Around the University TownA Marathon Sans Curfew, Medals Nor Cash Prizes

A Marathon Sans Curfew, Medals Nor Cash Prizes

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Tell any marathon organizer that your race doesn’t impose a curfew (cut-off time for runners to cover a certain distance to be allowed to continue running), awards no medals, nor are there cash prizes at stake, and he will surely tell you, you are crazy!
But if you understand the primary reason why marathon runners join a race, and if your event has an advocacy that people relate to and are willing to support, then the idea is not crazy at all.

The Rice is Life Dumaguete Adventure Marathon, organized by Foundation University, is an example of such an event.

On the average, each Filipino waste two tablespoons of cooked rice, or nine grams of raw rice, which translates to P23 million daily, or P8.4 billion yearly, equivalent to 36 percent of the country’s rice import in 2011. “Why buy that much rice for the table when a significant amount is thrown away. Middle class families tend to waste more than the low-income families. Apparently, the more people have, the more they waste,” reports the International Rice Research Institute.

Conceived from its earliest staging in 2006 as an annual event to promote rice conservation as a strategy to help the government meet one of the Millennium Development Goals, the eradication of hunger and poverty, the DAM awards to the participants and winners, bags and sacks of rice instead of the usual cash prizes.

All participants, upon registration, sign a pledge “to conserve rice” and recite the same pledge just prior to the firing of the starting canon.

Through this simple ritual, the participants are made aware of the importance of adopting rice conservation practices.

The Department of Agriculture subsequently adopted the concept when it lunched in 2011 its Save Rice, Save Lives program.

Interestingly, the Department of Agriculture, through the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), is utilizing the DAM to launch the “National Year of Rice 2013” in the Visayas region with the theme: “Sapat na Bigas, Kaya ng Pinas.”

PhilRice Executive Director, Dr. Eufemio Rasco, will represent Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala at the opening of the marathon.

Medals are standard features of marathon races. Participants expect that organizers post in the event’s website a picture of the medal that finishers’ will receive. No medals will be awarded in the DAM.

Finishers in the half and full marathons will receive a memento, a very special one they will surely cherish and appreciate the symbolism it evokes: a wooden rice bowl.

There are symbolisms attached to a “bowl.” A “rice bowl” can be a locality with fertile fields where rice is grown abundantly. Nueva Ecija is the largest province and the biggest rice producer in Central Luzon, thus, it is often referred to as the “Rice Bowl of the Philippines.” Siaton is known as the “Rice Bowl of Negros.” During the global rice crisis back in 2008 when people were lining up to buy NFA rice, the Siatonons had abundant high-class rice on their tables. Thus, a bowl of rice signifies abundance and food security.

“But it (bowl) also has a symbolic significance associated with Buddhism. According to one legend, when Buddha began meditating beneath the Bodhi Tree, a young woman by the name of Sujata, offered him a golden bowl filled with rice, thinking he was the divinity of the tree. He divided the rice into 49 portions, one for each day until he would be enlightened, (then) he threw the precious bowl into the river, saying: ‘If I am to succeed in becoming a Buddha today, let this bowl go upstream, but if not, let it go down stream.’ The bowl went upstream, all the while keeping in the middle of the river. The bowl, as a symbol, is indicative of an immensely important Buddhist principle—to find a balance between extreme austerity and complete attachment. The bowl also stands for the monk’s way of life which requires him to roam around and live off what is being given to him by the common people.” (Gleaned from the Internet.)

“Caring for, and sharing with others” is Foundation University’s institutional brand that could appropriately be symbolized by a bowl in the Buddhist tradition.

The awarding of wooden bowls to the DAM participants, an idea conceived by FU Finance & Administration VP Dean Sinco, is an appropriate projection of the brand of the University.

While no cash prizes will be awarded to race winners, a total of 9,416 kilograms (188 sacks/cavans) of rice worth P329,560 will be at stake.

Fifteen cavans of rice worth P26,250 will be awarded each to the male and female winners of the full-marathon.

To sustain the advocacy of the DAM, the rice awards will not be converted to cash. The winners have 30 days to claim their prizes. Unclaimed prizes will go to the “Share a Cup of Rice for Climate Change Refugees” project of Foundation University.

From the event’s website: “We want the DAM to be known as a People’s Marathon for its advocacy of rice conservation, and as a medium to fulfill a runner’s dream to finish a special and challenging adventure run.

Hence, no curfew or cut-off time is prescribed. However, if our medical personnel rules that a runner is no longer fit to continue, we have the right to stop you from proceeding for your own safety.”

The Dumaguete Adventure Marathon is truly an unusual and unique adventure event for everyone.

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