At this year’s Bataan Death March 160 kms., I welled up when I finally saw my running partner, David Buban cross the finish line, 1 hour beyond the cut-off time. He was wearing rubber slippers and his feet bore grape-like blisters on each toe. He had practically walked the last 120 kms of the race due to shin splints on both legs. This was not how we envisioned this – we were supposed to be crossing the finish line together, hand in hand, and relishing the magical moment (with confetti raining from the sky). But as in life, an ultrarace can take you by surprise and you have to take it by the throat and grapple with it, usually by your lonesome self. Yes, even if you prepared and trained together.
My first encounter with David was 12 years ago in a retreat house in Angono, Rizal. He was sharing a slice of his life, replete with sobs in between. Later on, I realized he lives just 2 streets away from ours, inevitably getting closer to his family (I’m the godfather of his youngest) and eventually reeling him into our local Rotary Club. We never really got that close until he plunged into running, a few months after I did. While I hardly mingled with the emerging running groups then, he knew most of the Takbo.ph people and almost every runner we encountered on any race (in retrospect, it could be that he’s just too friendly).
He was the one who introduced me to strenghtening/training exercises when we joined the Runnex group who were mostly then gunning for their first full marathon at the QCIM 2009. Until Ondoy struck. The partnership almost lost steam until April 2010 when Dave suddenly brought up the challenge of joining our first ultramarathon – the PAU Tanay 50 kms. The lure of getting into something new was too much to resist but during the last 10 kms of that run when we were dazed, dehydrated and scorched, I wanted to kill the guy for getting me into this insanely endless ordeal – undertrained and uninformed of this strange new world of fools and masochists. But we persisted and managed to cross the finish line, 2nd and 3rd to the last but still ecstatic. Being slowpokes, we had just found our calling and a running partnership was forged.
Three months later, we were running the PAU Ilocos 65 km. where we expected to sprint side by side. But since our paces were beginning to diverge, it was inevitable that a separation would happen, joining only at the finish line. We still ran our Milo, Condura & QC marathons but it’s in the ultrarace where we bickered, discussed and shared stories of the mundane and the absurd. I ran the Pinatubo crater run while he did the T2N but we reunited in December 2010 when we started training for the BDM 102 2011. Dave was the more disciplined one who dragged me out of my bed on a shivering 4 am to hit our neighboring streets three times a week plus our weekend long runs.
He was the one who led our Galloways, Indian runs and forefoot strikes. I was his willing student who preferred not to count or think and just enjoy the ride. While we had our little disagreements, it never came to the hilt until the race we were actually training for – the BDM 102 kms. last year. At the start, I had opted to go a little faster than his projected arrival time and pacing. While we would overlap each other during the first 50 kms., we were hardly conversing with a tinge of jealousy in the air. Probably it’s because we had each found our respective running partners – so much for running side by side. By km. 70, we were over 5 kms. apart and I had to forego of my provisions to the Buban vehicle. We were separately running our own races but still cheered each other when he finally crossed the finish line. We had triumphed together, albeit separately. This was to be our new running order.
I existed in a perfectly working and structured universe before Dave blew through town and reshuffled everything. And I had never looked back. Dave & I are worlds apart – he’s the more aggresive and loud one while I’m the less garrulous. How we even clicked is beyond me. Perhaps, if you find the One, you latch on to him. The one who’s talkative (to pull you out of your running trance), the one who’s bursting with life and never boring. The one who opens up new avenues (he paved the way to my entry to Teams Boring & Kulit). And the one who never runs out of surprises (‘let’s go up to Timberland, now na!) What more can one ask for a partner on the road?
In anticipation of the BDM 160 2012, we started joining ultraruns after the summer of 2011 – the Nuvali 57-km. trail run, the PAU’s Fort Magsaysay-Dingalan 60 kms, Western Pangasinan 65 kms. and T2N 50 kms., etc. I hitched along the Buban van (composed of his wife Paz and 3 of his boys) which served as our support vehicle while we conquered most of Luzon. The kids had gotten used to the routine that they had perfected the art of providing us with food and hydration at every stop while also enjoying our post-run stays at the nearby resort. They had embraced me as part of their monthly excursion.
It was during these ultra races that we had learned to endure and embrace more pain (I hold the title ‘Blister King’ in 2011) and boredom while sustaining our pace and placing higher in the rankings (our peak was breaking into the Top 20 of the Western Pangasinan 65 kms.). We had incorporated speed runs into our routines and applied it at the first half of our ultras, scurrying fast before the sun fully bursts in the horizon then just winging it into the finish. And it had produced results.
The last quarter of 2011 had us training for the big one. At first, we did two rounds of our usual 8.8-km route within the village but then the adventurous streak within my partner struck. We soon found ourselves running higher into Monterrey and even eyeing the nearby TimberlandHeights in San Mateo, Rizal. He had also summoned some of our BDM 160 candidates from Team Boring. Soon, it became a weekly routine with Teams Life & Kulit joining in plus ultra-elites Chito Carreon & Jael Wenceslao (who still regularly visits Timberland). We called ourselves the Shotgun Class of 2011, owing to that Timberland killer hill – the Shotgun route.
And we had gone there so many a Sundays that most of the bikers had gotten used to us entering their stomping grounds. Our runs would last for 7 hours but in the final long run, it stretched to 10, experiencing both heat and rain. We owe Shotgun for making us stronger and BDM-ready but with great powers came greater injuries. Weeks into the BDM 160 this year, I was nursing my knees which seemed to click at every move while Dave suffered in silence as the shin splints became more apparent.
During the BDM 160 last month, I had my bouts of ITBS and practically walked from Km. 70 while as early as Km. 10, Dave was battling with his own demons which worsened at every step he took. But the guy was too stubborn to quit so even at tortoise pace, he was able to cross the finish line, 31 hours later. Again, we went through the training together and yet took our individual paths alone. It was at the finish line where we celebrated and shared our experiences together. And yes, Paz has gotten tired of our recycled stories but we never tire of hearing each other re-tell and re-share them over and over. For long after the adventures have come to an end and the blisters have healed, it would be these stories and memories which would keep us going. Sorry but there are no finish lines for this road bromance.
JOSE LORENZO M. MINA, JR. is a dentist by profession for the last 23 years and loves to write about his adventures in running and beyond via his blog, RUN-DMD. At his age, he considers running (& blogging) for the last 3 years a jolt to his near sedentary clinic life. He is a member of running Teams Boring & Kulit. He recently finished this year’s Bataan Death March 160KM at 26:51 placing no. 18. He plans to do more ultra and trail running and perhaps, the New York & Chicago marathons in the near future.