Lim: 2023 Cebu Marathon

IT WAS a bad beginning. I was late to the 3 a.m. gun start for the 21K race. It took me less than 10 minutes to get to N. Bacalso. But that’s as far as I could go.

With the South Road Properties (SRP) closed, this lone route to the south had only one lane open, the other being dedicated to the 42K race route.

At 2:25, I saw 21K runners alighting from their vehicles, making a run for SM Seaside. I was horrified. I needed every ounce of energy to finish this 21K race. I did not want to start running from N. Bacalso.

But that’s exactly what happened. At 2:45, I joined the throng running to Seaside. A lady from Agusan told me she did not know the way. I was mortified for the out-of-towners.

I was still at F. Vestil when I heard the gun start. I made a mad dash for the start line. And all went well till I reached the now-infamous 21K first turnaround.

There was talk of getting scans. Arms were being raised. But wasn’t the chip on the race bib? No one knew what was going on. I didn’t turn around for fear of getting a DNF (Did-Not-Finish) without the so-called scan.

In the end, there was no scan. That’s why it’s now called a scam. We felt scammed. I lost 15 minutes here.

Footage of this pandemonium can be viewed online. Probably a thousand runners packed like sardines along this single-lane route. I feared a stampede.

Sections at SRP were poorly-lit and at one point, we were running towards strobe lights. Traffic was horrendous. It was hard to run because of the sheer number of runners going at different paces.

People were stopping everywhere to take pictures — some in the middle of the road. The portalets were few and far between so runners were doing it wherever, whenever.

I’m new to this. I don’t know the rules. But I think there should be some. The marshals stood huddled in the rain. They didn’t police any behavior.

We had to shockingly queue to cross the finish line while the clock was ticking. More time lost here. More confusion too. Some received a 42K medal for a 21K finish and vice versa.

Pre-race, I thought of bringing intra-race snacks but was told there would be bananas. There was none left at any station. My post-race food pack had spoiled rice and zero utensils. Was it just mine? The distribution was chaotic.

I ditched my backpack when I had to start running from N. Bacalso. I heard the lines were supremely long at the baggage counters, too. Not enough staff to handle the numbers.

When the 42K cut-off split times were announced on Jan. 3, that was a bummer. Neophyte runners usually only think about the total cut-off time, not necessarily the cut-off times for each split.

While the additional cut-off split times to clear Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway were reasonable, you don’t add new rules to the race five days before you hold it.

Despite the missteps, organizers did right in several aspects. Next week, what they did right and how we can do better.