Sharing My Manila To Sierra Story

I thought after the 117 kilometers Andres Bonifacio Day Ultramarathon (ABDUM) there is no more event worth taking notice about. I am thinking instead of filing a sort of yearend report on my running activities.  This is in spite of having still two more run events for me to go to before the year actually ends. However, one event, the Manila to Sierra 65 Kilometers Ultramarathon organized by Coach Roel Amabao-Ano had left quite an impression on those who participated in it including me and therefore deserved some attention.

 

The event happened last December 17, 2016 where it had its gun start in front of the triangular plaza of Manila City Hall at 11:00 pm. The event was participated by 125 solo runners and probably just a couple on the relay category. Among those familiar with me who attended this event were as follow: Robinson, Jaime, Noel and his fellow Team Cabalen; the couple Levi and Girlie who DNF in the event Ibtur under the 160k category where I last saw them; Marielle who ran 65K in ABDUM; Cross dressing Fabulous Running Diva Yssa and Fritz running with headdress on and with Frinze in barefoot; Jham who was co-organizer of the 1st Isla Catanduanes Ultramarathon (ICUM), which kind of made it difficult for me to hide from his invitation to take the 110 kilometer category of the second ICUM; Davao based Nars who recently ran in Penang Malaysia; Nancy who I last saw action in the run event Bohol Marathon; Anton another runner who had not ran in any event for a very long time; RDF, Rona, Peewee who all DNFed at ABDUM. However about a week ago, RDF and Peewee redeemed themselves with their 100+ kilometers finish at the event 24 Hour Crazy Run. I think there were a pair of Japanese participants and representatives of various running clubs such as Ayala Triad, P.I.G.S., Team Arunkada; and bunch of first timers in ultra marathon running.

 

Upon gun start runners took Taft Avenue north bound passing by the Bonifacio Monument designed by Ed Castrillo which I cannot help feel was a nod to ABDUM event done two weeks earlier. The route then took runners towards the direction of the Art Deco style building of Metropolitan Theater and Quezon Bridge. Thankfully Quezon Bridge had been undergoing some repair for quite some time now and thus prevented runners from experiencing the unimaginable stinks this important structure kept at the four covered portion of the bridge’s entrances and exits as these were turned into public latrine by street dwellers. The passing runners also perhaps interrupted the commerce of pack of young snatchers preying upon PUV passengers lulled by the slow moving traffic or cut off from the world with their smart phone’s headsets.  From the bridge one could gazed upon the brackish Pasig River that served as highway during the Spanish Colonial Period flowing below the bridge, while the skyline bannered a tired city cross pollinated with influences from various culture such as Islamic, Catholic and American.  As we reached the other end of the bridge I observed that in spite of the lateness in the evening, The District of Quiapo was still abuzz with people trying to catch a ride home now suddenly disrupted and curiously watching the passing runners. They were probably asking what sort of craziness was going on.  Crisscrossing runners who were trying to avoid bumping bystanders and vehicles headed for Recto Avenue. Upon reaching Isetann’s Department Store runners turned right to the formerly portion of Calle Azcarraga starting from Binondo terminating at Calle Alix now Legarda. Runners would be following the elevated tracks of the slithering LRT Line 2 until it runs out of track at Santolan Station. I read somewhere Recto the present day university belt was once home to various houses of ill-repute. We were running at the right side of the road following the flow of traffic which was against the usual practice of runners to run against the flow of traffic which usually at the left side of the road. We turned left upon reaching Mendiola. The statue of Don Chino Roces never cast a glance at us nor to those who tried to march towards Malacanang to express opinions, to decry or to petition something to whoever sits as President of the country for behind the statue is the street going towards Malacanang Palace. I entertained a thought wishing that particular street passing by Malacanang which exits at J.P. Laurel and into Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard should have been included in the race route.  Instead we followed Legarda heading for Arellano University and then the Flyover Bridge that will take us across to Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard. While running on top of the Flyover I can’t help feel that I am once again in the event, Condura Skyway Marathon. Unfortunately for this coming 2017 the organizers of Condura Skyway Marathon had already announced that there would be no Condura Skyway Marathon as the organizers wanted to assess the event’s success and find out how it could still be improve. The convenient store, 7-11 however, which had been holding run events at Skyway for the past two years after holding it at Cavitex will be the sole organizers that would still provide opportunity for people to experience running on top of the Skyway. Another thought that occurred to me while running on top of the flyover bridge was a dream to run in an event that will feature the busy streets of the city of Manila that would include San Nicolas, Binondo, Escolta, Sta. Cruz, Quiapo, Legarda, Santa Ana, Ermita.

 

Another runner who also ran and DNF at ABDUM was Elena probably already on her mid-fifties who hailed from Cavite. She spoke of her concern of getting lost along the way if she could not keep up with the other runners since she is not familiar with the streets of Manila.  I was initially keeping close watch of her as we ran but she seem to be doing fine and was in fact running a bit stronger that it was I who was having hard time catching up on her. I along with RDF, Rona, Alvin of Team Heroes Philippines and Elena’s husband who was doing a relay were occupying the last place and enjoying the privilege of last runners of being shadowed by a motorcycle riding marshal. Upon arriving at SM Sta. Mesa we took the foot bridge to get to the other side to Aurora Boulevard. I noticed that from Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard the road was actually slightly uphill already. The sidewalks after SM Sta. Mesa were also a bit darker and populated with sleeping homeless denizens of the city.  The first Aid Station was located at the 8th kilometers in front of Robinson Place’s Magnolia. At Cubao we once again climbed up a footbridge and upon getting off it we were heading for Katipunan. Along the way we chance upon Rose, one of the female runners who regularly run 100+ kilometers distance but now busy providing passing runners with water.  It was long pass midnight yet still more people were out on the street. I think this made it seemingly safer for us participants than when the streets were devoid of people which most likely will attract people with malicious intentions. After Katipunan we headed for Marcos Highway. At this point Elena’s husband was suffering from either cramps or some other issue with his legs. He was at the point he wanted to quit but his wife egg him on to keep going however slow it might take him.

 

We were soon running along another bridge with the view of SM Marikina. We were now in Marcos Highway or a portion of Marilaque which is short of Marikina-Rizal-Laguna-Quezon and referring to the 110 kilometers road traversing Marikina Valley, Antipolo, Rizal, Sierra Madre, Sta. Maria, Laguna until Infanta, Quezon.  In July 11, 2015 I joined the event, R2L2Q which utilized a portion of Marilaque in an 85 kilometers ultra marathon event. What was missing in that route was the Marikina portion which I was now passing through. The Cordillera based Team Malaya also attempted to have a 110 kilometers ultramarathon event that would covered the whole span of Marilaque but the event was shelved for either fewer participants or logistics issues. The next Aid Station was at the 16th kilometers near Sta. Lucia Mall. Manning the AS were volunteers from the running club Pinoy Aspiring Runners (PAR) with Elmar another runner who DNF at ABDUM welcoming us and Red Knight shooting photos of us. The AS had pizza among others which was timely because I was already famished. Although I mentioned that we were the last runners, that position was pretty much tenuous as the other runners would suddenly appeared from behind us when we took time to stop by or we were the one over taking those who were stopping by their support vehicles or convenient stores.  The next AS was at the 19th kilometer at Masinag, Antipolo City.  The footbridge we crossed finally had runners running at the left side of the road. At the top of the footbridge was Day Walker who also DNF at ABDUM but did the 24 hours Crazy Run successfully. He took our photographs by the bridge. Last 2015 I attempted to join the event, Sierra Madre Ultra marathon organized by Ariel Cortez.  Its race route started from Masinag and ended at Sierra Madre but after I registered I noticed that there were only about 10 of us running in that event. The previous year it had 15 which included Levi and Girlie. I did not anymore bothered to show up because at that time I was still quite bashful of ending up last with huge time disparity among the participants whom I suspected then were most likely elite runners. I did not know if that event pushed through for there was no race result published in the organizer’s website. At least in this event I would finally experience that route. Upon getting off the footbridge we stopped by at 7-11 Store to rest for awhile, while RDF bought something to eat. A couple of other runners were already resting there and having coffee. I felt the air was becoming colder. Soon talks among the runners resting turned to the topic about running shoes as one of the runners was wearing a Hoka brand shoes whose model was for trail running. He told us might as well wear trail running shoes since the pavements of the country were rough and uneven. RDF related how his Altra’s sole pealed itself off at earlier this year’s event, Mayon 360. While my Saucony ISO Triumph pealed its sole off at the 10th Tagaytay to Nasugbu Ultramarathon. These happened when the pairs being sold in the stores were actually older stocks according to the one wearing Hoka. When we returned to the road we encountered a steep uphill before it gradually leveled off.  From here on until the 35th kilometers the road had about 300 meters gain in elevation. Rona spoke to me about a possible cut off for those who will not make it at the 35th kilometers by 6:00 am which she heard mentioned at the starting area. This got me worried because earlier Rona mentioned that she was currently undertaking therapy for both of her legs which suffered some torn muscles. If I will pace along Rona I might not make it to that cut-off time. So, I began to speed up until only RDF was keeping up with me. The next Aid Station was found at the 25th kilometers along Cogeo public market area.  RDF and I then passed by a fork on the road the one on the left led to Pintong Bukawe, San Mateo, Rizal. The place which featured two huge stone tablets with the 10 commandment inscribed in it, was in the movie, Bike To Love starred by Solenn Heuseff. It was one of the places popular among trail bikers. Last July 2013 I ran in the event, Merrel Adventure Run. This event was the last trail run event Merrel organized. Recently, Soleus held a buddy trail run event there which RDF had participated. Along the way RDF mentioned of a beautiful church around the area of Boso-Boso which we found ourselves passing by. I was only familiar with the St. Joseph or Baras Church which was one of the oldest in Rizal since I had visited it once and Morong Church with its Pagoda style façade that I have not yet visited, but not Nuestra Senora de la Annunciata of Boso-Boso. Another church that I had not yet visited is the Saint Idefonsus de Toledo of Tanay which had been declared National Cultural Treasure my previous office the NCCA.

 

The Manila to Sierra route from start until finish line actually totaled only 60 kilometers that was why upon reaching the 35th kilometers runners were required to double back for another 2 kilometers and then return to the Aid Station at the previous 35th now 39th in order to augment for the missing distance. At about 5:45 am we reached the 35th kilometers. From here we learned that Alvin had quitted the race while Elena’s husband managed to reach the transition area and had his daughter continued with the next part of the relay. Rona also managed to make it at the 35th kilometers although there was no truth about the cut off established in that area. Rona found two new runners Angelo and Edmer to pace along her who were both first time ultra marathon runners.  At the Aid Station in the 42th kilometers we once again had Elmar and Red Knight manning the AS. At this point we noticed that a lot of motorcycles passing along were becoming frequent, larger in numbers and a lot noisier therefore quite annoying. They were seemingly heading the same way we were heading. From the 40th kilometers to the 45th kilometers the road elevation had about 200 meters loss. But from the 45th to the 50th aside from the gain in elevation of 500 meters the route became winding. At the 45th kilometers I left RDF who seemed bent on reaching the finish line uninjured while I favored trying to reach it in faster time. While assaulting the ascents the quieter bicyclists were also quietly enduring pedaling the uphill stretch. Occasionally I received “a thumbs up” from a few of them. RDF was hot on my heel along with another runner and was able to catch up while I was resting somewhere near Palo Alto. We then spotted one of the female PAR volunteer jogging along the uphill. When she passed by us she told us Seannah Swift another elite female ultramarathoner was doing her Long Slow Distance along the same route and the PAR volunteer was trying to catch up to her. Not long after, Elmar on motorbike also passed us by. Upon resuming our run I once again speeded up and left RDF. This time it was Elena and another female runner Rhaymond whom I overtook while they were looking for a spot to take a leak. Up ahead I also caught up with Noel who was thinking of quitting the race because his right foot was a bit swollen and in pain. He was wearing a pair of slippers. He told me he left his running shoes in one of the roadside store a few kilometers back but was not sure if he could still remember which if he tries to retrieve it back.  I gave him a pain reliever then I moved ahead. I reached a portion that had an uncanny resemblance of a place I saw in Batanes which lies beyond the Municipality of Uyugan.  The only thing missing there was the strong wind I encountered along with the view in Batanes. Then I chance upon a spot probably a food house with viewing area that showcase Laguna Bay. As I was admiring the spot I saw in a signage that the place was just the 47th kilometers. I fought hard the urge to swear but I couldn’t help myself.  I seemed to have travelled quite a lot already for the spot to be just the 47th.  At the next Aid Station however I was told that I was already at the 55th kilometers. Feeling relieved I cheerfully went on. At another eatery by the road I chance upon two Team Cabalen runners, Rendell and Charito who were eating. Rendell treated me to a small plate of pancit and soda. I told them that I saw Noel somewhere after the 50th kilometers and was about to quit the race. But ho and behold about a couple of hundred meters behind us assaulting the road was Noel who seem to have found a strength to stay on the race. When he reached us he told us that the swelling had lessened. The pain was more bearable too.  I gave him another pain reliever. Rendell told me I could go ahead for they plan on taking the last remaining 7 kilometer at a more relax pace. So, I left them. From the 55th kilometers to the 60th the elevation gain shot up to 600 meters. Rain began to pour down pretty hard that when I reached the Aid Station at the 65th kilometers there were runners sheltering in one of the store along the road. One of them was Fritz still wearing his headdress just as how I saw him take the ultramarathon in Tacloban City to Basey, Samar. I thought maybe they had already finished with the race and were just manning the Aid Station as volunteers. But Fritz told me they hadn’t reached the finish line yet. I left the AS with a thought that there might still be other runners ahead that I could catch up with. The weather seemed to have given way to a storm which I wasn’t aware of any coming. But with the current weather system occurring in the country this time of the year, it was no surprise if suddenly a strong typhoon could suddenly develop and ravage the country as it happened in the past years. With the last 5 kilometers left I was getting a bit impatient to get this race behind me. I tried to ran but I couldn’t sustain it long I had to resort once again to walking.  Then the rain relented a bit. The sun even took a brief peek before hiding behind the clouds again. By that time I already saw that the finish area was at Pranjetto Hill Resort and not in Tanay Adventure Camp. Entered a gate like it was the Pearly White one we all wanted to enter one day. It was finally over. I logged a finished time of 11 hours and 59 second and ranked 106th finisher. Since it had rain the photographers had all left the venue including Peewee who finished the race quite early on with a time of 9 hours and 41 minutes. RDF came a little bit with a time of 12 hours and 37 minutes while Rona finished the course with a time of 12 hours and 51 minutes.

 

The race course was not like what I encountered in TransCebu 55 in 2015 where almost the entirety of the course was made up of ascents but Manila to Sierra with those uphill at the second half of the course was still a formidable race. Many of those I spoke with after the race says they find M2S quite a challenging because many of them had not ran as many race courses as I did that featured other difficulties aside from ascents. To me the true challenge was more of the mental one. I think I am coming to the point I am beginning to understand that distance could be overcome with the proper training and mileage but when doubt and other mental issues seeped in that when one begins to crumble against distance. Two of my running acquaintances ran close to 100 kilometers prior to running another 100 plus kilometer before taking Manila to Sierra. Both still managed to come through M2S with Peewee even finishing with an impressive time. With this idea I am suddenly embolden to consider I could successfully finish more 100 plus kilometers in the following year, which after my run at ABDUM, I thought I would be shying away from.  Rain once again poured down after the race and almost posed as the more difficult part of running in this event. I thought I would have to spend another day in Tanay for I did not avail a shuttle service for this race.

 

What’s Eating Me At 85

Last July 12, 2015, after crossing the finish line at the 87th kilometer, which served as entrance to the covered basketball court beside the Municipal Hall of Infanta, Quezon, with a time of 17:30:40, I broke my 67 kilometer barrier. Rizal to Laguna to Quezon 85K Ultramarathon by Run Mania Promotion Philippines is currently the longest distance I have ever traveled on foot in a single take. With this accomplished the road to my first 100 kilometer run had been laid closer to its fulfillment.

At the time 200 plus runners took off from the town plaza of Pililia, Rizal at 10:05 pm another ultramarathon was also kicking off in Quezon City, the UP to UP 80k Ultramarathon by Prince Multi Sport which will have their participants running from UP Diliman in Quezon City to UP Los Banos in Laguna. I would have registered in this event if not for the conflict in schedule with R2L2Q. I however, preferred to join the latter since this had route that will have me touching down in Quezon which I have not set foot on foot at all.

From the town plaza we soon found ourselves running northward of Tanay-Pililia Road. I was a bit wary of the rain and cold air that might be brought in by the South West Monsoon or Habagat that was being intensified by a passing typhoon along the northern most tip of the Philippine Area of Responsibility or PAR. So, I wore long sleeves for protection against strong wind and cold evening. But the evening air turned out to be a bit warm and humid. At about 5 kilometers later we hit Tanay-Sampaloc Road. Prior to this day, I made a mistake of expecting that only the first 10 to 20 kilometers of the route were uphill. But in the briefing earlier, Race Director Eng. Pat Maranan bluntly told us that the route would be mostly uphill -or at least the first 50 kilometers. However, it was not just the uphill that we have to prepare ourselves of. Rather the path itself, which would be mostly dimly lit to not being lighted at all during the whole evening trek. This became apparent as soon as we found ourselves along Sampaloc Road. In the past I knew I had passed by along this route riding service shuttle and sometime public utility vehicle shuffling to and from the various trail run event I attended in Tanay. That evening somehow I felt lost and melancholic along the way. Burst of sound of some singing of videoke coming from some resorts nearby did not help lessen the feeling. After the 1st Aids Station at the 11th kilometer rain began to pelt. I brought out my waterproof poncho and put it on. But wearing it was a bit uncomfortable because it was too warm in it. A runner in raincoat and with an umbrella breezed pass by me.

I reached Marcos Highway and as soon as the rain stopped I disrobed my poncho and never again wore it all throughout the race even with the rain coming in again later. A few months earlier Run Mania had the Rizal to Laguna 50k Ultramarathon. I thought this was only a portion of the R2L2Q. I also thought that R2L2Q would pass by Mabitac, Siniloan and Famy, Laguna which would be an excellent opportunity to finally reach those portion of Laguna I haven’t had chance to reach through running before. But it turned out I made a mistake. R2L2Q would utilized a different route altogether. It would actually use some of the portion of the route called Marilaque which is actually about 120 kilometers beginning from Marikina near Katipunan Avenue then to Antipolo, Sumulong Highway, Masinag, Sierra Madre, Tanay, Sta. Maria, Laguna then finally to Infanta. The Marilaque is actually considered as one of the most picturesque highway in Luzon along with Halsema Highway in the Cordillera and Pan-Philippine Highway in Southern Luzon. Another race franchise, the Team Malaya was also organizing an ultramarathon covering the entire length of Marilaque come September or October this year. Of course R2L2Q would only use about 66 kilometers of Marcos with Pililia and Tanay route filling in for the 20 kilometers.

Without realizing it I soon passed by Camp Capinpin where Former President Erap Estrada was detained. Then not far after was the Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia where a giant size image of the Virgin Mother stands. But of course with all the darkness around I couldn’t catch a glimpse of it. The 2nd Aids Station lies at the 22nd kilometers around the boundary between Tanay and Laguna. At the Aid Station I inquired about my current ranking. I was told that I was probably at the 170th. From the Aid Station the road dipped downhill and when we reached the end of the downhill we were entering a road surrounded with forest. The sound of animals and insects cries filled the void aside from occasional blinking light coming from some runners ahead. It was almost painful to see when those blinking light slowly shrink away until it was just your headlamp shining the path. Although we still passed through populated areas now soundly asleep almost after each of these barangays the road was plunged again in a depressingly dark surrounding. Then as if conspiring to sabotage my attempt to conquer my first 85k ultra my feet began to impinge pain. In an attempt to add cushion to my Saucony Guide 7 shoes I stuffed it with an additional rubber sole. But it resulted in squeezing my toes too tightly at the shoes’ heads and now I was uncomfortably trying to endure it. I was also feeling sleepy that I tried stopping over to catch a few snooze but sleep eluded me when I gave it a try. Then a kind of anxiety that I did not encounter before in my other ultra run started clouding my concentration. Anxiety brought about by my question what to think about to pass up the time. Without anyone to talk with or anything to entertain my senses, I couldn’t help myself thinking of how far the journey still lies ahead of me. My mind keeps on coming back to the present bombarding me with the thought of the distance that doesn’t seem to dissipate. To me this was even more painful than the physical pain I was feeling at my feet. I think this is what actually breaks runners in long distance run. At a certain point I put out my headlamp because by then I was already in the area where fog was descending along the road and the light of my headlamp was simply illuminating only a few inches away. I just followed the broken white strips of paint lying at the middle of road and let my eyes trace the outline of the surrounding to make sure I was still running along the road and not straight into a ravine.

I don’t know how daylight came exactly. All I know was all of a sudden I could recognize my environment and ahead of me there was someone familiar that I was slowly about to catch up with. It turned out he was FB call sign Word Doer, a pastor by profession and a runner by passion. This broke my solitary journey. Together we reached the 3rd Aid Station at the 33rd kilometer which was somewhere near Pacific Highland. If you are to rely on the yellow stone kilometer marker whose reference for its 0 kilometer is Luneta in Manila, we were already somewhere at the 84th kilometers. Soon we were passing by Heaven’s Valley Café which was still part of Sta. Maria, Laguna. The road was still cloaked with fog. It kind of look like we’re somewhere in the Cordillera during the cold season and true enough the barangay we were soon entering is named Little Baguio part of Magsaysay, Quezon. I was hoping that at the Aid Station at the 44th kilometer there would be the shuttle carrying our belongings and serve as drop bag point as mentioned in the briefing. I wanted to lessen my load and change my running tights to a more comfortable pair of short pants. My running tight was brushing with my private part and the friction was causing so much discomfort. Unfortunately when we reached the 4th Aid Station there was no drop bag station waiting. Either we arrived late or our shuttle van did not consider itself part of the vehicle that should stop by the 44th kilometer for runner’s baggage. So, I have no option but to endure the discomfort, which during the course of the run somehow abated without me realizing it.

The portion of the route we were running is quite popular among motorcyclists who stop by to eat bone marrow stew or bulalo and rest. We saw a couple of runners trying out one at Jariel’s Peak. I wanted to try one too but Word Doer told me we could choose to proceed until the 55th kilometer Aid Station where his brother was a volunteer marshal assigned to that station. Word Doer had stowed there instant cup noodles, which we could eat upon arriving. I acceded since I wasn’t really hungry but was just curious about stew. When I caught up with Word Doer earlier there were quite a lot of other runners behind him considering he was just walking most of the way and I usually see him before trailing behind other runners. This means he was really opting to finish this race. It turned out this was his second take of R2L2Q. On his previous take of R2L2Q he was unable to finish and was picked up by sweeper. Initially I thought I might not actually be able to finish this race but with Word Doer now accompanying me who seem quite determined to conquer this race, I gained a certain confidence I could make it until the 85th kilometers. The only problem was whether we could do it within the cut off time of 19 hours.

We passed by a DENR check point whose notice inform us that we were already leaving Sta. Maria, Laguna and entering the Infanta under the province of Quezon. From afar at our right side, I could see interlocking of mountains and beyond it the Pacific Ocean according to Word Doer. Only around 40 kilometers more to go and we’re finally done with this race. Ugh!

We’re running in roads with a lot or “U” along the path meaning we were going around mountain while going uphill. We were still bracing for that penultimate uphill that would take us at the highest point of the road and from there unli-downhill. At the 55th kilometer instead of cup noodle we were treated instead with an adobo meal. Delicious! Soon Day Walker and company also arrived at the Aid Station. Day Walker was another runner doing a revenge run on this race. I met him in couple of run events but it was only in ran the run event Aguinaldo to Bonifacio 50k Ultramarathon that I had a chance to run along him. To establish some sort of pride in us by not allowing any more other runners passing us by, Word Doer and I decided to push ahead of the inclined road where we were resting. Along the road I almost stepped on a tiny snake crossing the road. By the time we reached the highest portion of the road we did not realized it that we were actually there. What was actually waiting for us at that portion aside from some other runners resting along the road was downhill galore. As if cued, suddenly a down pour coupled with strong winds came and welcomed us. I told Word Doer that we could take this portion running which will increase our chances of finishing this race within cut off time. But he relented. With still plenty of time left that even if we walk all the way to the finish line we could make it at the cutoff time maybe 30 minutes ahead. He however understood I wanted to establish a good finish time and in order to do that I had to run the remaining distance beginning with the downhill staring at us. He bid me to go ahead. I felt bad leaving him but didn’t think twice to consider my desire. I had to make sure I will finish this race within the cut off time. So, amidst the spray of rain and gush of wind threatening to dislodge me from the ground, I ran faster as my feet could allow me. I was literally hurling myself. I was afraid I might slip at the wet pavement or stumble upon some rocks but the momentum seemed to be sweeping all the odds away to favor me. I ran and ran until I was passing by – or in local jargon, “tuhog” other runners. The rain was short live but the downhill couldn’t be outlived. The sun suddenly peeked out of the cover of the cloud and shone greedily. More runners were overtaken by me including the 55 year old Tatay Crispin who looks much older than his actual age is. I actually caught up with him earlier in the race. He was with me when I tried to catch some sleep in one of the stores along the road that was closed that moment. He was wrestling with some stomach issues but when he bolted out from the shelter he went ahead of me and I never saw him again until that moment I was passing by him. I was afraid of running along side of him earlier because hearing his breathing which was a kind of suffering sound, I thought that I he might collapse along the road any moment. But other than that he was fit. But not as fit as Virgilio Fule a much older runner at 70 but younger looking than Tatay Crispin. As in my past experience with Tatay Virgilio, he simply cruised by me coming from behind earlier in the race and was never seen by me again finishing strongly way ahead of me while Tatay Crispin finished among the last runners.

The downhill seemed to go on and on but the kilometer marker along the road seemed to indicate I only managed to shave off about 5 to 6 kilometers. Nearing Aid Station 6 at the 66th kilometers I caught up with the very young Die Harder Runner who had already done R2L2Q the previous year and was doing it again this year just to improve is PR. He was however, suffering from acid influx and was burning out. After this Aid Station I soon lost my steam and began to struggle along the road. Pain from my thigh area and feet was making me want to stop and rest frequently. A couple of runners were also doing the same thing as I. One of them a runner whom I passed by at the downhill managed to get his second wind and went on to finish the race earlier than I. The other one ran along with me until later I left him about 3 kilometers before the finish line. The rolling route continued. With all the running I did I felt sure I was nearing the completion of another 10 kilometers but instead the kilometer in the kilometer markers didn’t budge. The remaining 20 + kilometers seem to be stretching farther as if the distance was being pulled inside the event horizon of a black hole and experiencing what scientists says might happen when being pulled at the event horizon, spagettization. At the Aid Station 7 at what might be the 78th kilometer we were told that about 7.5 kilometers remain before tucking this race behind my belt. The Welcome marker that carries the lion statue that served as our trophy design stood at the foot of the last downhill stretch. I soon found myself running along Siniloan-Famy-Real-Infanta Road. The road was all flat from here on. Vehicular traffic began to burgeon along with increase of number of establishments lining up the road. The last 4 kilometers was long straight road that seem to be taunting and testing the runners’ patient for you know the finish line is just somewhere at the end of the stretch but the road doesn’t want to end. I think I have gone crazy a bit for I was shouting and cursing. I could relate with the runner who posted a video of himself at the last stretch of his UP to UP ultramarathon quest. He posed a question if there is some truth in runners getting crazy running long distance. He says since he was talking with himself there might be some truth in it. The road finally croaked and gave in. A right turned at 20 De Julio then left turn to Plaridel Street before entering the covered basketball entrance for the Finish Line marked the end of a long journey I never thought I could accomplish long ago. Only 15 kilometers separate me from achieving 100k. But I know I won’t just yet be going to barge into this 100k club that soon. All the 100k plus run events scheduled until the end of this year had other run events running alongside of it that I am already signed up for. I wanted that when I do run in a hundred kilometer run event I will be able to finish it. That is why I had to keep on earning mileage and get my body used to long distances. Right now the feeling is akin with me running nearing the crest. I know I could make it there and I will make it there.