(Our Ilocos Norte Sojourn, Part 2)
One time in the early 80’s, i had the opportunity in running a 10k or 15k race in Laoag City in what was called the North Star 10/15k Race. I don’t exactly remember the route but i’m sure we ran past the Paoay Church and a view of the Paoay Lake.
We were then in the company of Mr. JUN CASTRO, one of the major race organizers/directors back then and he would tag us along in the pre-race activities that included the carbo-loading party and various socials with the local officials. I was with my former GF (girlfriend, not Garmin) who also was running the shorter races. I’m not sure if it was Jun or Mr. Red Dumuk, another race organizer during those times who was directing the North Star Race.
But what i vividly remember are the local residents who would line-up the race course to cheer or jeer the runners. Well cheering comes as part of an spectators’ response to encourage sports participants to do their best and we runners do appreciate the encouragement.
However, one peculiar thing (or phenomenon, as i would put it) i noticed about the local spectators is that when a runner stops (usually for going too fast too soon) and is relegated to walk- specially in the early stages of the race, people would point their fingers at the runner while they laugh and sneer because he/she have been reduced to walking! It doesn’t matter whether you are a friend, relative or a complete stranger to them, you would have earned their ridicule and guaranteed you a place in their Hall of Shame!
Last Sunday was another opportunity for me to re-live the experience in running again in a Laoag City race. The day before, I asked Faivo, the race director if such jeering still exists at present, he said that it doesn’t occur anymore. This i will have to see for myself.
We woke up at about 4:15am, packed our race essentials, wore our running gear, walked down from our 3rd floor room and jogged to the race venue, Aurora Plaza which was less than a kilometer away.
In the small starting field of less than 300 runners, the 21k runners went first, followed by the 10k runners after 15 minutes then the 3 & 5k runners together who started last. I was entered in the 10k and just opted to set out in a slow, even-paced run just to enjoy the scenery with my camera in tow. Crossing the Gilbert Bridge at dawn was one spectacular view, the waters of the river glistened in red like a sprinkler as the sun was about to come out. We turned right to Airport Road which was quiet, devoid of the mass vehicles we see at races in Manila. We passed by old, quaint houses, open rice fields, old schools and universities. The course was mostly flat and we turned around when we reached the steel bridge after the St. Mary’s Seminary.
On the way back, i pushed the pace a little, passing a few runners and on the 7.5km mark, the lead 21k runners were already overtaking us. I had hoped to relax on the last 1.5km which was before we entered the “Welcome To Laoag City” arch when a younger runner decided to challenge me, so i finished with a sprint, holding off my opponent. Turns out that he was one of the race organizers!
The finish line was very orderly, there were chutes for each category and i was handed a loot bag after i crossed the finish line. This time, i did not witness any jeering during the race as there were very few, if any, who lined up the streets to watch the race. But the warm reception we got at the finish, the friendly smiles and the overwhelming hospitality we received, this Laoag City race made every runner feel special and welcome!