WHEN you invite guests to your home, you want to make the best possible impression.
If your guests are 15,000 people running a 10K fun run at 4 p.m. on a Sunday in the confines of a small city noted for its narrow roads, it will require a very good impression. And efficient traffic management. And maybe better execution from organizers.
Even after staging numerous marathons and fun runs for major brand sponsors around Metro Manila over the past seven years, Rio dela Cruz admitted it was a great challenge to stage an event of such magnitude as the 'Nike We Run Manila' in Marikina City for the first time.
In an interview with Spin.ph, Dela Cruz said it was important to him for the Nike event to succeed since it was their biggest event for the shoe and apparel giant so far - 15,000 runners (up from 13,000 in 2012) - and on a personal level, his chance to showcase a city close to his heart.
“Since 2007, this is the only time na kinabahan ako kasi first time ko sa Marikina and taga dito ako and proud ako. Proud ako na ipakita na ang Marikina is malinis and disciplined,” Dela Cruz said.
As with every world-class race managed by Runrio Inc., the face and founder of the popular running company was everywhere, making sure everything was running smoothly last Sunday in Marikina City.
With his trademark afro, an orange T-shirt, running shorts, a walkie-talkie and a roll of scotch tape in his left arm, the Runrio CEO could be seen checking everything from traffic marshals to time chips - displaying a hands-on management style thousands of runners have seen in races he’s hosted through the years.
For the Nike event, Dela Cruz pitched to the giant athletic company Marikina, a city located in a valley on the eastern side of Metro Manila that is considered off the radar as far as running events in the metro are concerned.
When asked why Nike chose Marikina over established and run-friendly locations like Bonifacio Global City or Mall of Asia, Dela Cruz explained, “One of our concepts is ‘attack the city’ and every year we make it a point to hold it in a different location. Since 'yung city attack ang gusto naming mangyari, ang pinili ko is Marikina.”
Coach Rio, who trained in the Marikina Sports Complex in the early part of his athletic career, added that he also wanted to showcase its people.
“Ang sabi ko sa kanila, ‘Yang Marikina madalas binabaha lalo na kapag may mga typhoon pero pag nakikita mo itong mga tao dito pagkatapos ng baha, life goes on. Naka-smile sila. Happy sila so iyun yung gusto natin na iparating sa kanila.”
Many runners noted the people especially kids who lined the routes, cheered them on and gave them high fives as they went past, giving a “Filipino feel” to the proceedings.
Shortly after the last runner crossed the finish line, the soft-spoken running coach from Bato, Camarines Sur said he was “very happy” with the race’s outcome but admitted to some jittery moments, especially when it came to the expectations of the runners.
“Kinakabahan ako kasi ang expectation ng tao kapag nag-cross sila ng finish line. Nang bago sila mag-start gusto kong umiyak - alam mo yun, yung hirap ng planning, etc," he said.
Despite the best of intentions, however, things don’t always go according to plan, especially on how the event was handled.
A number of participants voiced their experiences of the race online, noting the closed roads leading to the venue caused heavy traffic all the way to Quezon City before and after the race. There was also a lack of adequate parking - one runner said he had to park at a mall that was 2.5 kilometers away from the venue at the Marikina Sports Complex.
Many runners also complained that some of streets were so cramped that the run resembled a “professional march” and that there wasn’t enough water to go around in the hydration stations.
A participant criticized organizers and said Nike shouldn’t have chosen a venue that has inadequate public transportation which forced many of the already tired runners to walk four kilometers all the way back to Quezon City.
For this year’s race, Nike adopted a Buddy System where runners are required to register as a pair.
“Our concept is ‘You Move, I Move’ so I want to push my partner to encourage or inspire para mag-exercise siya. Di ba tayo yung parang “Tsaka na” o “Mamaya na” yung utak natin pero dito, let’s do it at the same time so parang may magpu-push sa iyo,” Dela Cruz pointed out.
The decision is rather fortunate, since a long walk home is best shared with a buddy under the circumstances.