Wyatt John R. Borja
WHILE most ladies were busy with other things, 250 of the country’s tough women runners took part in the 3rd All Women Ultra Marathon (Awum) in the wee hours of March 8-9, in Cebu City.
Dubbed “the longest fashion show”, Awum is one of its kind —being the only exclusive women’s-only 50-Kilometer running event here in our country (and in the world!). It not only showcases the spirit of sportsmanship and maternal camaraderie of our modern-day Maria Claras, but is also a celebration of being a woman in a male-dominated society.
They all came not just with determination. They brought forth their beauty in this tough pageant. They were all dressed ready to conquer the asphalts. Some dressed up in their full battle gears, and some minimally.
And as mandated by the race organizers, everyone wore blinkers of different colors which, in the darkness of the moonless night, reminded me of Christmas. But, if there was one observation that came to me as unique, it was that they were all wearing the same smile.
It was a get-together of some sorts, a collective of kindred spirits. While the bulk of the runners were from Cebu, some came from nearby provinces. A handful came from Yolanda-stricken Tacloban City and Dumaguete. I even got the chance to meet some friends and acquaintances from other events.
By the time Sen. Pia Cayetano finished her short speech, the countdown to the run started. By 10:10 pm, the race was on! Together with some supporters, we cheered on the throng of runners as they passed us by at the island across the Capitol building. I was just as excited as the person next to me. I took out my phone to take a video of the run. Camera flashes rained on as the ladies started to accelerate towards Escario Avenue. Together with some of the roving marshals and other bike-mounted supporters, we slowly followed the last runner.
After a few runners went by, I again grabbed my bike and proceeded back to the route and follow the runners. Along the route, I got the opportunity to see and understand the struggles of each and every runner. The event itself was like a philosophy class to me - in the midst of it, I got to ask questions and try to understand what was happening in front of me, why these ladies are doing this. As what I heard during the race briefing the previous day, ultra runners are of a different breed. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old, tall or short, with shoes or barefooted. Your struggle is the same as the person in front of you or behind you. It is a 50-kilometer struggle. I can just watch in admiration the efforts of every runner who tries to finish the race.
In a span of 50 kilometers, Awum provided 24 hydration/aid stations to pamper all the runners. That’s at least a station in every two kilometers (25 including the Finish Line). Running groups who manned their respective stations provided food and hydration. There was even a station that provided beer! And then there was “tugs-tugs” music. It was a party, a festival, a celebration!
To paraphrase a saying: The best Ultra runner is the one having the most fun. Everyone who crossed the finish line was a winner. Everyone who was at the starting line, for me, was a winner. Having the guts to even think to be a part of this prestigious event makes one a winner.
In just under four hours the first runner crossed the finished line. She got a crown and a scepter and was treated like a royalty, which is what she truly deserves. She didn’t just win the crown, she also became a symbol of being a modern woman - strong and beautiful inside and out.
Awum gave me something to ponder on. It gave me an opportunity to witness the beauty not just in the runners but also in running. Most of all, it provided me the inspiration to do an ultra marathon in the near future. It has shown me that if I could only push myself much harder, to move my distance a little farther, I, too, can earn a bragging right to be awarded with a medal and the distinction of being called an “ultra runner.”
From this day forward, this is going to be my everyday dictum: “ LIFE IS SHORT. RUN LONG.”