Memories of Corregidor

Posted: December 14, 2012 in Events, Personal

Republished from my old blog. This race happened two years ago but it remains significant in that it…

1) introduced me to trail running, which I absolutely love
2) made me aware of Atalanta, which has become my guiding light

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Getting Ready for My First Half-Marathon

I wasn’t prepared. With only a 12K run on flat surface being my longest practice, I knew I couldn’t expect much from myself. Still, the steeply priced tickets have been paid for, my non-running companions have secured their vacation leaves, and the beautiful finisher’s medallion was too much to resist. Running a 21K is no joke, but I was willing to endure the body pain that would inevitably follow.

When we arrived at the pier, my fellow runners were already starting to board the ferry. It was a bit intimidating seeing all these extremely fit people wearing various finisher’s shirts of past marathons and triathlons. I thought, “What the hell am I doing here? Can I really do this?”

Arriving on the Island

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The historic island of Corregidor was where Gen. Douglas McArthur tried to fight off the Japanese during WWII along with a handful of American and Filipino soldiers. They were surrounded, outnumbered and outgunned. Many perished until they were forced to surrender, paving the way for the infamous Bataan Death March (now commemorated with an ultra, but that’s another story).

We got to our destination shortly after 1pm. We were promptly whisked off to our accommodations for the night at Sea Calm Inn. Unlike the comfy Corregidor Hotel where I stayed before, this one looked like a military barracks built in the 60s. It seemed to have undergone a haphazard renovation, leaving the walls painted like a Picasso-esque attempt at abstraction. After lunch, my little sister and Ate Jacq went off on a guided tour of the island. I opted to stay at our room and conserve my energy for the race.

The Carbo-Loading/Bonfire Party

At 7pm, we were called to attend the carbo-loading buffet dinner by the beach. The wind was very strong and, coupled with a bit of rain, it was oh so chilly by the shore. We ate heartily under a row of massive tents, having a great time but constantly protecting our food from the sand which was being tossed around by the wind. Our hairs were proof: mahangin nga sa labas.

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There was a short program to rev up the runners. To light the huge bonfire, one of the race organizers made his way to the beach by riding the zipline while carrying a torch. Cool! Parang Olympics, di ba?

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The Race Itself

Woke up at 3am due to my anxiousness, even though the race wouldn’t start ’til 8am. Ate a light breakfast for fuel and put my gear on: armband for phone/GPS and belt bag with fluids, chocolate, mini-towel and ID, just in case something happens to me along the course.

By 7am, I was already at the dock doing my stretches. My companions were still sleepy in our room, so even if I brought them along for moral support… oh well. I saw Coach Rio, the poster boy for running, doing his warm-up jog. Hard to miss him with his afro, neon shirt and socks coming up to his knees. His girlfriend was out there with him, just reading a book under a tree. : )

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At exactly 8am, we were off and running! It was uphill from the first turn all the way to the bowels of the Malinta Tunnel, where it was pitch dark for a couple of hundred meters. I’m glad I didn’t bump into anyone, or tripped and got crushed by the runners behind me. From there it was about 5K of roads until we got to the first trail, which was an old airfield now fully covered with grass. We had to slow down a bit lest we trip on a rock and twist our ankles.

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Then we made our way back to the center of the island, but instead of going through the tunnel again, they made us turn left to another trail which this time was downhill and uneven. I was very careful while running, but this part was so much fun, almost like I was playing. Near the end of the trail, I saw a wall of wild pink flowers on my right, with butterflies floating around, while I had the South China Sea on my left. I thought to myself, “Ang ganda!” (This is beautiful!) But then that wouldn’t give justice to the scenery, so I exclaimed out loud, “Ang gandaaaaa!!!”

I reached the 10K mark at about 1:20, well within the cut-off time of 1:45. After getting through that hurdle, my next goal was to finish the 21K within 3hrs. That proved tough as the succeeding roads seemed like a never-ending uphill climb. By this leg, the marathon was reduced to a walkathon as the runners were either gassing out or conserving their energies for a strong finish. Some of the runners took out their cameras and posed in front of the ruins. Parang mga turista lang.

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After reaching the peak, it was all downhill, and I was so happy running like a speed demon! I met a girl during the race who was also making her 21K debut. I became her timer and we cheered each other on to reach the finish line within 3hrs. I got to 18K at around 2:32, so that goal seemed doable. Running 3K with 28min to spare was easy. Little did I know that the 19th KM would surprise us with a KILLER HILL. I couldn’t help but curse at the sight of the steep, winding incline. It was impossible to run through it, and I saw a middle-aged runner already huffing and puffing at the side, unable to continue. I did my best to walk through it using long strides and leaning in as much as possible to make my weight work for me.

As soon as I got back to flat surface, I ran as fast as I could. It was a buzzer-beating race against time. By 20K, I was clocking 2:51. I had less than 9min to run the last KM and reach the finish line. I saw my companions near the dock but I barely had time to wave – I needed to focus. I crossed the finish line at a time of 2:58:05. My new friend got there at exactly 3:00:00. Fantastic!

I got my medal, and every girl got a long-stemmed red rose. Sweet!

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The Victory Party

It was supposed to start a 7pm, but then it rained, so in the meantime, the victorious runners celebrated by taking turns at the videoke machine. Specially memorable was a girl in flowery white dress who sang “Superwoman”. Her birits (diva-esque performance) made me smile. She was so into the song that everybody got infected, singing along and cheering her on.

At about 9pm, the band Session Road was ready to play. They did mostly reggae songs. Here’s a snippet of their performance with guest/runner Tuesday Vargas. I think she was speaking for all of us when she said, “F*ck the last 3K!”

(some photos taken from http://therainman96.wordpress.com/)

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