Setting a record and dropping by Hobbiton

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

LAST year was a terrific running year for me. Although I ran “only” six marathons (a far cry from 10 in 2010), I nonetheless achieved personal milestones in 2013 and I wanted to start 2014 with a bang. I found the Bayleys Mountain to Surf Marathon in New Plymouth, New Zealand very interesting and appealing.

Mountain to Surf was first thought of in 1979, with the first event held in 1980. The 2014 event was to be the 35th edition and a special Ccommemorative medal would be awarded to all finishers. The Mountain to Surf Marathon Course starts at the gates of Egmont National Park in Mt. Taranaki, which is 460 meters above sea level, running down Egmont Road through the green dairy pastures and finishes at Marine Park, Waitara. The run supports the Taranaki Branch of the Child Cancer Foundation as their event charity. Not only would it be my first time in New Zealand, but it would also will be my first race to start in a mountain and end at the beach.

So after the Christmas break, I embarked on a rigid training program. My goal was to break my record of 3 hours 39 minutes achieved last year in the memorable Totem to Totem Marathon in Bristish Columbia, Canada and to visit the Shire in Hobbiton. The Hobbiton Movie Set was used for the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” film trilogies. It is a fascinating two-hour guided tour. I am a very big fan of those trilogies!


Just before I left, I was very relaxed and confident. I followed my training regimen to the letter without missing a day and ran five times a week, even on Sinulog day.

I think my training this time had the most mileage accumulated and I was at my leanest.
Despite the 12.5 -hour flight, I was ready to head on to New Plymouth, which is four hours away from Auckland where we landed. New Zealand is such a beautiful country with very friendly and helpful locals. I picked up my race number without much fanfare at the Auto Lodge headquarters, and had my usual pasta dinner at a nearby Portofino Restaurant and slept for six hours. At 6:30 a.m, bus shuttles were provided for free to bring the runners from the headquarters to Mt. Taranaki, which took around 35 minutes.

When we arrived, it was cold, dark and foggy at 8 degrees Celsius but it soon started to clear with the sun up at around 7 a.m. Minutes before the race time of 7:30 a.m., the race director told us, “The first four kilometers of the marathon is extremely fast. Remember to plan your early pace. There are hills towards the end, which will take their toll if you start too fast.”

The race started and the immediate downhill route was just too tempting for me to go slow. The route was quite scenic along forests, farmlands with cattle, sheep and horses running freely. At the halfway mark, I was very surprised with my time of 1 hour 40 minutes, eclipsing my 21K PR of 1 hour 41 minutes.

My most memorable part was running alongside the majestic Mt. Taranaki, which reminded me of our very own Mayon Volcano. It is often claimed to be one of the most symmetrical volcanoes in the world and because of its resemblance to Mt. Fuji, Taranaki provided the backdrop for the movie “The Last Samurai.” At the 30K mark, with a few rolling hills, I felt like I was approaching my “wall” and realized that I may have started too fast. But when I saw the sea in the last five kilometers, my second wind came. Not only did I finish strong, I achieved my goal of getting my best time of 3 hours 37 minutes and 19 seconds for my 36th marathon. I was so happy and ecstatic and Donna immediately congratulated me and told me she was confident I would get it because of the dedication I put into it.

I gave myself a 20-minute rest before heading for my next goal, the “Shire” in Hobbiton, which is a three-hour drive from New Plymouth. Yes, I did drive my rental car and it was the first time for me to handle a left-hand drive car while attempting to catch the last tour at 5:30 p.m. the same day.

This was my last chance as I would be heading back to Cebu the next day. My GPS conked out at 5:05 p.m. and I had to ask for directions the old-fashioned way along the road. I finally reached Hobbiton with seven minutes to spare, which made it a perfect day! The Shire was indeed very beautiful and breathtaking. They must have spent a small fortune creating that place, which is no wonder director Peter Jackson maximized the filming there.

The next day in Auckland before heading back, I searched for my special souvenir that I always get whenever I am pleased with my performance and the race. I found a huge Maori Waka boat, which was hand carved in New Zealand. The Waka are characterized by a carved prow depicting god of the sea and god of wind and storms.

I hand-carried it along with my commemorative medal all the way to Cebu. Seen you in Kawasan Falls Marathon this March 23 2014 in Badian, Cebu! (Dr. Potenciano Larazzabal III, Contributor)


The author is the organizer of the Kawasan Falls marathon.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 09, 2014.


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