Runner’s Interview: Joy Rojas Runs Across the USA

Wednesday, 23 December 2009  |  Interviews + Features

Joy Rojas was the first woman to run across the Philippines in 2005 covering 2000km in 46 days from Mindanao to Luzon. She recently returned from the USA for Takbong Pangarap Trans-USA Run 2009 where she ran 16 states in 196 days, from Los Angeles to New York. She is the first Southeast Asian woman to run across the USA.

Central Park, NY4

– Joy with members of the Philippine American Triathlon Club and Western Union employees at the “finish line” in Central Park –

There are only a handful of local runners who I look up to, not just because of the miles they’ve covered, but because of their pure passion for running; Joy Rojas is certainly in that list.  I was fortunate enough to have met her from whom I learned a thing or two about determination, humility, and integrity.  Here goes our interview…

Starting point: May 10, 2009, Eagle Rock Plaza, Los Angeles
Ending point: November 22, 2009, Central Park, New York
Total distance ran: 2,761 miles
Ave. distance per day: 26-30 miles
Running days: 113 days.
Rest days: 83
Total # of days for entire trip: 196 days

What made you think of taking on this incredible journey of running across America?  How did the idea come about?

After my running partner Mat Macabe and I ran across the Philippines (Davao City to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte) in 2005, I felt such great happiness and longing to be on the road again. More and more, I really felt that I still had a long run left in me. So after much introspection, I decided that running across the Philippines (which was a dream I carried in my mind and heart for seven years, after running across the Visayas in 1997), shouldn’t be the end of a dream but the start of many others. We thought of running across the US for many reasons: at least 200 people had done it, language shouldn’t be a problem, and with all the Pinoys scattered all over the States, the potential for support was there.

How did you plan your route across the USA?

I read the websites of transcontinental runners and I was drawn to the routes of two runners (Martin Illiot and Jackson Williams) who both recently crossed America. I figured, if they were able to run their routes, then they’re passable. Originally, I wanted to start in San Francisco, because I wanted to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, but contacts were established in Los Angeles, and that’s why we started where we did. The route continued to evolve as we ran. There was the request to include Washington DC, so states like West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland were added into the mix. And when we had to be in Denver for an event hosted by our sponsor Western Union, we were advised by friends to enter Colorado by way of Arizona, not Utah as originally planned, because it was a slightly shorter (and less hilly) route.

Running in the fog Fairview IL

– Joy and Mat running in the fog in Fairview Heights, IL –

You were running over a marathon daily for nearly six months, how did this feel physically and emotionally? Amazingly, I felt good in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. I was running at my best: although my legs felt tired at the end of the day, I experienced no lactic acid (thank you, SportsAde!), and I had more blisters on my lips than my feet due to windburn. Once I got the injury in Kansas (excruciating pain in my left pelvis which was misdiagnosed as a pulled muscle and bursitis along the way; an MRI in St. Louis, MO, revealed it was a stress fracture), I slowed down considerably to the point that I would walk 30 miles for many days. The month-and-a-half break plus the daily doses of calcium and vitamin D helped, but because we had very little time left to finish before snowfall and Thanksgiving hit New York, I had to run almost 26 miles daily from October 7 to November 22.

Getting back into high-mileage runs after weeks of relative inactivity was painful. My right leg swelled up like the Michelin man’s, and my pelvis was so sore, I limped and held on to Mat for support at the end of the day. From Ohio to New York, the soles of my feet were so sore, I felt like I wasn’t wearing shoes when I was running. And for the first time in my years of running, I felt such incredible pain pulsating to the tips of my toes, I was afraid to remove my shoes and socks after each run because I worried about what my feet would look like. To this day, my feet are still sore and my left hip hurts a bit during short, easy runs. I think it’ll be a while before I can run the way I used to. But that’s okay; I demanded so much from my body, it deserves the rest.

For most of the run, I was okay emotionally, but I have to admit, the last stretch from St. Louis, MO to Central Park, NY was very stressful. When you’re running slow because you’re in pain and the days are becoming shorter (it’s dark by 4:30 pm), you can really feel the pressure to finish. I don’t know how many times I cried before, during, and after a day of running, but thank goodness for Mat, Danny Titus (the American photographer who acted as our coordinator during the run), and for family and friends who called or texted to cheer me on and assure me of their prayers.

Did you run alone most of the time? What do you think of during your long, solitary runs?

Yes, I ran mostly by myself. Mat underwent open heart surgery (mitral valve replacement) in March 2008, and although he ran many parts of the route (at an easy pace) with me, Danny and I prevented him from tiring himself. My thoughts were random and varied: I thought about what I wanted to eat at the end of the day, made up stories about how various debris (from cellphones to clothes and toys) ended up on the side of the road, and recalled family, friends, and situations that we had just been through.

I also prayed a lot. Once, when I was in such pain in Missouri, my mom texted me from out of the blue and told me about all the priests and church friends she recruited to pray for us. She also told me to say the rosary while I ran, and I did, chanting Our Fathers and Hail Marys under my breath, and counting them with my fingers. I’m not religious but I have to say it had such a calming effect on me. Before I knew it, I had recited several cycles and we had reached our destination for the day.

With Danny Titus2

– “Best travel companions: Whether I was running at my best or my worst, Mat Macabe and Danny Titus never left my side. These two true gentlemen were the height of patience, understanding and encouragement.” –

What was the highlight of the entire run?

At first I thought it was watching the landscapes and colors changing right before our eyes, but for Mat and I, it was America’s big heart that proved the highlight of the run. Everybody was just so kind to us; strangers took us into their homes, gave us water, honked their horns and pumped their fists into the air to cheer us on. This was our first time ever in the US and we never expected Americans to be this friendly or supportive.

What was the most challenging portion for you?

Physically, it was running from Beltsville to Baltimore. We were on the fringes of Typhoon Ida, but even then, it felt like we were at the center of the storm. Imagine running—or in my case, walking—under 5°C rains, 23 mph headwinds, and on a very busy highway with a shoulder that comes and goes.

You suffered a stress fracture midway through the run.  How did you deal with it?  Was quitting ever an option?

Thankfully, we caught it in time where rest, calcium and vitamin D were the only things needed to make it heal. Had I continued, my doctor warned me, I would have broken my hip. Danny drove us back to the west coast to recuperate because he felt that being surrounded by friends would hasten my healing.

There was never a moment when I thought of quitting. For one thing, this was just too rare an opportunity, I knew we would never be able to do it again. For another thing, we had come so far! We covered 2/3 of America, New York was already within reach, so it would be such a waste to end it abruptly. More importantly, so many people’s lives were affected by my decision to run across the US, I really felt it would be such a great disservice to Mat, Danny, our sponsors, family and friends, if I decided to quit because I didn’t have the patience to sit it out for a month and a half and heal.

Lake Mead, NV5

– Joy running on the dry part of Lake Mead, Nevada –

What gadgets did you use to track your mileage and ensure you covered an accurate distance?

Danny Titus used a road atlas, maps of each state, Google Maps, and a GPS to track our mileage. Before Danny officially joined us in Arizona, Mat and I relied on an atlas, state maps, and a GPS. Two Filipino friends from Los Angeles who were familiar with US roads and had Internet access, Dr. Jing Mercado and Bert Jaurigue, served as our advisers while we were still in the West Coast. They would call daily to check on us, and Bert, in particular would call several times a day, often while I was still running, to ask of our whereabouts. He and his wife Ces literally went the extra mile for us: they crewed for us from Barstow to Yermo Road, CA (30.7 miles) and from Mesquite, NV to the Shivwitz Indian Reservation, UT (31.4 miles). They were also present in our events in Las Vegas, NV and Denver, CO

I’m pretty old school when it comes to gadgets, so the only gadgets I used were a runner’s watch, iPod and cellphone. To get perspective on how far I ran, I relied on road signs (those green and white ones that report the mileage from town to town), mile markers, and updates from Danny, who advanced 3 miles at a time after I caught up with him. Sometimes, there would be no mile markers along the way, and at first it felt weird not knowing how much I already covered. Eventually, I kind of liked not knowing; it felt liberating to just run. But of course, Danny and Mat were always there to remind me.

You called this run “Takbong Pangarap.” Is this your biggest dream?  Are there any more dream runs you would like to achieve?

Bainbridge, OH9

– Catching the changing of the leaves in Bainbridge, OH –

Our friends in the States, people we met because of this project, are already dreaming up other runs for us, but Mat says he doesn’t want me to put any more runs together because it hurts him to see me struggle, both physically and emotionally. Personally, I say never say never, but for now, what I really want to do is go back to work, and spend time with family and friends. And go on some short and easy runs.

Runner’s Interview: Mari Javier

Wednesday, 14 October 2009  |  Interviews + Features


Mari Javier is a relatively new runner having picked up the sport just a year ago, but he’s already got a 3:34 marathon and an ultramarathon under his belt.  In the October issue of TBR Magazine, I featured him on “Personal Record” which showcases a real runner and his/her race times. Below is the interview I had with him where I tried to fish out answers from this busy corporate executive (like many of you out there) who can work hard and train even harder.

Name: Mari Javier
Job: PLDT, Relationship Management (Corporate Business)
Years running: 11 months
Age: 37
Team: Team Baldrunner, Hardcore runners


5k 18 mins
10k 38 mins
15k 57 mins
21k 1 hr 29 mins
42k 3 hrs 34 mins
102k 12 hrs 30 mins

How and when did you start running?

I officially got hooked on running when a friend invited me to join the Adidas KOTR 2008 last October where I finished the 21K in 2hrs 15mins, the Adidas KOTR 2009 will be my anniversary run which will be quite tricky considering I will be driving home after the Smart-SIM 42K to be held the day before the Adidas race.


You have a 9-to-5 job, but you can train as fast and hard as other serious athletes. How do you strike a balance between your career and training?

It’s no secret that this involves a lot of time-management between my profession and passion, it’s not easy to begin with to tell you the truth, however once I started serious running I discovered a lot about my self-belief that I can consistently improve on all levels whether it be in time, distance or terrain variety, I am quite convinced that this also holds true in life which is what makes it all the more worthwhile.

You run long (ultramarathon) and yet you are also fast (3:34 Marathon). How do you manage to train for speed and distance simultaneously without getting injured?

I really listen to my body and don’t push it when I don’t feel in running form although there I really try to discipline myself never to miss a scheduled workout day I just adjust the type of workout depending on how I feel, I really try to take recovery fluids after training/races, massages every 1-2 weeks, rest whenever possible.

You have to be smart in running ultras as this is all about energy and hydration management, there are just so many intangibles involved which makes it exciting. I have learned what I did right, wrong and what I need to definitely improve my 9th place finish for the 2nd BDM ultramarathon this coming March, running marathons will be my distance training and some while working the track on intervals will be for speed.

Urbanite Run_4_Good
– Kenny’s Urbanite 2009 –

Can you give us a peek into your weekly training program?

I train with the Team Baldrunner elites and this is normally my weekly running program:

Monday (Rest) … exception is a holiday then I do a long run

Tuesday (AM: 30min. 6K warmup) / (PM: interval training, either 400m at lactate threshold ave. 70 to 75 secs., 800m, or 1000m ave. 3:30/km) or a 5K session (60m fast, 40m jog for 5K)

Wednesday (PM: tempo run, 30 to 45 mins)

Thursday (AM: long run, normally around 2hrs either in Antipolo hills or Camp Aguinaldo)

Friday (AM: 30min. 6K warmup) / (PM: tempo run, 45mins to 1hr)

Saturday (AM: 30min. 6K warmup)

Sunday (AM: Long Run or Race Day)

What do you love about running?

I love continuously pushing myself past the boundaries of my physical capabilities, if I were a car, I would have probably been an automobile convertible – now I feel like i’m the sportscar version, just like life, running is extremely challenging and ultimately mentally rewarding once you hit the finish.

– Milo Baguio 2009 –

What is your next goal?

For October, it would be the Milo National Finals (42K), QCIM (42K recovering as a pacer for the 4:15 group), Subic (42K), Pasig International Marathon in November and then Singapore this December, I am crossing my fingers and hope to do the Cebu Marathon and Condura this January and February 2010 respectively.

What is your dream race?

I would love to qualify for Boston and also run one of the Ultramarathon 100milers like the Western States 100.


  • Favorite race distance: 10K to 21K as of the moment
  • Running course: around the Fort for long runs and Ultra for track workouts
  • Shoe: Adizero Tempo (marathons), Adizero Ace/CS racing flats for 21Ks and below
  • Powersong: None yet but my finishing kicker would be “Lose Yourself” (will have a playlist for the BDM102 last 50K)
  • Favorite Pre-race Meal: boiled eggs and bananas
  • Cross training activities, if any: none as of the Moment, CAMSUR here I come … =)

To read more Runners’ Interviews, click here.

* Photos courtesy of Ben Chan, Blacksheep Photography.

Runner’s Interview: Rick Gaston

Thursday, 2 July 2009  |  Interviews + Features

Last June 7, 2009, halfway across the world, Rick Gaston, a Pinoy ultra trail runner, clinched 6th place at the San Diego 100-mile Endurance Run.  I have always been a fan of his blog— an adventurous and daring athlete (with great photos to boot), a prolific and entertaining writer, and a creative designer (what more can one ask for in a running blog?)—so I grabbed the chance to interview him soon after his amazing feat:  (Read on…Rick’s got a lot to share, plus he’s hilarious too!)

Name: Enrique (Rick) Gaston
Age: 37
Location: San Francisco, California
Blog: 365me

Congratulations on grabbing 6th place at the San Diego 100-mile Endurance Run with a time of 20:00:25, a new PR for you. You make us Pinoys proud!  Did you expect such a great performance?

Start SD100

– Rick at the Starting Line of San Diego 100mile Endurance Run –

You know I did. My training was good and the times I ran in the Spring races all pointed to a potentially good race at San Diego. I expected 21 hours but the cooler than normal temperatures allowed for 20. Based on the finishing times in the previous two years, I knew that if I could hit 21 or under I had a chance of cracking the top 10.

How did you train for this race?
This years training is different from the last 5 years in that I decided to take a hiatus from triathlon. I decided to focus all my energy into trail running. I’m a really slow swimmer anyway. Heading into this race I was running 80 miles per week. Not a lot considering I was training for a 100-mile race but it was enough. I run 6 days a week with one day off. I participate in our triathlon club’s track workouts and on the weekends I will do a hilly 6 hour trail run on Saturday and a 3-4 hour not quite so hilly road or trail run on Sunday. I build for 3 weeks and I back off on the fourth week. I ran three races prior to San Diego; a 50k, 50-Mile (80k) and a 100k. I ran them all hard, not at training pace, and that was a personal decision. My training would have probably been better for San Diego had I ran them at a moderate pace. I’m never one to be solely fixed on one event however. What I do miss this year is the time on the bike and the spin classes. I have to figure out a way to make time for those two activities. The bike is a really great way to work the legs without all the pounding and the spin classes were great interval workouts that again were gentler on the body than running.

What was the highlight of the race for you?
At about 9PM in the evening, approximately 122k into the race, a runner and her pacer had caught up to me. I had just survived a brief bonk (miscalculated my calories) and was running in 7th place. Bonking (such a funny word) had left me hungry, cold and sluggish and I was still shaking off it’s effects when these two runners came upon me. They got close, I could hear them talking through my music. I could see the lights from their headlamps and flashlights. My initial reaction was to let them pass. I didn’t want to be hounded and chased. I didn’t want to be pushed into running their pace. A bigger part of me wanted to fight however and so I started haulin like a thief with nowhere to hide. I was going to make them work for the pass and if they didn’t, well even better. At first I wasn’t able to shake them but as my body continued to revive with the influx of new calories, fluids with the addition of caffeine, I slowly and surely pulled away. I love those moments when I’m able to do more than I thought I was capable of doing.

 Hauling mile at 50_Photo by Seth
– Mile 50 –

With RD Scott Mills at Finish
– Rick with Race Director Scott Mills at the Finish –

How long have you been running?
10 years. 2 years training for and participating in marathons and the last 8 in ultras and triathlons.

How many ultras have you joined?
I’ve participated in 82 races, 43 in ultras. San Diego was my 8th finish at the 100-Mile distance.

You’re more of a trail runner than a road runner. What is it about running trails that you enjoy?
I like the absence of cars, the softness of the trails, the difficulty of long climbs, the joy of a fast downhill, picking and thinking my way through a technical trail filled with rocks, roots, mud, etc., and the amazing views. Most of all trail running always reminds me of the presence and majesty of God; in his creation before me, from the flower to the mountain, from the valley to the sea and in the Holy Spirit driving forward within me.

What is your most memorable race ever? Why?
Tough one. I would have to say that the Kettle Moraine 100-Mile last June in Wisconsin was the most memorable. The event is run the same weekend as San Diego. It was hot, humid and buggy. Flies, mosquitoes and deer flies that could sting through a running shirt. The start reeked of insect repellent. The temperature caused several runners to drop out early, at the 50k mark. At 4PM a thunderstorm rolled through. It cooled us off but turned the trails into a muddy mess. Lightning lit up the sky and scared some of runners running in the exposed fields. Fortunately I was back in the shelter of the trees by then. Tornado sirens were blazing in the background which I was oblivious to at the time because I had never heard one in my life. No tornados in Hawaii or California. It was a good thing I didn’t know! It would have freaked me out. I’ve seen the movie Twister. Many more runners dropped at the 100k mark, including one of the front runners. Only 37 of the 69 100-mile runners finished. At 11PM another thunderstorm hit. More insult to injury or more bang for your money, you decide. All day I battled one internal problem after another and had my last issue at mile 95 when a muscle above my left knee gave out. Running, bending the knee became quite painful especially on the hills but I managed to limp in at a 14 minute mile pace, scared that I was going to get caught by the next runner. Fear is such a great motivator. When I finished one of the co-race directors, Jason, told me I was third, a pleasant surprise. I had mistaken some of the relay runners in front of me as 100-mile participants. I was a mess afterwards; barely walking, stank of sweat and mud and I had started shivering uncontrollably. The other race director, Timo, took great care of me. He walked me out, made sure I was ok to drive, got the car for me which was parked a long way away and made sure the heater was cranked up to high. I got a warm welcome back in the hotel room I shared with three other runners. Meghan finished her 100k event and placed third female while Bob and Tom were 100-mile runners who dropped at the 100k mark. We spent Sunday eating, drinking and exchanging stories about our run. Days later the whole race site was inaccessible due to flooding from more thunderstorms. We just made it that year. Good times. A June to remember.


– Surviving Kettle Moraine 100mile –

What are the top 3 tips you could give to beginner trail runners?
Read. Learn about the sport. Learn the how to’s and why. A little homework goes a long way. If you have the benefit of an experienced coach / coaches, listen and ask questions on top of the reading. If you are getting your information off the internet consider the source. Not everyone is an authority. I certainly am not. I’m doing the exact same thing; reading, learning and asking questions.

Remember that it takes much longer to cover distances on trails especially if the terrain is hilly. Prepare accordingly. Stay on top of your hydration, nutrition and electrolyte replacement and bring more than you think is enough.

Don’t get lost. Trails are not like streets. It’s harder to find your way and easy to get lost. If you think you are going the wrong way, backtrack to where you think you made the wrong turn. Continuing to go forward in the hope that the path you are currently on will eventually take you to where you need to go doesn’t always work. If you are in a race, back track to the last marker that you saw.

One more, tell your road running friends what a bunch of sissies they are and how unnaturally white their road shoes look. Okay I’m kidding about the fourth one.

What are the top 3 trail runs that you would recommend for runners to join in the U.S.? Why?
Well I can only speak to the ones which I have done, most of which are in Northern California.

• Western States, late June. It’s the oldest, the grand daddy of 100-milers in the US. It is not the toughest or the most beautiful but it has a lot of history and well supported. They say it is the Boston Marathon of 100-milers, I think it’s that for all the ultra’s in the US. This years field is one of the most competitive. I just spent three days there last weekend, supporting a friend who was running her first 100-miler. What an experience that was, a full on emotional roller coaster. My friend Carrie finished and I’m still high on the whole experience like I was the one who ran. Working on my post for that one.

With my runner at Finish
– with friend Carrie at Western States 100miler –

• The Miwok 100k, first week in May. Tough hilly course with beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay Area. Also features a good competitive field, a favorite with the crowd preparing for Western States. Long enough to be a nice epic run without having to run through the night like the 100-milers.

• The Quad Dipsea, end of November. My all time favorite race. It is only 28.4 miles but it is very hilly and quite technical in some parts. The single Dipsea is the oldest trail race and the second oldest foot race of any kind in the country. The trail connects the sea side town of Stinson Beach to the valley town of Mill Valley. The quad race is four trips across this trail. Amazing views, heartbreaking climbs and quad pounding downhills. Enough roots, rocks and stairs to make a trail runner cry with joy or pain. Seeing your fellow runners four times on the course makes for some good camaraderie afterwards. Lots of food and drink provided post race. It is like a holiday party for trail runners.

What are the top 3 trail running gear you recommend for runners?
• Great trail shoes, not necessary for flat trails but a lot of fun on hilly, technical trails.
• A hydration waist or back pack
• Socks that help prevent blisters

What’s your next goal?
I am planning on taking part in the Headlands Hundred, a small local 100-miler here in the San Francisco Bay Area in the second weekend of August. I train regularly on the course so I know the area well and several of the trail runners I know are taking part in the event.

Any plans of running trails here in the Philippines?
I would love to race an endurance event in the Philippines but the problem is time. I’m only there for three weeks at a time and I’m expected to spend most of that in Bacolod with my Lola who raised me till I was 12. Too bad because I have family and friends in Manila who would make excellent crew! Don’t count me out yet though. I could fly in, do a race and be home in Bacolod before they can yell at me on the phone to come home already – rickkeeeboyy puli na! Could happen right? I’m a trail runner so the Northface event appeals to me; lahar, river crossings, storms, mud, that’s more my style. However I am also quite interested in Sir Jovie’s Bataan Deathmarch 102k even though it’s on road. There is so much history tied to the event. I also have faith in Sir Jovie as a race director. Since the first Bataan Death March he has continued to compile his notes on the organization of other races and I have no doubt he will apply all that knowledge to further improve his event. I was also inspired by the stories that came out of the Bataan 102k this year. Prior to the event I had started communicating with one of the runners, Jonnifer Lacanlale, and in the process of following the event and his success at the run I ended up reading a whole bunch of race reports. My television has seen very little use this year 🙂

Click here to visit Rick’s blog
Click here to read his post about the San Diego 100mile Endurance Run
Click here to read more TBR RUNNERS’ INTERVIEWS

Top 3 Ultramarathon Tips from Bataan Death March Ultramarathoners (Part 2)

Friday, 17 April 2009  |  Interviews + Features

I asked 11 Bataan Death March Ultramarathoners (see their profile here) for their top 3 tips for wannabe ultramarathoners.  Here’s what they said:


  1. Read up everything you could on ultra. I mean everything you could get your hands on. Knowledge and preparation are everything. Everything is intertwined. For example, you messed up in your fuel or hydration intake during a race and you wish you did not join. 
  2. You simply have to love pain. You have to be crazier than the ordinary mortals out there to join these kinds of races! Can you endure running with blisters (the size of golf balls) under the balls of your feet for several hours and not cry mama? You just have to have high tolerance for pain but please remember the glory is in the difficulty.
  3. Have an inspiration. Run for others whether for family, friends, enemies or even your pet. There has to be selfless side to it.


  1. Plan and organize your training program then gradually build up your mileage and try to hit your target weekly mileage
  2. Train for the elements: know what the environment/ weather the race presents then train appropriately for it
  3. Taper well and do a lot of mental training: taper week is a good time to do more mental training because usually as the physical training goes down,  mental training goes up). the last half of the race becomes purely mental almost!!! 


  1. You gotta train and prepare properly, joining an ultra is no joke which is why those who have done long runs/races that test physical endurance capabilities are in the best position to know how their bodies will respond when faced with more similar and daunting challenges.
  2. Never ever forget to constantly hydrate and refuel (this is what kept me going)
  3. You have to be a little crazy or dizzy to join an ultramarathon, ENJOY IT that’s the journey and the experience.


  1. TRAIN PROPERLY — An ultra is not a race that you could cheat.  If you come unprepared, you will feel the toll as early as the first half.  Build on your mileage.  Go long on your runs.  And prepare yourself mentally that this wouldn’t be easy.
  2. BE PATIENT –Learn to pace yourself.  Don’t go all out at the start of a race.  Bear in mind that this is a very long run and all energy should be conserved so as to take you to the finishline.  There are no shortcuts.  At the end of the day, you need to go through all the kilometers you are racing.  Start slow, finish strong.
  3. LOVE WHAT YOU ARE DOING — Training for an ultra takes 100% commitment.  You need to balance work, family, and social life with your training program.  You need to learn how to give and take.  If you see this as a chore, chances are you would not enjoy what you are doing.  In the end, you will find yourself skipping your training days.  And you will find yourself wondering, “Did I train right for this?” or “What am I doing here at this start line?”  If you love what you are doing, you would be able to diligently follow your program, and you would be able to confidently stand along with the other runners and say “Hell yeah, I can do this.”


  1. TRAIN for it, the distance is a huge challenge to many, even experienced marathoners. Do run up to 50km at least prior to the race to get used to the fatigue.
  2. Nutrition is essential, constantly taking in fluids & gels, ensure your body electrolyte storage is not depleted.
  3. Enjoy the run, enjoy the sights & sounds(I have never seen such a beautiful sunrise before (: )


  1. Develop a good physical stamina and build-up endurance gradually so that your body has enough time to adapt and get accustomed to the stress imposed. This will also help you stay injury-free. 
  2. Mental imagery coupled with actual practice of race conditions so that both body and mind is trained and prepared for what is to come. Develop a game plan and stick with it. 
  3. Have a strong support group and running buddies who will give you a push when you need it. In my case, my boyfriend Kevin Fule of Gold’s Gym was there for me through and through. He offered all the support I needed in finishing my first ultra.


You know how realtors say location, location, location?  Well, for aspiring ultramarathoners, it’s train, train, train.  I’m the last person they should listen to because I did everything wrong.  I didn’t deprive myself of anything, my lifestyle didn’t change all that much.  And I realize, if I want to do better, things will have to, there is no other way.


  1. Train real hard.just remember that it is in these training days that makes the race easier come d-day
  2. Train your mental side as can’t simply finish an ultramarathon by merely training your legs to endure the is the homestretch that will test all your limits-physically,mentally,spiritually and emotionally
  3. No matter how hard the race gets going,enjoy each and every step,however small,painful and slow, because everything will be over even before you know it.  Besides,every step you make will lead you to where it matters the most in the end.


  1. Always have a plan, bawal ang “bahala na si batman”.  If Plan A doesn’t work, make sure you have plan b c d e…. well it’s a long race.  Part of the plan is nutrition.  Thanks to Harvie of Hammer for giving me a nutrition  program that enabled me to race all the way to 102.
  2. Visualize the outcome of crossing the finish line and getting your medal.  You have to believe.  
  3. When the going gets tough and you can’t run or walk anymore, chop runs into small repetitions by targeting objects on the road.  In my case, I would run 3 posts then walk 1.  Run up to the Pajero then walk till the salmon colored house.   This was my plan until the final 10km surge of running to the finish.  


  1. Train for the long haul. Increase your mileage gradually to avoid injury.  Don’t rush things.
  2. Incorporate working out the whole body and core; do cross training like bike or swim for endurance.  An endurance runner needs a strong core.
  3. Rest. Once a week give your body time to recover and heal.


  1. A proper race plan (which includes rest planning) is as important as the training you go through.
  2. Never believe you can’t do it!
  3. Enjoy your race!

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