MY SISTER was done with my braided hair before I had a light dinner. My blinkers, hydration belt, Garmin, race bib and Warat sandals, among other race essentials, were all ready the night before. I kept checking my watch, excited for my long race that will start before midnight.

Last Saturday, after the anticipated mass, photo ops and selfies here and there, I joined 250 other women in celebrating the International Women’s Day on the road.

The race that started at the Cebu Provincial Capitol covered three cities – Cebu City, Mandaue City and LapuLapu City - and the town of Cordova, where the finish line was.

I only had two goals before I set my heart out to run that night: to finish before cut off and to join my sister from a different mister, Stacey Cardoso, in conquering her first ultramarathon (no matter what).

I’ve joined more than one ultramarathon races before and I would say that nothing really compares to Awum so far. You will never find an ultra as festive as the Awum—there is lechon at hydration stations, a live acoustic performance, a station that allows runners to retouch and put on make up after performing the latest dance craze , and a station where the nerds don’t do geeky stuff but serve water .Oh yes, this list and shout outs can go on forever.

The Awum is not only a gathering of empowered women from different walks of life. It’s also a gathering of the supportive gentlemen in our lives, who made sure the road was safe; of photographers who captured the beauty, strength, camaraderie and victory of everyone who took part in the race;and of our loved ones who stayed up, prayed and cheered for us.

Missing the Awum experience is missing half of your running life.

These things are just some of the reasons why I keep joining the race since its inception in 2012. I actually run the Awum to thank Daddy God for giving me the amazing women in my life – my mother, my grandmothers, my sister, my sisters from different mothers, my girlfriends, my mentors – and also for giving me equally amazing men.

I thought about them at every kilometer. When I started to feel the pain, I thought about how blessed I am for having them and the pain’s gone. I knew that thinking about them is more than enough inspiration to finish the race. Dedicating every kilometer of my race to people who matter to me never fails.

Awum 2014
PACING TOGETHER. The author (left) with her friends during the 50-kilometer All-Women Ultramarathon. (CONTRIBUTED FOTO/James Go)

Before Sunrise

In my previous two Awum, I was alone for the most part of the race. I had no one to talk to but myself. No one reminded me to slow down but myself. No one told me to eat and to water break but myself. I knew I could get used to it.

This year, however, I was with Rose Buenconsejo of Runroo and Stacey for the most part of the run . We reached the turning point to Cordova, the last stretch, before sunrise. We took turns in alerting each other when to run and when to walk.

Rose, the mom-like, checked on us every walk break, asked Stacey whether she wanted a massage or if we wanted to rest for a while. She kept reminding us to eat and slowdown, and she also scolded us when we ran faster than our agreed pace.

Stacey, the first timer, never ever showed a face of almost-giving-up although she said was already tired. She was listening to her music and just singing the pain away.

I knew she can and she will finish the race even if we leave her behind, but I stayed – because I wanted to be right beside her and hold her hand as she crosses her first ultramarathon finish.

Before Sunset

Stacey and I finished after nine hours and we crossed the finish line together. Rose had to stay behind to pace a fellow runner, and they also finished before cut off.

We found out that Senator Pia, who planned to only run 21K, enjoyed the race and decided to finish the 50K. A few participants decided to DNF for some reasons. The rest of the runners crossed the finish line before the 10-hour cut off.

New breeds of women ultrarunners were born in Cebu last Sunday and a new Awum queen was crowned – an amazing and inspiring mother from nearby Dumaguete City.

Sometimes, it doesn't matter how fast or how slow you finish a race— an ultramarathon at that. What matter more is the fact that you have set a goal, worked hard on that goal and accomplished that goal no matter what.

In my case, I finished before cut-off and I was with my sister when she conquered her first ultramarathon. We made it before sunset and it’s happiness at its finest. Glory to Daddy God.