Dr. Albert Santos runs New York, New York!

Of the hundreds of 42K footraces in the world—including the oldest annual (Boston, starting 1897), the highest (Everest Marathon, at 17,000 feet), the loudest (Country Music Marathon with 50 artists performing along 28 portions of the route), and the coldest (the North Pole Marathon, temperature: -25 C)—none compare to the biggest and most famous: New York City.

Last Nov. 7, a total of 44,704 runners finished the NYC Marathon. One of those was Dr. Albert Santos. Cebu’s top pulmonary wizard, Dr. Santos not only helps Cebuanos fix their lung-related illnesses, he himself relishes this sport that’s lung-busting.

Back in February 2008, Dr. Santos ran his first marathon race, flying to Hong Kong with 13 others from Cebu. Steady-paced with a relaxed motion throughout the 42.195 kms., he made the cutoff time by finishing in five hours, 26 minutes.

Running is an addiction. And—as perplexing and contradictory as it sounds—marathon-running is the most painful experience that you’d want to keep on repeating. It is hours of (temporal) pain transformed into years of (unforgettable) memories.

After Hong Kong, the Dr. Santos strode onwards, completing three more 42Ks. In Singapore, we were together with the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC) in December of 2008. Albert finished in 6:08. Next, Milo in Manila (5:55). Then, the impressive Amsterdam Marathon showing (5:03).

Finally, the “Wimbledon of Marathons” … New York, New York. Coming from Vancouver, Canada for a pulmonary conference and landing in the Big Apple two days before the marathon start, he had a scary beginning.

“I almost didn’t make it to Staten Island,” said Dr. Santos, of the starting point. “Nov. 7 was the first day to shift back to standard time from DST. I adjusted my watch one hour earlier but apparently the clock automatically adjusts itself. So when I arrived at the subway, it was empty! I got scared. The subway time was 8:10 and the ferry will leave at 8:15 a.m.

“But, God won’t be outdone. All of a sudden, after I asked a lady if she’s joining the race and she said ‘No,’ another lady from the back said, ‘I am’ (she’s a New Yorker). Whew! I reached the island together with a busload of others… the very last batch.”

Despite wearing a Garmin GPS watch, Dr. Santos opted not to monitor his pace during the run. “That was my mistake in Singapore,” he said. This time, he simply checked his watch to guide him when to take the energy gels.

“The crowd was the biggest plus factor of all,” he said, of New York’s two million spectators. “They were there after the bridge of the race, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. It was a never-ending cheering squad.”

When I asked for memorable moments, Albert said: “I don’t know what came to me but I decided to wear the pace time at the back of my shirt. Jane-Jane (Ong) gave it to me from the expo. My wife Mau advised the time “4:50.” So I wore the shirt.

“I totally forgot about it until runners were asking me whether I was the official pacer because I was running faster than my paced time. Even the pacer 4:20 was just ahead of me after the 2nd and 3rd wave of runners merged at Mile 8. Anyway, I decided to slow down, afraid that I might end up with the devastating cramps (like in Singapore). God is good! No cramps all throughout.”

Dr. Santos finished in a Personal Record (PR) time of 4:47:07. The others from Cebu? All speedy… Dan Climaco, 3:38; Andrew Ong, 3:59:08; Jane-Jane Ong, 4:12:31; Fr. Joy Danao, 4:29:15; and Nica Ong, 4:30:32.

How was this fifth 42K different? “The weather was colder, crowd was fantastic, race support very efficient,” he said. “I was better motivated because I wanted to give it my best for my wife Maureen and daughter Sam who were waiting at the finish line. Also, because running NYC is a chance of a lifetime.

“God is good! He put in order my schedule, profession, and family life so that I was able to prepare well for New York… ‘Where The World Meets To Run!’”

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