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Brooks' Cross Country Debut at Sierra Madre

Prior to the Brooks Run Happy 3 race that was held last May 11 at Sierra Madre in Tanay, Rizal, a friend asked me about this event curious and eager to know what is Cross Country running: "are you really going to cross to another Country?". That question was too familiar to me as I have also asked that myself a few years ago and it made me wonder if at some point, did a similar question also crossed the minds of the other runners as well.

Generally, a Cross country run is very much similar with trail running, except that Cross Country races have governed rules and guidelines from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), specially in the US, Canada, Australia, and a number of Countries in Europe where it is most popular. The race course is mostly laid out in an open area that are grass-covered, majority of the route is trails of all sorts, but may also have some pavement along the way, rolling terrain with frequent but smooth turns, and with distances varying only between 2.5-km to 12-km. In contrast, trail running is loosely governed and is run over longer routes and mostly single track.

So if we look into the distance category, we can define Brooks Run Happy 3 as a combination or mix of both Cross country and Trail running. One previous race that is closely similar to a Cross Country race is the Biodiversity Run held in UPLB way back in 2010 and the 1st leg of the Immuvit Fearless Challenge (if without the obstacles).

24K Runners at the starting line
The welcoming breeze of the Sierra Madre mountain range in Tanay was a great getaway for this year's 3rd installment of the Brooks Run Happy as the venue offers variety of terrains, knee-crunching and lung-busting hills with great view alongside the route, and what's more exciting is that it has become a not so far-away out-of-town race for the participants. The homey starting line atmosphere at the garden beside the Assembly Hall of the Sierra Madre Hotel (where the recent Sierra 51050 was held) was also a respite from the mostly urban race venues.

16K Runners took-off from the starting line - photo by Photo-Ops

From the starting line, runners went off to the highway for about less than 100-meters and turning left entering Brgy. Laiban towards a steep downhill fire/dirt road which covers around 4-kilometers. This made it easy for us to gain our momentum and warm-up our legs. The continuous downhill gave me a pace between 4:10 to 4:30-mins/km but this gave my toes a hot friction short of having an early chafing, so I slowed down a bit and tried to land more softly on each stride. Being an out-and-back course, this same downhill becomes an upHELL of a climb on our way back!

Ankle deep river crossings were also aplenty despite the summer heat although most no longer bothered to soak or tread their shoes on the streams, but to conserve time, I just wade through and savored the still cool, flowing waters. Unfortunately the wide but short Maysawa waterfalls at the U-turn area was dry, so the runners who were hoping to splash through it were dismayed -- nobody's fault though!

16K U-turn at Maysawa Falls
The residents of I think Brgy. Sto. Niño were all friendly spectators. The kids were enjoying counting how many runners have already passed-by, and even counting like a "noisy" list those who were not wearing the neon-green Brooks shirt. Their good mornings and high-fives made the runners smile and break their running monotony, one villager even put-up his own small "hydration" station with a jug of cold water. Such welcoming people!

Going up to the descent we took at the start was the most challenging part of the route (oh wait, there were also obstacles waiting near the finish line) -- what goes down, goes up! As the ascent began, I hit it with an all through out powerwalk and sometimes reverse walk. My lack of speed and hills training was slowly taking a toll on my legs although my cardiovascular was still coping up. I was trying to go beyond my maximum 180-bpm heart rate during the ascent but it was my legs that can't go anymore when during my good-feel powerwalk, my left calf just suddenly twitched and cramped. After pausing to wait for the muscles to relax, I proceeded with slower walk until both my left and right calves went cramping happily, errr... alternately.

Uphill at a dirt road
and an uphill towards a concrete road
About more than 200-meters before the finish line at the camping grounds of Sierra Madre Hotel (below the garden area), it was a steeper downhill that we have to course through, I was again walking backwards on this downhill part towards the obstacle area consisting of a short Military wall, net climbs, tire skips, and inclined wall. The monkey bars and tire swing was removed because (as I heard) some runners fell down. The last 100-meters was again, going up! My calves became so hardened from the onset of cramps so I just walked sidewards and jogged the remaining 10-meters to the finish line to feel the last drop of my adrenaline. Then what happened? I can't move both my feet after crossing, thankfully though, the presence of the gorgeous medal girls were enough to refill the energy to take photos with them! :)

the pain.. oh, the pain!
In summary, the race was a great experience, two thumbs-up to the race organizers for coming up with such race that caters to beginner trail runners and even to the elite ones. Hydration stations were enough, with one energy drink/gatorade station and cold sponge station.

What made Tanay so hot! - photo by Roy Agsunod
with the Mamaws of the trail
Oh, because I needed to take a lot of rest after crossing the finish line, we were able to stay until the program finished and won myself at the raffle with a Moving Comfort sports bra!

The route, pace (white lines), and elevation profile (orange line) as recorded with Suunto Ambit 2S. Click the image for more details.
More photos below:

Captivating views at Brgy. Laiban
Short mountains at Brgy. Laiban
Sweltering summer heat cannot defeat the beautiful views
Inclined wall - photo by Roy Agsunod
Military wall - photo by Roy Agsunod
Net climb - photo by Roy Agsunod
Tire skip - photo by Roy Agsunod
Program area at the camping grounds - photo by Roy Agsunod
Unusual finish line - photo by Roy Agsunod
It starts there...

Official race results may be downloaded at... (oh, it's not yet out?)


  1. It was definitely Run Happy with the scenic route and challenging incline.

  2. Medal girl lang pala katapat! May sports bra pa! Great race account, Pedz! Congrats! :)

  3. Definitely Franc, congratulations to your strong 24K finish.

    Sir Rene, your playground was a great route for running. Congratulations too on your 24K feat and your own take-home loots from the obstacles :)

  4. I am extremely impressed along with your writing abilities, Thanks for this great share.

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