Sunday, 15 July 2018

Tawid Mountain Marathon 2018

Last month I was tramping around the mountains of my ancestral homeland. I did not have enough food in stock so one time I hastened down to Bontoc for supplies - as you do. I could have gone hunting, but never mind… Anyway, I was in town and heard about a one-day trekking event around the mountains of Bontoc. This one’s called the Tawid Mountain Marathon (Tawid means inheritance or heritage).
Well I could not for the life of me run a marathon in one day, so since no one asked, I volunteered to be the mid-pack sweeper. This is a crucial role – to keep the link between the front and back of the race unbroken. Of the 100 finishers, I managed to keep the 49th and 51st runners in my sights. I also hiked about half of the route from Kopap-ey to Can-eo (approximately 21km), and since it was in my brief, I took a few photos along the way. For the rest of the course there were some photos I prepared earlier. I even prepared more photos later - after the marathon. I only ever ran here once, but I rank this event among the hardest trail runs in Mountain Province. The Tawid mountain marathon presents a challenge for runners of all abilities. The first kilometer of the race is on flat paved road but that’s as friendly as it gets. At an average gradient of nearly 10%, the section from KP1 to KP15 of the marathon (and the half-marathon) is not for the faint of heart! This is a seriously tough course with some of the steepest, narrowest and sustained sections of climbing in any foot-trail in the country. That first 15km has at least 1250m gain in elevation!

So here it is: the Tawid marathon route pictorial.
The course starts in the provincial High School stadium in Eyeb. Then after a cold flat 1.2-kilometer yawner on the Halsema Highway, runners finally get to warm up on the climb from Chakchakan to Chata.
One of the most amazing sights of this event is not of the scenery. It occurs before the roosters crow at the break of dawn, halfway up the vertical trail to Chata. In the last gasps of darkness, the moving snaking linear lights of marathon runners in front of and above - or behind and below the mid-pack, is a spectacle like nothing else. That is a sight I could not capture with my camera. You just had to be there.

KP2.5 Chata. The climb to Chata includes 260m of climbing in one kilometer. That's an average 26% gradient (maximum almost 45%!).
At Chata the runners enjoy a breather on the almost flat plateau. The left edge of the plateau is at about KP2.25. After the initial 260m arduous climbing between 1.2km to 2.2km, there is still no respite here. The route steepens again after the 400m long Chata plateau, going upwards from the pine trees on the right of photo, climbing all the way to Fato.


KP4. Bontoc and Samoki, but more on walk and less on talk is the key.


KP6.2 Fato (Rocky Top Mountain). From KP1.2 in Chakchakan in Bontoc, the 5km climb to here averages 16.67%. Fato is a great spot for photos towards Dalican and Maligcong. However, I could not afford to linger, nor to lingon… I could only afford to ling-et.


KP7.4 Lake Tikan is hidden up in the Guina-ang mountains

KP7.7 Ridge Hill.
The views are simply stunning, but we keep to the straight and narrow.
As in life, through carelessness comes strife. Here on the narrow ridges,
 on either side is a cliff and we don't wish to come to any grief.




Km 8. Views of Guina-ang

Pine trees are a feature of the Cordillera mountain ranges.
But if you look closer at this particular pine, it has a very special feature - an eagle.
Now that is a sight to see!


Pity the runners did not see it - at the 8km mark they've barely warmed up.
They were just getting into stride, going strong and fast. 
Sometimes one has to stop and smell the pine needles.

KP10.5 Guina-ang aid station

12.75km Mainit-Maligcong trail. The real action begins here. As if the initial 5-kilometer climb from Chakchakan to Fato (KP1.2 to KP6.2) was not enough, the brutality of this race intensifies on this trail.
KP13 - KP15. Mainit-Maligcong vertical trail. This two-kilometer climb averages 25% gradient (500m gain over 2km), peaking at about 50%. 
Even the half-marathon young bucks find the going really tough.




The minutes passed, the mountain goats were flashing past,
but my camera was not flashing fast.


My watch ticked on, my camera clicked on, but if I did not get a move on,
come the night I might hear the man click his flashlight, .
So I kept on clicking on, but the camera - it was composing.


KP14. Views of Mainit
KP15. The highest point of the course is at 1650m above sea level. 
For the next eight or nine kilometers (15km-24km), runners enjoy not just the respite from steep climbing but also some of the best views in the Cordillera. The ancient mountains, the old forests, the ancestral fields, this is Tawid.

KP15.7 Kopap-ey. A welcome spot for a break after some gruelling, back-breaking climbing.


Km16 Punjag/ punchag/ pundag (grassland)

KP17.4 Favuyan aid station


KP17.5-KP20. An up-close-and-personal tour of the Maligcong heirloom ricefields.
Visiting runners enjoy the Tawid over the green mountains and fields.
(Tawid is a also tagalog word meaning 'to cross over' or 'to go across').




KP23 Maligcong-Tocucan trail. Every runner knows that the battle is not over at the crests or mountain tops. And every runner knows that for any closed loop or out-and-back route, the total descent is equivalent to the total ascent. So it is that we finally get to a good downhill section of the Tawid course. The descent was quite good that my legs got almost jelly-like on the 2-kilometer 22% decline between KP23.4-KP25.4.


KP25.4 Tocucan aid station. No, not the kalapao. The one in town



KP29 The Chico River from the Chapyosen Trail. 
This is the lowest point of the course at elevation 780m.



Km29.5 Future trail runners of Chapyosen.



KP32 Can-eo

Km32. Can-eo aid station

KP33-KP35 Can-eo Road. The final climbing section of the marathon is an average 13% grade over 3-km (steepest grade up to 40%) from Can-eo village to the top of the Caneo-Samoki mountains. This includes 2-km of the concrete paved Can-eo Road.






KP36-KP38.5 Punchag Can-eo Mountains.
These grassland ridges are at around 1280m elevation.


KP37 Samoki mountains
Red dirt road painted by pine needles. This is the final stretch of mountain dirt trail to the final downhill to the final section of road to the grand finale of the Tawid marathon.
Is that final? There seems some unfinished business here!

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