(Article published in the Mar 18, 2009 issue of Manila Standard Today)
Last year, this month, I ran, says the T-shirt that I brought home after nearly an hour of huffing and puffing in the early morning air of Bonifacio Global City and which I continue to wear proudly today, in order “to save the reef.” However, I must confess that when I pinned my race number on my shirt that morning, I was, besides that “the reef” meant, according to the organizers, Concepcion Durables, Inc., the Tubbataha Reef, clueless what all the fuss was about the Tubbatha Reef.
At that time only a few months of returning to serious running after years of absence since the mid-80s when running in the events organized by Butch Aquino and Reli German almost always ended up with a 100-meter dash away from water cannons of the Metrocom, all I wanted was to finish the 3K I signed up for ahead of someone else. And I did; I finished, by my unofficial reckoning, second from the last, a few steps ahead of a skinny kid old enough to be my grandson.
As for the Tubbatha Reef
itself, I was completely blank up until I had a short conversation with race
organizer Ton Concepcion who told me that it was, deservedly, an
acknowledged wonder of the diving world. Located in the middle of Sulu Sea,
the coral atolls of Tubbataha are said to have began to form thousands of
years ago as fringing reefs of volcanic islands along the Cagayan Ridge.
Over thousands of years, the volcanoes became extinct, the islands sunk, and
only the corals remained to grow upwards towards the sunlight.
Presently, in addition to tourists and divers, the Tubbataha Reef, which was declared a Natural Marine Park by then President Corazon Aquino in 1988, is home to no less than 573 species of fish, 379 species of corals which is about half of all coral species in the world, 11 species of sharks, 12 species of dolphins & whales, Nesting Hawksbill & Green sea turtles, and over 100 species of birds.
This coming Sunday, the 22nd of March, there will be another Ton Concepcion-initiated race, this time bubbed as “CONDURA RUN 2009: RUN FOR THE WHALE SHARKS.” This time, I shall lace up my running shoes with more commitment to the cause and more interest in the event. After all, I am a lawyer and ipso facto have a natural affinity to sharks.
And, I hope the special category species of whale sharks does not mind, I would like to claim to belong. Of course, at the courtroom, when cross-examining a witness of the adverse party or over the phone seeking to follow up the collection of my bills for services rendered, I do have to put on a mien akin to that of the mad dogs and Englishmen I ran with under the noonday sun. But really, I am as gentle as a butanding, the local name for whale sharks in their habitat in Donsol, Sorsogon, especially when being reprimanded by my boss, Dick Romulo, for wayward phrases in my memos and pleadings (a facetious invocation of a constitutional phrase landed me a few hours of confinement imposed by a couple of humorless politicians who must have been constipated that morning) or for unthinking expletives that every now and then punctuate my remarks in the presence of clients who project the aura of public propriety to hide sordid private affairs.
The whale shark can be as enormous as your mother-in-law, growing up to 40 feet in length and weighing up to 15 tons. Nevertheless, it is as harmless as your father-in-law, since its diet consists only of planktons; humans, in general, the white whales would find unsuitable for eating. With good reason, I must say.
Prudence dictates, though, that I do not test my senior citizen anatomy at Condura Run’s longest leg, the 21km Half-marathon to the Skyway. The route is very tempting, though. At 5:30 in the morning of race day, thirty minutes ahead of all the rest, those running the half-marathon, will start at 28th St. at Bonifacio Global City, turn right at 11th Avenue, make another right at 26th Street, go all the way to Rizal Drive and turn left at 32nd Street all the way up to Kalayaan Flyover to Buendia Avenue. They will then turn left at South Expressway up to Buendia off-ramp to Skyway, turn around at the Magallanes off-ramp and head back to Buendia all the way to the finish line at 28th Street, Global City. Finishers of the 21km half-marathon within the cut-off time will get a special finisher’s medal.
The more suitable leg for my aging anatomy, which this year is daily pushing 65, is the 10K. Together with the runners of the 5K and 3K, the 10Kers will trace, thirty minutes later, the footsteps of the elite runners of the half-marathon up to the 26th street. We shall split with shorter route runners by proceeding all the way to Rizal Drive, then turn left at 32nd Street to go to the Kalayaan Flyover (which in a way tries to approximate the high of half-marathoners’ Skyway) down to Buendia, turn right all the way to Reposo, and then go back to the finish line on the 28th Street like everybody else. Registrants are to be given commemorative T-shirts which they can wear during the run (although following a long tradition, I will wear mine only after I feel I have deserved it by finishing my chosen route. All finishers, in addition, will receive a loot bag of goodies from Vitwater, Sunkist, Selecta and Swift.
To put everyone in a festive mood and thereby distract the mind from the monotony of repeated pounding on cement and from the fatigue that naturally builds up during extended periods of exertion, the race organizers are encouraging as many to join the marine life costume contest and run as dolphins, turtles (this is the only place where turtles can legally run as fast as rabbits), dugongs, manta rays and, naturally, whale sharks. From starting line to finish line, there are expected to be thousand of spectators, marching bands, and cheering zones.
Runners who will wait for their slower companions will have time to go from one exhibitor’s booth to another to browse, or better still, pick up some bargains and freebees. Prizes will be raffled off from time to time as the faster ones wait for the late comers to finish. Up until race day, participating Nike registration stores offer 10% discount on selected Nike products.
The yearly Condura Runs, if Ton Concepcion perseveres, will undoubtedly in time earn its claim to be “the premier running event in the Philippines.” For now, though, and for us, long distance long timers, the Milo Marathons are still a class by itself in mass appeal and crowd euphoria. But as the Condura Run focuses on the fragile environment with the same devotion as Milo has been putting on center stage the tender youth, it is certainly the race one trains for to attain a personal best.
Condura Run 2009 this Sunday, I intend to break my personal record, and
finish ahead of at least two kids (instead of last year’s one) at the finish