Mountain runner, conservationist and Cordillera Mountain Ultra organizer JP Alipio makes a case for running wild
There’s something to be said about standing alone on an isolated mountain ridge, with only the trees for company. As the vast landscape stretches out in front of you, your scale in the larger scheme of things is suddenly revealed to you with such surprising clarity. Here, the mountain finally reveals its true self to you.
To truly experience the wild, you have to move at nature’s pace. There is something so elemental about scaling a mountain on your own two feet, rather than seeing the landscape through the windshield. You are there yourself, you become an integral part of the landscape you are exploring, and not simply a spectator observing the world from the high perch of your 4×4. Each and every rock is magnified, and every undulation on the trail is felt from the soles of your feet to your burning lungs as you haul yourself up the mountain.
Mountain running provides you with this kind of access into the wild; you are stripped to the barest of essentials — some good running shoes, minimal clothing, a bottle of water and just enough food to get you through a day on the ridges.
It’s a sensory experience in every sense of the word — the burning sun, the grass as it brushes against your exposed legs, the water droplets falling from the sky onto your skin, the scent of wet earth, the sounds of the birds and the wind and the mist. You feel every single inch of the mountain in vivid detail.
Wild spaces, like gods, need adulation to survive and the Cordillera Mountain Ultra creates this form of worship. Running, hiking and walking through 50km of jaw-droppingly beautiful trails, across ridges and forests, one can only be left with a sense of awe. And like the gods of old, we make our own offerings to the mountain — our sweat, the calories that are burned and spilled on its hallowed ground, the wonder in our eyes at its ever-changing beauty.
The event not only creates more followers for wild spaces, but it also employs over 100 members of the communities that live within the mountain areas, providing a sustainable source of livelihood for the many families that depend on the mountain directly. In this sense movement at nature’s pace helps the conservation of the wild, and it all starts with thse first few steps down the trail.
On March 4 and 5, 2017, the second Cordillera Mountain Ultra will be held in Mount Ugo in Dalupirip, Itogon, Benguet, as part of a series of 30 races across Asia. The Asia Trail Masters Series is designed to create opportunities for an entire continent to pay homage to the wild spaces by running through them. Find out more at cordilleraconservationtrust.ph.
This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Smile magazine.