The Run United series (also known as Run United Runrio Trilogy) is one of the most popular running events in the country. It is an epitome of competitive race series that urges runners to move up to the next level by running a half-marathon (21k) in the 1st leg, the Afroman distance (32k) in the 2nd leg, and finally culminating in the 3rd leg, the Marathon distance (42k). Medals are only given to those who run the trilogy distance and the medals interconnect with each other to form one big medal with unique and appealing designs. For most runners, joining and completing the Run United trilogy is like graduating a runners’ university. It is validation and achievement, proving that you have gone from someone who joins a fun run to a competitive runner who pushed all the way to the limit and even exceeded it a little (living up to their slogan, “Exceed Yourself”). I have never joined a Run United event. I always wanted to complete the trilogy, but the recurring issue with the 1st leg always sold out in just a few days has prevented me to join it.
This year Run United and Runrio Trilogy has split into two different running events. The former became Run United Exceed, a half-marathon race (sponsored by Tag Heuer) with an exclusive medal earned only by finishing the race under 2.5 hours. The latter is still the old trilogy (now sponsored by Adidas and Gatorade) scheduled on June, August, and October this year. With a bit of hesitation (due to the steep registration price of 1,350php for early bird and 1,550php for late registratrants) I decided to join Run United Exceed for several reasons. First is the medal, it looks very good, I want it for my collection. Another reason is that it has been quite a while since the last time I ran a half-marathon race, and I really wanna go for a new PR. And according to the Active Health site, they are “aspiring to bring a race experience comparable to a world marathon major in a half marathon distance.” So, did the event live up to the hype? was the registration price justified? Read on to find out.
For this race, I was able to convince Ryan, a college mate and a runner who entered the running scene earlier than I did. He was also hesitant to join because of the 2.5-hour cutoff time for the medal, but I encouraged him to try and trained with him. The event location is in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) and since I’m going for public transportation on this one, I left home early and asked Ryan if I could hang out in their loft in Mandaluyong to kill time. I was able to take almost an hour of sleep before we left Mandaluyong and took an Uber ride with another runner to BGC. I’m very excited to run, so excited that I feel like I have to poop, but I can hold it as long as I fart discreetly (which I did several times… apologies for that).
GPS devices like my GPS watch and Nike+ Run Club app on my smartphone are having a hard time connecting to satellites because of the surrounding buildings. I was able to connect before the start of the run, but the signal is unstable. The race started on time at 5 am and with wave 2 to be released 5 minutes later.
I ran the first kilometer at a relaxed pace around 5-6 minutes per kilometer (my GPS watch shows a sub-5 minute pace, confirming unstable connection) and finishing the first 5 kilometers at a sub-30 minute time. The weather seemed fine, it wasn’t too hot, but I was sweating profusely. Noticing the kilometer markers along the race route, the discrepancy from my tracking devices is varying between 200-800 meters.
There are a lot of turns and it’s a dizzying experience, but I’m still doing fine going to the 10.5 kilometer mark (crossing the 10k mark at a sub-1 hour pace based on my tracking apps). It was around the 12 kilometer mark that I start slowing down, knowing that I’m running the same loop again. I really don’t like dual loop race route because it’s repetitive and uninspiring, it affects me mentally. This is the reason why my 2015 PinoyFitness 21k Challenge performance was poor compared to my other half-marathon runs. Had I known that this race is a dual loop route before I registered, I probably would have 2nd thoughts or likely joined other events. So, I just pushed through the 2nd half, trying to do my best.
Other than unleashing flatulence several times randomly (still the effect of not taking a dump earlier before the race. Just thankful for the absence of foul smell and the footsteps minimizing the fart noise) like a misfiring system of a turbo-charged engine, passing by the park where a zumba session was happening at the time and seeing the same buildings over and over again, nothing much happened from kilometer 15 onward. I’m just getting slower, exhausted, and I saw, heard, or felt nothing that can boost my performance. I saw Coach Rio along the race route in the last few kilometers and got a high five (also got one from a lady marshal) for a small boost.
Then something interesting happened, a runner passed by at a very fast pace, but he was running in an unusual way, like speed wobbling. I thought he was running that way because he has some sort of disability and another runner thought he was trying to be funny. He was very fast and out of sight after a few seconds, then he passed out. I saw him off the race route, on the other side of the street, already on the ground. I thought he collapsed there to avoid hitting other runners or maybe he didn’t have a sense of direction anymore because he was about to lose consciousness. I also thought he got hit by a Toyota Innova because I saw the vehicle coming out of the turn. It was likely a case of ‘hitting the wall,’ and luckily, there are marshals nearby who saw the runner and took action quickly. Never knew what happened to the guy or why he ran that fast (it was likely that he could’ve finish the race under the cutoff time by running at a steady pace), I hope he’s okay.
Looking at my GPS watch, I should’ve crossed 21k at a 1 hour and 58 minutes, but the kilometer markers indicate that I still have more than 2 kilometers left. Nike+ Run Club app on my smartphone has a 600-800 meter difference compared to my GPS watch and 21k should’ve ended in 2 hours and 3 minutes. There was still a kilometer or more and with no motivation to exceed myself, I walked a lot in that last kilometer.
When I finally crossed the finish line, I stopped my GPS watch as soon as my foot hit the line and it recorded 23.45 kilometers at 02:13:35. Nike+ app was stopped almost a minute later, yielding 22.57 kilometers at 02:14:02. In the end, none of my tracking devices mattered, regardless of the distance accuracy of the race route, my official time is 02:13:26 seconds.
Though it wasn’t a bad time and it is my current BGC record, I was disappointed for not exceeding myself. I tried to make a new half-marathon PR, I thought I can, and I trained and prepared for it. But, I just didn’t have the motivation and inspiration to do it. In the end, it is what it is, I didn’t fail to get a medal, and I’ll just take this as an experience and to challenge myself to do better next time.
As for the event itself, did it deliver the “race experience comparable to a world marathon major in a half marathon distance” as advertised? Well, IMHO, if a world marathon major is simple and doesn’t have enough pop or flair to make it special, maybe it did. But, I don’t know which or what marathon major can be compared to this event. My only international running event experience was last year’s Laguna Phuket International Marathon and in comparison, LPIM is more fun and with better presentation. To elaborate, LPIM announcers give updates on who’s leading the race (they even talked to our cheering team to ask about our runner who was leading the 21k race) and announce the runners name or number and country of origin as they approach or cross the finish line. The event also have a buffet for the runners who need to eat and rest. And you can hear music playing near the finish line to make the area feel more lively and energetic for the runners. Run United Exceed is an average event to me, there are cheering stations to help boost the runners, but it looks inferior to the cheering squad in the Gatorade Run series (which is also handled by Runrio Inc). The activity area is also a bit dull compared to other events, but it’s the event location at fault here. I’m also not a fan of looping race routes, I avoid it. It would’ve been better if the event had the same route as Financial Fitness Run which added the Kalayaan Flyover, some part of Makati, and Bayani Road to avoid a dual loop race route. It was an on okay run, just glad to run another half-marathon and I love medal design, it’s the best-looking one I’ve got this year.
– According to the official results, there are 2,937 finishers (MyRuntime results show 2,932). If we go by the cutoff time (including 02:35 for wave 2), the results show 2,072 runners got a medal. You can view the results in PDF format here RUE results PDF or at MyRunTime.
– It’s understandable that GPS devices are inaccurate in an area with tall buildings. Some GPS watches even showed less than 21 kilometers because their devices only got a signal after several kilometers. But, the majority of GPS tracking results from runners based on what I’ve seen while browsing instagram and facebook had it at 22+ kilometers. My Nike+ Run Club showed 22.5 kilometers.
– I saw a woman driving a Suzuki Swift who was stopped in one of the intersections of BGC because the runners are passing through. She seemed irritated as if she was going to be late in the office or something. I saw her passed through once the road was cleared. And then I saw here again in another part of the route, arguing with one of the marshals. Seemed like she made a turn on a closed road, had enough, and started shouting at the marshals. So, who’s right and wrong in this scenario. IMO, she should be aware of the event especially if she works in the BGC area, preparation and awareness of the closed and open road is important. Runners and marshals should be respected, part of the payment for the event covers the use of some parts of the road in the area for the runners safety. I don’t know the lady’s side of the story, but motorists should always keep calm and understand the situation, the world does not revolve to one person and don’t blame others for things that you’re not prepared for or aware of. I mean, if I’m late to the office, I don’t blame the bus or van driver or the unexpected traffic, I blame myself for my failure to anticipate and some things just happen that are beyond our control and we just have to accept it rather than be angry and lash out on someone or something.