THE country’s top ultramarathoners in the country test their limit as the 2017 edition of the Pilipinas Akyathlon gets going next month.

Tagged as the premiere skyrunning event in the country, the event which takes place at Mt. Ugo in Itogon, Benguet, is expected to lure close to 300 runners from across the country with foreigners hoping to crowd local runners in the competition set on February 5.

The event will feature a 42 kilometer lung-busting category with runners expected to run across rice fields, under a pine forest canopy, and over hanging bridges to cross the Agno River.

Start for the 42-km. sky marathon out-and-back race will be at the Binga Indigenous Peoples heritage site in barangay Tinongdan following the trail leading up to the summit of Mt. Ugo and back to the finish line.

The top Filipino runners in the competition will be the country’s representative to the upcoming Kota Kinabalu run in Malaysia later this year.

“While we expect foreigners in the competition, we encourage more Filipinos to compete and test their skills because we can excel in these kind of sports,” said Iris Torculas, marketing head of the Philippine Skyrunning Association.

Rated skyrunner Sandi Menchi Abahan is expected to carry the charge for local ultra marathoners who topped the 2015 edition.

Abahan is currently ranked as the number one Filipina skyrunner after topping international competitions particularly the 2016 edition of the Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon.

Also expected to join the climbathon sanctioned by the International Skyrunning Federation is Itogon lass Gretchen Felipe who placed third during the 2013 edition of the race and Bukidnon based Helen Tacling.

Nueva Vizcaya runner Marcelino Sano-oy is also seen to join the tough men’s field while 2016 Asia Trail Master Champion Manolito Divina of Pateros and 2014 edition champion Jemarvin Cabilan of Bukidnon is expected to make their presence felt in the event backed by the Municipality of Itogon and the Department of Tourism in the Cordillera.

The side event, a 25-km. mountain run will use the same route but makes an earlier turn at Sitio Lusod while the 10-km. road to trail race is an introductory course into trail running composed of roughly 30 percent road and 70 percent trail.

Organizers said each runner is expected to be self-sustaining, with their own hydration gear and nutrition while medical and water refilling station stations will be available in multiple points along the route.

Race briefing and race kit distribution will be on Feb. 4 at the Binga Indigenous People’s Cultural Heritage Site.

For more information, visit http://skyrunningpilipinas.com/ or http://www.skyrunning.com/ or their Facebook page. (Roderick Osis)