Running The Sand Dune Trails of La Paz

(Our Ilocos Norte Sojourn, Part 1)

We arrived in Laoag, Ilocos Norte at 10:15am Saturday, a grueling 9 1/2 hour road trip from Manila. Dennis (runningpinoy) and i rode together in a Maria De Leon Super De Luxe Bus while McCoy and Wilnar arrived 15 minutes later via the Farinas Bus Lines as they could not reserve any more seats with the former bus liner.

With Dhentz on the bus

Our trip was made through the courtesy of Jinoe Gavan ( and Faivo Bartolome, well known Laoag businessman and the organizer of the Run Ahead, Raising A Roof Race. The four of us immediately checked-in at the Laoag Renzo Hotel, a cozy 3-star hotel located within the commercial hub of Laoag City. It would be my 3rd trip to this wonderful city, having been assigned here on various job related visits in the past. For Wilnar, McCoy and Dennis, this would be their first.

After a hearty lunch of famous Ilocano dishes with Faivo, we were brought to the Sand Dunes of La Paz, Desert of the North, as it is called which is about 6kms away from Laoag City proper. We were immediately struck by the uniqueness of the place. The approach to the sand dunes may seem ordinary, with rolling hills, the rustic scenery of thatched nipa huts and grazing goats which seem to look bothered with our presence. However, getting into the inner sanctum of the place, you immediately notice the mounds of sand dunes with heights ranging from 15 to 40 meters and get a panoramic view of the South China Sea a kilometer beyond.

View at the top of one of the dunes

The South China Sea at the background

With our host and race organizer, Faivo Bartolome in the middle

It’s like living out of a scene from every desert or adventure movie you ever saw when you were young and no wonder, these sand dunes were settings from foreign films like, Born On The Fourth of July, Mad Max and so with local films like Himala and the Panday series of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr.

The few foliage found on one of the dunes

Since we didn’t bring our running gear with us, we decided to go back to our hotel and prepare all our running essentials and head back again for the dunes. It was 3:00pm and some friends of Faivo fetched us and we requested to be dropped-off 3 kilometers before La Paz proper so we could run the remaining 3kms to the sand dunes.

Pat, McCoy and Wilnar setting out the pace

Rustic view near the entrance

Farm goats huddled during our run

Trail leading to the sand dunes

A small pond in the middle of the desert

Finding my way out

McCoy atop a ridge

We follow suit

Running towards the seashore

Reaching the shore, at last

Enjoying the rush of fresh water

Enjoying the scenery

Catching the sunset view

(L-R) Mac, Wincet & Dennis

On our way back

We shall return for the La Paz Sand Dunes 15k Trail Run next year!

Running in the sand with your shoes on isn’t easy, so running barefoot seems to be the only option but when the sand is as hot as the tin surface of a water kettle that’s just been boiled, better don on those shoes again!

However difficult the terrain is, with the ocean views on the horizon, the breezy cool air permeating your body and the endless miles of beachfront you can run forever, this is simply one of the most eye-popping running experience you will ever have!