Dear runners, if you are headed for the Philipines and have packed your trainers then here are a few tips and ideas for you! First up, I must qualify that all the runs are north of Manila, Luzon area, no beach runs I’m afraid, but should you be journeying south, maybe you could try out triathlon training!
Annoyances: there are a few annoyances with hitting the streets in the Philippines and top of these are dogs; they are everywhere. Many will simply watch you pass but in the edge of town areas they become aggressive, bark and chase you. They also leave their little messages all over the road, but in towns many of the residents do try and clean them up! Next up, the wet stuff. For those without a Paul Heywood mentality, mud and rain are also a problem. I’ve come to the Philippines at the start of the rainy season, and afternoon runs should be avoided as come 4pm the deluge begins. This can bring with it land slips and cover the roads in mud and debris. I recommend heading out at 5.30am whilst it is still cool and fewer vehicles are on the roads pumping out low grade petrol fumes that fill your lungs. Most runs will also be an out and back affair as few places in the mountains have circular routes. Here are some routes I took:
Alaminos – Lucap: 10km flat road
A 5km straight stretch of road links the seaside town of Lucap to the busy town of Alaminos. It gets busy with tricycle traffic the closer you are to Alaminos but this can be avoided by taking the first left as you head to the town then right and run parallel to the main drag. Return via the same route. You’ll also receive lots of support and cheers from the locals here and had I arrived a month earlier I could have joined in the 100 islands 100 km ultra; next time.
Baguio: Burnham park intervals
A dirty, congested and busy city, I opted to go to the safety of the park. There is a cycle circuit where the locals rent a bike and travel 200 metres one way, turn around and come back on the other side of the barrier, no doubt as trying to cycle on the road is simply dangerous. I joined these guys for an interval session, with some competition from a few local boys on bikes!
Sagada: hill session
We stayed in Sagada for four nights, so there was plenty of time for runs, but wherever you run, it’ll involve hills! There are three directions you can head in from the info centre, the worst of these is the road out to mount Kiltepan due to some aggressive dogs at the Rock cafe (also, mount Kiltepan should be avoided, hyped as spectacular sunrise views the hill top is dominated by the cafe, car park and the dozen sari sari stalls). A better option is the road to the pottery and weaving centres (3 km or more all up, then reverse) or perhaps easiest of all the road past the Life is a lemon pie house to the bridge at the bottom, a 600 metre hill session up and recovery back down until the onlookers get board of watching you and want their money back.
Banaue – Mayoyao: 14 km road
From the great views of the People’s Lodge head down hill and past the unmissable Immaculate Conception school. Then simply follow the road, shaded from the early morning sun. It goes up and down a little and there are some angry dogs at a bridge around 5 km from town, but otherwise good views reward a longer run out, turning back once you reach the church. A cycling festival is also happening in July should you be into that kind of thing.
Batad: the real steps of doom
Pip Haylett and Will Cullins you chaps would love this place. There are no roads in Batad – just steps, thousands of them! The world famous rice terraces are an amazing backdrop for a workout and just about make up for the lack of Strava segments. I chose to use the short section between Hilltop cafe and Rita’s place and was given a run for my money by some 10 year olds in flip flops. Tough workout!
Bontoc – Sadanga: 10 km perfect road
I have to say, having passed through Bontoc a few days previous, I was not looking forward to staying here, but it was much better than I anticipated! As for the run, it couldn’t have been easier! Head down the high street and follow the road signs for Kabayan. You will now follow the course of the Chico river on a well developed road with no traffic at all, I even met a fellow runner! I only went for 10 km, but I am sure this can easily be extended.
Vigan: heritage running
So two old streets and a few old guys riding horse drawn carts and some decrepid looking buildings and all of a sudden you have a “seventh wonder city” – have they ever been to France? So I tried to use the tourist map to take me to the airport and back in a circular route via the hidden garden but got lost and then encountered lots of chained up dogs near Baluarte, so I don’t recommend going south. Instead making a circuit via the bell tower is probably the best option though the main roads are busy.
Manila: Run Rio half marathon
In all likelihood you’ll be miles away from anywhere I recommend running, so I won’t even try, and with its choked streets it’s maybe best if you don’t even bother either. However, Manila is home to a number of running events so why not find one like I did, the Active Health Run Rio half marathon (other distances are available). It’ll be an early start, we set off at 4am and the roads weren’t exactly closed but they were well controlled and there were water points every 2km, and I used everyone of them! I was sweating out of places I’ve never leaked from before and by the end I think there was more water rushing down my clothes than through the streets of France. And one final reason to sign up, the ego boost – I have ‘won’ the odd parkrun now and again, but I certainly did not expect to be leading a half marathon for the first 6km! The heat ultimately took its toll, but I clung on to come 4th in a field of around 2000 runners, next stop Rio?