SportsHow I keep fitRunning 116 kms. in NegOr

Running 116 kms. in NegOr


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By Jasmin P. Ybañez

DIPOLOG CITY — Years ago, I was asked a number of times why I run.  I usually answered them: “Why you don’t?”

A month ago while training for my first ultra marathon, somebody asked me, “Are you crazy?”

Yes, I’m actually a special kind of idiot.

For my first ultramarathon, I chose to run the NegOr100: 116-km. North, starting from Dumaguete City, and finishing in Guilhulngan City.

As a nature lover, I appreciate and want to engage in the natural environment. So for my first ultra, I preferred to do it in Negros Oriental where the route was going to be a hundred percent flat and along the coast, with a view of the mountains and the sugarcane plantations, and where the people are warm and friendly.

The race itself is not the only highlight of this narrative. I share with you here my journey during the training, which is the backbone of all races.

As a Senior High School teacher in the Department of Education, and a Visiting Lecturer four days a week from 5:30 until 8:30 pm at Jose Rizal Memorial State University, you can imagine I was hesitant to sign up for an ultramarathon, considering that I also have a family swamped with activities to attend to.

But you see, running an ultramarathon (any distance 50 kilometers and longer) is every runner’s goal. So I eventually registered on Sept. 30 despite entertaining  doubts as to how to juggle my training with my full schedule.

I had all the training plan plotted out but busyness at work, and the weather were mainly two factors for the interruptions. I would run at dawn, after 8 in the evening, under the rain, and most of the time, under the heat of the scorching sun.

My training plan turned out to be truly useful, although I must admit I had not been diligent enough with regards to the strength running workouts. According to my mentor-coach, my three months of training was not enough…. but I knew that my fighting spirit and my faith in God would lead me to the finish line.

Then came race day on Dec. 9. I did all the “rituals” as advised by my coach and fellow runners. I got busy preparing for my ‘drop bag’, which could only be claimed at Km. 58 in the town of Manjuyod where we could have a change of sweaty jerseys and socks, and a refill for our hydration needs. I prepared all the necessary things I could need: headlamp, hydration, energy drinks, sugar-coated food, medicines, a whistle, some cash, my ID, etc.

But the most important aspect that I prepared was my spirit, my psyche, my courage, and state of mind  for the 116 kilometers ahead of me.

The opening program and carbo-loading offered to us by Gov. Chaco Sagarbarria at the Negros Oriental Capitol forecourt were overwhelming as I met famous ultra runners from all over the country.

Before the countdown for the send-off at 3 in the afternoon, I went to the comfort room twice not because I needed to pee but because I could feel the tension all over my body.

The starting shot. The first two kilometers going north was a send-off run, led by Team D’Corner. It was an enjoyable easy run within the City to send a message that there were 103 special kind of idiots who would be running from Dumaguete to Guilhulngan for the next 24 hours. (I’m sure the onlookers along the route were wondering: Why would they be running?)

For the first five kilometers, I noted that I was running with a pulse rate of up to 140 beats per minute. I checked my Garmin, and was surprised to see that I was running at a pace of 7-7.40 min./km. — which I considered as fast for a start. I slowed down, as we had always been advised not to run fast because ultra running means endurance, not speed.

At the Km. 10 aid station in the town of Sibulan, the volunteers served fresh fruits like watermelon, pineapples, and bananas. After 15 kilometers somewhere in the town of San Jose, I ate a tube of gel as my energizer.

Before even reaching the 21-kilometer mark, I felt some pain sensations in my legs. I also felt some discomfort on my feet. I didn’t know if it was my socks or my toenails (because I hadn’t visited the salon for weeks already). I just kept on running, smiled at the camera, and ate pizza with cold drinks at Km. 21 in the town of Amlan.

The tinolang manok at Km. 45 was our motivation but at that time, we were still 24 kilometers away from Bais City!

As we continued to run, some runners would overtake us, and at other times, we would also overtake those who were tired and slowing down or starting to experience cramps and other discomforts.

Finally, the dinner at Bais City was served buffet style. It was the first time I experienced such service deluxe! We were welcomed with cheering and applause from the organizers and the dinner hosts — just enough to boost our spirits. Afterall, we had already covered 39 percent of the route.

The array of food on the tables was in variation but sheer exhaustion kind of prevented me from eating more. I tasted the wonderful soup of tinolang manok, attended to some personal needs, and marveled at the gigantic Christmas tree of the city of Bais. Then I bid goodbyes, and said thank you to the crew. Some gentlemen runners followed my lead, as we seemed to have formed a running pack in the past hours.

We did a power walk for the first few kilometers. At Km. 58 in Manjuyod, a midnight dinner awaited us. Most of us changed our wet jerseys and socks. An accommodating woman assisted me — it’s just harder to move about when our torso and arms and legs are simply exhausted.

Km. 58 also happened to be an entertaining motivation station — as the thoughtful organizers had set up a videoke there for our relaxation. Some runners opted to get a power nap. I grabbed some food, and resumed my run immediately.

We walked to Km. 62, and the designated aid station there is called Tañon Cafe — where good hot coffee was waiting for every runner. I ran slowly after sipping caffeine. While running, I was just imagining the beautiful coastal road going down Himampangon and through the towns of Bindoy and Ayungon. It was dark except for some lighted houses, and scattered streetlights. I was sleepy the whole time so I just ran slowly, walked fast, and would shout out anything random just to get rid of my drowsiness.

By 2 in the morning, the rain poured, but not enough to soak my shoes. Some runners sought shelter, but my friends and I continued with what we wanted to finish. The dawn was breaking, as well as our legs and spirits. I can’t anymore explain nor rate the level  of exhaustion. After running more than 11 hours, my Garmin did not survive so I couldn’t anymore track my pace, heart rate, the exact time, or our location. We just kept on asking people for the name of the barangay or the town we were passing through.

After running about 90 kilometers, I had reached the town of Tayasan; the sun was up, and the heat was sapping my energy. My legs felt like they were logs straight off a tree. My feet began to feel every crack and bump on the road — which I had not noticed the last 80 or so kilometers. It was at this time when I realized (and regretted) that my socks may have been too thin.

But it was also in those moments when the strongest emotions welled up in me: I will finish this 116-kilometer ultramarathon!

I kept reminding myself, “I will endure the pain, and I will keep going!”

My salute to the respective support crew from the towns of Tayasan, Jimalalud (Km. 95), and La Libertad (Km. 105)! They accompanied me with a police car, an ambulance, and a motorcycle until I reached the last barangay of LaLi before entering Guilhulngan City. Some locals offered us cold mineral water, and ice. We are truly grateful for all their kindness and genuine concern.

After running 108 kilometers, the last eight kilometers of my 116-kilometer journey was my kalbaryo. At that point, I couldn’t run anymore even a hundred meters. I couldn’t do power walk either. I just plodded on, until I caught up with a fellow ‘special kind of idiot’ who was struggling with blisters. We continued to walk side by side, and chatted randomly just to forget the exhaustion and the noonday heat that was frying us dry.

Finally, we could see the Guilhulngan Baywalk. What a relief! The locals cheered for us, knowing that we had been running from Dumaguete since Saturday afternoon (and that time it was already Sunday noon). I could also sense the shock on their faces (and perhaps asking why we would be running that far).

Fellow runners were clapping and cheering as I approached the finish line. Finally, after 21 hours and 32 minutes, I made it. I ran-walked 116 kilometers, and I can’t believe it myself.

The good news, I landed 2nd placer for my age group 40-49.

Ultra running is definitely a mental sport. It challenges you physically, but you can only make it through with the right attitude and determination.

I accomplished my first-ever ultra because the NegOr100 organizers, headed by Race Director Archie Nellas and RD Consultant Paultom Paras, made it seem easy by patiently assisting and generously providing the basic needs of the endurance runners.

After finishing my first ultramarathon, I realize that endurance runners are not necessarily competitive against each other, but they tend to compete with their own selves. With the required mental and physical exertions of the sport, a plausible explanation rests on the goal of finishing the race, rather than achieving a particular podium slot. While running, it often feels more like we (the runners) are all in this together, rather than me against other runners. (But of course, standing on the podium is sweet.)

Now that I am a certified ultramarathoner, I would say that ultrarunning is founded on the enjoyment of the experience, more than the accomplishment.

If you will ask me if I will  date run another ultra, my answer would be a resounding Yes.


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