All set for North Face 100 at Benguet’s ‘New Zealand’ heights

BAGUIO CITY – It is all set for the return of the North Face 100 ultra-marathon race that starts here and explores the most difficult to reach but visually inspiring sites in the mining town of Itogon, Benguet when the race kicks off on October 19 at the Camp John Hay here.

Boasting a New Zealand like vista that could transport you to MiddleEarth, the towns of Itogon will be explored by more than 600 runners who will see action in the premiere 100-kilometer (km), 50-km, 22- and 11-km races that will start on Saturday (Oct. 19) at the Ayala Technohub at the former American base-land to the mining town.

“Participants will truly enjoy the experience,” said NorthFace brand manager Renzo Angelo Que during the press conference on Thursday at the John Hay Bell Amphitheater.

He said the two-year absence makes them more excited to see many of the elite ultra-marathon runners try to conquer the mountains of Baguio and Itogon, Benguet.

The race starts at 3 a.m. for the centerpiece 100-kilometer race, which has the second most participants after the 11-km “fun-run” with some of the country’s top ultra-marathoner like Majo Liao, winner of the 2017 Akyathlon Mount Ugo run also in Itogon, Benguet.

She is expected to run along with some of the Filipinos that participated in the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanclast on September 4 next year in France including local pride Menchi Abahan.

Abahan had also entered this race although in the 11-km run that is practically all within John Hay.

Itogon pride Gretchen Felipe is also entered, though, she will be competing in the 50-km race.

Many of the locals trying to get a podium finish or merely trying to finish the race within the 30-hour cut-off are the Team Pinikpikan that include running brothers James and Al Tellias.

Que said 10 percent-15 percent of the runners will be foreigners who will give locals a run for their money.

Vaunted teams to see a podium finish include Team Sting Ray and North Face’s very own.

The race brings the runners to Gumatdang, Poblacion, Tinongdan and the far-flung Dalupirip, which remains the province’s last frontier.

Lying just at the foot of the town’s most famous mountain, Ugo, it will provide runners a scenic view that the Ibaloys (locals of the town) of old used to enjoy.

The vista is comparable to New Zealand, with rolling mountains, trees, and streams that remind one of New Zealand, which was the location for Peter Jackson’s highly popular Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.

“Baguio and Itogon’s mountains are ideal for international competitions,” said Que, choosing Itogon and Mount Ugo as this year’s TNF 100’s staging with Mounts Cabuyao and Santo Tomas closed for human traffic due to the permanent environmental protection order issued for the mountains.

Baguio was host to five of the past nine TNF 100. It was first staged in Batangas in 2008 for the inaugural race.

In 2009, it was staged in Nuvali in Santa Rosa, Laguna before moving back to Baguio in 2010.

Camarines Norte hosted in 2011, then returned to Baguio for the next two stagings before its return to Nuvali.

Baguio hosted the last two stagings in 2015 and 2016 before its cancellation in the next two years.

The winner of the 100-km race will get PHP20,000 in cash as a prize, PHP20,000 North Face gift checks, PHP2,000 worth of Wheryl gift checks and PHP5,000 gift checks from San Miguel.

The runner also gets to run in the HongKong TNF, inclusive of registration, air far and accommodation.

The winners also get the TNF trophy and the Baguio inspired finisher’s medal.

The TNF 50 winners will get PHP15,000 in cash, PHP10,000 worth of TNF gift checks, PHP2,000 worth of Wheryl Protein supplement and PHP5,000 worth of San Miguel products.

The 22-km winners will receive PHP8,000 in cash prize as well as PHP5,000, PHP1,000 and PHP5,000 gift certificates from TNF, Wheryl and San Miguel.

The winners in the 11-km run, which is good for groups and families, will have practically the same prizes as the 22-km winners but with a lower cash prize of PHP5,000. Pigeon Lobien/PNA-