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Pacer Me


Our promo meme which required a day of pictorial sessions.

And so the dust has settled and a day after playing Official Pacer at the Run United 2, 32 kilometer category, it’s time to incise and reflect on this business of pacing in races. Here are some insights one might consider before accepting this job, beyond the prestige, the free bib and all the privileges that come with the role:



Pacing requires preparation, both physically and mentally.

And so I got the invite from Ms. Vimz Mendoza to join the RU2 pacers group over a month ago and promptly took on the 32 KM distance with a 3:15 time. It’s my first time take on this role and excitedly recommended running friends Van (3:15), trail devil Dave (3:40) and Reylynne (who failed to show up). We were in the midst of our Milo R2 Apex running school (though we had minimal speed training and mileage) so I figured this would be easy peasy, keeping in mind my last full mary in February where I breached the 32 kilometer mark at around 3 hours.


The RU2 pacer briefing coincided with the media launch of the Run United Philippine Marathon 2015.


Tagumpay Bros represented: with McCoy & David.

I was imagining the night before the race of our 3:15 trio egging, chanting and pushing a battalion of runners into the finish line, sounding like some lord commander battling the wildlings beyond the wall. Unfortunately, it remained only a movie in my mind…


Pacing means keeping an average, if not constant pace throughout a race.

So after a little research, I learned that pacing required me to maintain a pace of 6:06 throughout the race with some minor adjustments in between. Now this seemed simple enough, right? But then with someone like me who loves to take off fast at the start, adjust a bit in the middle and slow down in the final kilometers, this was a major issue.

But on race day, that’s what we tried to do. My 3:15 trio with Bobby Go & Van Denn Cruz tried to maintain a pace of 6 minutes per kilometers even if everyone was flying out like bats from hell. Armed with just a lap watch, Van stayed within our target pace (5 kilometers at 30 minutes, etc.). I latched on to him with Bobby a few meters away. We were targeting a faster pace in the first 10 kilometers for certain adjustments at the third hour. But owing to our slow start, we reached KM10 at exactly one hour. Now if we could only go a bit faster but kilometers 13 (1:18) and 18 (1:48) came and our pace remained at 6.  Bobby Go was nowhere in sight.

There were some runners who joined us a few kilometers later, but soon dissipated when the going got tough. And so it was with me. Around KM20, I couldn’t keep up with Van and I had to let him go ahead. Van, now the only 3:15 pacer on time, brought with him his loyal following (up to the finish at 3:14++). So at this time, all three 3:15 pacers were running separately.

Pacing is a selfless endeavour.

Soon I was taking more time to hydrate and recover. Buendia Avenue became my battleground as I combat fatigue and boredom (I forgot my mini-Ipod). At this time, I’ve been resigned to missing my target finish time, unless I suddenly developed the surge and run faster. All the while, I was mindful of the reason why I was there that Sunday morning. So whenever, some weary runner started keeping up with me, I tried to maintain my assigned pace and just kept going. I’d remind them that I was already running short but they still joined me even when I would slow down, every now and then. So thrashed as I was, I still found some energy to prod my equally tired minions.

the final struggle...

the final struggle…

Pacing can be fun, if not done alone (and the small c hasn’t reared its head).

By the time I entered the CCP area, cramping started to make its presence felt – first in increments and soon in big waves. I was reduced to lots of walks (and sudden stops) and short jogs that I had to rip off my pacer bib, lest some lost soul started hounding me, hopeful of a 3:15 finish. I had to vary my steps from heel strikes and strange plodding to ward off the cramping and was no longer eager to help others. Still, I managed to strike up some quick talks with certain walkers and push them to get running in the final 2 kilometers.

Soon, I chanced upon certain pacers who were already washed up, as well. We just kept burning the final meters until the finish line loomed from afar. The final surge was a full on attack and by 3:29 I finished my pacing duty. Not in the grand glorious fashion I had envisioned it but it was one soul-searching, core-scrutinizing experience (tagos sa buto) I wouldn’t trade anytime soon.

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jon las

An endless buffet, confetti and finisher medals for the patient & brave pacers!

So would I take on another pacing duty again? Hell yeah. But first, I need to train more properly on the ways of strengthening, energy conservation and mileage planning. I just need to remember the care, sustenance and recognition we received yesterday and I’m there. Add up the smiles, admiration and camaraderie from the runners we’ve touched and and helped and it’s one duty that’s almost close to a calling. Or a religion.


A big salute to the RU2 pacers, courtesy of Active Health!

Photography by Dan Alvarez Sagayap, Les Letsky, Blue Zapanta, Jon Las Bruce, Mark Andrew, David Buban and  Art Mendoza


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Toto plays support and pacer (BDM 160 2013 edition)

Last January 27-28, 2013, we were witness to the 3rd edition of the Bataan Death March 160KM, the country’s longest continuous road race, so far.  Of course, last November 2012, there was the West Coast 200KM but that was done in 3 days in increments of 70, 70 and 60 kilometers each.  This time the 100-miler commemorating the heroic acts of our WW2 soldiers in Bataan starts at Mariveles, Bataan and finishes at Capas, Tarlac with a cut-off time of 30 hours.  BDM 160KM holds a special place in my running heart because it was this last year’s edition that we were fortunate to finish it at 26:51 hours, in the midst of ITBS, dwindling spirit/energy and sleepiness.

the let's rewind.

the goal….now let’s rewind.


This year, we were recruited by fellow trail ultrarunner CJ Paran to be part of his support team which included Boringers Rod, Mar, Bong plus Hugo & Thea (co-supporters for CJ’s BDM 102KM stint).   They have started 4 am and have been running for at least 6 hours when I caught sight of them near KM 42 in Balanga, Bataan where our bus dropped us off.  While awaiting for them, I encountered runners at position #5 downwards and was quite surprised by the leadpackers.  Of course, all of these would shift and change as the kilometers progress.


Benj taking a bite at Jon’s banana (walang malisya)…

While in 2012, CJ was already in near emotional turmoil 20 kms into the finish, this time, he was in high spirits, running side by side with the equally ebullient Benj Termulo.  We were trying to estimate their standings and it was safe to say, they were in the low 20s so it was a nice 50-km opening salvo.  By late morning, the sun has spread its searing rays but our two runners were still in their respective elements with Benj keeping the pace up.  It was later in the afternoon when CJ finally found his groove and started taking on the other runners in front.  Yes, our little boy was following our every instruction (‘tuhugin mo si ____, ha’ or ‘skewer that motha#%@!).  Benj just couldn’t keep up with him but soon enough, his support vehicle arrived to be with him every 3 kms.

at the crucial crossroad of KM83...

at the crucial crossroad of KM83…

Near the 15th hour, CJ arrives at KM102 still eager and energetic.  The plan was for us not to stay too long at this pitstop since many were already thrashed and in near-DNF mode.  We regrouped at KM 105 where CJ changed outfit and had his much needed dinner.  Bong was the first pacer up to KM127 with stops every 3 kilometers.  Bong is the ideal pacer, keeping CJ’s spirits and pace up and running.  In the latter part, it was undeniable that our runner’s energy was dwindling when he started requesting for short naps. I was totally against it but the group finally relented.  I was just hoping it was for the best and not the break that would knock him out ‘til September ends.

with the cavalcade from Team Boring during the early part of the 3rd leg of the race...

with the cavalcade from Team Boring during the early part of the 3rd leg of the race…

still in high far.

still in high spirits…so far.

Before midnight, I took over the pacing duties at KM127.  Basically, it was just accompanying the runner to walk/run while lighting his way and providing much needed provisions both liquid & solid – a skill my 160KM pacers could do in their sleep.  Some words of encouragement would be of help and if need be, some brutal version of tough love (‘you’ve prepared for months for this, are you just going to throw this away on the basis of your imaginary blister?’).  It really was his mind playing on him as Coach Mar inspected it quite frequently.  And so we had to tape on it some cushion so he can move on.  That’s after I’ve recited my long and painful history of ‘the blister’ from 2011.

lez do this...

lez do this…

As you can see, in the wee hours of the morning, CJ had started hitting his fantasy wall, no hallucinations yet so I knew, there was still hope.  Even if he started withering on one side of the street every few kilometers. I gave him a mere 2 minutes before I let out my imaginary whip and begin lashing him forward.  He had also become irritable such that every time, he started hearing my footfalls, he would stop his running (‘You’re pacing too fast, I can’t keep up with you!!’).  So what’s a guy to do?  Just keep a comfortable distance from the back while still keeping an eye on my runner who anytime could find himself among the rushing nighttime vehicles (or talking to a rock).

Eventually, he was just too hot to handle and even too cold to hold.  I just had to remember that he was not in a normal state of mind and body so what he blurts out should not affect me – I just needed to bring him to the finish line, by hook or by crook.  But I guess, I’m just human so at some point, I was getting frustrated.  Don’t worry, there was none of those shouting matches and altercation (DNF was out of the question, I kept reminding myself).  It was more of our little psychological war.  I had to trick the little guy into moving like hell (the lemmings are on our tails) in the face of sleepiness, fatigue and more importantly, mental breakdown.

polar-opposite vibes...

polar-opposite vibes…

dude, where's my runner?

dude, where’s my runner?

And so I summoned my inner Deepak Chopra and kept badgering him with positive thoughts and anecdotes (‘there will come a day when you would suddenly feel like you’ve had enough and would just quit a race but this is not day’ blah, blah…).  The guy was still mad at me for matching his ‘attitude’ but he was moving, perhaps, out of spite or my most encouraging adjectives (‘this is the perfect day to finish the BDM 160!’, ‘hell, you’re in a place I can only dream of – you’re in the Top 15 for crying out loud!’), I care not to know.

today, we shall reach paradise...

today, you shall see me in paradise…

Daylight had started creeping in when we ventured into the final and most trying 10 kilometers.  I was having a hard time to get him moving faster.  Good thing two Boring vehicles were on hand to help me for the final push.  And as always, we see a speeding Totoy appear and disappear in minutes.  Few runners also came and went including ‘Mr. Tuhog’ Bong Alindada (ably paced by Aldean Lim) who was gracious enough to keep our lead until we finally relented.  In the concluding kilometers, the competitive spirit (or perhaps, the need to just get through with this race) finally kicked in on CJ and we were running down a dream.

clark kent (as assisted by Boringers Nono & Cindy) transforms to SuperB...

clark kent (as assisted by Boringers Nono & Cindy) transforms to SuperB…

The time is near...So near it's stirring the blood in their veins!

The time is near…
So near it’s stirring the blood in their veins!

redemption - just a few breaths away...

redemption – just a few breaths away…

In a blink, I saw the hulking Bataan Death March monument before us and soon enough, it was Sir Jovie Narcise (Baldrunner) giving CJ a warm, sweaty hug.  I was waiting for that tearful moment, just like what happened at BDM 102 but I think he’s too dehydrated to even excrete tears.  But it was both exhausting and triumphant and I felt I was part of it all.  To see CJ place #14 among the 43 finishers was something like seeing your child graduate from pre-school Magna cum Laude (except that there isn’t one and I don’t have a child).  So anytime, I guess, I won’t hesitate to pace and support anyone in an ultrarace.  It’s never without its exciting & exacting moments, trying and winning episodes – now that’s something I wouldn’t want to miss…

Team Mayor CJ at the Finish with Sir Jovie...

Team Mayor CJ at the Finish with Sir Jovie…

A beer toast between runner & pacer (160 kms. later)...

A beer toast between runner & pacer (160 kms. later)…


Love in time of sweat & fatigue - Ronnel & Irene (100-miler couple)

Love in time of sweat & fatigue – Ronnel & Irene (100-miler couple)

Photography by Paulo Navarette & Rod Apolinario (Team Boring)