When I found out that my birthday this year would fall on a Sunday, I knew what I wanted to do and how to celebrate it—by running.
Having had to work on a Saturday for many years now sometimes has made me skip some races, both here and out of town, or provided some challenge in planning on joining races or keeping up with my training but it will definitely not stop me from having my grandest birthday party ever. Joining the 2nd Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU) Tanay 50 k Run organized by the Bald Runner.
It was in Tanay about two years ago, where I ran my first ultramarathon (if you don’t count my first full where I ended up running 47 or 48 km no thanks to the notorious organizing efforts, or lack thereof, of that marathon in May of 2009). Having had to miss the 2nd BDM 102 in 2010 and the test runs leading up to that race, I was left with the 50 km race for my baptism of fire so to speak. So after guesting at DWIZ for a radio show episode about running, I tried to get that all important shuteye before a race before heading to the jeepney terminal to meet with the PAU usual suspects.
After the two-hour bumpy ride near the starting line, I started to miss friends who ran the first edition but skipped the one this year choosing to participate in a duathlon that coincided with this race. But that didn’t dampen my mood as I met some more ultrarunners for a nice chat before the 4:45 am gun start.
Having no real target this time except to improve on my 5 hour 57 minute finish time before, I started easy, even being outrun the first few kilometers by the leading female runner. After 10 km and 1 hour of steady-paced running, I found myself in front with only 2010 runner-up Alfredo Ocampo to chase. 10 more kilometers saw a coast guard runner overtake me and I was now in the company of 2012 BDM 160 runner-up Dick Balaba and Alfredo’s brother Gregorio/Totoy, who both took off and raced more downhills after the km 20 check point.
The early morning drizzle surely made the run cooler but coupled with lack of sleep gave me a headache while trying to keep up with the two very strong and fast third and fourth ranked runners at the time. Nearing the bottom of the 15km downhill, I saw Dick holding his right knee and Totoy leading him at the 35km turn-around. And once again, I was again in the top 5 as predicted jokingly by teammate Ronnel. But with fatigue and lack of sleep starting to be a factor, I started to feel the stress of maintaining my spot as I saw more runners making the U-turn.
It was generally uphill from that point on until the summit at the finish line but every time there were some “mini-downhill” parts, I would lose Totoy only to catch a glimpse of him again when the road started to roll again. By this time, the top two runners were untouchable clearly 4 or 5 kilometers ahead so the only way for a podium finish on my birthday was to catch the strong and veteran Team Hings runner. Dick had considerably slowed down since the U-turn due to his injury I thought but big thanks to his support crew who kept me hydrated along the way, Totoy was within striking distance all the way to the km 45 marker.
I could probably have overtaken him then but I knew he would have just countered and overtaken me back so I waited for the perfect time.
With less than 3 kilometers to go and no more downhill in sight, I went ahead giving it my all to deal him the final blow, running as long as I could and not letting him see that I was tired and aching in many parts of my body. Looking at 2010, it was around this point that now good friend Simon caught me up for the 12th place so I thought to myself I would not be overtaken this time for the podium finish. Not on my birthday.
So with all the strength I could muster, I minimized my walk breaks and surged ahead to the finish line more than 25 minutes faster than two years ago.
As in any PAU race, the gamesmanship of course ended at the finish line as the finishers greeted each other and Team Hings offered soda and beer to every runner who had finished one of the toughest 50 km runs I’ve ever joined. I also told Totoy that if he had not let me overtake him for the 3rd place finish, I would have begged him as my birthday present.
Happy birthday to me.
View official results here.