Wednesday, September 10, 2014

3rd Impasug-ong Half Marathon: Running in Bukidnon's Land Down Under

A few years ago the Municipality of Impasug-ong became famous due to the movie Land Down Under (retitled to Love Me Again), starring Angel Locsin and Piolo Pascual, which was partly filmed here. Impasug-ong's stunning vista of verdant rolling hills and mountains was the perfect setting for the movie's cowboy theme. That is also accentuated by the fact that municipality is known as "Home of the Country's Finest Cowboys"

Last Sunday, September 7, 2014, I joined the 3rd Impasug-ong Half Marathon and 4th Invitational Fun Run. The race is part of the Araw ng Impasug-ong festivities. I am supposed to join only the 10K category since I am coming off an injury which sidelined my running for almost 2 weeks. The prodding of my officemate, however, convinced me to take on the half mary challenge. Despite the lack of requisite long runs and knowing fully the route's (very) challenging terrain, I told myself to just make this race a kickstart of my training for the Milo Marathon Cagayan de Oro Leg in November.  

We slept in the town's one and only guest house the night before the race. The chilly night gave me a good night sleep, a rarity in most of the races I joined. Come Sunday morning, I was huddled with other participants coming from different places of Mindanao in front of the Impasug-ong's beautiful plaza where the race will start and finish.

Photo Credits: Arnel Quirino

Photo Credits: James Paulican
21K gun start fired off shortly before 6 AM. It was a late start but fortunately, the cloudy skied hovered over us all throughout the race. From the town plaza, the route first went to Tourism Center along Sayre Highway. This spot is famous for the gigantic ethnic statues which welcomed everyone who visits Impasug-ong. We then went back to town proper, passed the starting point and started to descend towards the Old Atugan Highway.

The portion after passing by the residential area of the Poblacion is my first favorite part of the route. The open road, flanked by corn fields on both sides, gave way to the beautiful sight of Impasug-ong mountains up ahead. Aside from habal-habal motorcycles, there are hardly any vehicles passing by this road. And since I am 100% running and not taking photos on the side, I have all the time to better soak in the view.  

Photo Credits: Johann Pontillas
The descent from the Poblacion lasted a little over 2.5 kilometers and after crossing two bridges the hellish part of the route begins. The long uphill stretched for more than 3 kilometers until the turning point at the barrio of Patolangan. Needless to say, I run-walk for most part of this route.

The turning point is only a few hundred meters from the Sayre Highway as vehicles passing by can be seen already. I checked my cellphone's Sports Tracker and it says I've already ran almost 13 KM from the start.

Backtracking the last 8 kilometers, I was thankful to have reached the unpaved portion as it is where the long downhill begins. Making up for lost time, I increased my pace while enjoying the stunning panorama of the Atugan Canyon at the same time. This is my second favorite part of the route but I tried not to go all out as I know that another HELL lies ahead.

Photo Credits: Johann Pontillas
The last 2.5 kilometers gave me the most struggle. It started with a steep ascent then followed by long gentle slope all the way to the finish. Having already ran more than 18K, I struggled negotiating the terrain and have to take longer walk breaks. 

I caught a sigh of relief after finally seeing the finish line arc. I would have wanted to sprint the last hundred meters but my legs were already trashed. I managed to cross the finish line at 2:27:49 and due to tiredness, leaned both hands immediately at the marshal table.

Despite the slow run, I am glad to have finished the route within my target time of sub 2:30, the Milo Marathon 21K finisher's medal cut-off and my standard for a decent half mary finish. That my wife finished 9th place in the women's 10K category gave us another reason to more happy after the race.

It was another successful staging of Bukidnon's longest running race with a major distance. It was well organized, the hydration stations are well stocked with water and sweet bananas and the post-race food pack consists of boiled egg, camote and sweet corn was really filling. Despite the very tough terrain , the beautiful view of Old Atugan Highway make the run all worth it.

Congratulations to Impasug-ong LGU, Malaybalay Runners and Panahik Adventure Center for a job well done. 

Since I did not take photos during the race, some photos posted here were taking from previous runs. For more photos of the race, visit this links:
1. Photos from Johann Pontillas: 
2. Photos from Arnel Quirino: 
3. Photos from Nathaniel James Paulican: