January 14, 2011
Days leading into the second edition of the Cebu Marathon, the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC) organizing committee must have been on tenterhooks.
With the resounding success of the first Cebu City Marathon last year, CERC was pressured to roll out an equally successful, if not better Cebu Marathon in 2011.
As CERC’s John Pages puts it, “the success of the first Cebu City Marathon came with a huge responsibility to come up with an even better marathon”.
As it turned out, CERC did not have to worry about the dreaded “sophomore curse”. On Sunday, January 9, the stars in the pre-dawn sky, the water cups at the stations and the pylons along the 26.2-mile road stretch were all aligned to make Cebu Marathon 2011 even better than the inaugural edition.
As usual, the water and aid stations were aplenty and well-manned, while the road closure implemented by the cities of Cebu and Talisay through the entire race course–kept the runners safe and (supposedly) in good form.
However there were three major improvements in this year’s edition that was lacking in 2010.
First, a much-improved Cebu marathon website and the event’s presence in the social networking sites allowed for better dissemination of information to participants. This was coupled with an online registration and payment facility, which made it much easier for out-of-town runners to register.
My hope is that the Cebu Marathon gets listed in the international marathon calendar. Unlike the other marathons in the country, only Cebu Marathon has the most predictable schedule – it’s always held on the 2nd Sunday of January. This predictability allows runners from far-away map-out training schedules and plot travel plans early.
Second, the 42K route this year was a great improvement from last year’s. Doing away with the twists and turns at Archbishop Reyes Ave. and San Jose Dela Montana (now Juan Luna Avenue), made the route simpler and more straightforward.
But simple and straightforward do not necessarily mean easier and faster. In fact, the 2.5 kilometer side-trip towards Gen. Maxilom Avenue’s undulating terrain some 35 kilometers into the race sapped most runners’ energies, even the ones who were running a conservative negative split in the first half.
This year’s route would have been perfect had the 42K runners ran through Maxilom during the first half and not in the final seven kilometers.
John Pages explained to me that the organizers wanted to take the 42K runners inside the SRP as early as possible in order to avoid the heat that SRP’s shade-less road and causeway is notorious for.
If I were to choose my poison, I would rather be caught running under the heat in SRP, than deal with the additional two hills in Maxilom at the seven-kilometer home-stretch.
Heat is a fact of life in the tropics and it can be managed by sponging, putting up additional water stations and the firemen’s misting stations. On the other hand, there is no mitigating the hills in the final seven kilometers. The hills in the homestretch are in fact so unforgiving, it will make you cry.
Letting the 42K runners run Maxilom in the first half will allow CITOM to open this busy avenue to motor traffic as early as 6AM. This way everybody wins -- non-runners included.
Aside from this small revision suggested in this column, the current Cebu Marathon route looks really promising. I hope they keep it in future editions so that the 42K runners can set and reset course records over the years. If you notice, the routes of major big city marathon hardly ever change.
Third, the finisher’s medal featuring twin mangoes – one of Cebu’s iconic symbols, was much heftier this year.
This makes me wonder. Will CERC add one mango to the Cebu Marathon medal for every year of its run? The mango medal design possibilities are endless. The additional mangoes for every edition can be quite a seducer. I should know because this was how I got seduced into running the full marathon at the last minute instead of merely running half, just four weeks into my training schedule for the Hongkong Marathon.
I didn’t want to miss this year’s twin-mango medal especially after receiving last year’ solo mango version. The goal is to hopefully have 10 mango medals lined up on my wall on my 42nd year, eight years from now.
Photos and video from www.cebumarathon.com