“WITHIN or beyond cutoff (time), I will finish the race.”
This is what 47-year-old ultramarathoner Rhoda Caballero-Oporto said to herself before finishing the first edition of the Manila-to-Pagudpud 580-kilometer ultramarathon on June 3-9, 2019.
The race—organized by the Philippine Association of Ultra-runners (PAU)—was the longest ultramarathon held in the country.
An ultramarathon is a footrace longer than the traditional marathon, which has a length of 42.195 kilometers. The ultra runners often run a distance of more than 50 kilometers.
Even though it took her seven days to finish the six-day race, Oporto brushed off the idea of quitting.
The love shown by her family, friends, support crew and sponsors fueled her desire to finish the race. After reaching 500 kilometers, her pace became slower.
She then told her support crew that she could not finish the whole length on time. She then asked them if they were willing to support her beyond the cutoff time.
“Fortunately, they were very supportive. Their spirit of encouragement was overwhelming. So, who am I to give up?” she said.
Oporto said she underwent “extreme preparations” for the ultramarathon.
“I already knew what to expect and I had already conditioned my mind. There was no reason not to complete the race, unless I got injured,” she said.
Oporto became tearful after reaching the 580-kilometer boundary stone marker.
Nine years ago, Oporto started her love affair with running and joining races in and out of Cebu. She often landed in the top three spots in the competitions she had joined.
She started running at 38 years old. When she first joined a 500-meter race, that made her realize that running was not easy. Challenged, she attended classes that gave her lessons on proper running methods.
In 2012, Oporto joined her first ultramarathon.
Five years later, she participated in a series of races in Manila organized by the PAU. She ran 232-, 250-, 280- and 320-kilometer races.
Oporto also joined another 320-kilometer ultramarathon from Laoag to Sta. Ana, Cagayan in Luzon.
The ultra runner believes that her latest ultramarathon experience is incomparable.
“My preparation for that was long. I underwent extreme mental conditioning,” she said.
Running from Lapu-Lapu City in Mactan Island to Balamban town on the western side of mainland Cebu was her usual training route.
During the actual race, Oporto said she only thought of finishing 100 kilometers per 24 hours to pace herself.
The support crew, including ultra runners Cathy Villaflor and Lyra Vallez, were well prepared for the event. They made sure Oporto was supplied with water, food and clothes.
“It’s an advantage if your support crew are also ultramarathoners for they can relate to your struggles in the race,” she said.
On the third day of the race, Oporto felt disoriented. She took a nap.
An hour later, she decided to resume running.
Oporto later saw a waiting shed. She stepped inside it to sleep without her crew’s knowledge.
After she woke up, she ran again towards the finish line, meeting a fellow runner along the way.
Oporto said she has no plans of retiring from ultramarathon anytime soon.
She will possibly join another race.
The Cebuana runner has received an invitation for an ultramarathon to be held outside the country.
Oporto is recovering from the blisters and other physical pains she sustained during the race, but she said the joy in reaching the finish line would stay in her memory for the rest of her life.