I came, I Saw, I Savored! Savored may be a cheezy term in relation to Julius Caesar’s conquest over Pharnaces II in the battle of Zila but it may be true too to all runners who both conquered and savored yesterday’s All Terra – King of the Mountain 10k Trail race at Timberland Heights in San Mateo, Rizal. Missing out the TNF 21k trail race 3 weeks ago because of another race i attended on the same day, i didn’t miss this opportunity this time as Timberland heights just lies less than an hour from Quezon City.
While most runners came to race the trails, my purpose was more on discovering and appreciating the trail itself, as i aimed in experiencing the roughness and challenge as i was going to run here for the first time. However, the toughness and physical demands of the route, as i would later learn, was more than i had hoped for as they, for the most part, left me gasping for breath.
This mostly forest-enclosed trail will challenge even hardened trail runners. The steep inclines, wet and muddy terrain kept many to walk and exert great effort just to remain in balance while moving forward. However, along the route, we were rewarded with many scenic views of mountain vistas, fauna, a natural running stream and even an old chapel in the middle of the forest.
The race started about 50 meters past the guarded entrance gate as we quickly ascended into a moderate but long incline on a cemented road. Many runners had to walk past the 800 meter mark and i had to work my way through the field to keep up with running partner June Santiago but he was strong and kept pushing forward. Past the resort complex on our left, we started to enter the trail. The trail was soft and patches of stagnant water were present brought about by the rains that poured the morning before. I stopped to take photos of significant portions of the route while runners were careful to avoid the flooded part of the trail. Everyone was in good spirits, runners cajoling and teasing one another like kids until we reached the first water station two kilometers after the start.
The trails were single to double tracks, passing through open fields with small mountains and valleys as backdrop. The route were very well-marked by sign directions although i wished they would have also placed kilometer marks along the trails. By the 4th kilometer, the hills became unrelenting and the ground unstable under our feet as we walked-up inclines.
The marshals were very nice and friendly, some giving encouragement, the others forewarning us about the type of surface we were going to thread on. The water stations were adequately stocked and well-placed and i was even wondering how they were able to set up tables atop a ridge. If you had expected a Gatorade station, the organizers would have been able to set one up but that would be asking for too much. I and with many of the other runners were equipped with energy drinks in our hydration belts.
I was with a group of runners that i occasionally pass or get passed by when i stopped to take pictures. Surprisingly, when i ran in step beside them and converse, they all knew who i was and they tell me enthusiastically that they keep tab with my blog, my trail runs and so on. Wow, that sure was music to my ears, better than hearing jazz on anyone’s I-Pod! I forget to ask the names of some while i was also able to ask others but later forgot them–probably because of the constant jarring and pounding of the brain while running! 🙂
The narrow pathways approaching the 6th kilometer were mostly uphills with overgrown grass shrubs scrapping our legs. We ran/walked most of the hills until we reached a gravel road at the edge of a cliff which was flat. We took a stab at running once again and i was fine, being able to catch some rhythm again. I overtook some runners until we reached the last uphill as we scrambled up to the crest. Here, i took my last photo of the runners and decided to run seriously the last 2 kilometers.
The last 2k was mostly flat and i was back at the cement road leading to the resort hotel as i sprinted back to the finish line. Yes! June, who said he came in about 10 minutes earlier lead me to the tent for some nice cold drinks.
Running in trails is peaceful, you only hear the breathing of the runners beside you or that of your own. There are no crowds that sometimes mock at you, there are no motorists that angrily blare their horns when caught in traffic and there are no jostling between runners while taking their cups of water. There is only decency in trail running. Maybe the forest gods have cast a spell on whoever runs through it. Here, we are given a doze of tranquility, fresh air and whatever else nature presents itself.
Over-all, this race was one of the best organized races i have even been to. The route was challenging with some very nice scenery and i would recommend it to anyone who would want to enter this same route again.
I’m still savoring the experience as i write this.