There are many reasons why one has to visit Vigan.
One is to enjoy the uniqueness of its historic town scape which is an architectural blend of Asian, European and Latin-American influences, showcasing its world-famous colonial ancestral houses.
Another is to sample their local cuisine and i’m a sucker for their bagnet, longanisa, empanada and sinanglaw.
For me, i wanted to visit Vigan to run the 1st Viva Vigan Heritage 15K Run!:-) Call me any funny word you will, such as addict or halimaw, it remains my firm belief and passion that running takes precedence over everything else and i’m sure most of you will concur.
Seriously, me and my running group of Betty, Mel and Tonette have been planning this trip way before it was announced that a race was going to be held in Vigan on May 2. Betty’s husband Ral is from the place and his family owns two well-maintained ancestral homes at the Heritage District so as luck would have it, the trip would coincide with the race itself.
After a nine-hour trip, we arrived late in the afternoon of Friday. The following day, Betty and myself had a trail run at the Baluarte which i posted earlier (the-trails-of-baluarte/). That run was supposed to loosen and flex our muscles but i ended up slightly sore and muddy as the trails were still damp as it rained the night before.
The city of Vigan is a serious running town and is spearheaded by its local running group, the TARAYEM Metro Vigan Runners Club which hold their daily runs around their scenic neighborhood. Tarayem, which means “run it” has joined major road races in Metro Manila like the first Quezon City International Marathon, Condura Marathon and the Milo races. No wonder that this running club has staged its first ever road race, the Viva Vigan Heritage Run which is now part of the city’s Binatbatan Festival of Arts, one of the biggest cultural events in the north.
The night before the race, i was able to meet Dr. Jun Kagaoan, the Race Director and one of the leaders of Tarayem. That night, he was hosting a small carbo-loading party for all the runners as we were given our race packets and a nice souvenir shirt of the run. Nice to have met the local runners and those from Manila who traveled all the way to Vigan just to join the race (see, i wasn’t the only addict!)
The morning of the race, i woke up early and had some coffee with Betty who was already done with her 2nd cup. We then changed to our running gear and proceeded to the race venue which was just a five-minute walk from the house. We did our customary warm-ups and by the time we finished, the race was about to start.
The 15k race started in front of the Vigan City Hall, after the 3k and the 10k runners were sent off. We made a quick right turn, then a u-turn and quickly descended to the city’s outskirts. I was pacing with Betty and we ran just under 6:30/min pace which we maintained all throughout the race.
The road marshals, police and other race officials were in full force all throughout the route to direct the runners run through small neighborhoods, major highways and more neighborhoods while the residents were now out in their front yards, just staring at us without words being said. One thing surprising is that for every barangay (small district) we passed through, there were tables with cups of cold water being offered so water was abundant all along the more than 10 barangays. You could sense that each district contributed their share of drinks and residents pulled out all the stops to support all the runners.
I even saw jars of coffee, sugar, cream and a large thermos of hot water laid out on the table, probably thinking that we could stop and have a coffee break, then resume running!
The course was nearly flat as Betty and i passed some of the 10k runners. The road going to the Baluarte entrance was a bit uphill and we noticed for the first time the Bengal Tigers that were caged near the entrance. I over-heard a marshal on a motorcycle half-jokingly say that once runners pass by the tiger’s cages, Congressman Chavit (Baluarte’s owner) would release some of the tigers from its cages, engage these tigers to chase after us runners so we would be forced to run faster! When i finally reached Baluarte, my eyes were guardedly fixed on the cages!
The last five kilometers of the race were ran alongside a river where clams and other shellfish were grown. The river connected to the South China Sea and the scenery was awesome! I was still in-step with Betty and when we reached the last two kilometers, a fire truck was stationed, waiting to shower us with water. Shades of Condura!
The last kilometer was the most exciting part as we ran along Crisologo Street, the main street and showcase of the Heritage Village, and felt our feet pounding the cobble stones beneath us. The two of us ran our lungs out with probably half a dozen marshals on motorbikes who were on our back and sides with blaring sirens and “wang-wangs” so deafening as they were escorting these two “turtles” who felt they were Haile and Paula being led to the finish line!
As the crowd began to gather to see who these two hotshots were, we sprinted the last 100 meters as Betty crossed first and i was less than a second behind. Sheesh, that was fun! Our time, 1:40:16. We hung out a bit after the race and took some photos of the proceedings. It was a great event and a welcome change of pace and scenery from our usual chaotic race scene in Manila.
The atmosphere was upbeat and all seemed to be happy with their times as the course was measured accurately. We had some free Gatorade after the run, while Roselle and Betty were 5th and 6th over-all respectively, in the women’s category and both won some cash and a nice trophy mug!
When race organization is carried off with this degree of skill, precision and close cooperation with the town’s constituents, it stops being just another race and stands as a great event that will be highly anticipated and talked about on its subsequent staging!
Great job, Doc Jun!
Next: The Colours of Vigan!