An Alternative Track to ULTRA

I nudged myself up early this morning to join Betty and Tonette on our regular Thursday run at Ortigas. Hadn’t run since our LSD last Sunday and i’m feeling guilty about it. As always, by the time i reach Mercury Drug along Meralco Ave, i’m all drenched in sweat as i get a head-start of 6kms before we all finally get to run together.   

We chose one of our favorite routes–that is inside the MERALCO compound where they have a 2.5 km loop with mild inclines, a small community of joggers and almost no vehicles to contend with. However, this morning was going to be different as Betty gave a heads-up of a dirt track that was just inside the vicinity which is hidden from the usual loop. As Tonette confirmed that there really is a track located at the back exit of the gym, we all decided to check it out.   

The Meralco Dirt Track oval. Betty giving it a test run

The Capitol Medical Center in the foreground

Betty and i were surprised to see the dirt track and the only way to access this is by entering the main Gym and walking through the back exit. Though the track itself is of dirt and rough sand, it is very well maintained and the sand seemed to absorb the water very well despite the continuous rains in the area. However, this is not your regular 400 meter standard track oval found at other Sports centers but is merely around 250 meters in circumference.   

Aside from the three of us, there were no more than five other joggers who were using the track. The surface was soft and is conducive to fast running. Betty and i did a series of 3 x 1km at around 6:00min/pace and around a dozen 150 meter sprints. I really felt good all throughout the run although Tonette had to take it easy because of a bum knee. Betty likes to kick butt and she sure kicked mine as she was smoking around the track as if there was no tomorrow! 🙂

It was a great run and the fun didn’t end there as it continued through Betty’s breakfast table where we had gourmet coffee with bread and corned beef hash! Thanks, Tita!  

This is now going to be a good alternative to our early morning, once-a-week runs at the Ultra since the latter is now off-limits from 4am–9am until December. Nice running—nice start of the day!  

The track's south side

Trees surrounded the oval

A view from the other end

The Meralco Fitness Gym

Going on her own

Making Do With A Dirt Track

While contemplating on doing some interval runs on a rubberized oval track, i was wondering if there was even one that existed near my place in Quezon City. The nearest one i’ve been frequenting in the past is the Marikina Sports Center, about 10 kms away and i’m not even sure now if their track oval is still open to the public.

That Quezon City, a premier business, commercial and residential hub which prides itself as being a cosmopolitan city and was once the Philippines’ capital doesn’t have any decent rubberized track and field oval of its own is a travesty, a disservice to its athletes and to us ordinary runners who would want a decent place to train.

If Pasig has its Ultra Sports Complex, Marikina its Marikina Sports center, Manila its Rizal Memorial Complex and Makati its University of Makati track oval, then why doesn’t Quezon City have one? I’m not aware of any of the major schools having a decent track.

We all know that running fast repeats on a relatively fast and soft surface that gives stable footing like a rubberized track offers some unique training benefits by improving your speed without the added stress to your legs.

The dirt track

Dirt track oval

If the picture above seems familiar, but not quite familiar to those running outside of Quezon City, then let me tell you that this oval is located inside the University of the Philippines campus. This is not the popular 2.2km academic oval where majority of runners do their running but this is a 400 meter dirt track located at the back of the Alumni Center, used mainly by the school’s football team.

It’s not swank or anything like those of Ultra or Rizal Memorial but it can serve the purpose for those who want to inject some measured interval/speed runs in their training specially now that the surface is dry and firm. A few days ago, just to test the track, i did some speed runs consisting of 5 x 400 runs at faster than 5k pace and 6 x 200 meter sprints. Over-all the surface was good, fast but not too firm.

During the rainy season though, it’s quite impossible to run in here as it becomes a veritable obstacle course where water is ankle-deep and your shoes are practically covered with mud.

I wish that the school authorities or the government gives priority and allocate a budget to develop this track oval where not only UP students would benefit but also for health conscious residents of Quezon City so they can use it too for their workouts.

Taken before sunrise

Two friends playing badminton in the middle of the oval

Left side of the track