The Running Angel

Just because I don't have wings, doesn't mean I can't fly.

A Running Tour of Manila

on 11/25/2014

This article was originally published in the October-December 2014 issue of Runner’s World Philippines. Photos by Roland Aquino.

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A throng of runners stood on the bridge by the entrance of Fort Santiago, waiting for the starting gun. The water below glistened in the late afternoon sun and I shielded my eyes from the glare, regretting that I didn’t bring my sunglasses. The former defense fortress has witnessed wars, earthquakes, and other calamities over the centuries—and on September 7, it watched over Salomon’s first City Trail Race. I soaked in the history, along with the energy and adrenaline charging through my fellow 12-K runners, as the race began.

Salomon has been organizing hardcore trail runs for the past few years. I’ve joined their races in Tagaytay Highlands and Hamilo Coast, Batangas and it’s always been challenging but rewarding. This time, they brought the race to Intramuros at the heart of Manila, to allow runners to get a taste of trail running without leaving the city.

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We exited through the gates of Fort Santiago and hit the streets. It was like doing a running tour of Manila as we passed by the usual tourist spots like the Manila Cathedral, the Palacio del Gobernador, and the Plaza San Luis complex. As an editor and former journalism student, it was a treat for me to see the back entrance of the Manila Bulletin building, with the smell of newly printed newspapers wafting in the air.

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On our second loop, we climbed up to run on the walls of Intramuros, which are built with volcanic rocks. Our pace slowed as we navigated our way through the rough, uneven path, jumping over deep grooves in the rocks. This was hard to do, as the view from the walls was quite distracting. We could see a lush, green golf course and skyscrapers in the distance. We also passed through different baluartes, or fortresses where old cannons still stand in defense of the city.

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On our third loop, we ran on the perimeter of Intramuros, on the sidewalk by Bonifacio and Padre Burgos Drive. It was a less picturesque side of Manila, where we inhaled the smoke from passing cars and saw kids playing on the sidewalk, while their parents cooked dinner nearby.

On our final loop, just as the sun was setting over the city, we got a chance to run underneath the walls. It was dark and a tad spooky as we ran through the tunnel, treading carefully since we could barely see a few feet in front of us. When we emerged on the other side, the moon was out and the street lamps had been turned on, casting an eerie glow on the cobblestone streets.

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Roland and I crossed the finish line after one hour and 50 minutes. They were already calling the winners to the stage as we went to collect our medals and free snacks. The people at the food stand asked, “Chicken or sisig?” Of course, we went for the less healthy choice. After that grueling run, eating sisig was a fine reward!

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When we visited Tokyo last year, Roland and I ran around the Imperial Palace and I remember thinking, I wish there was a place like this back home where we could run and feel the city’s vibe and culture. As it turns out, there is such a place. Joining the City Trail Race allowed me to see Manila in a whole new light. Intramuros, which I only ever visited during field trips back in school, has a rich and vibrant history that I was only able to appreciate while running through it. Sure, Manila may not be as perfectly clean or picturesque as Tokyo, but it’s real and beautiful in it’s own way—and it’s a place I’m proud to call home. —A


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