Having joined dozens of road-running races (mostly in Cebu), including the Hong Kong and Singapore marathons in 2008, here are several observations from last Sunday’s QCIM:
1. Weather. Obviously, this has nothing to do with the organizers, but we were blessed with excellent weather that day. It didn’t rain. Even better, the sun barely shined all-morning-long. Given the up-and-down terrain of the QCIM 42K, can you imagine if the weather was super-hot? If, from 6:30 to 11 a.m. there was blazing sunlight? I bet a lot of runners would have stopped. Especially because the event ran out of water on so many water stations.
2. Chip. Having that ChampionChip on your shoe makes the event world-caliber. This was good. And something we have yet to experience in Cebu (given it’s cost, around P200,000 just for the deployment, we’re targeting in the 2011 Cebu Marathon).
3. Marshals. There were hundreds of people manning the streets. A big salute to the organizers on this. There were policemen patrolling the intersections everywhere. Marshals also wore their QCIM uniforms. Plus, there were several mardi gras dancers who lined up the streets. Students cheered. This was excellent.
4. Pacers. Quite new to Philippine road-running, the QCIM had pacers for most of the important distances. My La Salle Bacolod classmate in elementary, Mari Javier (featured in The Bull Runner magazine), was one of the pacers. He carried the balloon marked “4:15.” But, as what Mari told me at the finish line, sensing that no one was following him to target that 4:15 time, he zoomed in the last kilometer and finished 4:06. Amazing. To think that Mari also ran Milo seven days earlier (and will do Subic this Saturday)!
5. Commonwealth Ave. road closure. This was good. Imagine running on the widest road in the country? Yes. That’s eight lanes on each side of the road! And, pretty much the whole route, it was closed to traffic. This was great. Kudos to the Quezon City government on this.
6. Registration. Coming from outside Manila, what we appreciated most was being able to register (and get right there, on the spot) our singlet, race number and timing chip. Excellent. Thanks.
1. The route. Coming from Cebu City and being unfamiliar with the Commonwealth Avenue terrain (I had only passed there once, and that was many, many years back), the QCIM website stated this: “the course is RELATIVELY FLAT with short portions of incline level.” Yeah, right!!! Did you mean that, at the end of the race, the runners would be FLAT? Yes we were. I’ve joined the tough Hong Kong race and the QCIM is so much tougher. Apart from the U.P. Diliman grounds, there was hardly any flat terrain. The rolling hills of Commonwealth Ave.? They were like our Mactan Cebu bridge. Only, multiplied several times. The La Mesa Dam? Nice view. Nice climb!
Bottom-line: I don’t have a problem with up-and-down courses. But the website did not say so! Had we known about the route two months in advance, we would have practiced more uphill climbs. (Or maybe joined Subic? Ha-ha.) It’s the basic responsibility of the organizer to inform the participants accurately… and not say “relatively flat” when the course is almost entirely uphill/downhill.
2. NO WATER!!!!!!! This was the worst. Imagine running inside the La Mesa Eco Park and the La Mesa Dam, a scenic route along the water dam, and you can’t find water! DAMN! No wonder my good friend Jesse Taborada calls the QCIM… “marathon in hell.” Running for, what, four or five kilometers inside the uphill Dam was painful enough… but to not be supplied by water was crazy.
Now. I understand the Dam authorities are strict. Water bottles are probably prohibited inside. That’s fine. But at least, at the La Mesa Dam entrance, we should have been told so by the marshals (with huge signs)… so we could have gulped more water than usual before entering the no-water Water Dam.
And here’s the worst part: When we exited the Dam and saw parts of the Quirino Highway… we were relieved. Finally, we said, there’s water! But, believe it or not, when we saw the water station with lots of people manning it… you know what they said, “Sorry, naubusan kami nang tubig (we ran out of water)!” And so we ran several more kilometers nearly dehydrated. Jesse bought water from a nearby store. Lucky for me and Bro. Carlo, there were two bikers (who just happened to be biking along the route) who offered us water from their bottles.
This no-water scenario happened plenty of times along the route on the way back. (For the 5K, 10K and 21K routes, I believe they hardly experienced this no-water scene.) When you’re thirsty and you need liquid the most, you can’t NOT have water! This is a sin in race organizing. A basic flaw. On another occasion, Bro. Carlo and I begged one vehicle (who supplied a runner his water) to give us one bottle. He relented. We shared one tiny, 200-ml. bottle for a few kms. Thank God. An event this huge, with P3 million in total prize money, can’t make this basic mistake.
3. Cement. The route was, in my estimate, 90 percent cement! Now, I understand, as runners, we can’t be too choosy. But cement is so much more painful than asphalt. And, touring the rest of Metro Manila that Sunday afternoon and on Monday (plus the Cebu roads almost entirely in asphalt), I saw mostly asphalted roads… in Makati, Manila, etc. This hard cement surface surely contributed to our getting cramps.