Archive for Trail Running

Argao Highlands Endurance Trail Run


When I learned about the Argao Highlands Endurance Trail Run in Facebook I got so excited. After seeing the photos of the route I knew I just can’t miss this run however, the only thing that was holding me back was that the run was going to be held on May 11th which also happens to be Mother’s Day.


I browsed my old photos of our Lantoy hike in Flickr and the good old memories came flashing back to me. The thought of running this scenic route was just too good to miss. I was curious how I was going to fair in the run considering there are plenty of obstacles to hurdle from numerous river crossings to boulders. This only means loads of adventure awaiting which made me really excited. After deliberating with myself I finally gave in to the urge and signed up for the run.

River trekking in Argao almost 7 years ago.

River trekking in Argao almost 7 years ago.

Three days before race day I accidentally landed badly on my left foot after missing a step while walking. My left foot was in pain after the incident and I was worried if I was going to miss the run. Thankfully, after two days of icing my left foot the pain went away.

Icing my left foot

Icing my left foot

The race organizers had arranged for a free pickup for city participants from Abellana Sports Center to the start venue in CTU Argao the evening before the race. I was following Transvulcania Ultramarathon through iRunFar and I was initially hesitant to leave the house. Fortunately, I was able to drag myself out of the house with the help of my friend Beeping who constantly reminded me about the time. I arrived in Abellana Sports Complex just in time to catch the bus. I was happy to see familiar faces. The bus was packed with runners and unfortunately a few participants were not able to board the bus due to lack of space.

I had a good chat with Jake, race director of Runnilla, during the entire trip. The journey took more than 2 hours and it was past 8pm when we arrived in CTU Argao. I was having a slight headache as I was very hungry but I still had to queue to collect my race bib and event shirt before I can head out to eat dinner.

Me and Jake ate dinner at a local eatery. Other participants also arrived at the same place to have their dinner. We had lechon manok (roasted chicken), rice, soup and cold Coke as it was just too hot. I always liked the smell and taste of lechon manok in the province.

After a satisfying dinner, we decided to walk back to CTU-Argao instead of taking the tricycle as we were too full after eating two cups of rice. Along the way, we stopped by at Julie’s Bakeshop to buy bread for our breakfast the next morning.

As I was queuing to collect the cot from the race organizers, I met Boying together with my university classmate/tennis teammate, Imar, whom I haven’t seen for more than 10 years after leaving university life. It was a pleasant surprise and we had a good chat before I made my way back to the classroom where I had setup my bed for the night.

My bed for the night

My bed for the night

It was almost 11pm when I went inside the classroom. The lights were already turned off and the room was quiet. Everyone seemed to be sleeping except for Jake who was checking his phone for Transvulcania updates. I didn’t get to sleep until past 1am and I woke up at 2:45am as I can already hear people outside talking and preparing for the run.

Although I had already eaten my bread I was feeling light headed and lacking energy. I thought it must be the lack of sleep plus I wasn’t able to take shower. I normally take a bath before a race to feel fresh but not this time. I only managed to wash my face as there was no time. There was only one shower room and there was a long queue.

The race briefing started past 4am. We were told that there’s going to be 21 river crossings and just before the finish line there’s an underground tunnel we have to pass. We have a choice not to go inside the underground tunnel however, there’s a 10-minute penalty if we choose not to. My mind was wondering how small the underground tunnel is. I don’t like confined spaces as I feel like I’m unable to breath. I was a bit worried but I told myself to worry about this later. I will decide whether to go inside the underground tunnel or take the 10-minute penalty once I’m there and see it.

The warm-up exercises failed to energize me. I was still feeling sleepy and tired. I took one packet of Shotz Gel hoping it will give me the boost I needed that morning.

Race Proper

The race was scheduled to start at 5am however there was a slight delay. The race was flagged off at 5:30am by the Vice Mayor of Argao, Dr. Stanley Caminero, whose family owns the Coal Mountain Resort where the finish line will be.

The fast runners didn’t waste much time and were quickly out of sight. From CTU Argao we ran in the paved road in a residential area which lead to a dirt road. The orange glow of the morning sun illuminating the coconut trees and green fields that morning was just beautiful. It reminded me why I just love to run in the trails. I wanted to take pictures but I was too lazy to stop and get my phone from my hydration pack. I wished I had a GoPro and I can just take a video while I was running.

I was still about 2.5Km into the race and I wasn’t feeling good. I was feeling dizzy. I thought it must be the lack of sleep plus I may have started out too fast than what I’m used to. I decided to stop running and walked instead until I got near the 4Km mark where there was a downhill section which I tried running again.

After I got past the 4Km mark it was an uphill climb on asphalt road. I decided to power walk again as I wasn’t still feeling good. This section is quite long about 4Km stretch of asphalt road but the view of the mountains on the right-hand side entertained my mind.

As I continued to walk I started to feel better and I was able to run again. I crossed a bridge before turning left to a dirt road which leads to the river. By this time the heat of the scorching sun was something I didn’t welcome.

I made a quick stop at the aid station to drink water then made my way to the river. I I decided to take photos before continuing. I know this is the part where the real fun and adventure begins.

Race Marshal at the 1st river crossing

Race Marshal at the 1st river crossing

A gentleman whom I was running together just before reaching the aid station offered to take my photos. I initially declined as I don’t really take photos of myself but since he insisted I gladly took the offer.

At the 1st river crossing

At the 1st river crossing

Although the water wasn’t deep, I didn’t bother hopping over rocks and risk slipping. I just straight away wade in the water. With 21 river crossings, I will get wet at some point no matter what. Running with wet socks and shoes is uncomfortable as the shoes feels heavy but this is all part of trail running.

The trail went up and down the slopes as we crossed the same river multiple times. I caught up with Imar and we ran together for most part of the 2nd half. Some portion of the trail still looks familiar to me and it brought back memories when we trekked this river many years ago.

There’s plenty of action adventure in the 2nd half so it’s best to just post the photos 🙂

Made the mistake of climbing this boulder as it was much easier just to wade in the water

Made the mistake of climbing this boulder as it was much easier just to wade in the water. Photo by Dominic Panimdim


Crossing the river and the boulders


The most adventurous part of the race course


With Imar. Photo by Dominic Panimdim






Imar before crossing the river and the boulders


A race marshal assisting runners in crossing the river

A race marshal assisting runners in crossing the river


Imar getting down

Imar getting down


Bugasok Waterfalls

Bugasok Waterfalls

My phone ran out space so I could no longer take any new photos 🙁

I was happy to see the 19K marker although my Suunto Quest was only showing near to 16K. It was only about 2:45 into the race and I was thinking if there’s a possibility I can finish the run in a little over 3hours so I can go back to the city early.

There was an aid station just after the last river crossing however, I made the mistake of not stopping thinking I was near to the finish line and I still had enough water on my bladder to last me to the finish line.

The next section was a steep uphill cemented road with no cover from the hot sun which I really disliked. As I powered walk I kept thinking how come the last 1Km seemed so long. I definitely had run/walk more than 1Km since I last saw the 19Km marker.

It was struggle going up the tar road under the scorching sun and the worst part was that I ran out of water. I caught up with 2 other runners as we made an entry back to the trail. The marshal told us that we are now near to the tunnel. There were still uphill climbs and I kept thinking how far more to the finish line. The finish line seemed so near but feels so far away.

Finally, I saw a swimming pool and I thought this must be Coal Mountain Resort. A marshal told me to wait before crossing the bamboo hanging bridge. I was thirsty so I asked the marshal if there’s any water but unfortunately there’s none. I would have to wait until I reach the finish line.

I waited for the runner in front of me to be more than halfway before I started crossing the bamboo hanging bridge. I wasn’t halfway yet when I noticed the hanging bridge swaying badly. I turned around and saw the lady runner behind me running in the hanging bridge which really ticked me off. I asked her why she’s running and she’s told me it’s ok to run in the hanging bridge. I wasn’t happy that this runner never bothered thinking about safety. I decided to give way to her as there’s no point taking a risk when I know the finish line is just a few hundred meters away.

After crossing the bamboo hanging bridge, I reached the entrance of the underground tunnel. The underground tunnel didn’t looked so small and scary as I initially imagined whereby one needs to crawl. I wore the helmet and took the torch that the marshal handed to me. The underground tunnel was dark, narrow and muddy. It reminded me of Cu Chi underground tunnel in Vietnam except that this one is a lot shorter. There are sections you really have to bend low or risk banging your head which I did thrice but thankfully I was wearing a helmet. The last section involves a steep climb but I was relieved when I saw the light not too far away. After all the scrambling I was glad to be finally out of the tunnel and into the finish line. I finished the run with an unofficial time of 3:43 and despite my shoes and socks being wet for the rest of the second half I never had any blisters which was something to smile about.

Finisher's Medal

Finisher’s Medal

If you’re looking for adventure, this trail run will certainly not disappoint you. From river crossings, to boulder climbing, to hanging bridge and underground tunnel this race course has plenty to offer for the adventurous soul.

The trail was also well-marked. There were plenty of trail signs and marshals to guide the runners. Kudos to the race organizer, race marshals and volunteers for a job well-done to ensure the safety of runners especially in critical areas when crossing rivers and negotiating boulders.

The only thing I wished was that there were more water points. One runner commented that he saw more medic points than water points. Running on a hot and humid weather makes one sweat more so it was important to keep oneself hydrated. It was a good thing that I brought almost 2L of water on my hydration bladder at the start of the run.

My adventure didn’t end at the finish line. The lorry we took on our way back to Argao town had issues with the steering wheel. Luckily the driver noticed this and stopped before anything could happen to us as the road had steep descents. Despite the misfortune we just laughed it off.

It was day full of adventure indeed and I had no regrets signing up for this run.


Runnilla Eco Challenge Race Report


Runnilla Eco Challenge is a trail running event organized by Cebu Trail Runners and held last Sunday (13th April) in the municipality of Minglanilla, Cebu.

Runnilla Poster

Runnilla Poster

After looking at the photos posted on their Runnilla Facebook page, I was enticed to sign up for the 30Km trail run. Apart from what seemed like a beautiful trail awaiting the trail runner, joining the run was also for a good cause as the race organizers were raising funds to help Calbasa-an Elementary School buy a new generator. The school is located in a remote mountain barangay without electricity.

I registered online through and paid PHP750 (without singlet) for the 30Km race.

Two days before race day, the race organizers conducted a race briefing in UP Lahug. Race Director, Jake Liarta, and Cebu Trail Runners founder, Meyux Cordova, presented the race course for the different categories – 30K, 18K and 5K. They played a video which a showed a preview of the 30Km route and explained what to expect in the race course, how the trail signs looked like, where the aid/water stations will be and the mandatory gear needed for the run.

I set my alarm as early as 12:30am on race day but I was too sleepy and accidentally dismissed my alarm instead of snoozing. Luckily, I was able to wake up at 1:30am and still had the time to shower. I had already prepared my running gear the night before so I wasn’t worried of missing any important running gear.

I ate one piece of meat roll bread and a small banana before rushing out as the race assembly time was scheduled at 4am and I still had to travel quite far from Mabolo to Minglanilla. I decided to take a taxi to the South Bus Terminal as I was afraid of missing the 3am Ceres bus.

It was only 2:35am when I arrived at the South Bus Terminal. I asked the bus conductor what time the bus leaves and he told me he’s not sure as the bus was supposedly scheduled to leave at 2am. Shortly before 3am the bus was full and I was relieved when the bus left at 3am. I had a nice chat with the lady beside me in the bus as she has friends who run the AWUM (All-Women Ultra Marathon) last month. I got carried away chatting with her that I almost missed alighting in front of Minglanilla Church. Fortunately, I was quick enough to ask the driver to stop and I didn’t had to walk very far.

It was still 3:35am and I didn’t expect to arrive in Minglanilla that early. Without any traffic jam, the journey from South Bus Terminal to Poblacion, Minglanilla was only about thirty minutes. From Jollibee, I crossed the street and then walked straight ahead passing by the market. Julie’s Bakeshop was already open so I decided to buy bread before proceeding to Minglanilla Running Oval Track.

Being new in the running scene in Cebu, I only know a handful of people. I was glad to see Boying who was trying to catch more sleep in his car. I waited near the race committee tent and saw the 2 male Kenyan runners and the All-Women Ultra Marathon (AWUM) 2014 champion seated while waiting for the race to start. Not too long after more runners arrived and I saw familiar faces like Rose of Runroo, Doc Willie Estepa (race organizer of AWUM) and Henry both of whom I met during the Cebu50 Trail Ultramarathon two weeks ago.

Shortly after 4am one of the race organizers advised the runners to check in at the race committee table. The race organizers checked the mandatory gear items like headlamp and hydration bottle/pack. There was one guy who didn’t bring any headlamp/flashlight as he didn’t know the run was going to be in the mountains. I was really surprised when he told me this because as a runner we are supposed to know what kind of run we are signing up for and the risks involved. The race organizers provided all the necessary information and reminders leading up to the race.

After the pre-race photo ops, the race officially started at 4:35am. From the Minglanilla running oval track we made our way to Gimenez Street, crossed the highway and turned right on the street across Gaisano Mall. From there it was an uphill climb on cemented road passing by Barangay Cadulawan. The uphill road was taxing so I decided to walk on steep slopes. It was still dark and when I looked behind me the city lights below was quite nice to see.

After 4Km we finally entered the trail and I was enjoying running the rolling terrain. There was a steep downhill section but after that it was back to rolling again. I reached a river and the locals were very helpful to point me in the right direction. From there it was the start of the challenging uphill climb. Just when you think you reached peak another uphill climb appears. I would say this is the most challenging part of the trail. I was walking quite slow at this point as I tried to catch my breath in between.

One of the many uphill climbs

One of the many uphill climbs

The surrounding mountains

The surrounding mountains

Going uphill is tough but seeing the wonderful views is more than enough to compensate all the hard work.

Scenic Trail

Scenic Trail

I finally reached Calbasa-an Elementary School after 1:58hours and about 10K of running and walking. A couple of teachers assigned in this remote school  welcomed me and offered me fresh buco (coconut) juice and Cloud9 chocolates. They were thankful that their school is a beneficiary of this run. I drank a cup of fresh buco juice and took a couple of Cloud 9 chocolates then left the aid station, after thanking the teachers for their hospitality.

Calbasa-an Elementary School

Calbasa-an Elementary School

I followed the stairs going up the school and reached a vegetation area which didn’t seem to have any trail sign anymore. I ran back to where I last saw the trail sign which was on a tree just past the school. I looked up the hill and saw the next trail sign. I didn’t expected that we have to go up the hill where there seem to be sweet potato crops planted. I followed the trail sign and reached the peak. A big trail sign (pictured below) confirmed I was on the right track.

Runnilla Boy Trailsign

Runnilla Boy Trailsign at the peak of Calbasa-an

The view at the top was beautiful. I followed a smaller trail sign on the ground leading me past the cow (pictured below) but I got confused again which way to go next. I saw people across another hill shouting at me but I didn’t really understand what they were trying to say. I backtracked again to the last trail sign which was just a few meters away from me then, I saw a local girl walking towards the hill and I realized that’s the trail I should be taking. The girl confirmed to me I was in the right direction and I thanked her for her help.

Runnilla Boy Small Trail Sign

Runnilla Boy Small Trail Sign at the peak of Calbasa-an.

Cow at the peak

Cow at the peak of Calbasa-an

After going down from Calbasa-an peak, I followed the scenic open trail heading to the direction where I saw people shouting at me. When I reached there, I realized it was Lyra Valles waiting for runners to arrive so she can snap photos.
Below are the two photos she took of me.

Trail from Calbasa-an to Camp 7

Trail from Calbasa-an to Camp 7. Photo by Lyra Valles

Running from Calbasa-an to Camp 7.

Running from Calbasa-an to Camp 7. Photo by Lyra Valles

I continued running in the open, single track trail heading to Camp7. I was running on my own but I was never bored as there were plenty of things to see. I actually enjoyed the solitude.

I crossed a small river then followed by wooden bridge when another runner caught up with me. He told me that he was with the lead group but he had to stop as he wasn’t feeling well and almost fainted. We chit-chat as we made our way to the next aid station in Camp 7.

After 19Km we finally reached the aid station in Camp 7 as I had expected. I refilled my bladder as I was running out of water and continued on the cemented road.

A barangay tanod then asked us to turn right where we had to tackle another uphill cemented road. Not too long after we were back on the trail again. I told myself that we should be going downhill soon as we are now less than 10Km away from the finish line. Not to long after indeed, I reached the downhill section. I ran the downhill without stopping until I reached the part with pointed rocks. I was having blisters on my left foot and stepping on the pointed rocks was getting painful so I decided to do a run/walk.

At about 23.8Km I reached the aid station. Meyux offered me Coke and some food. I had no appetite to eat. All I wanted was the Coke, my instant energy booster for any kind of run. I got my 8oz soft flask from my hydration pack and filled it out with Coke. I drank 2 rounds on the spot and did a third refill so I can drink as I continue my way down to the finish line.

It was getting more painful running on the rocks with my blisters. I had to be mindful which rocks I’m stepping so as not aggravate the pain.

After running downhill in the barangay dirt road, we reached the cemented road that indicated we were now in a residential area. I continued my way until I reached the entrance of Belmont Village and onto the main highway. A barangay tanod helped me cross the highway road. It was another 2-2.5km to the finish line and I didn’t liked being in the highway as it was quite dusty and humid. I tried to run but running in the road was mental challenge at that point. I decided to just walk until I reached near the finish line.

After 5:10:15 hours I finally reached the finish line. I got my hard-earned finisher’s medal, a finisher’s patch from Etch and a finisher’s certificate. I definitely enjoyed the trail run and I was happy with my results. It was just an added bonus that I was 5th place for the Women’s 30K.

You can read Runroo’s article for the list of the winners on the link below:
Runnilla Eco Challenge Champions

Finish Line. Photo by iCapture

Runnilla Eco Challenge Finisher's Medal and Patch

Runnilla Eco Challenge Finisher’s Medal and Patch

I wasn’t disappointed registering for this run. The race was well-planned, organized and executed for a local race. The organizers made us of social media effectively to promote the race and provide important updates leading up to race day. The race course was beautiful and scenic. I didn’t know there are beautiful trails in Minglanilla. Aside from the trail signs, there were barangay tanods to guide the runners where to turn in critical areas. Kudos to the race organizers, sponsors, volunteers, barangay tanods, photographers and fellow runners who made this trail run a success! It is also fitting to thank the local people in the mountain barangays of Minglanilla (Calbasa-an, Camp 7 and etc) for their hospitality.