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Trail Running in Daraitan

Barefoot Trail Runner in Daraitan in Nature's Trail Discovery Run 2013 (Leg 1)

Hardcore dude thinks shoes are optional for trail runs like this

Race Report: Nature’s Trail Discovery Run 2013 (Leg 1)

Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal is legendary for Manila mountain bikers who have a serious craving for pain. I’ve heard bikers compare Daraitan with Sta. Ines—that other brutal biking route in Tanay, with some saying that Daraitan was probably the more difficult of the two.

I had never been to Daraitan until I joined this year’s first leg of Nature’s Trail Disovery Run. But after running to and from Daraitan, I can safely say that Daraitan is the more difficult climb.

The dirt road from the river bed to the highway seemed to go on forever. The road grade is also something that could put Shotgun to shame. It was a great race and a feast for people whose idea of fun is generating gallons of lactic acid in their legs.

Runners on the long downhill to Daraitan in Nature's Trail Discovery Run 2013 (Leg 1)

Runners on the long downhill to Daraitan

Pimco (the organizer of this race) seems hell bent on outdoing itself with every event it holds. Just when you thought these guys had exhausted all of their tricks, they pull out something which just completely surprises you.

Take the NTDR Leg 1 for instance. I signed up for the 21k route knowing full well that my body was not ready for something much longer. I was prepared to add maybe an extra two to three kilometers to the distance, because this was a trail run after all— the twisty zigzagging ascents and descents pile up to a whole load of “bonus” kilometers. But apparently, this just doesn’t cut it for Pimco

The 21k runners were off to a relaxed start at 5am. Unlike the previous two runs I joined, this one didn’t involve a lot of technical river crossings—which was great since I was worried that the recent rains may have made them unsafe.

Trail Runner in Daraitan, Tanay,  Rizal in Nature's Trail Discovery Run 2013 (Leg 1)

Almost two hours into the race and the turn around point was still nowhere in sight!

But midway into the race, I already knew something was not adding up. The trail seemed to just keep going on to infinity and beyond. Almost two hours into the race and I still hadn’t seen the turn-around point.

This was crazy. In the last Pimco run I joined (24k Love a Tree Run), I got to the halfway point way ahead of 2 hours. And this was supposed to be just… 21k! And as if that wasn’t crazy enough, the last hour had been mostly downhill! Pimco was up to something.

Daraitan was quite a sight to behold after two hours of running. We traversed a riverbed, crossed a bridge and were left in awe by the sight of the cloud covered Sierra Madre mountains in the distance. This is what’s great about trail running. The sights are just beautiful and out of the ordinary. Instead of buildings and billboards and sidewalks, you see sheer cliffs, verdant hills, clean flowing streams, and you breathe in air free of the fumes of the city.

Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal

No buildings, billboards or smoke belchers. Just mountains, trees, a stream and fresh air.

At the turn-around point, two small boys gave runners string bracelets as proof that they made it that far. They also gave little Jellyace cups. Unfortunately some runners threw the tiny plastic cups along the route after sucking out the jelly. I picked up several along the way and stashed them in my hydration bag.

After Daraitan came the dreaded climb back up to the highway. This was the kind of climb that quickly sapped the strength out of runners’ legs. It must have been ten full kilometers of straight climbing. I switched my pace from a slow uphill run to a speed hike as my legs were ready to cramp. Fortunately there were plenty of stores along the way which sold bananas.

The uphill just went on and on. And just when you thought you were just a few hundred meters from the highway, a local guy says it’s another 4.5 kilometers.

However, after reaching the highway, it became apparent that the finish line was still a long way off. By that time, I had already been running for over four hours. This was definitely not 21k.

I reached the finish line after more than four and a half hours. Later, AleX, a very strong female runner who finished the race in first place, told me the truth: the total distance was nearly 31k.

Good job, Pimco. You pulled another surprise!

Some comments about the race:

  1. The route could have had more water stops. It’s great that Pimco chose to have water refilling stations instead of giving out mineral water bottles. This prevented the place from getting littered away by uncaring runners. But the water stops were still too few and far between. I had a 2 liter hydration pack, but it was almost empty by the time I reached the turn around point.
  2. There should be more bananas and buko juice. Yeah, bananas are magic fuel, and their wrappers are biodegradable too. Too bad there were not enough bananas for all the runners. No buko juice either. Hey, you guys spoiled us with these goodies in Love a Tree, why stop now?  🙂
  3. Jellyace encourages littering. A lot of runners came to event carrying only hydration belts and water bottles. They had nowhere to stuff the empty plastic cups after consuming the jelly. Of course, this is not an excuse to throw garbage on the trail, but if we skipped the jellyace, this whole littering business could have been avoided.
People washing their clothes in the river of Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal

People washing their clothes in the river of Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal.
Hard to believe this place is just an hour or so from Metro Manila

Runners pose for a shot in Nature's Trail Discovery Run 2013 (Leg 1)

Photos are important because you don’t always get to be in a place like this

Trail Runner in Daraitan during Nature's Trail Discovery Run 2013 (Leg 1)

50k trail runner blasts past streams and rock gardens

Trail Runner Girl

Alex Ahongon: this badass girl finished first place in the women’s 21k.
It was also her who told me that the total distance was actullay 31k.

Rural scene in Daraitan, Tanay Rizal

It’s tempting to just hop on one of these animals and ride ’em all the way to the finish line

On the way to Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal

It’s because of sights like this that we run here.

Mountain in Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal

One of the many summits of the Sierra Madre gets blanketed in clouds

Fun for outdoor masochists

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1 Comment

  • David Araquel

    May 22, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Nice post sir! I frequently bike in Sierra Madre but I can’t seem to find the road leading to Daraitan. Hope to visit the place as I had read from your post about it’s beauty. Thank you sir! 🙂