Wednesday, March 5

6th Bataan Death March 102KM Ultra Marathon 2014 (BDM102)

Bataan Death March (BDM) Ultramarathon  is a commemorative race tracing the route where around 70,000 Filipino and American soldiers were forcibly transferred by foot from the battle field of Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga during the World War II. Thousands of Filipino and American prisoners of war died before they could reach the final destination at Camp O'Donnell. This race, BDM as famously known by  most runners in the country is at its 6th edition this year. 

I had been part of the race for several times in the past, twice to be exact, as support crew/pacer in both BDM160 and BDM102. I witness how tough the race seeing from the experience of others but I never thought it will be that challenging as I add my  own BDM102  experience to my running adventure. For some,  it take six months to a year to prepare for the race. One friend of mine compare BDM race to a wedding preparation, one year in a making. The physical and mental preparation, the support crew and support vehicle as the entourage , the food and hydration as the food in the reception, to decide on what running gear to wear as the wedding gown and the 102km distance as  the long aisle that everybody will walk through and be part of. Mine was a different one, a photo finish event. 

BDM102 was not on my list of races to run this year. I know I will be able to run it one day  but not very soon. Mid week before the race date,  our mission (together with my other two friends) was just to convince a friend who registered but decided  not to run it anymore, mission accomplished for us but with a package of me having to run the race as well. Coming from a mountain trail run of the same distance the weekend before the race, I know it was a foolish decision to do such. I haven't really recovered from the race last weekend yet. But my stubborn self gave it a thought and finally said, why not. I come to the starting line on a half support crew half runner mode. I really do not know if I can run the race, I cannot even get excited with the thought that I am going to run it. 

Thirty minute before the gun start my race bib was finally handed to me, this is it, I will be running BDM102km in few minutes. I had to rush to get myself ready for the race. I was finally standing at the starting line now as a runner, not a support crew. Lots of familiar faces, 300 starters. And to my surprise there were around 6 of us from H1P1 race that also joined the race including Mr. Sang from Korea. My game plan, I know this is not going to be an easy race for me but I will just take my own pace and enjoy the route. I know my friend Kat with Bren,  as I share the support vehicle of my friend Bernard, will  take care of my needs as I go along the distance. I will just take things one at a time, distance by distance. 

Gun start at 10:00pm of March 1, all runners at its reflector vest for safety, the first 2km is flat which is a good warm up and it goes to 5km uphill, which was just fine with me. I take my own relax pace as I started climbing the ascend part, it wasn't as humid as I expected it to be. Kilometer by kilometer I go, Kat  and Bren has been doing great in handing me my nutrition and hydration from time to time.  Runners catch up with me, I sometimes catch up with others. I wanted to take advantage of the night time so I just went on with my own relax pace.  I started to sweat as I move further, everything seem fine except for one thing. I just had my monthly period a week ago and I still had my very minor discharge but I did not wear any pad on the race anymore. As I slowly move a little longer I can feel a little discomfort on my private part, looks like a chafing started. This is my first time to experience such on the many ultra races that I had in the past. I did not mind it but I never thought this will become a major discomfort towards the end of the race. 

I reach 50km mark (midway) 7:00 hours after gun start, it was still dark. I decided to take a 15 minute nap, elevate my legs but wasn't really able to sleep but at least I was able to rest. I loaded my hydration bottle with water, drink my favorite Coco Quench hydration drink and eat a little and off I go again. The road was dark and I felt cold. The breeze from the rice fields and the trees were cold. I have to run on a faster pace a little bit to warm up my body temperature. Slowly from dawn to dusk I witness the break of the day. This is going to be a hot day as I saw the horizon.  I slowed a bit on my pace, I got hungry, and can now feel the mercury going up. It gets warmer. I am now on the busy highway of Bataan, seeing clearly the other runners, the support crew and the rest of the community wondering where we come from and where we are going.

As I move further, I was getting slower, it was getting warmer. My feet slowly get wet, but no signs of blisters, thanks to the injinji socks. Its my legs that I can feel the soreness, my calves, my quads, my right knee aching. I really do not know which one that was giving me discomfort but I know I am not getting any better. And as I started to sweat continuously and water drips up to my feet, I can feel discomfort on my private part too. As I enter the 15 kilometer stretch of Dinalupihan highways after running of over 60km distance even at mid morning, I started my routine of applying sunblock on my exposed skin, ice cubes wrap on my neck with buff head wear  and ice cubes on top of my head under my salomon cap, regular spray and pour of cold water on my body. I survive on  freezing cold water melon and Coco Quench drink. I know this is going to be the most difficult part of my adventure, the scorching heat of  the sun. I can feel I was placed on a huge mircowave oven at its highest temperature. It was a torture seeing the long stretch of the highway, so straight,  so flat without any curve and so hot. Hearing runners' word of encouragements as they pass by me really lifts my spirit and all the more from the support crew, my own and those from other runners,  who offer their supplies, food, water, etc.

At some point I decided to change shoes and socks hoping that it will help my slow snail pace pick up a much faster pace as I just want to get this race over with and be done with it but still to no avail. I was just too slow, alternating with brisk walk and jogging pace. My tough race a weekend before is now calling its toll on my not fully recovered body. All the discomfort I felt, the chafing on my private part got worst that I can feel it every time I move faster and every time I pour water on my body, my legs getting more painful. Time passes by, mid day, I was still on the stretch of Pampanga. A bright cloudless day, others said it was 32 degrees C, others said it reach 39 degrees, but there was just one thing I was sure off,  it was just too HOT and this is part of the challenge.

My hope of a much earlier finish was not a realistic one anymore, I just take my own time, walking, jogging just making sure that my legs will get me through until the finish line within cut off time. Having been to this route twice in the past, I know too well the curve, the bend, where to turn left and right up to  the finish line. I know I am not going there very soon, while at its hottest part of the day, I just move a slow pace forward together with other runners with the support of the crew from different runners. All of them were just too kind to offer help to each and every runner that will pass by them.

At some point, while trudging the long street under the scorching heat of the sun, it dawned in my mind how hard what our soldiers went through during the war, I may not have any of my immediate relative who took part of that  ordeal during the war, but I am sure they went through worst than what I  experience during the race. I also think those  runners who joined this race from the very 1st edition up this race, and most especially those who did the BDM Grand Slam each year. Really my salute to them for this race is not an easy feat. This year's edition may have been much much warmer as compared last year or even in the past editions due to the dry spell that effected not just the country, but really my  respect to all of those who did this race in the past.

I cross the finish line with a time of 17 hours and 17 minutes with so much lessons learned from the race.  One thing I realized BDM race is not only about the runner, it is a community of runners and support crew that make dreams a reality. I know I could not have made it and cross the finish line without the help of great people along the way. I'd like to thank Bernard for sharing his support team with me, Kat and Bren for taking care of my needs, to my Ayala Triads family for all the support and all the support crew who in one way or the other helped me on my journey. I thank God for keeping me safe while on the race, I thank Him for giving me the patience to finish despite all the discomfort. It was indeed a very long uncomfortable aisle for me but I am glad I finally make this a check of my list.

BDM is about helping each other, its about a runner with a dream having to run through the historical route  and a group of support team that tirelessly and selflessly share their time and strength just to make the mission fulfilled.  It is also a race about endurance, perseverance and patience. One thing that may help a lot in finishing to those who dream of doing this in the future aside from the hard training months prior to the vent, it will also help if one will crew first on the same race, or join the trial run that is organized by the Race Director and at least do your own trial run. Do not be ashame to ask for help from the crew of other while on the middle of the race. And please do not cheat, do not ride just to save time and finish within cut off time. Please show respect to those who suffered first during the Fall of Bataan way back April 9, 1942 and to those who run the race in the past editions.

Again, let me say this, thank you so much Katrina Constantino for literally my strength on this race. Indeed you make dreams happen to those people who believe in themselves. Thank you too Bernard Enriquez for sharing your resources to runner like me. Thank you Rica Mendoza for always being there. To the Race Director, Sir Jovie, thank you for giving me a chance to run this race. It was indeed an epic one.

And my adventure will continue. Next stop will be another road run but a shorter one.

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