A Barefoot Story: Life, Running and TOES

Event: Race and Shine Leyte – April 13, 2014 (REGISTRATION OPEN), more info >>

Related Story: 2013 / 2013 Club: No One Is Sane

This is Lester Tabada of TOES, a Leyte running club from Tacloban,  proudly posting this incredible story of one tough guy that I and the rest of the Leyte running community has come to admire & respect the last few years. When I had my first race in Tacloban City  almost a year ago, this man captured my attention. I though he was just a half-crazy, half-alien mascot runner, but the moment he crossed that 21k finish line (at an incredible speed) I was surprised how many people greeted and cheered for him. Most of those guys I quickly realized is from a running club; they were noisy, having fun, and  cheering for their comrades. Those were the TOES welcoming the arrival of their leader, the Barefoot runner named Albert Tagaytay… and this is his story.

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This is a Throwback Thursday material.

This is a Throwback Thursday material.

        Way back high school in the year 2000 in Baclayon Bohol, after graduating from elementary it is where I say to myself, “I’m lost”. My life revolves solely in the following vices: drinking, smoking, gangwars, drugs, and girls(LOL).

During my 1st year in high school, there were nights and days of drinking and going to bars with the dabarkads. There were days were I don’t go to class and spent my time on internet cafes. For 2 years my school days were plagued of cutting classes, coming only when there were quizzes and exams. The worse were the long nights where I had to go home at six in the morning and go to school by 7:30 AM. I slept in classes.

My friends who are reading this, can relate to what I’ve said. Hey, you might be one of those buddies I was with!

After my sophomore year, I transferred to a local catholic school. But my vices did not stop. I spent more nights with the Dragonz, as we called ourselves. We played patintero at night at the Baluarte in Baclayon, Bohol. We bet for GSM or London Gin.           There were days during recess periods where go home to drink “Ginpo” by our house. After the recess I go back to school as if nothing happened. Chemistry was the next class.

Marisyo, Masaya, Happy. That’s my high school life.

After graduating high school in 2004, I made tambay for a year. I travelled to Leyte in 2005 to pursue a college degree. I found out it really  was hard to enrol in College at a different place. In Leyte everything is different from the culture, the dialect, and the people. But still my vices continue except drugs, this time with new friends and classmates.

Then in July 2005, I met this special girl. She’s a friend and a close friend for a few months (wag ka ng maki-chika kung anong nangyari). Because of her I stopped everything not because I promised her but because I want to finally be free from my vices. You need to have someone or something to motivate you. I did not stop my vices on instalment basis, I dropped everything all at once. It took me a great deal of discipline, patience, respect, and endurance. They said “Pag bisyo, bisyo. Di mo na matigilan.” but hey I did. Thanks girl for coming once into my life.


I was in my 2nd year college when I had my first and last college girlfriend in college who become my ex-girlfriend. For 6 months I courted her and after just last year August 2013 I married her. We became more than friends On Nov. 2006, and 3 years after, we had our first child. And I’m happy to be with her by my side together with our four children now, yes 4. (bilis, athlete kasi, parang ultra lang, LOL!)

November 2011, I started running, jogging-jogging lang pag may time. I was inspired by my sister and her husband who joined fun runs and duathlons. For two (2) weeks, I run on running shoes I bought from an ukay-ukay worth Php 50.00, (cheap huh?) but later on did not use them. I had a lot of shoes back then, eight pairs tried them all but my feet hurts after one kilometer. So I decided to run barefoot.

From 3ks-5ks, slowly increasing my mileage, week after week, it was not easy at first as there were blisters all over my foot, black toes, red and bloody blisters. There were nights specially the 1st week barefooted, that I have to cry for the pain on my calves, I can’t properly sit on the toilet bowl coz my legs and thighs are in pain, muscles asleep suddenly awaken due to improper stretching maybe. But I have to endure, I know, I’m already here why not do it all the way. My wife, at first did not approve of me running but later on she accepted and supported me since. “Maganda na rin daw yan at hindi ako magastos sa sapatos at hindi narin nagpapaumaga sa paglalaro ng starcraft at warcraft” She said. (Running is better because it’s cheap and he does not spent all-nighters in playing Starcrfat and Warcraft).

To better prepare myself, I know I had to overcome these blisters and pains. But how? The solution came from a game plan I’ve came up with: I ran at 10am or 2pm barefooted when walang klasi si commander (hehehehe) and where the sun is at his hottest around the lagoon at the Government Center in Palo, Leyte, and was not able to go back there not until February this year after the typhoon, the place is crowded with volunteers, soldiers in tents. Five rounds, and I’m solved. And it went on for farther distances of heat runs, from 9am-1pm from our apartment in Campetic to the 0 km site in the Capitol Grounds in Tacloban City and back via Maharlika Highway. Motivation for the fast paced and tempo runs? Si kumander, baka magalit malate pag-uwi(hehehe). Time and weather was not a problem back then, there were nights, rainy nights when I just grabbed my raincoat and off for a run, no wet shoes or socks, that’s my advantage. But last year and this year, for time management, had to go out of the house at 2:00 am and must be back before 7 or 8 am, hatid pa si misis sa office, ang kabataan, magigising na.


2011 / 2013

When I started running barefoot, people staring and talking behind my back, “an yari sa akin?” (What’s wrong with him) those teases or backbites were not new to me, experienced them all. I used to stop at PHCCI Gym in front of the Astrodome for hydration, there’s also a siopao junction nearby, passing Sagkahan, the lechon area of Tacloban, people will offer me slippers and laugh. I wonder what happened to them after Haiyan, sometimes they offer me “gaway” to eat. The heat was not the problem, I was born and raised in Bohol, where it is always summer. I was used to the heat, but the terrain, the asphalt all under the sun, you could not imagine how hot that would be. I even came across with people and runners who used to question me on my running especially If they saw me running barefoot, with only my compression shorts on “Hen-o ba ini na runner, ano ba it hiya nga lubas (half-bare) man buy-ayon (bilbilon) pa gud” they said. Some teenagers would say “adi na an lorong (crazy)”, especially if i stopped for hydration at a sari-sari store. I learned to just ignore all of them. For me, I am just happy to be the first barefoot runner in Tacloban (though I’m not of the previous generations).

January 2012 was my first official 10k runs in total barefoot at the Unity Run and the 2nd was Dalagan Tacloban’s night run. From my previous PR of 1:15 decreased it to 1:05 finish time. It was already an achievement despite receiving a finisher’s corticated only. Kumusta na kaya 10k ko ngayon, though I already beat Papa P.’s 1st 10k PR? (LOL). There I met people and other running enthusiasts, Shur Dolina and Linno Carlo Galindo who then became my friends, colleagues, and groupmates in TOES. They are fast and strong runners that I could barely keep up with them, right mga padi?


Legends’s baby steps: Barefoot and Shur Dolina.
Barefoot topped the 2013/2013 challenge. Sir Shur meanwhile finished last weekend’s Bataan Death March (BDM102).

I continued my training when I heard of an August 2012 50k I Shall Return ultramarathon, what? Can I do this padi? Then I learned of one of the requirements that runners must have at least finished a 42k or a full marathon. Damn! 10k palang ako certificates. The distance was not the problem, I was always pushing through the farthest they could offer. If I have the money I’ll go and push it. But the requirements? That’s where I’ll fail.

By March 2012, the opportunity came when I heard that some runners from Ormoc city are planning to run from Ormoc to Tacloban, not official though, just a weekend outing. Go, push ko yan! There were 5 of us. This was the first time I used my DIY huaraches sandal from outside sole of a world balance shoe which I bought at around 1k. But I took it off after Kananga town, while going uphill. First timer ultra, brought a lot on my hydro pack, I think I was carrying almost 8 kilos on my hydro bag. I quit at Km 67 though somewhere in Carigara. Blisters with rain and shine weather, so I decided to quit for the following day, which was my child’s birthday.

From that experience, I said to myself, I have to get fitter and better. I researched and tried different exercises till I came up with a program for myself. Three months was the program, for this span of time, I had to endure everything , from eating cereals or a can of tuna and a bowl of green veggies, no pork, no coffee nor softdrinks. Nothing less, nothing more. Two hours workout at home and two runs a day. And I was happy of the result: from 68 kilos down to 59 in just 4 weeks. I followed the program when the runners from Ormoc decided to run from Maasin City to Ormoc City. What? People are getting crazier, but I did join them. Kudos to the Ormoc runners I met that time, I really was about to collapse at km 102 I guess. Now I have a requirement for that 50 kilometer “I Shall Return Ultra”, though unofficial.

Barefoot during the 2012 I Shall Return 50k Ultra

Barefoot during the 2012 I Shall Return 50k Ultra

Continued adding and trying different programs like running backwards at Govt. Center, for 3 rounds, my fastest was 7:15/ lap and sometimes had to run with a 30 lbs weights inside my Sandugo Hydro bag during LSDs and also continued joining for fun runs and 21k before I had my ISR 50 at 6 hour 45+ minutes time. And a few weeks later I had my first full marathon at 5hr 30+ time, not bad for a beginner.

By late 2012, around September, because of the inspiration from a co-runner from Cebu Randy Labiste, my partner, trainer and mentor who I just met a few weeks before ISR running alone at the Goverment Center, if not for the CUC 100 orange shirt he was wearing that time, I would have not approached him and started running with him. And later on he encouraged me to form a running club in Tacloban to gather the runners and other running enthusiasts. I said to myself Why not? So when doing nothing at home I am on my PC looking for ideas about running groups, I came up with the first name Footprints In the Streets, but when I tried to abbreviate it is says FISTs. A running group in FISTs? No way. Then I came up with the ‘TOES’ T. …Organization of..  but I had to think for a meaning for the ‘T. E. and S.’.  I Googled for more synonyms of newbie or beginners and boom –Tenderfoot was the word, I had now Tenderfoot Organization of ES, searched again for google, if I can apply the word enthusiasts, pwede, and decided S was for Striders. So it became TOES for Tenderfoot Organization of Enthusiastic Striders.

Now for the logo? There was an old Logo though from images gathered from google and edited in photoshop and corel draw. But a friend told me, we have to make the logo unique and original for legal purposes. How do I make a logo unique? Simple, I photograph my foot, cartoonized it, traced it as detailed logo and we have that same up to now, so original and unique. Randy and I begun to search and invite runners we saw on the road, we try to talk to them and invite them to the group. This eventually formed as the big 11 seniors of TOES and we invited more, we stand by the slogan “Sweat + Sacrifice = SUCCESS”.

The TOES logo! See that feet? That's Albert's foot.

The TOES logo! See that feet? That’s Albert’s foot.

At present, we are training and inviting runners not only from Tacloban but all over Region 8. We are not a group with over 120 members from all walks of life who shares the same passion in running and community service. TOES is composed of athletes, government workers, businessmen, students,  professionals, marathoners, beginners, ultras, and most especially Yolanda survivors .  I still continued my training even after the typhoon Yolanda. I have achieved 42k in 14 days, although there were days that I can not run the 42k in just 1 run. Last year I was at 30k for 15 days before CUC 100 Leg 3, and I’m on a program now to try 50k in I don’t know how many consecutive days I can do it to try CUC’s founding President Tony Galon’s Petal Run (fingers crossed). But hey I will just keep on running!

The purpose of writing my story was to encourage others, especially who are trapped in their vices. Yes, you can still get out. Discipline, patience, perseverance, kaya mo yan. I would be glad to help you guys and encourage you to run though Im no professional and no elite. And for now my quest is to continue running and invite more runners to join the TOES running club of Tacloban.

And this is my Barefoot story.


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  1. BEST WISHES to Runners turned Race Directors / Organizers this Weekend! | Running stories in Cebu and around Philippines - Runroo - 11 April, 2014

    […] Albert Tagaytay (TOES), Race and Shine Leyte You can read a story about this inspiring barefoot ultramarathoner here >>. […]

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