The best running events are found in areas away from the big cities. I learned this when I finally had enough of joining races with the same old locations (SM Mall of Asia, CCP Complex, BGC, etc.) and the same old route. This is why travelling to provincial areas and lesser known locales to run is a rewarding and memorable experience. When I heard about the Splendido Sunset Run series and its location, I already have a feeling that’s it’s going to be one of those “definitely worth it” kind of events. The series started as a fun run with 2.5k and 5k distances way back in 2010 and has added more distance categories including a half-marathon in the following years and a new Trio category this year which is team run for a group of 3.
Situated in the elevated grounds of the Tagaytay and Nasugbu border, it is known for its challenging terrain and with that in mind, I decided to join the 21k category to see if it is as good as advertised.
After the pre-race dance warm-up, all categories started at the same time (4 pm, but 5 or more minutes late though). The first part of the race is pure downhill, it’s fun to go fast at this point because the downhill is so steep that even if you don’t speed up, you’re going unintentionally fast anyway. I just let my feet go without adding momentum because if I burn out a lot of stamina early, I’m gonna pay for it later. And I’m glad it did because at the end of the downhill, there’s a steep uphill climb that can be seen from a distance and this is where the running ends and the walking (for some runners) starts.
After the U-turn, a part of the route requires us to turn right and down a curvy road. This is the toughest part of the road because the downhill and uphill is even steeper. It’s like the mountain roads you see in Initial D and where you go Ridge Racer but without the cars.
The 2nd U-turn is where we get our first ribbon/marker. These markers serve as proof that runners passed by the check points to avoid cheating. This is very important because even with a timing chip, the sensor is only located at the start and finish line.
The way back at this point is harder because we are going back up and this area is the steepest of all segments of the route. At this point some of us, including the foreigners who are ahead me now, started walking. It reminds me of Sungay Road only shorter.
It doesn’t get any easier when I finally reached the main road again. Remember, it was a downhill before, now it’s payback time with another uphill battle. I was struggling even with a walk-jog method because most of my energy were burned out. Had it even just a straight flat road, it would’ve been easier to recover. I was in okay condition by the time I reached the mid-point Pocari Sweat aid station near Splendido main gate.
It’s getting darker by the time I started running towards the 10 kilometer mark which is a U-turn in a downhill road near the main gate.
Then it started to rain as I run my way up and it intensified as I pass by the Pocari Sweat mid point station. The rain is refreshing and it helped me run continuously downhill and towards the uphill U-turn. Some parts of the road are dark and I was glad to have brought my trusty energizer headlamp (which is a mandatory requirement).
I was told by the marshals to just go straight back to the main road and no need to go back down the curvy, mountain-like road. Too bad, I was anticipating a thrilling, scary pitch dark run with only the headlamp to guide me run on the curvy roads again. But, that would be dangerous especially on a rainy weather. I also thought that route be a few kilometers short if we don’t run there again. Turns out I’m wrong.
I had a conversation with a runner who was there to pace with his wife. He told me that this is a really tough course, but elite runners have been showing up to compete every year. He also told me that Kenyans already won the Trio and 21k categories and there was at least one Kenyan who gave up. That is a testament to the difficulty of this race. The other runner then paced with his wife and I continued to run the last kilometers of the race. I still have to go down again to the last U-turn to get the 4th and last marker.
The rain turned to drizzle in the last 2 kilometers. Not much to say, I was very tired, but i keep moving. I got the final black marker, the marshal from the U-turn congratulated me, and I moved by alternating walking on uphills and jogging on the short flats and downhills. I just kept going and surprised myself for finishing the race with a sub 2.5 time.
So, is Splendido Sunset Run a challenging race as advertised? does it live up to its “Are you tough enough?” slogan? the answer is a big YES, definitely. The uphills may not be as long or as steep as Sungay Road, but they are harder than Nuvali’s. I know because it’s my training grounds and I can run a half-marathon faster there. The alternating uphill-downhill terrain is stressful for even seasoned runners. Just think what it’s like for an automobile to go uphill and downhill, it puts so much stress to the engine that you have to shift to the lower gears to go up and then to the higher gears as you go down and repeating it several times also results to increased fuel consumption. Same thing with the human body, your breathing and stride is affected, and there’s a big chance of cramps and other injuries if not careful. In fact, on our way out of Splendido, our car stalled twice as I shift to 2nd gear, it can only climb at 1st gear. That’s how steep the uphills are because Splendido is already on an elevated location.
Splendido Sunset Run is one of those hidden gem type of running events. It’s not well-known to the running community. But, once you discover it, give it a shot, and experienced it, you might go back for more. My only complaint is that there’s no sunset, so it’s false advertising!…. just kidding, it’s the weather’s fault for being cloudy that day. But, I imagine that it could’ve been a perfect day if we could see the beautiful sun going down in the distance. It’s a running event so good that it’s already in my Top 3 races this year.
On the first weekend of December, two Philippine outdoor gear brands are debuting their inaugural running events, Amihan’s 50k Ultramarathon and Sandugo’s Pacific Coast Ultra 100. The former is a road race and the latter is a trail run. Although they’re different, it’s tough to choose which one to join especially knowing that both events will be good as they want to make an impression to the running community. I really want a trail run, but since the Sandugo event is over a hundred kilometers away (in General Nakar, Quezon) I was leaning towards the Amihan event because it’s much closer to home (Paseo De Santa Rosa is just 12 kilometers from our house). Fortunately, I was able to convince running buddies, Nelson and Demet to join me in the Sandugo event and the rest is history.
This is Nelson and Demet’s first 25-kilometer trail run, so I joined this race without PR in mind, just as their guide and my year-end leisure run. Demet is no stranger to races, he already joined numerous events including half-marathons and he is an active mountain hiker. As for Nelson, this is his first running event, and he did not train for this, he smokes a lot, and he’s not a mountain hiker. But, this guy is tough and strong, he’s like that unstoppable slasher flick villain who get’s hit a lot or seemingly defeated but still comes back to terrorize people. So, I believe these two first timers can do it, I know we can finish the race.
The race started smoothly, we entered an uphill road leading to a small village. The first few kilometers were mostly road and we were able to run at a decent pace. Some parts of the route have some flood that was probably caused by rain the day before.
A lot of the villagers are on the street watching us. It kinda makes you feel like a celebrity athlete or maybe they just think were crazy for signing up for this. I think it was somewhere between 4 and 6 kilometers when we finally hit the rough road. The dirt road is where the beach resorts are located and we can see the beaches as we pass by.
The first 7 kilometers of the route was easy. The natives are very friendly, some cheer and can interact with jokes, and seeing the kids smiling and giving you high fives is a big morale boost. That’s the feel-good vibe that you don’t experience much in city races and mountain runs. Then we enter the first mountain pass were things go tougher.
We spent too much time stopping, taking photos and having fun that several runners caught up with us. We had a chat with one of the guys and he said that there were 10 of them who took a wrong turn and got lost (and they still caught up with us). It started to rain and while we’re going down hill, Demet got tripped by a vine or something, got cramps, and we had to take a long break. We let the others pass by as we rest to make sure Demet recovers properly.
It was a difficult path, but we had a lot of fun on the mountain trail. The rain stopped and things got a bit easier when we got to lower ground.
We did some short jogging, but we walked most of the time, sharing stories and the occasional random nonsense. The lady marshal from the 1st Aid station said the next one is on the 10th kilometer, but it seemed more. We finally saw Magsikap bridge and we got excited to take photos.
I have to say that the staff of aid station 2 are very accommodating. They would approach us even before we reach the station to get our bottles and they will refill it while we eat. I have not seen marshals and event staff this helpful since 2014’s Men’s Health Urbanathlon and this is a very big plus. Great job, guys.
After re-energizing ourselves, we started jogging with Nelson and Demet taking the lead for a few minutes then they slowed down and starting walking again. I paced with Ella and left them behind as we reach the part of the route with a view of the Pacific Ocean.
When Demet and Nelson finally arrived, we walked to reserve our stamina and because the sound of the waves and the cool wind creates a soothing, calming effect. Made us imagine how good it must feel resting and sleeping on a hammock. And it’s good that we took our time walking because the next part of the route contains a lot of uphills and downhills.
After the uphill and downhill jam, we reached the 2nd aid station again to refuel before we take the last 8 kilometers of the route (passing by Magsikap bridge and taking a right turn). It’s a very wide uphill dirt road and while it’s not as steep as Sungay Road it is still very challenging because of the continuous climb with no downhill segments and very little flat grounds.
The last 4 kilometers is just pure nonstop hike and it started to get hot hot hot. We experienced mud, rain, and now the heat. It’s the complete package. It was a silent walk due to exhaustion and Nelson and Demet lost the hyperactive goofiness they had earlier. We caught up with a couple runner and had a achat with the guy who said he joined the 1st Sandugo Brusko Mountain Bike Race 3 months ago and he said that the event had something better, they have buko juice in the Aid Stations and you can fill up the bladder of a hydration pack. That is definitely a big plus.
Nelson all of a sudden found the energy to run downhill in the last 2 kilometers of the route. I excused myself to Demet and the couple to run and catch him. Found him resting on a shade and we waited for Demet. I told them that we should go for a sprint to the finish in the last 500 meters and I will make way for them so they can cross the finish line first. Demet said the we should all just cross it together. So, we reached the last 500 meters and we saw some runners ahead, some are limping and another guy was very exhausted. Neither Nelson nor Demet initiated a sprint so I just stayed with them as originally planned. When Nelson started to jog on the last 100 meters, I ran by his side expecting Demet to do the same. But, he walked and I let Nelson get the medal first before I did because it’s his first trail run and he earned it. We all finished at 5 hours and 39 minutes (official race results here). Not bad for my first timer running buddies.
Sandugo Pacific Coast Ultra 100 Trail Run is a great event. I enjoyed it so much because it had all the things I like in a running event, a scenic route, a good challenge, and a reasonable registration fee. I’m a big skeptic of running event registration fees these days, the price increase (compared to the previous years) is too much even in short distance fun runs and you’re not getting your hard-earned money’s worth. That is not the case with this Sandugo event. For 1,500 php, you get an event shirt, a Basekamp trucker cap, a Mountain Series headwear, a bottle holder strap, and Sandugo socks all contained in a nice sling bag. But wait, there’s more! You also get a free shuttle ride from the Manila and South area to General Nakar, Quezon. There also a place to stay in, it’s a school manned by the school staff and they’re very friendly and helpful, and there’s a pick up truck to take the runners from the school to the event area. And their staff and marshals are the most helpful I’ve seen in awhile. So many things done right in this event.
But, it’s not perfect. There are some minor things that would be nice if improved on the next event. First is the medal, it looks good, but the only thing that indicates the distance is the lanyard. It would be better to see it on the medal itself or maybe a size difference for the distance categories to make them easily distinguishable. The lack of a finisher shirt is the biggest flaw of the race. Most people would prefer a finisher shirt over an event shirt because it’s the bragging rights that runners love to wear. This is especially important to the first timers like my running buddies. Too bad for Nelson not having a finisher shirt to wear to the office to show off to our other office mate runners. A very minor complaint would be the post race meal, some of us late finishers didn’t get much and distribution is a bit slow.
All the flaws aside, this run has most memorable experience for me this year and one of the most fun. I have 2 more running events coming up, but in my mind it’s already the best running event I joined in 2017. It’s just that good. Kudos to the event organizer and staff, you did a very good job and I hope that it stays the same (even better with improvements like the addition of a finisher shirt) in next year’s event.