours and 30 minutes. Unfortunately due to the frenzy of the moment this would not be recorded and as my name failed to appeared at the official race result. RDF whom earlier I thought might not make it actually finished the race about 8 minutes difference from mine but I did not anymore saw him afterwards. I limped my way out of the event area and after eating rice porridge was soon ferried away by a tricycle heading back to my accommodation where later I saw one of the Kenyan runner and confirmed that his other Kenyan buddy failed to finish the race after declaring quits at the 50th kilometer. I felt a sort of bittersweet that in spite of finishing the race I did it barely being caught by the cut off time. I learned later that as soon as he got back to his hotel, RDF was throwing up everything he ate that day. He would however be recovering quickly and would be finishing a 50k trail run a week after in Tanay earning for himself a Grand Slam award for completing the Conquer’s Series while on the same day I would be tucking in another DNF (Did Not Finish) at National Geographic Earth Day Run at BGC. I conquered the odds of proving right the cardiologist who refused to give me medical certificate and reaffirmed the idea that I could still continue to pursue running for some further time in the future. However I also saw that my body was not impervious. The whole week my body showed signed of wear as I suffered swollen right foot for days. I was also affected by the gash at my thighs and come Sunday I ran only until the 23rd Kilometers of the 42k run. With this now happening I am once again begging the question whether this year would be the year I would be conquering a hundred kilometer distance.