Race: Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race
Date: Sunday, October 16, 2011
Venue: Gov. Joseph Memorial Park (Ypao Beach), Tumon, Guam
Distance: 21k and Ekiden Relay (4-person relay)
The annual Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race is one of Guam’s most anticipated running events in the country. Organized by the Guam Visitors Bureau, the race aims to raise awareness on the plight of the Ko’Ko’ bird which nears extinction.
The half marathon takes runners around the paved, wide, and mostly flat roads of Guam with a scenic view of its sea and beaches. It also offers the Ediken Relay for four runners teaming up to cover the same distance.
This year, 1,700 runners participated in the 6th Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race. With majority of Guam’s tourists hailing from Japan, over 600 of participants were slim, fast, and nimble-looking Japanese runners. Gulp.
We arrived at the assembly area at YPao Beach at 4:00 AM for a 5:00 AM gunstart. The atmosphere was alive and filled with excitement. The weather was just right, dry but not humid.
Runners of all shapes, sizes, and attire were gearing up for the race. I spotted a group of giddy Japanese women looking forward to their Ediken relay, a caucasian couple who looked like hardcore triathletes in their trisuits with gels on hand, Japanese men who looked like they’d been running all their lives, and various groups in uniform chatting their nerves away. There was a lot of smiles and laughter, camera flashes, and rocking to the body attack warm up led by the fitness instructors on stage. Everyone was game!
A little before 5 AM, we all proceeded to the front of the Guam Visitors Bureau where the race was to start. Amidst the mix of Chamorros, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos (I heard there were a number of Guam-based Pinoys who ran) and other runners from abroad, I stood there alone in silence (except for the times Bernard from Sports Unlimited would pop up from nowhere with his camera).
From out of nowhere, I heard my name called out. What a pleasant surprise! I spotted AJ, a 20-something triathlete, who I met last summer at The Next Step Tricamp. AJ is now based in Guam and this was his first race there. He was gunning for a sub-2. How I wished I could run with him because I was dying to run on those fast and flat roads of Guam. But, my run was to be an easy training run in preparation for New York City Marathon on November 4. Behave, Jaymie, behave! So, AJ and I wished each other luck and at exactly 5 AM, the gun was fired and we were off.
THE FIRST 10K
The first 2k included a short climb. It was slightly steeper than our Buendia Flyover but, with fresh legs and a slow pace, this was just a great way to warm up. The runners almost ran in complete silence, and, in the darkness of the early morning, it felt very serene and calming. Just one light step in front of the other.
The course then took us through the wider and flatter roads of the city making its way through the residential village of Tamuning and onto the main road, Marine Corps. Drive, and the island capital of Hagatna and Anigua. Some portions offered gentle rolling hills which were just enough to keep boredom of the legs at bay. Every hydration station had energetic and friendly marshals handing out water and Gatorade, portalets, and a medical aid station. There were also young cheerers and supporters who kept all of us going.
The great thing about running easy was that there was time to enjoy the scenery. I looked around me and particularly loved running by the sandy beaches of Guam. I practiced my Chi running form and, at one moment, felt like I was in a trance just floating all the way to the finish.
When we hit 10k, my only thought was: It’s 10k already?! I couldn’t believe 10k had gone by that quickly. There was absolutely no time for boredom.
The highlight of the race for me was the approach towards the turnaround point just inside the village of Asan. The clear view of the sun and sea was a sight to behold at dawn. If only for that, I would run this course again…and again…and again.
THE NEXT 11K
The day before the race, it had been raining in Guam. I had secretly hoped that it would rain on race day too. By 13k, I got my wish. It started to drizzle. I couldn’t help but smile as I ran. After a few kilometers, it poured! Woohoo! We were all completely drenched. Our feet would splash onto puddles of water at each step. At one point, we ran against the strong wind. It was a lot more challenging to run and I was getting chills from the wetness and cold, but boy was I loving every minute.
The race was a wonderful way to experience Guam for me. The course was awesome, the support from the people were outstanding, the weather was incredible. But, sadly, there was one major hitch. I was severely disappointed when hydration ran out at more than a couple of stations on our way back. For me (and I know a lot of you), hydration is simply a non-negotiable; the lack thereof could lead to severe dehydration, heatstroke, or worse death. It’s no joke and it should never be overlooked.
As I was running, I was parched. What worried me more, despite the cool weather, was that I had stopped sweating and I was getting chills, which to me were signs that I lacked hydration. I continued on and managed to get water from a support vehicle (thank you to Sports Unlimited crew and Marton of Rogue!) and a station that finally had water (but no Gatorade which was what I needed badly). Thankfully, I was strong enough to proceed with the run with ease.
I continued to run easy and steady with a smile. Most of the runners around me had settled at a steady rhythm and I felt the same way. Boy, did I love running in that race despite the little hydration mishap.
I crossed the finish line back at YPao Beach at 2 hours 20 minutes. It wasn’t my best time, but hey, it was a great training run! I loved the scenery, the people of Guam, the landmarks along the way, and last but not the least, the rain! It was an awesome race that I felt fortunate to have been given the opportunity to run.
With blistered feet, soaked socks and muddy shoes, AJ and I headed for the buffet for tons of rice, bacon, and fruits!
Thank you to Guam Visitors Bureau – Guam and Manila offices, especially Leana, Mike and Nina, MJ of United Airlines, and Pacific Island Hotel for a wonderful experience in Guam. Thank you as well to Jonas, Jasmine, and especially Bernard (for all the pics) of Sports Unlimited and Marton of Rogue Magazine.
NEXT: Other adventures in Guam