January 28, 2017 was the 9th Bataan Death March 102 event’s day. Many of my running acquaintances including those whom I first met only at the beginning of 2016 at the event, Tagaytay to Nasugbu were marching to the beat of the drum of the BDM fever. T2N for many of these friends of mine was their first ultramarathon event and now they were 102 kilometers away from taking home the much coveted kilometer road marker designed trophy that would certify them as BDM Warriors. Me, I was in Cebu again and scratching off from my bucket list Mactan Island as one of my must run destinations. Four weeks ago I only brushed a portion of Mactan on what was then called Opon or Opong, one of the settlement areas given to Lapu-Lapu by King Humabon, when at the event, Cebu City Marathon I crossed Marcelo Fernan Bridge to reach Mactan and made a U-turn at a portion of the Manuel L. Quezon National Highway. This time in an out and back race event, Speed 50 – Mactan, I went around Mactan to get a better acquaintance with the island.
The event, Speed 50-Mactan held last January 28, 2017 was organized by Miles Multisport Cebu Company with Blue as Race Director. It was also the same outfit that organized the, Trans Cebu Ultramarathon in which I ran 55 kilometers in 2015 and in 2016 run under the 105 kilometers category but only made it as far as 67 kilometers. Until now I am still deciding if I should put TCU 105k behind me by taking it on once again this year or should I let it go for now to give myself a chance to see and run in other places and races. Speed 50 was also held in Tagaytay last December 3, 2016 but I just finish 117 kilometers the previous week in the event, Andres Bonifacio Day Ultramarathon and couldn’t participate. In Tagaytay Blue did not fare well as an organizer. Loads of issues rocked the event such as late gun start, running out of hydration at AS 2, awarding of wrong finisher shirt, running out of trophies for the finishers.
In Speed 50-Mactan 107 participants saw action. I noticed that there were only 3 who hailed from Manila. The other two aside from me were Willie and Shane both from Makati and my first time to meet them. Most of the other participants were from the different parts of Cebu. The other participants came from Palawan, Bacolod, Ormoc, Tacloban, and Dapitan City. Two foreign participants from the countries of Germany and Canada also graced the occasion.
Speed 50 is the opposite of TCU where the latter espouses, “Slow is the new fast” because of the numerous steep rolling the route offers, which could only mean running it in slower pace for average participants. As against Speed 50’s “Speed is of the essence” which challenges participants to finish 50 kilometer distance in sub 8 hours. With my sub-8 hours finish at the event, Hero to hero Rizal Day Ultramarathon held last December 28, 2016, I saw no problem in accomplishing the task. I was hoping that I will maintain finishing 50k sub-8 so that I might have a better chance of finishing BDM102 before the 18 hours cut off at the finish line.
On Speed 50’s event day itself however, I was still feeling quite not fully recovered yet from the previous week’s 65 kilometers run at the event, Paoay Church to Vigan Cathedral (PC2VC) where I finished 10 hours and 44 minutes and ranked 13th from the 44 participants. And then there was the rain that went on in the evening of the gun start. I feared that the road might be flooded in and covered from view the potholes along the way. It did not help that I chose not to bring along my headlamp even though I had it with me when I arrived at the event venue. I deposited it to the baggage counter along with the hotel keys and change clothes. As if to further sow fear into my heart an hour before gun start a power transmission blew up at the height of torrid rain and plunged the whole area in total darkness brought about by the power outage. I was thinking my quest for a sub-8 was in peril since I would probably crawl my way to the finish line to avoid stepping on potholes and other obstacle along the way. Power was restored at about 30 minutes before the gun start and I was able to give a sigh of relief.
The gun start was given at 10:00 pm., about the same time the gun start was given for the BDM warriors at Mariveles, Bataan. As if they were running in a 10 kilometers distance race and were pitting for a podium finish, most of the participants sprinted away. I was carried along the melee and was easily puffing along after hardly covering a kilometer distance as I tried to chase the group of runners in front of me. I could not keep up that I began to lag behind them. The race route started at Lapu-Lapu City Hall located at Barangay Pusok along Manuel Quezon Highway near a Gaisano Mall. Thinking that Hotel California was near the starting area since it was also beside a Gaisano Mall I booked it as my accommodation. However, it turn out that its location was in Basak-Gisi-Agus Road, which is about 4 kilometers away from the event venue about 51 minutes walk or 22 minutes ride on a taxi cab if the road is clear from any traffic jam which was not so on the night of the event. I had to take a “habal-habal” or motorbike, which could easily ride through tiny gaps and corner of the road to get to the event venue.
Runners proceeded towards the direction going to Mactan Export Processing Zone 1 passing by Mactan Marina Mall and the Mactan Airport Road. I thought I was once again at the tail end of the lines of runners since ahead of me the crowd of runners I was chasing had thinned out. It was only upon reaching the first aid station at the 5th kilometer at Barangay Buaya that I realized there were still other runners behind me. Aid Stations for this event were spaced from each other in roughly 5 kilometers apart. Once I found myself adjusted to the activity and any of the previous difficulty I was feeling dissipated I was able to run faster. We headed to Punta Engaño Road, which veered from the Quezon National Highway for our first U-turn. Punta Engaño, whose translation means “deception point” because the area seemed to resemble Cebu’s port. It was believed that a lot of ships trading with Cebu were misled to think they were heading for Cebu port but was actually passing along the bay where Lapu-Lapu’s men could easily launch a raid attacks on the ships for its cargoes and men. On the way to the U-turn, runners pass by the Mactan Shrine, which commemorates the Battle of Mactan that happened in April 1521 that led to the defeat and eventual death of Ferdinand Magellan. Inside it contains the 20 meters high bronze statue of Lapu-Lapu. A few meters away, the Magellan’s Monument, which was erected in 1866 by the Spanish Colonial Government. The finisher trophy of this event carried the Magellan’s Monument design. The road was uphill here but I run it anyway until I was overtaking Willie and Shane who told me earlier they took the first 50 kilometers of BDM in 7 hours. Also in our earlier conversation Willie was commenting a bit negatively about his friends who were running weekly in run events. I haven’t told him I did the same thing. Another runner, the 55-year old James, a former surgeon whom I had spoken with later during the run found it similarly crazy that I had already figured in around 30 plus marathons. I haven’t told him yet of my 40 plus ultramarathon runs. James plans to run in Athens, the Alps, and in New York. Not quite as crazy as I was doing. It wasn’t the first time that I sensed that some fellow runners look upon those who run in events weeks after weeks in a somewhat negative fashion although they say it as a joke. How much more by those who doesn’t run at all? They seem to think this spending spree on running and exposure to future injuries as a stunt. I’m kind of reminded of Rolf Potts the author of the book, Vagabonding, who also felt the lifestyle he and other people like him chose to pursue was way too self indulgent and foolish. Potts was espousing a vagabonding lifestyle which entailed travelling for an extended period of time. Potts wrote, “Vagabonding is, was, and always will be a private undertaking and its goal is to improve your life not in relation to your neighbors but in relation to yourself.” People react negatively maybe because, “they might take your growing freedom as a subtle criticism of their own way of life. Because your fresh worldview might appear to call their own values into question or at least force them to consider those values into a new light.”
After the U-turn, which marked the 10th kilometers of the race I was again retracing the path going back to the Quezon National Highway. For some time now I was very much curious at what can Mactan offers by way of attraction since I had not seen much from the area near the airport and from my hotel. It turned out that various swimming and diving resorts lines up the eastern and southern portion of Mactan and all of which could easily be reach by Public Utility Vehicles plying the road I was walking at most of the time I was in Mactan trying to kill time before boarding the plane back to Manila.
Once again I was passing by the Mactan Shrine. Historian Dr. Gerona wrote that in spite of being given land for settlements, one of which was Mandaue or Mandawili, which Lapu-Lapu was able to develop into agricultural cultivations that further enriched the trade port of Cebu. The other land given to him, Opon was unproductive and may have forced Lapu-Lapu’s hand to plundering ships. The name Opon and Mactan was probably not the names given by Lapu-Lapu to the land where he built his community. Opon, whose variation Opol has a meaning “to block a river or pass with tree” while Opang means, “to create enemies or quarrel with others”. On the other hand, Mactan or Magahat means, “to kill or injure with the purpose of plunder”. We have now a very clear picture of what was Cilapulapu or Lapu-Lapu was meant to Humabon.
Upon exiting Punta Engaño Road we turned right to Quezon National Highway heading toward Barangay Maribago. The 15th kilometer Aid Station offered beer and barbecue among other goodies. I did not drink beer as I was still not quite sure of the benefit of beer in running. Since I started running I had drank less beer. After a quick hydration I resumed running once again but this time I kind of slowed down as I began to feel exhausted. Willie and Shane once again made their appearance and took the lead from me. I am no longer worried though, of being among the last runners because I have seen on my way back from the U-turn that there were others way behind me. I noticed that there were a lot of Korean Nationals in Mactan. There were also Korean establishments especially near the resort areas but not as many as those I saw in Angeles City. We passed by a few of the Koreans who were still up along the route. The next Aid Station was at the 20th kilometers along Barangay Marigondon. The road that intersected with the Quezon National Highway to the right leads to another series of beach resorts. Our race route was to the left towards Maximo Patalinghug Jr. Avenue where Basak and my hotel accommodation were located. It was just a couple of hours ago that this road was overflowing with vehicles now only puddles of water and exposed pavements to run on. The race route was heading towards the other end of Quezon National Road in Barangay Pusok were the race started. But Just before touching base with Quezon Nation Highway a U-turn awaited us.
The U-turn also served as the 25th kilometer Aid Station. At this AS resting were Willie and Shane. I wanted to take this as an opportunity to get ahead of them once again so I quickly spring back to the road and resumed my campaign now retracing our way back to the starting area. At about 300 meters I was doing intervals of walking and running. I was soon catching up with the 55 year old James and his two Cebu Road Rhythm Teammates. At first I thought I caught one of their teammate cheating when suddenly another runner joined the group of James after I thought I saw him coming out of the other side of their support vehicle. I was not really sure if this fourth runner were with them all along for I haven’t noticed him earlier. So, from then on I was keeping a close watch of the 4 runners to see further proof that they were cheating.
At 30th kilometers near Mactan Newtown Condominium another Aid Station awaited the runners. While hydrating I espied a couple bearing white paper cups emerging out from a corner hidden from my sight inside the property of Mactan Newtown. I guess this place could probably be the only other place where a Starbucks could be found aside from the ones in inside the Airport Road and Airport itself. From this AS runners soon turned right and once again running the Punta Engaño Road. Just before the U-turn another runner a female one joined James. I had not seen her earlier tagging the group of James. I was pretty sure now there was something fishy going on. However, after the U-turn I had a chance to speak with James and learned from him that his teammates where just pacing him and were not participants of the event as they failed to register in the race. With only 8 more kilometers to go James expressed his decision not to anymore tire himself further. He said that he would just walk the rest of the way. He believed that even with him walking he could still achieve a sub 7 finish. I was tempted to follow his lead and continue with our conversation. But the thought of possibly finishing sub 7 was more inviting for me so I bade James fare well and proceeded to run passing once again and for the last time the Mactan Shrine.
Said to be overwhelmed by military temper and wounded pride, on April 27, 1521 Ferdinand Magellan with sixty well-armed men who all lacking in battle experience along with Humabon and native men boarding 30 balanghai, they arrived at what came to be called the Magellan Bay. About 1,500 of Lapu-Lapu’s men from Opong and Buaya were already waiting and keeping eyes on the approaching fleet. Magellan’s ship docked about 8 kilometers away off shore and proceeded to approach the shore via smaller boats. Humabon and his men were told to stay put and watch the attack. Magellan’s musketeers and crossbowmen fired upon the shore but with the distance of about 60 yards they inflicted minimal damage and casualties. Magellan’s men succeeded their landfall and started burning houses at the nearby coastal settlements. Little did Magellan know the natives were actually luring them to a close range combat for which the Spaniards were absolutely unprepared to engage with. When the natives finally engaged the attacking forces, the former aimed their attack at the vulnerable portion of the Spaniards, which were at the exposed legs not covered with armor. One poison arrow utilized by the natives hit Magellan’s right leg. Magellan’s men began retreating hastily leaving Magellan with only 6 to 8 of his most loyal soldiers. There were different accounts on how exactly Magellan met his death but what basically occurred was that Magellan was soon identified by the natives and focused their attack on him. Weakened by his wound he was easily exposed to lance attack from the natives who soon gang up on him. Magellan was possibly hacked to death by his assailants. Magellan died in the area of Punta Engaño, which was at some point known as Punta Pangusan which means, “nose eaten by leprosy”.
As I got out once again of the Punta Engaño Road and spilled the Quezon National Highway this time on the return trip to the Starting area for the finish, my thoughts turned to my other fellow runners running in the BDM. Unlike Magellan whose odds were against him when he faced up with Lapu-Lapu’s men, the BDM warriors enjoyed one of the odds working for them-the weather. Unlike in the other edition of BDM in which the unrelenting heat of the sun was a vicious opponent especially along the route between Dinalupihan, Bataan and San Fernando, Pampanga, in this year’s edition the sun was mum by the prevailing cold front sweeping the northern portion of the Luzon. As I was nearing the 45th kilometers and the last AS, I also imagined the glee of the BDM warriors who almost halfway through their journey. They would soon either be looking forward to the second part of the BDM series which is the 160 kilometer distance or like others who settled to put an end to the madness of joining run events and move on to other less extraneous endeavors. For my part the last 5 kilometers seemed still quite a distance to cover with my diminishing strength. I shuffled once again from running to walking to preserve enough strength for a possible dash to the finish line. I checked my watch and saw that I wouldn’t make it sub-7. But at least I made it sub-8 which was after all the whole point of this event. I decided to walk further. About 300 meters from the finish line I was still able to over take another runner. Upon sighting the finish area I removed my running goggles and made a dash for the finish tarp. Upon reaching the finish line I saw at the event clock that I made it 7 hours and 9 minutes. 9 freaking minutes short just as when I joined the Pinoy Fitness Sub 1 10k Challenge in July 2015 in Baguio City thereby missing getting a finisher medal for Sub 1. Although in the past I had done sub-1 in 10 kilometers, it seem I couldn’t repeat the feat since I started running marathon and ultras. I found out later that I rank 52nd out of 107 participants. 94 of these 107 participants were sub 8 finishers. James was escorted by his teammates to the finish line garnering a time of 7 hours and 31 minutes while Willie and Shane came with a time of 7:39 hours. Not quite the latter’s BDM’s first 50k finish. They did not actually finish BDM either and was probably looking forward for a return bout. Maybe in the next edition of BDM we’ll get to see each other again.