Fort Running Festival

Our rating:

Powerpuff Boys. TPB. The crew with the can’t-miss singlet has steadily garnered a cult ever since a highly controversial runner-up finish during the inaugural Chris Sports Epic Relay 250 Race. In the months that had passed since their cause celebre’, the open-source singlet had become a veritable fan favorite amongst running denizens. Perhaps because of the fun color, but more so because a lot could relate to the scrapping, never-say-die attitude the team exhibited during its maiden campaign.

It's fuchsia.

With team running events few and far in between, not a few wondered when the men in fuchsia would ever don their proud colors again. Would they ever get a shot at redemption? Alas, a rare opportunity presented itself – The Fort Running Festival. 30 runners to a team, best cumulative time wins. The yahoogroup immediately went off the hook as the team scrambled to search for possible members, given that the original team only had ten competing members.

In the mold of the original team, the closest thing to a competitive sub-elite team was formed. These are dudes who may not be considered as “elite”, yet showcase an advanced level of fitness in consistently placing in the upper percentile of local races. I guess people could relate because you don’t have national -team level professionals , but ordinary working people with day jobs who have dedicated themselves to a committed healthy lifestyle. Weeks turned into months amidst numerous roster changes due to a laundry list of reasons. The final lineup comprised of a motley crew of marathoners, ultramarathoners, triathletes, mountaineers, running veterans, greenhorns, and one running ninja.

I had quite the experience with the team during our Epic Relay run, certainly one of the highlights of my year. Even if I was one of the central figures in our “controversial” finish, the goodwill generated by the entire experience overshadowed whatever bitterness ensued. That said, I couldn’t wait to race with these guys again. Much to my chagrin, it was scheduled on the same day as the Speedo National Age Group Triathlon, which I had been preparing for. So I essentially passed for this race. In yet another twist, registration slots sold out like hotcakes three weeks before, which practically never happens. Thus, I was left without a race! Great. Blessings come when you least expect it though. Regrettably, someone had pulled out from the roster due to injury days before the race, and they were scrambling to find someone on such short notice.

While it’s not exactly GBM saves the day, because I’m really just a roster filler, I was overjoyed at the prospect of donning our pink colors once more and just having an awesome time with the gang.

D-Day

The team met beforehand for a quick pep talk and to finalize all remaining logistical concerns. We also wore the Adobo Run promotional bibs that our buddies at Paul Calvin’s Deli hooked us up with. To quote that dude in Ocean’s 13, I felt like I was in a ” field of excellence”. Some of these guys I had never met before, but I was well aware of their running pedigree. The ones I did know, these were stacked with very strong runners, top-tier stuff. Original TPB members abound too, practically everyone from the Epic Relay campaign was there. As much as the atmosphere was light and relaxed, there was a subtle yet palpable feeling of pressure.

I had to deliver. I couldn’t let these guys down. Not while wearing these colors.

And So It Begins

The gun went off without any warning, and so were off. I was particularly worried because I have been putting more effort into bike and swim training, and my supposed bread and butter running capabilities were pretty much non-existent. Got to pace with low-key original Takbo.ph moderator and Philippine Blog Award finalist Natz Garcia, one of the strongest runners I know. A past Milo National finalist, his season-long spartan approach to training manifested immediately as I could barely keep up with his machine-like pace. There was jostling on the route, some starting out crazy fast. I was a goner by the 7th kilometer. Gasp. Wheez.

Halfway Mark

Settling down to a more comfortable pace, I got to hang on with speedy TPB pioneer Mark Mulder, our short-distance specialist who was making his debut at the pikermi distance. Always helps to have someone act as your metronome, keeps you from slacking off. Entering Bayani and Heritage, we were hanging tough even as a mass of people from another race got us off-tangent for a couple of moments. Note to self: You should go inside Heritage Park more, it’s actually beautiful inside. Ran into original TPB skipper Brian Rivera (who regrettably skipped the race due to injury) and Doc Eire there snapping up photos and mouthing words of encouragement to us.

Pain amidst beauty at Heritage for the TPB Boys

3/4 of the way

Last 15k. As me and Mark were laboring on the way back to Bayani Road, I was telling him that if we just gut out that last uphill at the Essensa area, we’d have it made. Silly me. They keep on adding these fun uphills in a never ending variation of all possible Fort Routes. Running on fumes, don’t even know how I’m sustaining this. Mark is lagging back a little, from what I would later learn were shin issues. Just a bit more….

Last Kilometer

Surprisingly, I still had some spring in my step, so I was pouring it on with Mark right on my tail. Strong finish, let’s go for this. Only, the finish line was coming in too… early. Aww shucks. I clocked in at 1:43 on a 21.3 course, which would have meant a phenomenal 7 minute improvement over my personal best. Extrapolating that pace to the full distance (and there’s no doubt in my mind that I could have held it, lowered it even), it would have come out to a high 1:46. Not bad,still a personal best. As much as personal records are nice though, this was one race where the team came first.

Near the chute

Vindication, Retribution

Though this race lacked the inherent drama of Epic Relay, there still was a lot of suspense with it. As the TPB crew piled in one by one, we had no idea if the aggregate time of the team would be sufficient to win it. Further exacerbating our anxiety was the fact that Running Ninja Sam, a regular sub-2 hour finisher and BDM 102 veteran was racked with cramps somewhere along the route. Tough break. In our heads, our worries about teams making up the distance were only overshadowed by our worries for a fallen comrade.

Time seemed to stand still. Finally, we saw Sam limping through the line in a gutsy 2:30 effort. Cheers abound. Now all we had to do was wait for the official announcement.

I was chatting with Abby when suddenly I heard awards host DJ Chloe of 94.7 call out the winners of the team event ….

TEAM POWERPUFF BOYS!

Oh my. Bedlam ensued. Suddenly, 30 pastel-decked guys were rushing the stage like a victorious soccer team at the World Cup. It was noisy. Very noisy. I honestly thought the stage would give way. Celebration indeed! It was particularly sweet for the pioneer Epic Relay team , who not only lost the championship under highly questionable circumstances, but also saw our runner-up finish completely unacknowledged . At least for one fine day, we were champions. Indeed, victory is sweet.

And in deference to a completely forgotten aspect of racing, something had slipped our mind, because it’s usually reserved for the pros – we had won something! In this case, cash! A cool P15,000! Ah. The spoils of war.

Beep Beep can't take his eyes off the prize

We win at last.

Post-race breakfast at Paul Calvin's

Victory celebration at Joey Pep and launching of dri-fit TPB shirts

They say life goes around in karmic cycles. I guess this race is a prime example. Thank you to all those who have supported us through our ups and downs, we truly appreciate it. As for the team, it was an honor racing with you guys. I wonder where the next adventure will take us?

Wherever it may be, I’m pretty sure the boys in fuchsia will be ready for it.

(Originally posted by Luis Arcangel on The Gingerbread Report, on November 19, 2010)

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