Runners’ Interview: Bataan Death March Ultra Runners (Part 1)

Friday, 17 April 2009  |  Interviews + Features

Last April 5, 2009, the first ever ultramarathon race, Bataan Death March 102km Ultramarathon, was held in the country. Led by Bald Runner, there were 81 brave souls who ventured out to run the same 102km route of the historic death march in 1942. 63 finished within the cut off time of 18 hours. Congratulations to Bald Runner and to all the Bataan Death March runners!

– Bataan Ultra Runners Charlie Chua, Mari Javier, Mark Bata, and Coach Roel Ano – 

For those of you who wanted to know more about some of the men and women who ran the race, I got to interview 11 of the finishers and here’s what they said…


Name: Atty. Jonnifer M. Lacanlale
Age: 39
Years running: around 8 years. I lost count.
Bataan Ultra Finish time: 13 hours and 14 minutes. 11th place overall.

Name: Enrico M. Tocol (Rico)
Age: 29
Years running: 1
Bataan Ultra Finish time: 17:30+

Name: Jose Mari Javier (Mari)
Age: 37
Years running: Seriously started last October 2008, Adidas KOTR 21K
Bataan Ultra Finish time: Finished #9 with a time of 12hrs 30mins

Name: Don-Don Mari Ubaldo (Don)
Age: 28
Years running: Since September 2007, turning2 years this 2009
Bataan Ultra Finish time: 23rd overall, 14:41 (unofficial)

Name: Baldwin Choy
Age: 20
Years running: 3 Years

Name: J. Cu Unjieng
Age: 46
Years running: 2 1/2
Bataan Ultra Finish time: just barely in the cut-off time, something like 17 hours and 50 minutes (unofficial)

Name: Odessa Coral
Age: 28
Years Running: started 2003 as a UP Mountaineer and stopped for a long time, only got back Aug 2008
Bataan Ultra Finish time: 17++ hrs

Name: Tan Wenjie Lucas
Age: 20
Years running: Recreational running for about 6 years, more proper running for about 1 year.
Bataan Ultra Finish time: Not very sure, 12 -13hours? (#10 placing)

Name: Armando T. Fernando
Age: Turning 40 this April 18
Years Running: started 1997 as a weekend runner; got serious in running while training for 2008 SCB Singapore Marathon
Bataan Ultra Finish time: 14 hrs + 1 Min.

Name: Mark F. Bata
Age: 35
Years running: 1.5 years
Bataan Ultra Finish time: 15 hrs 53 minutes

Name: Jonel C. Mendoza
Age: 45
Years running: 1 year and 1 month
Bataan Ultra Finish time: 17h 22m

What was your primary reason for joining this ultra?

ATTY. JON: I joined the Bataan ultra race because I am concentrating on ultra races now. I’ll leave the shorter races (from 5k-42k) to young runners out there. Globally, most seasoned or middle-aged runners excel in ultra races because of their wisdom and high tolerance to pain borne out of experience.

MARI: Main reason was the challenges that would test my physical limitations and mental fortitude – knowing that I could do a 52K test run actually pushed me to go all the way, what better way to know who you are by pushing myself past your normal endurance capabilities.

DON: I don’t remember if I was able to tell you about my hit and run accident while jogging last January 2008. But this gave me acute epidural hematoma, which gave the need to open my head and take the clot out. This has been a life changing event for me. Afterwhich it made me realize how soon one’s life may be taken away and how one should cherish every single day of your life. From the day I went out of the OR, I made a decision of living my life to the fullest. So I got myself trying multisports and ultras. Eventually I ended up with the Pinoy Ultra Runners and I got hooked in ultras. So to cut this whole nonsense story short, I joined this ultra because it being the first ultramarathon road race, I just can’t let this opportunity slip away.

TAN: Actually for me and Baldwin (Buddy from Singapore), it’s mainly to gain overseas race experience. I have previously done the 84km Sundown Marathon
in 2008 and another MR25 Ultra which covered about 50km and was just thinking of other races when i heard about this Bataan Race while i was working (I work in RunningLab in Singapore). It got me interested and i pulled Baldwin in for this trip to gain some experience. I never regreted it, it was definitely one hell of an experience for us.

JONEL: in every race,the only other powerful thing than the desire to finish the race,is the failure to finish it. i wanted to overcome that power with my own. besides, i would rather find out about something myself than forever be left wondering what could have been if i did not.i would have rather ran and failed than not to have ran at all.

MARK: To give my son the finishers medal and to see my wife proud of me.

– Running buddies Mark Bata and Charlie Chua –

How did you train for the ultra? What part of your program contributed most to your success in the ultra?

ATTY. JON: I followed the progression principle. Meaning, I progressed or trained from my current base endurance and peaked to what I assessed as the appropriate level of fitness for the goal race. Scientific basically. For this race, I used the Singapore marathon (42K) as my platform and from there I trained to reach the ideal level of endurance at least 3 weeks before the race. 5 weeks before Bataan I logged in 122k/week in training which cost me health wise. At any rate, I can safely say it is the knowledge, relentless persistence, unwavering mental focus and inspiration to run for others contributed to my success. I must admit all these ingredients must blend in.

DON: I did a lot of long runs every weekend. (Thanks to my Pinoy Ultra teammates that I was able to force to run with me — if it weren’t for them I would’ve burned out of my training program. TO THE PINOY ULTRA PIPS — YOU GUYS ROCK!). I just pounded on the mileage every weekend and basically did some speedwork on weekdays. Plus rest. I did some weather simulations runs as well. I tried running 10 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon to make myself used to the heat of summer. I rehearsed as well eating and drinking during the run. I believe these are the things helped me finish the race.

DESS: On the physical aspect, I trained with my team in doing back to back long runs and gradually increasing mileage from 50-100km per week. It also helped that the team (with much help from the Bald Runner), did test runs in anticipation of the actual race conditions i.e. doing a midnight run; running the actual second half of the race course at daytime to simulate weather conditions; training what to eat and drink during the race etc.

Aside from the physical aspect, preparing for an ultramarathon involves mental preparedness, patience, perseverance and will power. From kilometer 65, everything else will hurt and what would determine your success is your ability to hang on and push harder when the going gets rough.

Finally, it helps to have a strong support group composed of family, friends and running buddies. You will be needing all the support and encouragement from them as early as the training runs up till the actual race. For one, I wouldn’t have finished my first ultra without the help of my running buddies who put up with me in the training runs, special mention to the Bald Runner, Jonel Mendoza, Arman Fernando, my boyfriend Kevin Fule, and my Gold’s Gym running buddies, who offered the much needed support during the actual race.

JONEL:  Log a minimum of 70 kilometers to about 130 kilometers a week for at least 27 weeks, do back-to back real long runs(2-4 hours) on weekends and 3 consecutive midweek days of 1-2 hour runs.  The long runs made my endurance better fit for this kind of distance.  Without endurance runs, I would have gone flat early on.  It doesn’t need rocket science to tell one that endurance is a must for this race.

ARMAN: Training for an ultramarathon includes training for physical, mental and emotional aspects (I call them my triangle training). As the training progresses you come to terms with your body. You become to know your body better.

– Physical aspects –This aspect includes combination of doing tempo run, speed works, double up, back-to-back LSD run on weekend, heat training, hill training, cross training, working out at the gym to develop my upper body and core and to increase my lactic acid threshold.

– Mental aspects – I prepared my mind to increase my tolerance for pain, to think how to conquer obstacles and distractions, to be able to “command” my body to run longer, to have a feel of my comfortable pace, to tell my body to slow down if I’m running too fast to soon so I can run long but conserving energy to increase my endurance, and to appropriately follow my strategies and race plans.  Running an ultramarathon is a mind game. You run with a plan and you execute that plan properly.

– Emotional aspect – To cross an Ultra finish line an ultramarathon needs a strong will to finish what one has started. You must possess strong determination to finish the race when the wall hits you, to overcome distractions (boredom, pain, concern about heat stroke) and elements (such as heat, vehicles, traffic, road conditions and the like). I can say, it is a product of the physical and mental preparations that I have made.

What contributed most to my success in the ultra – I think all three contributed to my strong finish in the Ultra.  

MARK: Apart from the expected running volume (lower in my case due to injury), I enrolled in Bikram Yoga for a month to acclimatize with the expected heat. Unexpected bonus was being taught how to breath properly, to be calm and present. I attended class every day and did 2 session (am/pm) whenever possible. Speed runs in meant having to wear my vibram 5 fingers. This was to strengthen my ankle and feet which proved very effective in the later part of the Bataan 102 race.

What was the highlight of the race for you?

ATTY. JON: For me, the highlight was enduring under the scorching heat of the sun for long tortuous hours with no end in sight while your little demons were feasting in your mind and nonchalantly telling you to quit, quit quit or just seat on the roadside, wait and beg for the sweeper to pass by and pick you up. It happens. The finish line was the just the icing on the cake, so to speak. You know this Bataan can be the “Badwater” of the Philippines.

RICO: Aside from crossing the finish line, the highlight of the race for me is after km 86 because i was expecting to hit the wall around 80+km, but surprisingly i felt the opposite and started picking up the pace. from this point i already know i will finish the race under 18 hours.

J.: I would love to say it was the finish, but in retrospect, it was the kindness of the people who supported me through the race. I was suffering the last 20 – 30 km, literally delirious from lack of sleep and mentally gone, and thought I wouldn’t make it to cut-off. Don’t get me wrong, I was going to finish if I had to crawl hours past the deadline, but these people, Boyet and Susan especially, got me through the end. They talked to me, they ran with me, they made sure I was hydrated and eating (even when I said “No”), they saw me through when I wasn’t even walking straight anymore and my eyes wouldn’t focus from sleep deprivation. I must have been like a spoiled child, but they wouldn’t let my spirits die.

TAN: The whole was was my highlight, from running under the stars in near total darkness, up the hill from 3km to 7km mark, up till struggling through the
heat in the second part of the race, all of it was an unforgettable experience for me 😀

BALDWIN: 1) Running thru the many small towns in Philippines, it was really an eye-opener for me, someone who is used to city life.  2) The many churches along the way, being a Catholic, I said a prayer at every church, which gave me more strength & will to carry on, especially when I cramped up so badly and thoughts of giving up were sinking in. 3) The race route was winding thru many different kinds of terrains, slopes, hills, tarmac & sand; it was a new experience for me to run thru so many types of terrains in a single race. 4) THE PEOPLE! The company & support was simply awesome, the hospitality of EVERYONE who was part of the race be it support, runners, photographers was sincere & amazing. People were all so friendly & nice; it was really a joy to run with such wonderful company.

ARMAN: The highlight of the race for me was hurdling the distance between 66th km to the 85th km mark. At this stage, my whole body was in pain, the searing heat is a major distraction, and every step is a struggle. I think the better term for this is hitting the “wall”.   After the 85th mark, it all came easy.

Arman_all alone
– Arman running alone – 

Is there anything you wish you had done differently during the race?

RICO: I experienced GI (gastrointestinal) issues during the first half of the race. I had to stop about 8 times just to “go” to the bathroom. i wish i had practice eating the solid food that i plan to eat on the race during training. Actually that was Mr. Ben Gaetos’ (filipino ultramarathoner based in US) advice that unfortunately I didn’t follow.

DESS: Running a 102km was virgin territory for me. I had a game plan and I stuck with it. In the end, the plan worked. I wouldn’t have done it any another way.

TAN: I wished I had not underestimated the heat. If i knew i had to walk so much under the heat, I might have tried running faster for the first part of the race
while still under the cover of darkness, away from the heat.


– Should have CWX stabylx running tights by that time
– Never forget my sunblock in my drop bag (km50) although I wasn’t burned at all this time probably because I was ready for the HEAT FACTOR
– Body Glide (promise to get it) – I got abrasions on my inner thighs, luckily for Petroleum Jelly which helped but barely – it just doesn’t do the job like Body Glide at all.
– Bring plaster tape next time and tape tightly under the sole of your foot (you know the one located below your big toe where blisters mostly occur from the constant pounding, just for prevention purposes), although I didn’t get blisters, I could feel the onset of one on the 40km something due to extremely wet socks, it was a good thing I had extra socks in my drop bag when I reached km50.

JONEL: Follow my pre-race pace plan.  I just totally forgot it.and do walking training as part of my preparations for another ultramarathon.  Walking is inevitable because of the demands of the distance.  Somewhere, somehow, the walking will take over, like it or not.

ARMAN: I had done my best, I plan my race and race my plan and I am very happy with the result, finishing 15th among 82 runners. 

MARK: I wouldn’t change a thing, it’s my first race. I managed expectations and did give my very best.

Will you do it again?

ATTY. JON: Yes, I will for as long as my physical body can take it.

RICO: definitely! already signed up for the 2nd edition next year!

MARI: I just signified my intention over BR’s blog for the 2nd edition, it is an experience I intend to do many times – hopefully with better results.

DON: In a heartbeat.

J.: God, yes! I signed up for next year.

BALDWIN: Definitely!

TAN: Maybe TNF100 in the Philippines??!! But I’ll definitely recommended it to my other Singaporean friends!

ARMAN: YES! YES! YES! I registered already for year 2 of this event. The feeling of crossing the finish line is priceless.

MARK: Race opened my eyes to the history that have been forgotten by most. During the run, you would have thoughts of how hard it was for our soldiers way back. I want to do my part in remembering and honoring our soldiers who died in Bataan fighting for our freedom. I already registered for the 2nd Bataan 102 Ultra Marathon.

DESS: Definitely! In fact, I’m already signing up for next year. 

JONEL: In a heartbeat! 102 times yes.

Next: Top 3 Tips for those who want to run an ultra from each of the ultrarunners