Picking up a trail among the dozens of forest trails in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan is a challenge. We initially planned to go to Licao-Licao to explore its rough roads and trails but vehicles were not allowed to go past Ciudad Real (CR), another wide forested area that leads to Licao2 as CR has been off limits to vehicles. Nevertheless, we settled to cover Ciudad Real instead, which is just a few hundred meters north of the boundary with North Caloocan.
I’ve never read anything about running on Ciudad Real’s trails on any blog but rest assured, this 18km stretch of trails ranks right up there with the best i’ve ever ran. So why is it amongst the top of my list? Because these trails embodies everything that is great about trail running: rough and cragged tracks, uphills, solitude, post card sceneries and the one element that every asphalt, cement or tartan strider should experience: adventure.
Ciudad Real has it all.
Starting at the checkpoint entrance where a guard house is stationed, you warm up with an easy 2 kilometer jog of slightly rolling terrain, enjoying the greenery on your right side until you see a green-colored steel gate on your left. I don’t know why they bother to lock this gate (maybe to prevent 4-wheel vehicles from passing through?) when there are two small side openings where you can freely enter. Upon entering, you’ll immediately see the trailhead where the adventure begins. So, last May 3, running partner JUNE SANTIAGO and myself, each clutching a digicam headed off, not knowing what to expect.
A few words of caution, though. This isn’t your ordinary mud, sand or small gravel pathway where you just let your road or all-terrain shoe do the work for you. Protruding from the ground are jagged rocks and small ledges partly embedded so part of our visions were transfixed on the rocks as a slip-up could mean a serious ankle sprain.
The trail run begins with a moderate downhill passing isolated nipa huts. A few minutes later, we passed by a stud farm (reportedly owned by the Araneta family). From here, its a long cautious run that never bores due to the numerous ledges, rocks and goat dung that were intermittently scattered. Yes, you’re going to suffer the smell of goat’s dung but then, after a few minutes, you’ll be able to breath some fresh air again and take in the scenic views of the valleys.
What makes this trail so challenging is the continuous rocky terrain. You hop, sidestep, and weave minute after minute along rows of immaculate green fauna.
Not much of muddy potholes nor Parawagan-like steep hills to climb here. It’s just one blur of bushy, old growth foliage.
The trail run ends on to a cement road and from here, it’s about a 2.5 km cool-down back to the car.
When all is said and done, we had ran through 4 Barangays (Purok 8, Pagrel, Carmel Farms, Ricafort), 2 Monasteries (Augustinian, Blessed Sacrament), been witness to scores of cattle herds, meek stares of rural folks and the floating feeling of a runner’s high.