One of my objectives for this running year is to run my first ultramarathon. The original plan was to join the 50k category of Valley Trail Challenge 2016, a trail run. That didn’t push through because of limited resources (funding) at the time. Then, I found this race. It has some of the things that I like in a running event, a scenic race route that isn’t too far from where I live, a nice-looking medal and trophy, and the chance to complete my objective. So, I signed up for this race despite knowing that I won’t be able to train enough because of an upcoming vacation in Cebu (which turned out to be awesome).
Then came race day (3rd December). I arrived early at Tagaytay City Hall, around 8 pm, before the scheduled distribution of the race bibs at 8:30 pm. Well, the scene isn’t quite what I expected. There’s no starting line or sound equipment set-up (heck, we didn’t even know where the starting line or activity area should be). The race director, event staff, or any marshals are nowhere to be found. And some of the people working in the municipal hall were not aware of a running event taking place that day (even some of the policemen weren’t informed). It got me a bit nervous, having thoughts that I have been scammed on my first ultramarathon (which would be ironic because I wrote an article about scam runs before).
A sigh of relief came when I heard that the organizer was stuck in traffic and they will be coming soon. My reaction at the time was ‘better late than scammed.’ So, we waited until they finally arrived way passed 10 pm. Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t stop there. The race bib distribution is messy and slow, and the unlucky ones never got a race bib. After the annoying race bib distribution experience, the race briefing finally started a few minutes before 11 pm.
Then the race finally started at 11:11 pm (on my GPS watch). It was a very dark, straight path going up towards the front of Sky Ranch and the main road. We turned left towards the rotunda and the first U-turn is at the main entrance of People’s Park in the Sky, so I expected a lot of uphills that will slow me down. Some segments of the road towards People’s Park in the Sky (Tagaytay-Calamba Road) is very dark, and a headlamp is essential to navigate properly. It was a very cold and silent night. I like the cool wind, but hate the barking dogs. The fog thickens as we go up and approach the first U-turn. It was a sight to behold, the fog and headlamps create silhouettes of people in the distance (and it also feels like Silent Hill). I wanted to take a photos, but my smartphone was tucked inside the back of my running vest and was hard to reach (and also I’m focusing on the run). It’s just too bad there were no photographers on this area because it was the best spot for photography.
When we finally reached the first U-turn, it was another case of failed expectations, as runners who expect bananas or other source of sustenance got something disappointing like small, unripe bananas and lack of hydration. The marshal at the aid station said that there are more coming and on the next aid station, but the runners need it right now. So, I didn’t stay long and kept moving. It was easier going down, nice to see some people cheering us (and a teenager acting like an idiot by running Naruto style to make his friends laugh), and the darkness combined with the cool breeze made it a relaxing run. I reached the 25th kilometer or 2nd U-Turn, the starting area, at around 3 hours and stopped for a minutes to eat some warm pandesal and re-hydrate.
The next route is the road going to Nasugbu. This part I disliked the most, the route was very dark, with almost a kilometer of total darkness (because of the lack of street lights). Some parts of the road have street lights or light sources from houses and establishments, but after a kilometer or less, we are running in the dark again. And the worst part, there are no marshals on bicycles or police roaming this part of the route, we’re on our own here (kinda scary because there are some people walking in the dark, you can see faint white shirts or white parts of clothing, and you don’t know if they’re shady characters or something else). It’s hard to know exactly where we are, the last 2 kilometers towards the last U-turn was uphell, and I’m just glad to see the aid station and finally rest.
After a very long rest I started running again to finally finish the race. I stopped again at the last aid station, where hot sopas is served as well as sodas and gatorade. This was commended by runners for the tasty sopas (I wasn’t able to taste it though). By this time, my GPS watch battery hit low and it stopped recording my run. I just keep going and speed up a bit at the last 3 kilometers. Some of the runners ahead of me almost missed the turn, but I signaled them. I was about to make a downhill sprint, but midway I felt a slight pinching cramp, so I just kept moving at jogging speed.
Then, I finally crossed the finish line. It’s official! I’m an Ultramarathoner now. The first in the family. It feel great to unlock that achievement. I never felt hurt or injured. Tired and exhausted, yes. But, I can still walk and enjoying my moment. I was given a model and been told get a trophy (placed on the ground). I took my time to get the best looking one (to make sure I get the one without defects). I rested and had a moment of reflection because it has been a great year for me. Then I got up, ask the photographer for one last photo before I leave. It feels good to have reached this level in running. I just love reminiscing the journey and looking at how far I’ve come.
As for my opinion about the event and the organizer, all I can say is that it was very disappointing. The race director and staff arrived late, so the race started late. There are very few marshals on the road and none of them are present in the 2nd part of the route (going to Nasugbu). The presence of the marshals is very important especially in the dark areas of the route (in addition, when I was driving home, there was an accident involving a car and a jeepney, seeing the car seem to have spun out of control, I’m just glad none of the participants got involved or got hurt). From what I’ve heard some of the finishers didn’t get a trophy and got a 25k shirt because they ran out of 50k finisher shirts. These are all unacceptable, the runners paid for this (on time), so there shouldn’t be any issues regarding the lack of trophies and finisher shirts. I have experience setbacks like this in other running events before, it’s nothing new to me, but it should’ve been avoided considering that the organizer, Miles Multisport is an experienced organizer and the event carries the Altra brand name. With that said, I’m not sure if I will join another event from this organizer, but I will observe their next events to see if they have improved.
I’ll close this article with some runner comments/complaints based on their experience as well as the organizer’s narrative/explanation.
And finally, for the organizer’s narrative/explanation, you can read it here: Speed 50 Narrative