If you're a roadrunner in Metro Manila, you know all about the best places to run, which roads have the best asphalt, which are hard to create, and which have the worst potholes. You know about exact distances, where the road lifts and where it goes down. You know that the UP academic oval in Diliman is 2.3 kilometers, the outer ring of Bonifacio High Street is 1.2, Quirino Grandstand is 1.1, MOA to CCP is 4, Marcos Highway to Antipolo Church is 10, and that Km. 0 in Luneta to Tagaytay Rotunda is 56.
Runners get excited about new courses as much as they get excited about the quality of singlets that come with their packets. So, when Condura announced a few months ago that its half-marathon this year was going to pass through the SLEX Skyway, you can bet that even those who had no plans of running 21K this time of the year began calendaring their peak and taper around March 22.
Imagine, running from The Fort, going up the Kalayaan flyover, all the way to South Superhighway through Buendia (I have to say Buendia is the most evently asphalted road in Makati), and on to the Skyway, which peaks twice with the highest point over the Magallanes Interchange.
The idea of a Skyway run was so exciting that Patrick Concepcion, vice president of Concepcion Durables and one of the race organizers, posted a picture of himself on his blog (runningshield.com) wearing his e-Pass around his neck with the caption: "Make sure your e-Pass has load for the toll."
Like the first Condura Run in 2008, which was held to raise funds for the Tubbataha Reef, this year's version also had the marine environment for a cause: to help preserve the whale sharks in Donsol, Sorsogon.
Condura Run founder, avid diver, and Condura president and COO Ton Concepcion says they want to underscore the importance of the Donsol whale sharks not only for the Philippines, but for the world. "We partnered with Bantay Kalikasan (BK) for Girawan, a community based eco-tourism project site of BK located by the riverbanks that lead out to Donsol and into the feeding grounds of the whale sharks. By developing communities like Girawan, we are able to prevent the deforestation and pollution of riverside communities and at the same time create alternative tourist attractions to ease the overcrowding of the whale sharks during peak season."
Condura also partnered with Runners for Others and Operation Smile. "I was surprised to find out that one out of 500 Filipino children suffer from cleft deformities. We sold a special race bib that said 'I ran to make a child smile,' which runners pinned proudly on their shirts."
Condura pledged P50 for every registrant and raised P300,000, which will all go to barangay Girawan (last year they raised P100,000 for Tubbataha).
This year, 6,279 runners registered (there were 2,000 in 2008), with half joining the 21K and 10K events; the other half, the 5K and 3K events, which means that every type of runner, from beginner to professional long-distance, had an event to run.
Ton and his brother Patrick are both passionate runners. Who's the better one? Patrick says, "A better runner is not necessaril a faster runner. It is a person who is committed to running regardless of the obstacles in the way; he makes running part of himself because it molds his character to be better."
Ton says, "Pat is a better runner as he runs faster than me." Then he adds with candor, "I am a better runner when it comes to running events." The truth is, Ton has not run a single Condura Run because he has to attend to important details like rushing to the water stations that have ran out of water. "My vision is simply this: to be able to run Condura one day!"
Patrick has joined more than a dozen races abroad including the Vancouver Marathon in 1983, which he finished in 3:52:20. Ton ran five full marathons in a span of 14 months: Milo in December 2006, Hong Kong in February 2007, Milo in July, New York in November, and Clark in January.
He says it was as soon as he crossed the finish line of the NY Marathon that the Condura Run was born. "I remember being so overwhelmed with pride and joy, a feeling I wanted to share with people back home. Telling them about my experience was not good enough; they had to experience it for themselves. Son on that cold autumn afternoon in Central Park I got the idea to have a Philippine version of the New York Marathon and thus was born the Condura Run."
Running a race is one thing, organizing it is another, and for Ton the biggest challenge of Condura "was the sheer logistics. Getting the hydration stations right, ensuring that the line was not too long as we put the finisher's medal around the runner's neck and distributed loot bags. When I saw runners crossing the finish line full of pride and joy, I felt like shedding a tear because that it the spirit of what this hard work is all about and that makes it all worth it."
Ton also knows the importance of a race course. After all, he ran the 28K Lake Kawaguchi Marathon in Japan last fall, which he considers the most beautiful course because it goes around the lake, through forests, and has Mt. Fuji as the constant background.
"If the New York Marathon passes through the city's five boroughs, then the Philippines has the Skyway," he says. "I approached the Skyway management to ask if they could make our vision of a world-class run on the world-class Skyway come true. They immediately said yes. Skyway president Ramon Borromeo and special project head Eduardo Nepomuceno share Condura's vision of a healthier lifestyle and a greener environment. They were also excited over creating history with the first run on the Skyway and the largest half marathon in the Philippines!"
Patrick adds that the goal is "to have a full marathon next year or by 2012, but nothing is final yet. To plan for something like this is no walk -- or in our case, run -- in the park."
"Condura is a run by a runner for runners," adds Ton. "As a race organizer, I find that the only way to do this is to be passionate about what you do, to be hands-on and OC to the point of perfection. I have received a lot of comments that this is the best race in the Philippines and that everyone had a really great time. While I am very happy about this I also see a lot of improvements that can be nade. But for sure there will be a full marathon in 2012 in time for the next Olympics!"
While running is a solitary sport, it also breeds a sense of community among runners -- and for causes. "Running for the marine environment gives us a chance to showcase the beauty of the Philippine seas so people realize how blessed we are and do something to protect it. If more people ran, the Philippines would be a much better place."