Making It To Mactan Via Marathon

Peewee and I were about to hit the 1,237 meter long formerly Consolacion Bridge now Marcelo Fernan Bridge, which will take us to Lapu Lapu City in the island of Mactan, Cebu.  I told Peewee that contrary to popular knowledge, when the Portuguese then working for the Spanish Crown Ferdinand Magellan hit the beach of Mactan to Confront Lapu-Lapu, this Mactan chief was not at all the virile fierce looking and mascular young man the statues depicted him to be. According to historian Danilo Gerona the Portuguese Gaspar Correa obtain reports from the survivors of the Magellan expedition describing Lapu-Lapu as “Viejo” which means an age between 60 to 70 years old. Peewee was of course surprised to hear this since like everyone else who look upon Lapu Lapu as precursor to all subsequent nationalistic resistance to colonial incursion to the Philippines in an image more ideally and closer to myth.

Soon we were climbing the uphill portion of the bridge. I couldn’t contain my excitement as I finally got my chance to run at this bridge inaugurated in 1999 which before I only get to admire from the older Osmeña Bridge while walking on my way to Mandaue City. The experience of running along the bridge was enough to assuage my disappointment borne out of the postponement of the event, Boundless Pagudpud which was originally scheduled January 7, 2017 and where I was originally scheduled to run. Realizing that with only 16 of us participating in the event, Randy the organizer of BP saw that a better opportunity await him if he coincide BP with an international ultra marathon event, Philippinelauf organized by Thomas Durnborg of Germany happening on February 17-27, 2017 he quickly without consideration  to us participants ditch the January 7 implementation of the event Boundless Pagudpud and message us that we won’t either refund since the fee had already been committed to the souvenirs and finisher medals. The Philippinelauf is a 6-stage event that would cover the Ilocos Norte’s towns of Burgos, Bangui, Pagudpud and Adams.    The Pagudpud stage of Philippinelauf happening in February 25 is the one coinciding with Boundless Pagudpud. I was originally booked to fly to Laoag on January 6 and because I got the seat on a sale promo I could not cancel my flight booking. I could only however change the destination. It just so happen that the event, Cebu City Marathon was slated on January 8, 2017.  Thus this was how I ended up in Cebu 3 weeks earlier from my other Mactan run scheduled in January 28, 2017.

I thought after my participation at Cebu City Marathon in 2015 I won’t anymore be participating in any CCM in some conceivable future time.  The last time was a bit of disappointment for me. Thinking CCM was the most anticipated event in Cebu I expected it to be big in a lot of ways.  In its current 10th year the organizers of CCM tried to introduce some changes. Compared to 2015’s medal design, the current design was way larger although the medal size for all the different categories should have been different. The medal should also contain distance finished. The finisher shirt I had before after washing lost its prints. The race route was also different from the past events. Instead of taking runners to Talisay the route took runners across three cities namely Cebu City, Mandaue City and to Lapu-Lapu City in Mactan. However the race route leading to Mactan was also the road taken by those going to the airport and northern portion of Cebu. Those that got caught in the traffic jam were of course not way too happy about this change in the usual route.

The race route began at Ayala’s Cebu Business Park, a couple of blocks away from Ayala Terraces. It was actually a bit quieter portion of the district with too little people venturing the area. Even the Mercanto, a night food bazaar set up near the event was not attracting patron and had to close up before CCM actually began missing entirely the opportunity to have hungry runners indulge themselves on the different food offered by the bazaar.  All the while I was thinking I.T. Park near Salinas Drive was still the event’s venue. I was ideal event venue since it has lots of establishments catering to the numerous BPO offices in the area.  I actually just stumbled upon the current event’s start/finish area by accident when while I was walking I was searching for an easier way to get back to my hotel from Ayala Terraces. It turned out that the event venue was a mere 5-7 minute walk from my hotel located at Echavez Street.

From Cebu Business Park after the 3:00 am gun start runners proceeded to Cardinal Rosales and then to Mindanao Avenue before heading off to Juan Luna Avenue Extension. The weather that evening was cooler with a bit of raindrops coming down every once in a while. Storm Auring was brewing at the Caraga Region in north east of Mindanao and was affecting the weather in Cebu which was supposedly among the storm’s itinerary on its way to the western portion of the country. I was breaking in my Salomon Sonic Pro, which I got for a mere P1.00 from the Salomon Store buy 1 take 1 for P1.00 Promo. One problem I always encounter when buying running shoes is that I couldn’t get the proper size for me. The Salomon Sonic Pro size 10 US seem to be a bit large for me and I was worried it might slip away from my feet. My other shoes Zoot Kalani 3.0, which I was also breaking in by wearing it coming to Cebu and walking around it seemed too small for size 9.5.

After Juan Luna Avenue Extension we crossed an intersection and found ourselves along Salinas Drive before turning left to Gorordo Avenue. I observed that the route we had run at was slightly uphill. At the Aid Station I caught up with the Paddler Dana whom I first met at Tagaytay to Nasugbu run. Her fellow paddler Mark whom I met at Antique Marathon was still far behind Dana.  From Gorordo Avenue we turned right to Escario heading off towards Cebu Provincial Capitol before turning left to Jones Avenue. I noticed compared to CCM 2015 the Sinulog theme revelries in the current event were not as pronounced. Back in CCM 2015 in almost every Aid Stations and crucial spots you either hear the popular Sinulog music playing in the background on large speakers. There were street dancers regaling runners to the beat of drums playing. In the current event we only saw a semblance of these along Salinas Drive and in Plaridel Street near Mactan Bridge.    Upon hitting Fuente Osmeña Circle runners ran towards the extension of Jones Avenue before turning left to Pantaleon Del Rosario and the U-turn at Imus Avenue. Around this area I caught up with Peewee. Running along him was Joel who organized the event, Run for Rogel where I got my taste of endurance running. The event Run for Rogel had runners run 40 kilometers around a 2.5 kilometers route at Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Joel actually was off seasoned for almost a year and had just return to running at the event, Hero to Hero held last December 29-30, 2016. Peewee was aiming to finish the race sub 6 which I was also aiming to accomplish after being encourage with my establishing a PR at Hero to Hero. Running at the other side of the road going towards the U-turn we saw Ann with her another Mark who also ran both Run for Rogel and Hero to Hero. Rogel was a runner who got hit by a vehicle while running in the event UP to UP. The Run for Rogel was for the financial assistance needed for operation and rehabilitation.

Soon Peewee made his move and careened away. I only got to chase after him when Joel complaint of some issue around his knee area and couldn’t proceed in a faster pace. I took this as signal for me to go ahead and left Joel.  He would be finishing later with the Team Cabalen who started strongly ahead of us but lost steam about 10 kilometers before the finish area.  The trip along Jones Avenue going back to Escario was once again uphill. But I took the uphill running and was surprised I was running even faster than I usually do on uphill. I caught up once again with Peewee. We were again retracing our previous path going back to Juan Luna Street. Juan Luna this time was downhill so just like at the downhill after UP Los Baños in Rizal Day Hero to Hero held last December 29-30, 2016 I took advantage of the downhill to gain some speed leaving behind Peewee. The route took the runners all the way to SM Cebu near the Port Area. After hydrating themselves at the Aid Station there runners ran to the left to Osmeña Boulevard. In Cebu City Marathon 2015 the race route brought the participants to lots of interesting sights that included Colon District which is considered the oldest city in the Philippines, Sto. Niño Church, Fort San Pedro, Cebu South Road and SM Seaside Mall among others. Unlike this year’s, which seem to have as the event’s logo shows the Marcelo Fernan Bridge as the main highlight. This was as if the event took cue from the Penang Bridge International Marathon. The route to the bridge was a reclaimed portion and had nothing yet remarkable sights that could be cited along the way.  Although way back when I was still with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, I heard of talks of putting up a Maritime Museum at the port area that would house galleon ships and preserved shipwrecks. I have not heard since then of anything that resembled such being built in Cebu.

Osmeña Boulevard gave way to Ouano Avenue and soon passing by Parkmall. This area for me resembled the portion in Manila going to along Macapagal Boulevard.  By the time I was plying Jose Briones it was already daylight although an over cast one. After the Aid Station I am running on Plaridel Street initially worried that all those who were coming back at the other side of the road were mostly from 21k runners.  As I hit United Nation Avenue I was stunned when all of sudden someone pat me on my shoulder. It turned out it was Peewee. He finally caught up with me. Ahead of us we could already see Marcelo Fernan Bridge that will take us across Mactan Channel and into Mactan Island. The island whose name was probably derived from the word, “Mangati” or “Mangatag” which is connected with thieving activities or piracy which was the island was being identified was about at the time of Lapu Lapu.  Zubu or Sugbu which was the old name of Cebu was at that time a flourishing port village and served as the central market for domestic products such as cotton, slaves, gold, sugar and ginger from within island or with the neighboring friendly island. The Visayan “pintados” identified in the Boxer Codex were probably those hailing from Mactan that raided rich loaded ships bound for Cebu and kidnap crews for ransom. The raiding must have greatly affected Rajah Humabon’s business or clients and forced Humabon to solicit the service of Magellan to put a stop to this problem. While approaching the bridge we noticed that it was inclined uphill just as how I saw San Juanico Bridge while approaching it when I ran in the event, Tacloban City to Basey Samar last November 2016. After crossing the Marcelo Fernan Bridge we turned left along Old Patiller Road and into Manuel Quezon National Highway passing by the road that leads to Cebu International Airport, Mactan Marina Mall and Mactan Export Processing Zone. Traffic of vehicles were a bit heavy as we run along but as we run farther away heading for the Mactan Circumferential Road the traffic thinned. Soon we had our final U-turn and were on our way back. Only about 12 kilometers left before we could finally conclude this race. However, our quest to finish sub 6 might be in peril since both Peewee and I were getting exhausted already that we had to do more run walk. At the other side of the road just heading for the U-turn I saw Jez, a Cebu based runner whom I ran along with in Trans Cebu Ultramarathon in 2015 and in Bohol Marathon 2016. While at the Marcelo Fernan Bridge coming from the opposite side were triathletes Julie and Nheng whom I met at Corregidor Marathon about same time last year. Julie was suffering from a foot injury otherwise she would be farther ahead of me. Another runner we met coming at the opposite lane was Magina who usually was faster than I am but currently lagging. She had not run since November 2016 at Lahar (volcanic discharged sand) trail Clark-Miyamit 50. I thought to myself that in spite of how we were doing we were not doing quite badly after all.  In fact to my great surprise, upon approaching the finish line I saw that there were still a few minutes still left before the 6th hour. I ended up with an official time of 5:54:45 about 3 minutes faster than my 40th Milo Marathon finish.   I was hoping this will have bearing on my return run to Mactan on January 28, 2017 for the Speed 50-Mactan where I am aiming for a sub-8 finish for 50 kilometers. Who knows I might be encouraged to try to redeem myself after my failed performance in Trans Cebu Ultramarathon under the 105 kilometer last year.




Cebu City Marathon 2015: A Weekend Run For Me A Walk In Faith For Many

Jumpstarting January were three religious events that like tropical depressions that converged, it turned into a super typhoon that mowed down on the country’s spiritual disposition. It also served as backdrop to my next running expedition. In a baffling show of fervent faith and piety last January 9 millions of devotees pushing and shoving each other converged around the Quiapo Church’s image of the Black Nazarene in order to get a chance to touch or wipe the image and painfully slow journeyed the length of the streets of Manila from Quirino Grandstand in Luneta to the Quiapo Church for almost 19 hours. By the time I was on my way to NAIA Terminal 2 Airport at 1:00 am, the Translacion or the Black Nazarene Procession was still at fever pitch somewhere in Bilibid Viejo and still hours away before finding its way back to Quiapo Church. I was flying to Cebu City to participate at Cebu City Marathon 2015 happening Sunday, January 11. Upon my arrival in Mactan, Cebu and was on my way to Tabo-an Public Market to purchase Danggit (a kind of small fish that was dried) and dried squid, I noticed the city was a-buzzed with Sinulog’s Viva Pit Señor beat and dances. Everywhere colorful banners and buntings festooned the streets. A stark difference from the morose marooned Manila I just left. Cebu City Marathon 2015 was actually among the kick-off activities of the weeklong celebration of Sinulog Festival that will culminate in a fluvial parade and a grand procession of the Sto. Niño accompanied by street dances the following weekend, the third Sunday of January, which falls on January 18. Sinulog Festival was a commemoration of the embracing of Christianity in Cebu with Ferdinand Magellan gifting Rajah Humabon of the image of Sto. Niño originally happened in April 28 but was moved to the third January. Other places also celebrates a feast in honor of the child Jesus image such as in Iloilo when a replica of the old image of Sto. Niño de Cebu was given to Iloilo thus spawning a similar festival called Dinagyang celebrated at the 4th Sunday of January. But of course the two above mentioned religious events seem to pale with yet another important religious event happening in the country this January 15- 19, the coming visit of Pope Francis.

From Tabo-an, I dropped off at Ayala Terraces lugging along my luggage and a box containing 3 kilos of dried loots to I claimed my race kit and had my lunch. Then off to my hotel, which was just about a couple of hundred meters away from the race event venue in Cebu I.T. Park, Lahug, Cebu. So far, since my arrival I had met only one runner coming from Manila who was also booked at my hotel. Although I know I have other acquaintances running in this event I have not seen them nor any other familiar faces.

Although the gun start was still at 3:00 am, I was already up and about at midnight at the race venue half expecting there would be some pre-race features. But what I saw was a quiet and still being set up venue. I espied the event ground and noticed that there seem to be few sponsor booths. There were no runners to be seen on the premises. Maybe they were either still fast asleep or having their carbo-loading elsewhere. So, I settled for coffee at a nearby Mc Donald’s and an hour later squatted at the lawn area near the Skyrise 4 building near the race venue. I was registered to run in the 42k. With less than an hour before gun start I noticed that there were still seemingly fewer people than what I usually sees at RunRio’s organized event. The sponsor booths did not multiply either. Later in one of the blog I read about the race, the writer commented that this year’s event was a bit more austere compare to its previous year’s event. Maybe the fact that the “international” in the formerly Cebu City International Marathon was dropped kind of said it all about this sudden less ostentatious version. I later learned that in spite of what I thought were less number of participants it turned out there were about 1,170 participants in the 42k alone, which included a couple of Kenyan, Caucasian and Asian runners. Other runners hailed from various regions of the Philippines like Bacolod City, Cagayan De Oro, General Santos, Dipolog and Manila. There were runners from different category wearing costumes from a swath of diaper to a fabulous mythical goddesses complete with heavy headdresses and blinking lighting ornaments. Suddenly as I spotted Manila’s Green Eyes Val Caro with his green hair wig, he seemed to be not at all out of place.

At 3:00 am runners from the 42k hit the road. From Abad St. and then Geonzon, we spilled at Salinas Drive. While passing the route we were regaled by street performers dancing to the beat of the Sinulog music. The road was slightly uphill going to Gorordo Avenue, which was a bit long stretch. Then we turned right to Escario going to the right direction of the Provincial Capitol Building and into Velez Street or Duterte linking up to Salvador St. The first U-turn was just before the Court of Appeal. Having swept away by other runners who seem to be bent on taking the race before sun up, I too started out running at a faster pace. But by the time I was hitting the uphill portion of the road I relented the pace. At this early in the race I was already panting and resorting to walking the uphill portions of the route.

So far the route we took was still familiar with me having run in the 21k previously at Hunat Sugbo 3. We retraced our route back to the Provincial Capitol Building and headed for Jones Avenue. Again street festivities welcomed us runners. At the end of Jones Avenue we headed for Osmeña Boulevard. We were now at the older section of Cebu. At the intersection along Colon Street I saw an old building and for a moment I thought I was looking at the Intendencia Building of Intramuros. On the other hand, the busy commercial street with its malls and rows of other establishment resembles the of Sta. Cruz district of Manila. At Plaza Sugbo fronting the Church and convent of Sto. Niño de Cebu was an Aid Station and marked the 12th kilometer of the race. Prince Joseph Baltazar of the Prince Multi Sport Event appeared out from nowhere and greeted me egging me for only 30 kilometers more to go.

We headed off to P. Burgos and then to Briones Street. Waiting for us at the other end was Plaza Independencia and an old fortification, Fort San Pedro with some runners peeing beside it. After exiting we turned to Cuenco Avenue and u-turning to enter the Cebu South Coastal Road Tunnel. The tunnel was kind of similar with Kaybiang Tunnel in Ternate, Cavite but much longer. It was brightly lit inside. Music and performers were at full swing in welcoming the runners. Upon reaching the end of the tunnel and emerging to Filinvest Alabang’s Skyway like Cebu South Coastal Road, I was floored by the sight of what I could discerned amidst the dark space the sea at the left side and contrasting on the right side thousands of light sparkling coming from the city of southern portion of Cebu. The route took us all the way to the other side of the bridge, which was a part of Talisay City. Midway portion of the Bridge The Aid Station with live band performers marked the turning point of the 21k while for us 42k runners was 16th kilometer. Then we reached a portion of the route that was not well lit at all. In spite of the fact that this was another Aid Station because the place being bathe in darkness I did not notice the huge SM Seashore Mall being constructed on my right side and almost nearing completion already. The sea was still present at our left side but it was pitch dark to see any detail of the marina. What was so interesting about this Aid Station was that an image of the Sto. Niño was install just after an arch that contains one of the events sponsor’s name. Runners passing underneath this arch pay homage to the image by making the sign of the cross and saying a short prayer. After this the road went on passing by South Road Properties, which was seemingly still being developed for I couldn’t yet discern any commercial nor much residential properties amidst what I could see through the darkness.

Without having anything heavier to eat before the run other than Mc Donald’s Mc Spagetti, I was feeling hungry and felt my stamina depleting. However, when it comes with my plantar fascitiis ridden left foot, there wasn’t much to complain about. But by this time I was greatly slowed down that a lot of runners had already passed me by including some of those costumed runners with heavier accessories adorning them. The dimly lit road just goes on and on frustrating me. By this time the surrounding had more resemblance to Fairview in Quezon City although I haven’t run at the latter yet during nighttime. Cebu South Coastal Road met up with Cebu South Road. By the time I reached the U-turn at Lawaan Elementary School, which was the 22nd kilometer of the race, the sun was already up greeting us and reminding me of my folly of having left behind my cap and arm guard thinking that since there was a Low Pressure Area broiling eastern portion of the country still outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) the sun would not be too harsh. But Cebu was like the Equator of the Philippines with its land mostly flat and less forested area the sun was already streaking menacingly even in the early morning. I don’t have my watch with me and without any idea of how many kilometers already I had gone I became a bit worried that I might not be able to cut it across the 32 kilometers cut-off at 7:00 am. Then just as when I was crossing the South Road Properties I felt that a cramp on my left calves was about to occur. I had to walk much of the way. Passing by South Road Property, I finally get to see the SM Seashore in its full glory along with the bay area fronting it. I took a moment to rest and ice my calves. This was the 32nd kilometer of the race and so far no one had stopped me from continuing with the race.

I continued with my run and soon I was again running at the Cebu South Coastal Road. I could not help myself from experiencing awe at the beauty of the bridge and sea it encompasses. I am only used to seeing a lot of Quezon Bridge, the one that connects Lawton with Quiapo over the Pasig River. By the time I crossed the CSCR Tunnel I knew that there was just a little less than 10 kilometer to go but I am still wary about the 7 hours cut-off time at the finish line especially now that I was really tiring out. I tried to summon any more winds left in me and ran as much as I can, walking only if I have to usually on uphill. But Jones Avenue was mostly uphill that was why I struggled a bit in this portion of the road and the length of Gorordo Avenue resting a moment in front o UP Cebu College. Once I reached Salinas I knew my perseverance worked and that I got this race in the bag. I finished the race at 6 hours and 19 seconds and thank God minutes away before the finish arch was blown away by wind and collapse.

I have seen the contrast effect to the people and place of the Translacion and the Sinulog Festival. As I bade goodbye to Cebu I can’t help wonder what impact would the Pope visit will bestow upon Manila, Leyte and the country awash with various scars and scabs of numerous kinds of disasters and afflictions. But one thing that became apparent though as the week progresses, the preparation to the visit of the Pope, with the security measures being implemented by the authorities one of the casualties was the postponement of the Corregidor International Marathon happening in January 17-18 because of the “No Sailing at Manila Bay” policy. For the third consecutive years I will be missing my chance to run in yet another monumental and historical place in the country and would have to be contented in a quiet contemplative walk to find a suitable corner in Manila were I could possibly have an encounter or a glimpse with the most powerful and blessed head of the church.