If there’s one sentence that could describe the recently held Men’s Health All-Terrain Race, my friend’s would capture it. In the first 15 minutes of the race, when the 10k Run became a 10k Walkathon, she said, “We’re not prepared for this!” Silently, I agreed. I could see the seemingly never-ending ascent, where a long line of runners were already seen walking. I have been running and joining races for three years, and it was the first race where I have been forced to walk.
Oh, of course, I’ve trained—if you call running twice a week in the University of the Philippines training. Three days before the race, I ran the Heartbreak Hill in UP twice, and the Oval-Gym-College of Law route thrice, intending to simulate the hills of Timberland and strengthen my legs. It wasn’t enough! Had I trained in Pagadian City (the whole city is built on the mountainside; their tricycles are even angled 45 degrees to compensate for the slope! See photo below.), I could probably been better prepared.
In any case, what I loved most about the race was running on trails. Where some runners hated it—seeing it as dangerous and life-threatening—I absolutely loved it. It reminded me of my climbs with UP Mountaineers, where upon going down, we would sometimes run, with backpack and all. The Timberland trail reminded me specifically of our climb in Tarak Ridge in Bataan. We ran down almost all the way from the Papaya River to the grasslands, heedless of the others’ warning, totally exhilarated with the experience.
I felt the same thing when I ran in Timberland. Three race marshals had cautioned me to slow down and mind the trail but my feet could not be stopped. I fairly flew up and down, my fatigue of the first 20 minutes of ascent and descent throughconcrete roads already forgotten. I didn’t fear that I would slide on loose soil or trip on exposed roots. My strides felt sure and barely landed on the ground. Had the whole race been completely comprised of trail running, I think I would finish very well indeed! (As it was, I only finished fourth in my age group, and 8th overall.)
It was a huge relief to see some helpful residents douse runners with water. I had thought that I would be refreshed. However, the water was not cold and did nothing but burden me with wet clothing. After the drenching, when I again had to walk on the road, a San Bedan runner offered me his bottle of Rush sports drink. I declined, though I thought it was nice of him to offer. We both knew he would still need it for the last kilometer ahead of us.
In the last 500 meters, the route was all descent into a concrete road, and though I also ran hard, I had to pay conscious attention to my body. One wrong angle and I would surely sprawl on the pavement, or worse, do damage to my knees! The female runner ahead of me sought to minimize the impact by crisscrossing. Despite being slowed down by her strategy, she still finished ahead of me.
I crossed the finish line in 1hr 15min, too slow for my past record, but good enough given the terrain. If there’s one thing the experience taught me, though, it was that perhaps I need to run more in trails. The exhilaration of running in such a natural environment could be addicting, and something that I still remember fondly until now!