DEATH VALLEY, CA – Gerald Tabios, 48, born and raised in the highlands of the southern part of the Philippines, finished on July 23-25, the grueling Badwater 135 Ultramarathon Race, dubbed ‘the toughest foot race in the world,’ stretching 135 miles (217 m) non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, California.
Gerald is a Filipino long-distance runner and an ultramarathon runner. Among his most notable races in the United States is the Badwater Ultramarathon and it’s his 5th consecutive year to join the race.
“It’s the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet,” he said. “This punishing race ends after a steep climb to Mt. Whitney, elevation 14,505 ft., with temperatures reaching around 130° F.”
Over 2,000 ultra racers applied, according to Gerald, but only 100 got accepted in the international event. “Though not my personal best, Death Valley this year was brutal and unforgiving with 99 starters, and a record of 30 people had dropped the race.”
He’s grateful he has Team Tabios – ‘three amazing friends and athletes in their own rights, who were willing to take time off away from work and families just to take me to the finish line.’ They are Maria Poso from West Covina, CA; IbarDinampo from Secaucus, New Jersey; and Dr. Steve Gershultz from Huntington Beach, CA. Dr. Gershultz,” Gerald added, “is an anesthesiologist, a Boston marathon runner and a veteran ultra runner and triathlete. They kept me away from disasters by employing the best race strategies to keep me up and moving. Despite all the elements, with temps reaching 135 degrees in Panamint Springs, Mile 72, along with relentless heat and wind across the valley, I remained mentally tough. And special thanks to James Castillo for filming all the details of the race with my race crew.”
The start line was at the Badwater Basin, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in North America at 280’ (85 m) below sea level. The race finished at Whitney Portal at 8,300’ (2530 m), which is the trailhead to the Mt. Whitney summit, the highest point in the contiguous (4450 m) of cumulative vertical ascent and 6,100’ (1859 m) of cumulative descent. Competitors travel through places or landmarks with names like Mushroom Rock, Furnace Creek, Salt Creek, Devil’s Cornfield, Devil’s Golf Course, Stovepipe Wells, Panamint Springs, Keeler, Alabama Hills, and Lone Pine.
“We crossed two deserts, climbed three mountains,” James disclosed, “and ran 135 miles in 135-degree weather. But we made it through the finish line of the world’s toughest foot race, while documenting Gerald Tabios’ ultramarathon race.”
(Gerald generously shared that Benjamin Gaetos is the first Filipino to finish the original Badwater 135 Ultra in 2013. But the 2014 New Badwater 135 was moved to a new course in Lone Pine, CA, and “me and Tomas Zaide became the first Filipinos to finish the race in that new course,” but Gerald was the first to cross the finish line.
“The first Filipino moniker,” he quipped, “is not a big deal for me,” he said in an interview. “The most important is this race opens the floodgates to allow our heritage to represent on the international stage and help inspire others na ‘kaya natin ‘to.’
Since 2015, the Badwater ultramarathon has been back in Death Valley.
James, an independent filmmaker, also from Cebu, who moved to California ten years ago, has made a commitment ‘to tell stories that reach into the soul of humanity,’ he claims, and his feature documentary film, ‘Running for Freedom: My Journey as an Ultramarathon Runner,’ is one such project ‘that makes us more human.’
“I will tell the story of a man,” he added, “and his journey to find freedom which is many things to many people. As we journey alongside Gerald, we will discover what freedom means not only for him, but also for us, the viewers and the filmmakers. Join us,” James requests, “as we make our own journey to make this film a reality. Making a documentary film is not going to be easy. We need your help in making sure we can finish this journey together with Gerald.”
He’s asking for help to fund his project and has set up a Kickstarter campaign so he can submit the film to Sundance and other major film festivals. Deadline for Sundance submission is August 24, with an $85 fee. His goal is $500 which will cover the fees of at least five major film festivals. “It’s all or nothing,” said James. “This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Wed, August 15, 2018 8:57 AM PDT. The donations will help us finish the film in time for the deadline.”
“So far, we have six backers that pledged a total of $86,” James said, “and we only have 13 days remaining. Check out http://kck.st/2uqZ6CV for the latest update. Visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1623626750/running-for-freedom#
Kickstarter is an enormous global community built around creativity and creative projects. It helps artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, and other creators find the resources and support they need to make their ideas a reality. To date, tens of thousands of creative projects, big and small, have come to life with the support of the Kickstarter community.
James will also be submitting the documentary to other major film festivals: LA Film Fest, Spirit Awards, AFI Film Fest, NY Film Fest, Toronto Film Fest, Metro Manila Film Fest, SXSW Film Fest, and Tribeca Film Fest. Film festival fees vary. Can you pledge at least one film festival submission fee of $84?
PNews watched a video made by Gerald Tabios where he talked about the ‘running boom’ in the Philippines. We offer excerpts from that video.
“There was a running boom in 1980, in the Philippines, in Manila,” Gerald revealed. “My brothers were in college in Manila and when they came home to our hometown they were wearing Adidas shorts… those Botak short pants and singlets, and I was looking at them. This is so cool. One day, I’m going to wear this and I will start running.”
Gerald dreamt of someday running in the U.S. “I would go to a ‘PX Goods store’ and buy those Runner’s World magazines. This is so cool,” he repeated. “I’m gonna go there. I’m gonna run the New York Marathon. I was reading about Oprah running the New York Marathon. Someday I’m going to go there and I’m gonna run. You have to run fast to be a competitive runner. I don’t have that. I don’t have time to train. I work like a dog. I work ten hours a day. I don’t have time for training. It’s hard to juggle family, training and running.”
It was Gerald’s dream since 2011… He used to watch ultra running. “I was watching those hundred-mile things. I didn’t even know that there was a hundred-mile race. When I heard that, I was flabbergasted. Wow, a hundred miles. I thought 26 miles was the ultimate long-distance race. I started reading a book about Dean Karnazes, the ultramarathon man. I was getting into ultra running. I checked You Tube. I came across Badwater Ultramarathon. I was… like this is so cool. This was a race across the Mojave Desert. It’s so hot. I’m gonna do this. I checked the requirements. They said you have to run at least 300 miles. So I did it. My first 100 miles was in 2012. And then in 2013, I did a 200 miler. And then in 2014 I applied for Badwater.”
He talked lengthily about Badwater 135 adding that the distance itself is like five marathons. “And once in the middle of the race, you ask yourself, why am I doing this? Mile 70. It is always like that. Mile 80. Why am I here? And then when I get to mile 113, I see Mt. Whitney and blurt out… this is it!”