The 2016 North Face TNF100: A Short Review

Every trail has its own unique characteristics… it has its magnet of charms, its allure speaking at you to discover it. Many are mostly gentle, letting you savor its calm terrain and green scenery. But it can also be harsh, forcing you to climb its steepest hills and stumble when you step on outgrown roots, hidden on soft, mushy pine needles.

Its sternness however reminds us that for every route that we take, there will be gale winds to blow our faces, higher mountains to trek until we are out of breath, rivers to slip into its cold waters until we reach the other end and only then would we be rewarded and discover who we truly are.

Last week-end, i was one of those fortunate to run the 2016 North Face Trail Run Challenge at the paradise-like Camp John Hay in Baguio City.

A loop going to the Eco Trails with the 11k runners

The John Hay Country Club was the start of the 100k, 50k, 22k and 11k trail run distances as the route showcased the scenic mountain ranges and the pine tree-lined trails of the Cordilleras. The race course is not new to me, having ran it several times with blogger and trail runner, Franc Ramon during my visits in his hometown here in the City of Pines. As part of the Primer Group Media Team led by Ms. Aileen Frugal, Media Relations Officer of the Primer Group, we were able to observe the activities of this premier race and witness hundreds or maybe a thousand trail runners testing their mettle in this scenic but harsh route laid out by the organizers.

Media and bloggers converge at the Microtel before our respective races

The 50k runners on their way

Leaving Manila at about 10am, we arrived in Baguio City at 3:00pm, checked-in at our designated hotel, the dainty MICROTEL with just enough time to freshen ourselves before the race briefing and race packet claiming for the 50k and 100k runers at the nearby Newtown Hotel which started at 4:00pm.

When we arrived, the place was teeming with hundreds of trail runners, many familiar faces, old friends and others i met for the first time. The briefing was held in a convention hall of the hotel that was large and pretty expansive. The packet pick up was an easy process and the organizers took turns in discussing all details of the race and an open discussion of concerns ensued.

At the race briefing center in Newtown Hotel where hundreds of trail runners came to pick up their race packets

With known personalities in the trail running community (L-R) Iggy Lopez, Monolito Divina, Thumbie Remigio and Wilnar Iglesia.

The following morning, Saturday was the race of the 50k and 100k distance runners with the latter taking off at 3:00am while most of the Baguio City residents were probably still tucked in their blankets. The 50k runners were sent off an hour later. Later that morning, our media team had the chance to visit and survey parts of the route, visiting various Aid Stations while watching runners come and go during their breaks on these stations.

U-Turn of the 50k runers at Itogon, Benguet

Last shot for 50k runners before they turn around on their way back

We saw first hand the difficulty of the terrain these runners had to endure, specially the 100km runners who had to battle intense heat, miles of undulating steep climbs, freezing cold when they reached the top, sudden downpours, cold sweeping winds, deep ravines, and thick fogs that rendered their head lamps useless. It was a difficult course navigating, exacerbated through the storm’s calamity. Later learned that many were not able to finish the race because of these trail hazards. Still a gallant effort for all these trail warriors!

100k Veterans, Jon Las Bruce and JC Igos on their lunch break at AS5 (Camp 1) before their assault back at the mountains. Both finished their race just 3 hours before cut-off time

While the 100k and 50k runners were out on their journey on the trails, the media and bloggers had a long Press briefing with Tim Sedo (L), TNF Regional Marketing Manager for HK and Asia and Jundel Llagas, Jr. (R), TNF Division Manager. Both had committed to support the TNF races in Asia, particularly in the Philippines where trail runing has grown leaps and bounds. They both assured that the TNF Trail Challenge Philippines will be in Baguio again next year, 2017.

The following day, Sunday was our turn to blaze the trails inside John Hay. I was originally set to do the 22km distance but didn’t want to bring havoc to my still recuperating left Achilles tendon so i decided to downgrade to the 11km distance.

With two of my media friends

Before the start with the 50k runners

We arrived at the venue at about 4:30am with cool weather and some morning fog enveloping the area. I was with about 10 other runners from the media and were poised just to have a good time running on one of the most beautiful paths of Baguio City.

With the SMART Communications Team and their Big Boss, Ian Yu aka Dagul Runner (L).

Champion of the 50k distance from South Korea who came in at 5:34:18

The 11k distance actually measured to 12.6k. It was a feeling of exhilaration combined with moments of exhaustion because of the arduous ascents on the middle stages of the route.

One of the best views running at the Yellow Trail

Highlights of this run are the rolling hills of the Eco Trail, the 500 meter zigzagging climb up to the Yellow Trails where i experienced some kind of oxygen debt just trying to put one foot over the other in reaching the top, the pine tree-laden Yellow Trails and the 45 degree, 300 meter slippery descent towards the embassy area which you will have to climb back once you reach the turn-around point. Best highlight many first-timers were raving were the great views all through-out, from the mountain ranges, deep ravines and the exceptionally wonderful trails with the pine trees surrounding it!

Runners at the Eco Trail

Congestion during the downhill parts of the trails

At the Yellow Trails

This was my 2nd time running the TNF Trail Challenge as last year’s race in Nuvali was one i didn’t savor too much as it was warm and humid compared to the cool mountains of Baguio. The TNF100Ph2016 lived up to its hype as it had what the organizers said it was…cool breeze, fresh air, awesome mountain views, umbrellas of pine trees, wooded forests, friendly race marshals and a lot more.

Some markings on the trails (c) Randy Belen

In no way do i get runner’s high or anything that will impress me anymore but having said that, it was still a great experience! The hills almost ate me alive, but I didn’t let me get the best of me. It was quite the hilly course but the people i ran with, the views and great camaraderie make it for an unforgettable experience.

Over-all, a amazing race and a majestic course.  Never have I experienced anything like it. And I highly recommend the short distance races (11k and 22k) for those new to trail running as a bucket list. Anyone can do it. Thank you TNF and Aileen Frugal of the Primer Group for hosting a great event!

Here are some pictures of our TNF experience. Enjoy!

With Ricky Francisco and his friend, Judith

With Cardimax-Clark Ultramarathon organizer and Simple Hydration Ambassador Tin Ferrera


With the Antique Hangaway Trail Run organizers led by Toto Manie Magbanua (second from left)

With 50k finisher, Marie Joyce!

With Pat and Tolits

At the MICROTEL where we were billeted.

With Iron Iris

The one and only Jose Ramizares!

With Majo Liao and the Great Jared!


The one and only shot from the Running Photographers! Thanks!

TNF100: A Riveting Trail Run

L-R: Tagaytay Highland’s Alfredo labadan II, TNF Regional Brand Manager Ken Co, Majo Liao, TNF100 Female Champion, Primer Group AVP Dinah Yau Lim

The TNF100 was staged in Nuvali in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for the first time this year and winded through the scenic ridges of Tagaytay and through the rugged foothills of Talisay in Batangas. The runners were met with some of the most craggy and undulating hills that veteran trail runners have ever encountered!

At the start (22k) with Franc Ramon and the Running Atom

To say that the 100k run or even the 50k distance was very challenging is the understatement of the year! It can only be described as an epic pain in the arse ultra trail run as it was utterly debilitating even demoralizing at some points, according to my friends who ran both distances. True enough, statistics would tell. Out of the 231 starters of the 100km race, only 49 were able to finish the distance while for the 50k runners, a better percentage of 121 runners completed it out of a total of 162.

For the shortest event, the 22k distance, 458 runners finished out of a total of 570 runners. Results of the race could be found here:

As a consolation, many of the veteran runners who have ran the 3 previous TNF100k stagings in Baguio said that the present course in Nuvali is trickier and more arduous than those staged in the former venue. The very hot and humid weather at Nuvali proved to be the downfall of many participants!

Assault to AS7


Clearly, the course was not designed for the average trail runner. And contrary to what many perceived as an easy course compared to that of its previous Baguio venue, this year’s TNF100 was a monster route, not designed so that everyone can easily finish. Many runners, took the course very lightly and few were prepared to race on one of the most technical trail routes for this event.

So while the ultra distances were very tough, one would expect that the short 22 km distance (which i participated in as a media/blogger observer) would also have its own bells and whistles of a killer course. Surprisingly, it was tame, very manageable and with as little a challenge as doing a speed training run on the roads. The course is mainly on single tracks with some parts surrounded by lush greenery, a small stream and some gentle rolling slopes of both ground and concrete.

I was able to run two-thirds of the distance with 3 other wonderful female trail runners, Vanessa who i was able to train with during the Mt. Marami Trail Test Run a few weeks ago, her friend, Tess and a hiker and mountaineer, Marissa. I sort of set the pace of doing a run-walk method which worked out really good because it kept us from walking too long or running too fast. It also let whomever was leading to choose when they wanted to walk, and for how long. Mostly it was just the steep hills that we would walk, but later in the race we started to walk a bit more (and laugh a lot more). Just keep on moving, that was our only goal– to finish the race before cut-off time.

L-R: Marissa, moi, Tess and Vanessa

And finished we did… more than an hour before cut-off time and it was great finishing the 4 of us with our hands clasped together as we crossed the finish line! It was reminiscent of my Mt. Sembrano Trail Run Challenged when i crossed the finish line with 2 other female runners.

With trail runner friend, Ricky Francisco

We start as a group of people…we finish as a group of friends!

Thanks to Aileen Frugal, Media Relations Officer of the Primer Group of Companies for inviting me to run and observe the TNF100 proceedings, to the organizers and volunteers for putting together an outstanding race and to all the runners who toed the line, finished or not—job well done, guys!

TNF100 2015: Elevate yourself
The North Face 100 hosted the boldest trail running competition of the season, gathering the country’s top ultra-marathon runners to best it out in the Nuvali-Batangas challenge.

For five decades, The North Face remains to be the leading outdoor brand that supplies authentic, technically-innovative outdoor gear and apparel for active lifestyle enthusiasts. Whatever may be the nature of one’s outdoor inclinations, one can always find an extensive range of outdoor essentials at TNF.

Going beyond its position, at the heart of TNF is ensuring that outdoor recreation continues to flourish which ultimately inspires the brand to innovate as well as to reach out to various outdoor communities whether by sponsoring top athletes or raising the bars of a sport through its groundbreaking events. And one of the which is the biggest trail-running competition of the season, The North Face 100 or TNF100.

Hailed as the most challenging test of endurance for hardcore runners, TNF 100 was inspired by the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc race in Europe, a single stage mountain ultramarathon that takes place once a year in the Alps, of which the main sponsor is also The North Face.

Like the UTMB which is widely regarded as the most difficult foot race in Europe, it is TNF’s mission to elevate the standards of the community and urge runners to defy their limits. Once more, TNF100 did exactly that as it hosted the Philippine-leg of the competition last June 12 to 13 at Nuvali, Tagaytay, and Batangas.

With the first-ever TNF100 Philippines held in 2008, the race had gone from merely having a hundred participants to nearly 2,000 as it has come to be most highly anticipated trail running event that offers a truly unique experience and immensely challenging terrain. Over the years, TNF100 have had races in challenging and diverse terrains including ones in Clark, Batangas, Camsur, and Baguio, Benguet. This year, the route began and ended at Nuvali in Sta. Rosa Laguna, and encompassed the scenic trails of Tagaytay and Cavite all the way to Talisay, Batangas.

The race was divided into three categories – 100km solo, 50km solo, and 22km solo – for both men and women. On Day 1, the 100k began at exactly 4:00am while the 50km began at 5:00am which required runners to traverse the trail of Nuvali. Meanwhile, Day 2 saw the most competitive runners test their mettle as they race to the finish line from Nuvali all the way to Talisay, Batangas and back to Nuvali. The following day, another batch of runners gathered at 5am for the 22km race.

In the end, the toughest and most enduring runners stood out as they proved to be the very epitome of defying one’s limits. Recognizing what could be the most pivotal point of their trail running experience, the winners were awarded with medals and trophies as well as big cash prizes and TNF products to to equip them with the necessary resources they would need to continuously defy their own limits and elevate the community in the process.

Once more, TNF has held a wildly successful event that brought together the entire community of runners for a two day celebration of their unified passion for the sport and the great outdoors. The TNF100 2015 marks another significant milestone for the brand and the community as it paves the way for two important things. One of which is to showcase the breath-taking landscapes of the country to inspire everyone to go outside and explore and secondly, TNF had once again took part in raising awareness for the sport and elevating the community to a whole new level as it hosts a bigger and bolder race each year.

The North Face 100 was made possible in partnership with NUVALI, SEDA Hotel Nuvali, AXN, Gatorade & Summit as it’s official hydration sponsors, the Primer Group of Companies, R.O.X., Department of Tourism, LGUs of Laguna, Cavite and Batangas, Tagaytay Highlands, Municipalities of Canlubang, Tagaytay and Talisay . Thanks also to our media partners Business Mirror, Business World, Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin, MB Sports Digest, Speed Magazine, and Men’s Health.

(Press Release)