IF YOU think running 42,195 meters to complete a marathon is ridiculous, meet Bro. Carlo Bacalla. He’s no ordinary marathoner. He’s an ultra-marathoner. And, last March 7, he joined a race that’s the farthest in distance: the Bataan Death March (BDM).

How far? One hundred two kilometers.

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Crazy? Yes. Because Bro. Carlo is crazy for sports. In our recent back-and-forth e-mail interview, he admitted, “Someone said ‘It takes an idiot to run a marathon but it takes a special kind of idiot to run an ultra-marathon!’”

Training director of the Don Bosco Training Center for out-of-school-youth in Pasil (among his myriad jobs)—that’s Bro. Carlo’s profession. His passion: running.

At the BDM 102K race that spanned from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga, a total of 142 registered (including Haide Acuña). In the end, only 104 finished. Bro. Carlo? Did he make it?

No.

I mean, No, he didn’t just make the cut... he finished 17th place! An outstanding achievement (clocking 14 hours and 38 minutes) for one who’s 47 years old.

He has completed nine marathons—plus the Ironman race last August in Camarines Sur. Why run 102 kms.? Only the most hard-core of men who can absorb pain, even relish it, attempt the distance. And that’s Brother.

“I had no idea about the BDM 102 until Jan. 15 when I was browsing for ultra-marathons in the Internet,” he said.

“I was interested in the ‘Famous Comrades’ of South Africa but was informed that registration was long closed. Then I came across The North Face (TNF) and BDM. I didn’t like the former because it was a trail run but the latter was closed too since Jan. 6.

I wrote a comment to the organizers of BDM and begged that I be allowed to join. On Jan. 18 I got the approval from the organizer, Bald Runner, and so the serious training of less than two months began.

Two months training for a distance the length of running from the Provincial Capitol to Bogo City?

“The route was unknown to me,” he said. “Fortunately, a priest-colleague from Don Bosco Pampanga volunteered to drive me and we did an ocular check before race day. It helped me gain confidence. I took dinner and drove to Mariveles, Bataan and met Haide Acuña (who was one of only nine women who finished the BDM) for our planned photo session at km 00.

The atmosphere was festive despite the poorly-lighted starting area. After taking photos, I had a chat with Haide. We encouraged each other and agreed to meet at the finish line.

The starting gun was fired at 11:30 pm. I made the sign of the cross and took the road.

My plan was to divide the distance to three: the first 42 kms. in five hours, same with the second 42 kms., and the final 18 kms. in two hours. But I had to make adjustments in the first part due to the many climbs. Part of the strategy was to run-walk in some stiff climbs. Practically, the second half of the route was flat but due to the heat which reached 41 degrees Celsius at noon time, I had to slow down. I instructed my support crew to leap frog every 2 km in the first 6 hours and at every 1.5 km thereafter. I took my drinks and replenishments in those stops.

At 10 a.m., due to extreme heat, we had to change strategy and had my support vehicle stop at every 1 km. until km. 102. There were times when I was tempted to race with the other runners, to go fast at the early part of the race or to run the uphills.

Those were moments of tests.

Right from the start I was confident I would finish the run but I didn’t expect to be in the 17th place. It would have been impossible to do it without a good support team. We had our vehicle stuffed with 12 Gatorade bottles and water, biscuits, power gels, bananas, pandesal, sliced bread, first aid kits.

I did something unusual at every kilometer post: I prayed to the holy souls of those who died during the death march to help me reach km. 102. I crossed the finish line pouring the last drop of water on my head and flashing the V-sign.”

For the full interview/photos, visit my blog...

(www.pages.ph)