HOW do you run 50 kilometers in the challenging terrain of Balamban? You don’t. That’s a lesson runners learned Saturday in the historic 1st Cebu Ultramarathon 50K. It wasn’t so much the distance as the terrain and heat that knocked the wind out of many runners.
The elevation data gathered by GPS watches participants used during the race looks like a linear representation of a mountain range. We were, after all, running on the mountains. At the start, the elevation was 971 meters, at the finish line it was a mere 30 meters.
Those that practiced running the route earlier knew that unless you were among the elite runners and in top physical condition, you shouldn’t try running the very steep C Highway in Barangay Cansumoroy.
The race started with a short ceremony at about 5:30 a.m. near the bust of former president Ramon Magsaysay on Mt. Manunggal. Frontrunner publisher Jonel Mendoza, race organizer Raffy Uytiepo, Balamban Councilor Dave Karamihan and Philippine ultrarunning icon Jovie “Bald Runner” Narcise gave short talks before the 180 plus runners assembled near the cottage about 200 meters away for the start of the race.
At gun start, the elite runners darted off like they were running a mere 10K. The rest of us mortals stayed behind, enjoying the fantastic view in Manunggal.
Oath of office
I ran with serial marathoner Joel Garganera, who was legally bound to finish the race—the Tinago barangay councilor had arranged to take his oath of office before runner Judge Ester Veloso at the finish line in Capitol. Days before the ultra-marathon, he said he told Judge Veloso to be there from 11 a.m. to 12 noon. I told him it was a contempt order waiting to happen. He later said he texted Judge Veloso to be there later.
At several points of the race we ran with Jonel Mendoza, Waterfront Airport Hotel and Casino manager Hembler Mendoza, Be Resorts Mactan general manager Garry Garcia, ultra-marathoner Haide Acuña, former congressional candidate Atan Guardo, Jeson Guardo and Ironwoman Annie Neric.
Cebu Executive Runners Club president Jesse Taborada and speedy Steve Ferraren passed us by but we were able to run at certain points with Dr. Vic Verallo, Roy and Dr. Rosan Trani and Joel Juarez, who survived a heat stroke to finish the distance.
I kept an eye out for running couple Nemesio and Tessie Escasiñas but they were too fast, finishing way ahead. Their fellow Take It Easy Runners (TIER) Club member Manolito Yu also finished with a good time despite cramping. TIER member Richard Lua also completed the ultra-marathon.
I warned Garganera of the potential backlash of his PR stunt if he finished later than 8 hours—he could find a hungry judge about to cite him in contempt for making her wait for hours at the finish line.
But not even cramps and his frequent outbursts of “binuang man ni! (This is crazy)” to our collective laughter would stop Garganera from taking his oath of office at the finish line.
STRONG BOND. Nothing binds people together stronger than the collective conquest of a tough challenge. It is to the immense pride of our running group, the Ungo Runners, that all our members who joined the grueling race finished it.
Daryl Igot, as expected, finished first with a time of 6 hours and 25 minutes, winning a gift certiciate donated by Garry Garcia for an overnight stay at Be Resorts Mactan plus a spa massage. He was followed by Marben Golez, Dr. Willie Estepa (who finished strong despite being wracked by cramps in Busay), Gabby Lariosa, William Jatulan, Tito Vildosola, Dan Morales, Vard Atuel, Eric Agaton, Garganera, Cadjing Pelicano, Rico Dale Petallar, Christian Cullen, Bennet Silario, Victor Chan, Twinkle Ignacio and Dr. Alex Junia.
Ungo Runners Marco Albeza and Brian Padilla arrived at the finish line after the official cutoff but were recognized as finishers.
Ervin Limpag also finished strong. Ervin and I still haven’t traced our lineage to see whether we are related by blood but we are ultra-running brothers and that’s that. Our group spent the eve of the race on Mt. Manunggal with Dr. Abe Manlawe and his team and many of us were unable to sleep, our minds racing even as our bodies lay still.
Dr. Joel Pascual, who took photos last Saturday, commented how festive the Transcentral Highway was during the run. True.
It truly was a fun run, a large part because of the excellent support of members of the Ungo Runners, who not only helped group members but also other runners. The Ungo aid stations did not discriminate—handing out ice cold water, energy drinks, bananas and even tasty cookies as well as offering sponges soaked in ice-cold water and liniment to all runners, and not just its members.
Out-of-town runners expressed gratitude for the hospitality and support, with one saying that without the Ungo aid stations, he couldn’t have completed the race.
WHAT’S NEXT? With the success of the first ultra-marathon in Cebu, Jonel is now planning the next one, which will be held this May 1. The race would likely be 60-plus kilometers. It will also be in preparation for the first 100-kilometer foot race in Cebu.
Here’s a listing of the finishers of the race: