I had to walk like some astronaut on the moon’s surface as I make my way to the waiting lounge of the Marikina Orthopedic Centre. I have learned to endure the blistering pain on both soles of the feet but I’m more concerned with the ITBS (left then right) which might take time to heal and the stress fracture (which turned out be a sprain) near the arch of the right foot. Having conquered ultramarathons quite aplenty for the past 2 years, I’ve learned to accept the usual symptoms that come after (generalized leg pain, warmer body temperature, mild palpitation, chronic hunger pangs, etc.). But of course, this was THE longest I’ve run (maybe ever) in my brief running career of 3 years. Thus, the visit to this clinic.
I’m still trying to recollect and fathom what I went through during those 26 hours and 51 minutes of the Bataan Death March 160 km. What was clear was 70% of that time, my spirits were quite high (check out my pics) and I learned to embrace the agony, in all its forms and sizes. This is my story:
P R E P S: And it all comes down to this…
It’s easy to compare forming an ultrarun support team to preparing for an expedition – it’s detailed, tedious and subject to modifications and adjustments throughout. A month before Jan. 28, Team Toto (sorry for being self-indulgent) was created consisting of Boringers Ina, Francis with girlfriend Ruby. Francis was to be my pacer with Jerome alternating in between. Our designated driver was replaced twice before we had Lonie who would endear himself to the group with his reliable helpfulness.
Our run notes (in individual folders) would evolve and expand and 2 weeks before the run, I met up with Ina & Ruby to thresh out the final details. I created the Team Toto secret group in Facebook for the final arrangements, corrections and additions as B-day hovered. Having gotten used to just ‘tagging along’ with Team Buban (my running/training partner David’s family), it became an exhaustive process for me to oversee my newly formed support group. Since I didn’t have to only mind my own requirements (drinks, food, apparel, etc.) but the crew’s (all 5) as well. But the Thursday before the run, every piece seemed to have fit in perfectly.
The afternoon we were traveling for Mariveles, Bataan, the sun was beating quite hard so I psyched myself up on the impending conditions the next day. Along with other Team Boring BDM runners and support people, we checked in at Villa Imperial, 17 kms from the starting line. The mood was generally upbeat but the tension and sense of panic was palpable as well. I had a total sleep of 5 hours and though intermittent, it was long enough for me prior to an ultrarun.
0-50 Kms: Galloping into the Sunrise…
Along with 72 insane ultrarunners, I showed up at the Km. 0 post of the Bataan Death March in Mariveles, Bataan at 5 am then shoot out into the dark. As always, I searched for someone I can tag along with and maybe push me. I found him in Carlito Buenaventura – co-BDm 102 runner Dave and I met during the training runs. Up to Km. 4, the pace was quite furious then slowing down on the uphills as we power walked/ran up to Km. 7 where the rolling terrain began.
As agreed upon with my support crew, the first stop will be at Km. 10, regressing into 5 kms. stops thereafter. Replicating my tried and tested ultrarun strategy, we try to make pondo (invest in miles) while the sun is in ‘breaking dawn’ mode. In the vernacular, it sounds more descriptive with “bago pumutok ang araw”. Luckily for us, the full rising happened way after 7 am. With the mercifully cool breeze and verdant mountains all around, one can only keep going faster. I knew this won’t last for long so I took advantage of the perfect condition, even punctuated by a slight drizzle. My stops were less than 30 seconds with some exchanges of fluid and new food supplies, when necessary. We were on a roll – along the rolling terrain of Roman highway.
Around Km. 15, I caught sight and joined mamaws Alfred, Beeps and Keshia. Alfred and Carlito would later speed up and disappear into the landscape. After Km. 23, Keshia & Beeps would advance and leave me on my own devices. By this time, I was doing short running bursts followed by some walking. So far, no major injuries in the offing (walang nagbabadya), but I had visibly slowed down. By Km. 32, I learned I was ranked # 28 so I tried to keep that status by trudging on amidst a 20-minute rain and a number of runners zooming past me.
At Km. 35, we entered the town of Balanga at 9:47 am (way earlier than the targeted 10:05 target time). My attitude was still upbeat until around Km. 40 when some twitching started on the lateral portion of my left knee. It became quite uncomfortable that at the next stop, my crew had to massage the area (and thereafter). My steps were now concentrated more on the right to lessen pressure on the left but the massage + swabs of Bengay seemed to work wonders so that on the final stretch to Abucay, I did more sprightly runs than walks. I had spent many a summer in my dad’s hometown of Abucay so I had a pretty good idea of the landmarks along the main highway.
A 15-minute break at Km. 50 was an opportunity to rest the legs and wolf down a yummy pasta dish while the crew massaged and applied cold towels all over. For a few minutes there, I felt like the Sultan of Brunei. Now’s the time to get back to the action. It’s 12:21 pm.