Mile after Millette after Mile

I wrote this article last Dec. 2, 2008…..

Mrs. Chiongbian is one of Cebu’s top female executive runners. The podium? After the race? Where the winners are accorded medals? She’s climbed on top of those—aplenty. She’s done the 2006 Sinulog Marathon, where she ranked 8th. At last year’s Milo Half-Marathon, she placed 5th and outran one of RP’s most famous long-distance runners, Senator Pia Cayetano. This 2008 edition of Milo? She bettered herself, placing 3rd.

But among the many trophies that adorn Millette Chiongbian’s home at Maria Luisa, nothing compares to the training she’s devoted on an event that will race five days from today: the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon.

For nearly 12 months, Millette has spent her early mornings and late afternoons running, covering over 100 kms. per week. Imagine that: nearly 500 kms. of running per month! I bet—for comparison’s sake—that 9 out of 10 people on earth will not hit 500 kms. of combined running their entire life.

“Running is simple,” Millette answers when I ask, Why run? “Running renews me, it humbles me. Running is unpredictable. Running outscores the mental and physical challenges.”

What a Reader’s Digest quotable quote. To a fellow runner like myself, those words are genuine, profound, honest.

A fitness extremist who’s done cross-training sports for 22 years, badminton for six and triathlon for 24 months, Millette is comparably new to running. Although she did leisure jogs before, she only entered serious running last June 2007—about 1 ½ years ago. But since she’s started—given the athletic zealot that she is—Millette has run mile after kilometer after mile. In fact, on one occasion relayed to me by Chris Aldeguer, a fellow runner who’ll compete at the Las Vegas Marathon this same Sunday, Millette did the most inconceivable of acts: She ran on a treadmill…. for five hours! Oh yes, she had to stop—but only for a few seconds because the poor treadmill had to restart after Millette’s non-stop poundings. In all, she ran a full marathon (42-K) on that rotating belt of a machine.

Incredible? That’s a synonym for Millette.

Excluding that “Treadmill Marathon,” she’s done one full 42-K: the 2006 Sinulog Marathon. “It was one of my best runs!” she said. “News broke that a 42k was organized… I immediately decided to join because the previous full marathon held here was 13 yrs ago. I was ecstatic! I couldn’t let that pass.”

The other astonishing fact about that run was that Millette finished it only five months after giving birth to her youngest child, Savvi. Was Millette labored by her lack of preparation? Her reply: “I remember to have smiled thru the course. It was fun!”

This Sunday’s 2008 Singapore Marathon? Billed as one of Asia’s biggest road races (50,000 pairs of sneakers will compete in the 10-K, 21-K and 42-K distances), when I asked Millette for her expectations, she replied, through e-mail: “I have prepared for this for about a year… I believe am at my strongest. Will definitely run this race faster than my 1st,” referring to the ’06 Sinulog Marathon when she clocked four hours, 40 minutes.

Given her six-days-a-week training program with one of Cebu’s top coaches, Elberto Banzon, Millette is expected to perform well—and possibly emerge as the fastest runner among our 28-person Cebu delegation. If all conditions are right, Millette’s ultimate goal would be to clock 3 hours, 45 minutes and qualify for the most prestigious race on earth, the Boston Marathon.

Yet, while running stands at the top-most of Millette’s priorities, it is not No.1. Her family is tops: Frederic, her husband, is also running Singapore for his first 42-K; children Justin, Yuan and Savvi—the two older siblings have joined 3-K races and won medals while Savvi, only two years old, I saw running around Chris Aldeguer’s beach house like it were a track oval. Call the Chiongbians “Cebu’s Running Family.”

For, with Millette, running is simple. Fun. Easy.

Just don’t ask that treadmill who suffered a five-hour hammering.

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