I wanted to push myself further. I wanted to see if I could run the 21km distance after running many 10km already. When I read that there would be a road-trail marathon in one of my favorite places in the country, the Cordilleras, my eyes lit up and the thought of running in the mountains amidst rice terraces and catching the sunrise on the trail made me excited. With a little more prodding from friends like Christine of JovialWanderer who also signed up for the Banaue Batad Marathon, I thought, hey now I got a companion for the race there’s no reason not to go. Whatever happens on this race, my main goal was to finish the half-marathon as an added experience. Little did I know I would be exceeding my expectations in this event.
Pre-Race: A Month to Train
The Banaue Batad Marathon is organized by Team Malaya who are based in Baguio. When I deposited the Php 1500 registration for the 21km for the race category, there was no turning back. I have a month’s time to train so I scheduled to do a 5-5-10k weekly runs in the first 2 weeks as training which includes my R3Run. The succeeding week, I added a long run for about 16km to test my endurance. Last week before the main run I was going up and down Canley Road in Pasig which near my place for my elevation training for 45 minutes every other day since I couldn’t go out of town. I wasn’t sure if what I did was enough since up in the highlands, the air is thinner, the elevation is steeper and the trails uneven. But I was firm in my goal to run at my own pace, enjoy the sights, take some pictures with my mobile phone and finish the race.
In Banaue and Team Malaya Briefing
When Christine and I arrived in Banaue, we didn’t do any major training or warm up. We just chilled out, enjoyed the pool at Banaue Hotel and did some food trip in town. It was only on the 2nd day in Banaue when we got to see the runners who were also joining the Banaue Batad Marathon Briefing. Christine was more familiar with the personalities in the local running scene who were there. From their looks and stance I knew they were the hardcore runners who would be up there probably with a podium finish. I might not even see them on the trail with their speed.
Claiming of the race bibs was smooth and organized. I just found that the shirt was a tad bigger. I didn’t bother to exchange it though, I just decided not to use it. The race bib was nice as it was personalized with our name and was printed on a tarp material. After the orientation at 5pm, there was the Carbo Loading dinner for the participants. There were heaps of brown rice, sinigang and soup for the participants to enjoy.
I was up already by 3:45am. Took a light meal of cereal drink and a banana before finally heading down to the Municipal Hall which was the starting point. The gunstart was supposed to be 5am but it started a few minutes after, probably to have enough light on the route. There were 2 different routes. For the tougher 42k they would make a turn to Kinakin heading to Cambulo then down to Batad Rice terraces a turnover at Tappiya Falls then up to the Batad Saddle then the main road back to Banaue. For the 21k where I participated, it’s the main road from Banaue to Batad Saddle. There were about 167 participants in this running event based on their initial list (103 for the 21k and 64 for the 42k)
Everyone was clearly excited when the race went on. I definitely enjoyed catching the sunrise on the trail. First 2km was going through the residential area of the town then the nearby rice terraces. When the sunrise hues started showing I can’t help but stop to take pictures every few hundred meters of the route, especially on the portions with the rice terraces. There was a water and gatorade station 4km into the route by the bridge but decided to skip it. 7km, on the turn to Kinakin for the 42km runners, there was a water station again with bananas and kamote for snacks but since I still have enough water I decided to skip it and continue.
The route wasn’t all paved since landslides happen and there were a few muddy trails which I thought was a nice obstacle trying to get the right footing without getting deep into the mud. Alas I reached the junction to the Batad Saddle and there was no water station there! Since I know this steep ascent would be the toughest part of the 21km route, I thought there would a station here. I should have inspected their route map carefully. I only have around 30% water in my small water bottle which I have to use wisely. I tried to run some parts of the ascend to no avail and had to walk most of this 2km ascent. It was tough, but I was enjoying the scenery. When the first guy I saw was already running back, a Cuacasian, I thought I’m getting close to the saddle turnpoint so I pushed further. And I was glad to reach the saddle. I helped myself a banana and a bottle of gatorade as my water was completely depleted. It was 7:07am on my watch, about two hours already since the gunstart.
Towards the Finish
I refilled my water and took a bottle of gatorade beforestarting my way down. I ran through the whole descent to the junction. I enjoyed the cheers of fellow runners and I cheered them back as they go up. I don’t know how long I ran down but when I reached the junction I drank a little and continued.
I felt a slight cramp on my left thigh when I got on a muddy trail. Must be my wrong footing so I made sure I was careful on my next strides. While traversing the muddy trail, a van passed by with a familiar face, one of the race organizers yelled at me from the window “Sir nasa top runners po kayo ngayon! (Sir, you’re one of the top runners right now!)” What!? I thought, I think I’m starting to feel the exhaustion or my legs are starting to give. I’m one of the people ahead on the race? I’m not even sure if I can continue with my current pace. This is the longest time I have ran continuously and I think I’m still at 60% of the whole race route. I shoved the thought in my mind since I thought that I’m kinda slowing down already due to the light cramps and the heat from the sun, people would eventually catch up. I focused running on even and descending pavements while I walked up on ascending ones. When I reached the Kinakin turning point I got a refill of my gatorade. Finally hunger kicked in again and I decided to eat half of my energy bar on the trail.
Cramping got considerably tight but was glad I was close to the 4km water station. No more energy drink there but I did ask for some salt which the nearby household fortunately have. And yes, the salt did help to alleviate the cramps and I continued on with somehow renewed energy for the last stretch. For a time, it felt like I was racing alone as I got into the residential part of town until I saw another runner and was surprised to have caught up with him. I was glad to see familiar streets and lodgings already. When I was really close to the Municipal Hall about 200-300 meters away, running friends Mariel and Kian saw me and I seem to be renewed by their cheers and decided to finally run the last stretch. Finally I crossed the finish line!!!
I felt relieved to have finished the race. I asked one of the organizer how I did and she said I was 13th overall. Wow I was already glad with that. I was doing a few stretches on the side when I noticed when the other runners came in they were already given their medal. I thought they have forgotten mine so I asked about it. The nice lady said that I got in the top 10 for the 21k male category and would be awarded later. I was stunned really. This is my first 21k race and was only aiming for a decent finish and didn’t expect to be up there at the top. Oh yes I was ecstatic for this accomplishment.
Since I finished early, I had time to catch the breakfast buffet at my hotel and wash up for the awarding ceremonies later. They still have a Post-Run Meal for runners which I thought was really good. The awarding didn’t start until the top runners from the 42km came in and everyone got their proper awards after and was even graced by Banaue Mayor Jerry Dalipog.
For the Php 1500 registration fee for the 21km race, I thought I got my money’s worth. We have our race shirts with a cool race bib, a carbo-loading meal, a post-run meal, a long sleeved finisher’s shirt and a medal. As a top finisher I also have a carved wooden trophy. Really not bad for my 1st 21k race though there are still some room for improvements for the race event. I know a race like this would be very challenging in terms of logistics but somehow they did really well. But here are some thoughts:
- After payment deposit I didn’t get a response until 5 days when I followed it up.
- Last minute update on the event details
- They could have better coordinated with the local government, lodgings and tricycle drivers had no idea a marathon would be held or they have no idea of the race routes.
- No cut-off time. I know organizers considered that runners may do a little sightseeing but having a cut-off time would motivate other runners to finish with a good time and for safety reasons, officially close the race.
Generally, the Banaue Batad Marathon was a successful race for the Team Malaya organizers because a lot of the runners looked satisfied coming home from the race. I for one is looking forward to their next Cordillera Series. Congratulations everyone!