Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Independence Day Half-Marathon: Worst Race of the Year?

The Independence Day Half-Marathon was simply terrible. A total mess.

There's just no other way of putting it.  I should have followed my gut and just skipped this race.  I had very strong doubts about joining this race because I was  not familiar with the event organizer and the race director.  Maybe I'm just not in the know, but I think the people behind this road race are relative newbies to the "race organizing" scene.  Lest you think I am being too harsh with my opinion, consider these:

1.  The 10k, 15k, and 21k runners had ONE AND THE SAME gun start.  I have already joined a good number of races - both "big" and "small" - and this is the first time I've experienced something like this.  It was simply chaotic.

2.  The race route was not cordoned off.  Runners had to play patintero with vehicles in a number of stretches.  I even heard that a runner got hit by a car somewhere in Lawton Avenue.

3.  There were hardly any marshalls, and in the few instances where there were any around, the poor souls were practically clueless about the route and oblivious of what was going on.

4.  Km markers were few and far between.  At least five runners asked me about the distance.  I was fortunate that I had a 305, otherwise I most likely would have been the one doing the asking.  This, in my opinion,  is the most serious flaw of this race.  As I was doing my post-race stretch, I overheard a group of at least seven 21k runners openly discussing how they probably ran only 18k because they did only two loops instead of three at the closing stretch of the 21k route.  I didn't think they did that on purpose, though.  They got lost because there were no Km markers (only directional signs) in critical points, and the marshalls were as helpful as fire hydrants.  I myself almost missed out on a loop because a marshall prompted me to proceed to the finish line one loop early.  I checked my 305, and at that point, it showed that I had only covered 17.76k.  I made a u-turn and did another loop to complete the 21k distance.

5.  A lot of 21k runners who either got lost or missed a loop STILL crossed the 21k finish line.  This could only mean one thing.  The "official results" of this race would be crap.  Utterly useless and unreliable.  Good thing I don't see myself as competing with other runners whenever I join races.  I never entertain any illusions that I would ever get a podium finish in this lifetime or the next, that's why I compete only with myself, the clock, and the course.  That's what's great about this sport.

6.  There was a shortage of medals.  I had mentioned in one of my previous posts that I am a sucker for finisher's medals, and it really irritates me when there is a shortage.  It's simple, isn't it? Number of registered runners = number of medals.  For some reason, however, some geniuses still find a way to screw it up.  I couldn't care less about singlets - I almost never wear them anyway -  but I want my medal.  And here's the cherry on the sundae, the icing on the cake, the gravy on the KFC Chicken, whatever:  The group of 21k "finishers" who admitted running only 18k (see No. 4) ALL HAD MEDALS HANGING AROUND THEIR FRIGGING NECKS.  They only did 18k so they ended up crossing the 21k finish line way ahead of a lot of other legit 21k finishers (including me) --- and they had the balls to claim their finisher's medals! Where's the integrity in that? And they call themselves runners?

Anyway, some people at the finish line got my name and mobile number and said they'll contact me for the delivery of my medal.  We'll see. 

7.  The water stations were too short.  Proper spacing and just the right number, but waaaaay too short.  As in, just-one-or-two-monoblock-tables-long short.  They were also inadequately manned.  Most of the stations I passed as I was outbound were crowded.  Runners had to stop - as in a full stop - just to get a drink.  You can just imagine the precious minutes that the long queues added to the finish time of legit finishers (never mind the bogus finishers - they don't count).

8.  The 21k route was extremely boring.  It's bad enough that it was held at the Fort.  But making runners do three loops around one segment of the route? That's rubbing salt on an open wound.

The Independence Day Half-Marathon is a classic example of how NOT to organize and manage a race. It's sad because the race had so much promise - a rare Saturday race, an admirable theme (patriotism), very cheap registration fee.  But then again, that might actually be the rub.  It was dubiously cheap for a Fort race.  What's that cliche again? You get what you pay for? There you go.

Let me put in a little disclaimer, though.  Not all "small" races are like this, and my experience at this race would NEVER discourage me from joining "unbranded" races in the future.

Still, the day was not without redeeming factors.  Call these the day's saving grace:

1.  I think I'm getting my mojo back. I finished 21k with a gun time of 2:13:26 and Garmin time of 2:13:05.  It's four mintes off my 21k PR, but still an improvement of nine minutes over my last half-mary (2:22, Nature Valley).  Maybe my dinner the night before the race (spaghetti with meat sauce - Pinoy style - and fried chicken) and my pre-race meal (double cheese burger, GIANT cavendish banana, Gatorade) did the trick.  You see, I've greatly reduced my intake of carbs and meat. Over the last three months or so, my diet has helped me lose 12 pounds (prepping for BDM hehehe).  In my last few runs and races, I noticed that I tended to fade during the homestretch due to obvious loss of energy.  I loaded up big time for this race, and I think it paid dividends.  I can only speculate what my finish time would have been like had I not gotten lost and if the water stations had been longer.  Maybe I could have set a new PR, or even gone sub-2:05.  But then again, it is what it is.  I am happy with my 2:13:05 finish.

2.  Ice cold, absolutely free Pocari Sweat flowed like water along the entire the race route.

3.  The heat and humidity were tolerable.  It seems summer is finally, really over.  Perfect marathon weather!

And last but not least...

4. I finally have an angas Bald Runner 1,000 Km Club shirt.  As of this writing, I'm sitting on 1,397 kms.  Not bad, considering that I started logging my runs back in July 2009 only.  Thanks a lot to the Jedi Master, the one and only Bald Runner, Sir Jovie Narcise.

With a shirt like this, who needs a medal? :)

This is my last race before the grand daddy of local races:  the 34th National Milo Marathon Manila Eliminations on July 4.  I'll never qualify for the Finals, but I think a sub-5 hour 42k finish is definitely within reach this time around.


  1. congratulations and welcome to the 1000kms club! (i can sense you'll be joining upcoming pau races too hehehe)

  2. chief! saw your blog post at, read through it and suddenly when i reached the pictures, i said to myself, kilala ko ito ah! hahaha =D

    great review chief! i was also very disappointed. the race had huge potential but got mired with disorganization.

    congratulations on your PR and most especially the "angas" bald runner 1,000km shirt. winner! =)

  3. Hey Bud, Congrats in your 1000 Km Mileage Covered!Despite of all the mishaps that happened during taht funny race, a reward from BR would totally forget that mess! Getting and getting ready for BDM huh! See you on the road!

  4. I think the medals were also given to 10k and 15k finishers kaya naubos agad.

  5. "would ever get a podium finish in this lifetime or the next"......You know, it is that type of thinking that will always hold you back man. Do NOT settle for mediocrity. Yes, you might not be were you want to be, and it might take awhile, but you will be who you want to be. Look at your times, they are going down, and you are more knowledgeable. Ok, enough of far as the race, what a crock of evaporated horse shit. I have never heard of a gun going off for more than 2 races. That is just ridiculous. And not enough marshals, some one getting hit by a car? Those runners who claimed the medals knowing that they didn't run the full distance should feel very ashamed of themselves. Running is more than running, it is character and integrity. Shoot, I would have at least walked the last few km if I was spent thinking I was done with out a garmin you know? I just could not take a medal knowing that I didn't finish the entire course. I bet you are more proud of the 1000km shirt from Bald Runner huh? .......just a guess. Well, sorry about your race experience. At least you got in a nice long run, and great time too. Congrats on your PB. I am aiming for a sub 2:15 with my half in September. a sub 2 would be even better though. Best wishes in your training and preperation for the upcoming milo. Just drank some this morning, though, in the states, it is very expensive. I think I have actually typed a post instead of a comment here. Take care and God Bless.