Unknown to many, ultra-marathons have become a regular event in the Philippines, led by a retired 63-year old military general who still runs at least 50 kilometers regularly. The staging of ultra-marathons has also produced a “running judge” who recently led a 280-kilometer three-day run.
Marathons, which are usually sponsored by energy or health drinks, covers distances from one kilometer, three kilometers, five kilometers, 10 kilometers and maximum of 42 kilometers. During a marathon, runners register with a fee that usually goes a cause, and the event is completed in a matter of an hour or so in a familiar route within a city or town.
Unlike the regular marathons, however, ultra-marathon running covers a minimum distance of 50 kilometers up to 160 kilometers and lately, 280 kilometers in a pure test of human endurance without fanfare. An ultra-marathon can be completed from a few hours to a few days.
Also unlike the marathon, an ultra-marathon is a one-way with a cut-off time. It traverses towns, cities and provinces like the 1st “WEST To EAST” 280K Ultra Marathon.
It is so far the longest solo and single-stage Ultra Marathon Road Race in the Philippines that started in the Bolinao Sports Complex in Bolinao, Pangasinan and ended at the Pacific Ocean Shore, Barangay Tanguige, Dingalan, Aurora.
The race commenced at 5:00 am Thursday, April 2, 2015 and was set to lapse at 2 pm Saturday, April 4, 2015 with 57 hours cut-off time and intermediate cut-off time of 10 hours for every 50 kilometers. Eleven runners joined the race but only seven finished the 280- kilometer route led by Makati Municipal Trial Court Judge Henry Laron in record time (51:32:09), followed by Elmar Bob Tolete (52:00:36), Thomas Combisen (52:27:52), Bong Anastacio (53:34:18), Marlon Santos (54:31:18), Romhel Biscarra (55:21:37) and Benedict Meneses (56:32:20).
Laron, 53, began running short distances from five kilometers to 10 kilometers five years ago and started 21 kilometers three years ago before venturing into longer distances such as 250-kilometer Manila to Baguio run and the two-day 200-kilometer Olongapo to Alaminos, Pangasinan run in November 2013 where he placed number four among 30 runners.
Laron said he joined the 280-kilometer run mainly to test his endurance. While he was the oldest among the 11 runners, he proved he could beat the younger ones in a race where the other seven finishers received a finisher’s medal and the top three a trophy each.
Judge Henry, as he is fondly called by colleagues and friends, said it takes determination and guts to take on a personal challenge to run along lonely route compared to the annual bikeathon known as the Tour of Luzon, which is anticipated by local residents along thoroughfares mapped out and drumbeaten to gain the support of local residents that boost the moral and adrenaline of the bikers.
For an ultra-marathon, the organizers coordinate with the Philippine National Police for security concerns because localities seem not interested yet in the event which could be blamed on lack of promotion.
Retired Army Major General Jovenal “Jovie” Narcise, who at 63 is still an active runner, started serious road racing/running in the early 1980s. He had joined and finished numerous marathon races and other lesser-distance races since then. He stopped running after the 1997 Manila International Marathon because of “sensitive” assignments/deployments in “insurgent/terrorist” areas as an Infantry Commander in the Philippine Army. He started running again in October 2007.
Since his retirement 2008, Narcise said he concentrated on running adventures and eventually created and organized the Bataan Death March 102K Ultra Marathon Race in April 2009 to commemorate the historical event. Since then, it became a yearly event. He also staged in January 2011 the first official 100-mile road race in the country and is now considered the first and most challenging 100-mile road endurance race in Asia.
Narcise has been organizing and directing ultra-marathon races in the country that already has attracted hundreds of enthusiasts. With support from the public and private sector, which Narcise expects to get as he exerts effort to promote the long-distance running, he anticipates more seasoned runners like Judge Laron to join the ultra-marathons.