Category Archives: Cebu Marathon

Yong 2020

For an eye doctor, the numbers “20/20” are special. (Don’t we all want to hear the words, “You have 20/20 vision,” from our ophthalmologist?)

For Dr. Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III, the year 2020 takes on a special, double meaning as a top eye surgeon. Just last week, he completed the most incredible of accomplishments: running 7 marathons in 7 days in 7 continents.

From Feb. 7 to 14, he ran a 42K in Cape Town (Africa); Novo (Antarctica); Perth (Australia); Dubai (Asia); Madrid (Europe); Fortaleza, Brazil (South America), and Miami (North America). Dr. Yong was one of only 23 men and 12 women to have completed the event and he became the first Filipino to accomplish this World Marathon Challenge. 

Yong started running in 2006. That was only 14 years ago — I say “only” because since then, he has completed a mind-boggling 68 marathons. On one of his first, the 2008 Hong Kong Marathon, we were together.

In preparation for a talk (“Exercise is Medicine”) that I gave to a group of doctors two years ago, I asked Yong why he chose this sport.

“Running clears my mind from everything that goes on in my busy daily routine at work,” he said. “I feel my day is not complete without exercise. Mental and physical sluggishness usually happens when I don’t exercise. Joining marathons not only makes me strong physically but mentally as well. In every marathon, there is always an end goal. And just like in life, to reach your goal, there has to be focus, commitment and determination.”

Yong tries to run five times each week (four times on the treadmill) and he joins local races for his long runs. And unlike many of us who prefer morning runs, Yong cannot because of his early daily surgeries. 

“I started exercising because my work became too stressful and I knew then it would eventually take its toll on my health,” he said. He opted for running because his preferred sport (basketball) was too dangerous for his fingers and body — considering his profession (apart from being the CEO and Chairman of CebuDoc). 

“Not only is running safe,” he said, “it also compliments my lifestyle since I finish work late. I can train alone anytime after. Later on, after joining international races, I appreciated travelling abroad and learning about their different cultures. Travelling was rarely done before I started running.”

In my interview with him in 2018, he had just completed back-to-back events: first, the Boston Marathon and, six days later, the London Marathon — achieving the coveted Abbott World Marathon Majors Medal (finishing all six majors).

Last month after Yong completed the Cebu Marathon, I texted to congratulate him that night. He said thanks and told me he was running 42K the next day.. on a treadmill! This was all in preparation for his amazing 7-7-7 (World Marathon Challenge). 

Yong’s advice to us all: If you want to live a long, healthy life with your wife/husband and watch your kids grow old and graduate from school, you should prioritize your health. 

Yong (center) with me and Dr. Peter Mancao

 

Jesse Bernad

When we studied at the UP Cebu for college, everybody who played sports looked up to Jesse Bernad.

In an article I wrote about him years ago, here’s how I described Jesse whenever we played the Intrams: 

“If you saw Troy, he’s Achilles. Our Michael Phelps of the Athens Games. Everybody sweated facing Hulk. As softball pitcher, he threw underhand fastballs that screamed at you like a bullet ambulance. How do I know? I stood meters from him as batter and almost fell off my backside at the zooming softball’s pace. As basketball center, Jessed pulled down rebounds like he were picking mansanitas, deflected shots like one would mosquitoes, and owned the low post like a Tim Duncan.”

Fast forward three decades later, Jesse Bernad is still into sports. But no longer rebounding the basketball or throwing that softball pitch or standing as football goalie and intimidating opponents with his 5-foot-11 frame, he’s into this another workout.

Jesse with Ken Griffey Jr.

I started running in 2015 when I joined a running club created by Amale Jopson in my previous job at Aboitizland,” said Jesse. 

Like all of us, he started running 5Ks. Then, when he experienced that “runner’s high” and wanted to go further, he did 10Ks. Months later and wanting to go for a bigger target, Jesse prepared for a half-marathon. 

“With my first 21K, I was nervous but prepared well enough to finish at 2hrs, 20mins,” he said. “Ever since, I’ve been running 21Ks the past 5 years and must have finished 12 races.”

But Jesse had an ultimate goal: To run 42.195 kms. 

“I had opportunities to run my first marathon elsewhere but I decided to do it here in my hometown of Cebu, to make it meaningful,” he said. “I saw the Facebook posts of friends Hans Congmon, Bernard Sia and Bryan Tan training. I asked to join their practice runs. This was last September. ‘No excuses this time.’ I told myself, ‘If don’t do it now, I never will.’

His goal: the 2020 Cebu Marathon on Jan. 19.

Jesse continued his 5K runs before increasing his mileage twice a week. He ran 5 to 7 kms. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Ateneo de Cebu oval and Angelicum and long runs on weekends while integrating speed and tempo programs.

“We did our long runs at Cempark, in the hills of Casili and Talamban, and on various city roads every Sunday,” he said. “We trained with the New Balance Running Club. This helped a lot. The program was to run for six straight Sundays, gradually increasing the distance from 15K to 35K. There were about 30 to 35 of us who participated all throughout, and I looked forward to it every weekend.” 

Waking up at 3 a.m. every Sunday was challenging.

“It was quite an investment on my time despite my busy work and family schedule especially during the holidays,” he added.

As a result of his training, Jesse lost close to 30 lbs.

Finally, when the new year dawned and the race day drew close, Jesse said he felt “confident and anxious.” He said: “I hardly slept the last two nights before the Cebu Marathon.”

January 19, 2020 arrived and Jesse fulfilled his dream.

I finished with a time of 5 hours and 13 mins. (my Garmin read 44K total distance),” said Jesse. “The final push I planned did not materialize as I felt a cramp about to happen. The salt sticks I took, given by ultra racer Julian Summers, helped. Overall, I was happy with my time.

“Finishing the race was an exhilarating experience, something I will never forget. Seeing my teammates, especially my childhood buddy Mark Tolentino, whom I coaxed to join me, crossing the line and celebrating made it rewarding for all of us. 

“Most of all, having my wife Emma, who did her first 21K, congratulate me at the finish line was the best feeling. I would love to have another opportunity to run another marathon, this time with Emma at my side.”

Jesse and Emma

Jesse shares his tips for all runners:

  1. Find friends who can do it with you. Create a chat room where you can share ideas. Seeing my teammates working hard helped motivate me. Training alone would be a lonely trip.
  2. Ask advise from others who’ve done a marathon. My neighbor and running guru Jun Angeles told me his secret of eating camote with its peeling, which I did for 3 months. It helped me gain more energy. Esteemed triathlete Noy Jopson introduced me to “Double Run” – one in the morning and another at night – two weeks before race day to gain more mileage but less pounding on your legs. I was shocked but understood the concept.
  3. Nutrition is key. After watching “Game Changers” in Netflix, Emma and I learned to eat more complex-carb food: lots of fruits, grains, seeds/nuts and veggies. We avoided fatty food and sweets and became plant-based eaters. Drink lots of water.
  4. Change your lifestyle. Avoid vices, sleep and wake up early. Sleep is your best friend.
  5. Train hard. 42K is no walk in the park. Include leg and core strengthening. Coach Allan Choachuy introduced me to his superset of 10 reps: jumping jacks, squats, push-ups and lunges, to be repeated as many times in 4 minutes. This helped me in the latter stage of the race.
  6. Being busy is no excuse. I continued training despite supervising the opening of our new restaurant – EatsaHabit in Robinsons Galleria – where construction starts at 10pm and ends at 3am. I ran at dawn, at night and in the middle of the day.
  7. Find a running buddy who has the same pace. Veteran runner Roy Trani was my mentor and pacer to the end. I couldn’t have done it without him.
  8. It’s a mental game. Train your brain to deflect pain and the urge to stop. Think of happy thoughts. Your mind will bring you to the finish line.
  9. Age doesn’t matter! It’s never too late to run a marathon. I did mine at age 50. Neither does gender. I came across women who were faster than me.
  10. If you can afford it, invest in a smartwatch. 
  11. Commit yourself wholeheartedly. What you put in is what you get. There are no shortcuts.
  12. Lastly, enjoy the whole experience, it’s once-in-a-lifetime.. or so I thought!

21 fun facts on the 42K

As the 2020 Cebu Marathon unfolds at dawn today and as thousands of runners pound the streets of Cebu City, here are interesting tidbits about the 42.195-km. event.

  1. The Everest Marathon is the world’s highest marathon, starting at 17,000 feet at Gorak Shep, close to the Everest Base Camp in Nepal.
  2. During the 2007 Boston Marathon, astronaut Sunita Williams ran 42K (in 4 hours and 24 minutes) while onboard the International Space Station.
  3. The world’s oldest marathoner is Fauja Singh, who finished the 2011 Toronto Marathon in 8 hours and 11 minutes. He was 100.
  4. In 1990, only 25% of road race finishers in the US were women. Now, women comprise nearly half of all finishers.
  5. In 1977, an 8-year-old (Wesley Paul) ran the NYC Marathon in 3 hours.
  6. At the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, 17 competitors ran 40K.
  7. Football freestyler John Farnworth completed the 2011 London Marathon in 12 hours and 15 minutes, juggling a football the entire distance — not dropping the ball once.
  8. It wasn’t until 1921 that 42.195 kms. became the official distance.
  9. ‘Marathon’ comes from the legend of Pheidippides. He ran from the city of Marathon to Athens to spread the word about the Persian defeat in 490 BC. After completing the run, Pheidippides collapsed and died.
  10. In the Midnight Sun Marathon, held in Tromsø, Norway, runners compete under a night time sun.
  11. The oldest female marathoner is Gladys Burrill, aged 92.
  12. The North Pole Marathon holds record for the northernmost marathon, with competitors running in temperatures of -30C.
  13. There is a “Man vs. Horse” marathon in Wales. Humans have won twice since 2004, especially on unusually hot days.
  14. At 200 meters below sea level in the Jordan Valley, the Tiberias Marathon is the lowest marathon in the world.
  15. Eliud Kipchoge holds the world record (2018 Berlin Marathon) with a time of 2:01:39. For the women, it’s Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04).
  16. The fastest average for men (in 2017) was from Ukraine. Their average marathon time: 3:51:10.
  17. The Boston Marathon, which started in 1897, is the world’s oldest annual marathon.
  18. As part of the 42K distance of the Great Wall of China Marathon, runners also climb 5,164 steps.
  19. The world’s youngest marathoner is Budhia Singh. He finished 48 marathons before his fifth birthday.
  20. The 2019 NYC Marathon owns the world record for the number of finishers: 53,627 runners.
  21. Markus Jürgens holds a world record. At the 2017 Hannover Marathon, he timed 3 hours and 38 minutes — running backwards!

 

2020 Cebu Marathon

When you utter the word “marathon,” it doesn’t mean 5K or 10K. It’s one specific distance: 42.195 kms. Why that odd number? The marathon dates back to the Greek time when a soldier named Pheidippides ran from Athens to Marathon to announce the Greek victory against the Persians. Sadly, Pheidippides died of exhaustion after running 40 kms.!

True story? Ha-ha, no; this is all a legend. 

As to why the “42.195 km.” number? This can be traced back to the 1908 London Olympics. Originally, the route was 25 miles but distance was added because, among other things, one: complaints were received that the final miles were cobbles and tram-lines and, two: that the British Royalty wanted to watch the start and finish.

Thus, for concocting this preposterous torture (the marathon), we should blame the Greeks; and for the odd 42.195 number, we ought to blame the British.

Here in Cebu this Jan. 12, 2020, over 1,200 runners will attempt to run the same 42K. (Over 1,600 will run the half-marathon.) They’ll commence at the Cebu Business Park (CBP), traverse towards the Provincial Capitol, jog to the Mambaling Underpass, return to Osmeña Blvd., dash to the Sto. Niño Church, dive into the SRP Tunnel and gallop towards the U-turn point in Il Corso, SRP, before returning to CBP. 

The starting gun will be fired at 3 a.m. and there’s a cutoff time of 7 hours. Along the way, there will be 14 stations that will be loaded with water and entertainment. 

Why, you ask, do people spend months waking up at dawn to prepare for the marathon? As one Bill Buffum once said: “The marathon is not really about the marathon, it’s about the shared struggle. And it’s not only the marathon, but the training.”

True. The actual race is the “easy” part. By easy, I don’t mean it’s effortless; I mean it’s the electrifying finale of the whole process. The most difficult times are these: the 3 a.m. alarm clock rings; the Sunday 30K long runs; the weekend sprints; the knee pains. 

As the saying goes, the marathon is hundreds of kilometers; the finish is the last 42K.

To all running the Cebu Marathon, especially to the first-timers, I salute you. It’s time to taper and rest those muscles. Like Manny Pacquiao days before his Las Vegas fight, it’s time to stop the sparring (running) and get your body relaxed for Sunday.

Carbo-load days before. Drink lots of water. Buy your energy gels. Get enough sleep. Don’t run too fast in the first 21K. (It’s often said that the first half of the marathon is up to 32K and the last half is the remaining 10K.) Best advice of all: enjoy it. Smile, take photos if you can bring your phone; high-five the volunteers; ask your friends to cheer you on. You are lucky to be among the world’s first to run a marathon this new decade.

42.195

As you’re reading this, the Cebu Marathon is underway. Starting at 3 a.m., over 1,300 runners will start their long trek from the Cebu Business Park and run a crazy long distance with the aim of being called this: Marathoner.

The marathon is an enigma. It has transformed people’s lives. It has caused knee, foot and back injuries to almost every participant. It’s a dream. It’s a target in one’s “bucket list.”

42.195 is the exact number of kilometers for the marathon. (If you hear someone saying, “I’ll run a 5K marathon,” that’s incorrect.)

Its history dates back to 490 BC in the Battle of Marathon when, according to legend, a Greek soldier named Pheidippides ran to Athens to report the defeat of the Persians. Fast forward to 1896, when the Olympic Games were first held in Athens, the marathon was in the original roster of events.

Today, an estimated 800 marathon events are organized worldwide. This morning, it’s our very own Cebu City that’s hosting the 42K race. (There are also two other distances offered, the 21K and 5K, but the premier event is the 42K.)

What makes our Cebu race special is the Sinulog. It’s timed perfectly a week before the grand parade; thus, the drum beaters, banners and dancers all contributing to a festive, Pit Senyor occasion.

The Hydration Stations, over a dozen of them scattered throughout the route, are stops not only for drinking water or Pocari Sweat but also to get rejuvenated. Entertainment is a must among the water stops — giving a much-needed boost to the wearied runners.

If you’re a participant today, congratulations. It doesn’t matter if you’re a sub-3 runner (like our Olympian Mary Joy Tabal) or it will take you the full 7 hours to complete the journey. What matters is that you joined and finished.

If you’re a friend or relative of a participant, applaud your marathon finisher. Commend him or her for all the months of waking up at 3 a.m. to run; for the discipline and determination. (In the U.S., it’s estimated that only 0.5 percent of the population has finished a marathon. This number will be much, much less in the Philippines.)

If you’re a regular Cebu resident like majority of the SunStar readers, why not “join” by going out early today (the event will conclude at 10 a.m) and cheering on the participants. Finally, if you’re driving and will encounter heavy traffic, be patient. Think less of your inconvenience (sitting down, possibly in an aircon car) and think more of the sacrifices and sweat endured by the marathoners on the road.

2018 Cebu Marathon

Have you ran a 21K or a 42K marathon before? If yes, that’s terrific; you’re one of a few hundred thousand (from our planet’s 7.5 billion inhabitants) to have suffered, sweated, swallowed the pain of sore feet, and swung your arms up in the arm to declare victory at the finish.

If you haven’t joined a half-marathon or a 42.195-km. race before, now is the time to do it. Make the year “2018” a special one. And start the new year — perfectly-timed with the Sinulog — with a runner’s bang.

Set the date, January 14, 2018. That’s a Sunday. That’s exactly five months and 18 days from today. That’s more than enough time, if you’ve been running 5Ks, 10Ks and 15Ks, to attempt a longer and loftier goal.

It’s the 2018 Cebu Marathon.

What changes are in store for the runners? First, it’s back to Cebu. For the past four years, the Cebu Marathon was organized by RunRio, the country’s largest race organizer that’s Manila-based. It was good. But now it’s time… Bisaya na pud!

The Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC), which founded this event in 2008 when it was first called the Sinulog Half-Marathon, has partnered with top Cebu organizers Kenneth Casquejo and Joel Juarez of Iconic Sports + Events to run this running event. Like it was in the first six years (2008 to 2013), this will be all-Bisaya.

Second, registration will begin tomorrow. And if I were you, I’ll make sure to register this weekend. Why? Because of the incentives in store for all the early-bird registrants.

The Australian brand 2XU, very popular in the fitness and sporting world, will offer a limited edition “2XU Race Tee” for all who register today, tomorrow and Sunday. You may opt to register online (www.cebumarathon.ph) or even better, visit the Active Zone of Ayala Center Cebu to register onsite.

Discounted “early-bird” rates are being offered this weekend. For the 21K, it’s P1,100 and for the 42K, it’s P1,400.

For this special rate, you get the 2XU Race Tee plus several others: a sling bag, an embroidered towel, accident insurance, and a finisher’s shirt and medal upon reaching the finish.

To be clear to all participants, those who do not register this weekend will get a New Balance singlet — still good but possibly not as special as the commemorative 2XU Race Tees.

Also, those who register much later will have to pay the higher prices: P1,400 for the 21K and P1,800 for the 42K… these are the rates for the participants who register after the early-bird registration.

What more for this weekend? The first 200 who enlist tomorrow will get free Ayala Center Cebu cinema tickets. So be there at 10 in the morning.

And, this time to be given to all who show up at the Active Zone this whole weekend, the organizers will be handing out P500 shopping coupons from New Balance.

Important note: All the race giveaways (2XU race tee, towel, sling bag and others) will be given during the Race Expo from January 10 to 12.

As I said, make “2018” an extraordinary year by gifting yourself (or your spouse, loved ones or business colleagues) with the gift of exercise and sport and running. Having finished a few marathons myself, I guarantee you that a 42K or 21K experience will be life-changing. You’ll be more positive, slimmer, fitter. Make sure you register this weekend!

For more details, visit the Facebook page of “Cebu Marathon” or log-in to the website, www.cebumarathon.ph.

Seven reasons to run the 42K

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-4-15-27-pm

Exactly 90 days are left before January 8, 2017. That’s the morning when the starting gun will be fired at 3 a.m. to commence a looong 42 kilometer adventure for those running the 2017 Cebu Marathon.

Why, you ask, should someone be crazy and idiotic to travel that far a distance with no bike wheels or car wheels but just one’s God-given leg wheels? Why run the marathon, you ask? Valid question.

As someone who’s been bitten by this running bug the past 10 or so Octobers, I offer a few reasons.

One, because it’s there. That’s not an original phrase. Those are the same words that Sir Edmund Hillary uttered when asked why climb Mount Everest. Because it’s there, he proudly exclaimed.

Same uncomplicated reason why you ought to strive and finish a full 42.195-km. run called the marathon. Simply because the challenge presents itself. Simply because very, very, very, very few have achieved it. Simply to absorb the pain, to endure the training of that dawn-to-sunrise footslog, to sweat endlessly for six hours with legs cramping and heart pounding and knees aching. Because the marathon is there.

Two: to get slimmer. I’ve tried all types of sports and exercise and I tell you with all comprehensive analysis and honesty that nothing beats running. You burn more calories per minute on the road, pounding those calf muscles and swinging those arms and bobbing that head with running than any other sport.

I guarantee you: Want to lose those 24 unwanted pounds? Enlist for a marathon. Given the volume of training that you’ll endure, it’s but natural that your body fat will evaporate and those excesses will disappear.

Third reason: You’ll gain friends. Running long-distance is tough to do by your lonesome. It’s also not advisable as you wouldn’t want to be running (in the dark) from 3:30 a.m. onwards by yourself— I’m talking of your physical safety. If you’re training long, enlist a group of friends to trek with you. Those one, two, three, four hours of running will be most enjoyable when you’re talking to a buddy, sharing how your work and week went, conversing tsismis while touring Cebu’s city streets.

This is what our Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC) group does on Sunday mornings and this is what dozens of groups do. They run together. They forge better relationships.

Fourth, I quote Theodore Roosevelt: “Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort.”

This means that the greater the effort, the greater the achievement. It’s the same with running. Almost weekly, a Fun Run is offered for anyone to join. Mostly, the distances are 5K and 10K. These are good distances to cover. But if you really want to aim for a difficult yet achievable grand target, go for the full length. It will require more time and more sweat and more willpower and more fighting spirit — but once you’ve crossed that 42K finish line, you’ll be rewarded with an inner joy and the widest of smiles.

Fifth reason: You’ll sleep better. No kidding. It’s proven that the more tired you are physically, the better your sleep. And who doesn’t want that deep and relaxing rest at night? When you run, let’s say four times weekly, your body will be more fatigued than usual — which will give you a better sleep.

Six: You’ll inspire others. I’ve met so many marathoners who were previously sedentary individuals. When their relatives or office mates look at their physique now, they’re slimmer. But more than appearance, when others realize how far they’ve run, they stand amazed and marvel at the effort and dedication. If you can inspire others to run and to turn healthy… kudos! You’ve not only helped yourself but also others.

No. 7: You’ll develop a good habit. What’s so laudable with running is you need very little equipment or baggage to do it. When you travel, just bring your Saucony shoes and off you go. (You can’t do this with the Vellum road bike.) As your love for running grows, it will infiltrate your life and become enmeshed with your lifestyle. Your mind and body will look for that daily sweat.

Tri-city marathon of Cebu

Back in the 1990s, the most celebrated footrace of our province was called the “Tri-city Marathon.” Though it wasn’t officially a marathon (whose strict definition involves a distance of 42.195 kms.), it was the most looked-forward-to and exciting race of its time.

Foreigners landed in Mactan to join. The elite long-distance stars from Manila arrived to compete in the 32K. Ordinary folks dressed to impress while wearing sneakers. Organized by Joy Augustus Young, then (and now) Cebu City Councilor, it was festive and encouraged the participants to dress in loud, colorful and fun costumes. It was a mardi gras and run merged into one carnival.

Come January 8, 2017, we hope to revive this “Tri-City Marathon” with our very own Cebu Marathon. Why tri-city? Because it will involve the three largest cities of our island: Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue and Cebu.

The Cebu Marathon had always started and finished at the Cebu I.T. Park. Back in 2008 when it was the Sinulog Half-Marathon, runners started their trek and finished all-sweating in Lahug. Ten years later — for the 2017 version — we’re still in the Ayala-owned property but this time it’s at the Cebu Business Park (CBP). The space inside the Cebu I.T. Park is congested with high-rise buildings and restaurants. There’s no more room for a marathon event there. The new start/finish area will be along the Negros and Bantayan roads of CBP, near the gleaming and tall MSY Building.

MARCELO FERNAN BRIDGE. For the 21K and 42K participants, it will be a brand-new route. The half-marathoners will depart CBP and run towards the Mabolo Church and turn left at the SM City Cebu. From there, it’s a nonstop path along Ouano Avenue and Jose Briones St. until you turn right at the U.N. Avenue before climbing the bridge, descending into Mactan, and making a U-turn and running back to CBP. It’s an out-and-back 21K course.

21k-route

21K Route

With the 42K, we’ll ask the runners to meander along the main Cebu City streets first — to view the Sinulog lights and sights — before heading towards Mandaue and Mactan.

Why the change of route when the Cebu Marathon had always traversed the SRP and Talisay City? Well, as the slogan “Change is coming” is propagated all over our 7,107 islands, this event might as well join the mantra. Second: the smell. The headlines scream about the foul odor near the SRP and Talisay portions and we wouldn’t want our international visitors to inhale this air while huffing and puffing. The sport of running is difficult enough; imagine the extra suffering by breathing the foul smell? Most of all, the Marcelo Fernan Bridge is a symbol of Cebu; and what better destination to surmount and climb.

42k-rouote

42K Route

Since the Cebu Marathon falls under the Sinulog week, the usual loud music and drum-beaters and entertainment will uplift the runners. There will be at least 14 hydration stations for the marathon — complete with Gatorade drinks and Nature’s Spring water.

Registration starts today! Just visit the website www.cebumarathon.net and you’ll have your choices of four categories: 5K, 10K, 21K and 42K. For those who want to register in person, the onsite registration will commence on Oct. 10 at the Active Zone of Ayala Center Cebu.

RUNRIO. For the thousands who joined the Milo Marathon race last Sunday, it was another very well-organized event. I ran alongside our Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC) president Steve Ferraren and, in terms of safety, hydration, entertainment and overall management, there is no better organizer of foot races in the Philippines than Rio de la Cruz. The RunRio team — who also organize the Condura Marathon and the Run United Trilogy, among others — is a big group of professionals that include Franco Bambico, JP Aranda, Rommel and Allan Balester and many more.

And, like the 14 or so Milo races all over the country, RunRio is once again helping organize the Cebu Marathon. In partnership with the CERC, which founded this event a decade ago, RunRio will put their experience and expertise to good use come January 8.

The 2015 Cebu Marathon

What a way to start the new year! On the 11th day of what is expected to be a grueling and up-and-down-and-up 365 days of 2015, thousands joined the Cebu Marathon last Sunday.

This will be a terrific year. To those who doubted if they’d be able to finish 21 kms. by foot or those who previously thought that running 42,195 meters was unthinkable — well, think again. You’ve done it. To the brave, to the bold and yes, to the barefooted… kudos!

You might still be limping today. Your calf muscles are still as hard as stone. But those memories: the 1 a.m. wake-up call; those joyful minutes that transformed into painful hours; all those weeks of training and thousands of pesos spent on running gear and registration fees last year; they’re all worth it. You’ve made it. What a running start for 2015.

The over three thousand participants, including dozens of foreigners, could not have asked for better weather. The skies were not only rain-free (unlike last year’s deluge of sky water); the temperature was cool. To those who ran the return stretch at the SRP, weren’t those clouds God-provided to help you? The ideal conditions provided the backdrop for many to do a PR.

This was the 8th edition of CCM. The first two were labeled “Sinulog Half-Marathon” and the last six included 42Ks. Some have made it a Sinulog-type of pilgrimage, running every second Sunday of the year, joining every CCM. Like Abby Ponce. Another is my ultra-marathoner idol, Tony Galon, who’s done 7. Same with Atan Guardo, who finished with a speedy time of 4:24.

Why run the marathon? It’s a crazy thought, no? Willfully inflicting pain on yourself while others are fast asleep. There are many reasons. For some, their loss of 60 lbs. of body weight has enabled them to be lighter — like CERC president Steve Ferraren, who ran his 28th marathon. For others, it’s to escape pain; yes, how ironic: to escape pain, you inflict pain; but marathon running counters all other problems we have at home and at work. It’s an escape and a legal drug. For many, because it’s a goal that seemed impossible to accomplish.. then. But now, they’ve deleted the word’s first two letters and made it possible.

In behalf of RunRio and CERC (Cebu Executive Runners Club), we thank numerous groups who have made CCM15 another good run.

Dr. Peter Mancao and his team of dozens of doctors (Dr. Arnold Tan was at the finish) and nurses and volunteers, who assembled medical stations and paraded ambulances throughout the route.

To Citom, to our police, and to the hundreds of marshals: I don’t think Cebu has seen a road race as cordoned-of and safe for the runners as last Sunday’s.

To our Hydration Station partners: Bionic Builders (of soon-to-be-Ironman Bernard Sia), the Primary Group of Builders (of marathoner Wally Liu), Cebu Grand Hotel (of 21K finisher Carlo Suarez), Filinvest, Aeolus Tires (of Gerard Tan, who personally handed out water and Gatorade), to Barangay Lahug, Honda Motor World of Jonel Borromeo, Cebu Parklane Intl. Hotel, Holiday Gym and Spa (represented by Veron Enriquez); to Tinago Brgy. Captain Joel Garganera, to the Talisay City officials; to Joel Juarez, who coordinated for majority of the technical needs… To Ayala Center Cebu, the event’s main sponsor and venue… To Rio de la Cruz, who expertly managed the event with his RunRio team, spearheaded by Franco Bambico and JP Arandia… thank you.

Finally, I quote Patrick Concepcion, the organizer of the Condura Skyway Marathon (which runs this Feb. 1), who joined the marathon four mornings ago and wrote in his blog: “All things considered, the Cebu Marathon is beautiful and probably one of the best I’ve run thus far in the Philippines. I highly recommend you include this marathon in your bucket list.”

To those who didn’t join last weekend, see you on Jan. 10, 2016.

Pit Senyor!

Jacksonville Marathon: Surviving 26.2 miles

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JACKSONVILLE—Happy New 2015! I continue our U.S. trek: After braving the 2C cold in New York and spending 30 hours in Washington, D.C. to view the White House and the National Mall, we traveled down south.

We’re in Florida where the weather is like… Cebu’s. Yes, it’s winter-time in America but it’s sunny in Jacksonville.

Tony and Sol Baluyot are my wife Jasmin’s relatives. Tita Sol is the younger sister of my mother-in-law, Malu Mendez. When we planned our Christmas trip to the East Coast, we made sure that we’d spend time at the Baluyot home in Jacksonville, where they’ve resided since 1977. I had never been to Florida and the last time Jasmin visited was 25 years ago.

This city is special. Jacksonville is the largest city in the entire U.S.A. in terms of land area. Based on Wikipedia, it covers 1,935 sq.kms. (compared to Cebu City’s 315). The nearby city of St. Augustine (about 45 minutes away) is historical because it’s the oldest city in the country.

Talking of sports, I’ve always envisioned on doing a “42 on 42.” That’s running the marathon when I’m the same age as the marathon distance. And so when Jasmin and I finalized our vacation, I googled “U.S. marathons in December.”

Would you believe, of the 52 Sundays in the year, the Jacksonville Marathon would fall on exactly the time that we’d be in the city: Dec. 28, 2014. Plus, and this would take on a stronger significance, my father-in-law Jack Mendez passed away last July. To run an event with the words “Jack” and “son” on them, this would be special.

And so it was set: six years after my last 42K (the Quezon City Intl. Marathon), I’d be running the distance again.

We arrived from Newark Intl. Airport (New Jersey) via United Express on a Friday afternoon. Hours after we were picked up at the JAX (shortcut for Jacksonville) Airport, I visited the Town Center Mall with Tito Tony to register onsite at the 1st Place Sports Running shop. I paid the $80 registration fee and got my bright orange-colored “Jacksonville Bank Marathon” shirt. This is it. Two mornings later, I’d be on the road by foot.

The Jacksonville Marathon, now on its 34th year, is a Boston-qualifying event ran on a flat course. The average temperature, reads the website, is 56 degrees F. That’s 13 Celsius — perfect for running.

The day before the race, Jasmin and I had to celebrate an important occasion: it was our 17th anniversary. We had dinner with the family at P.F. Chang’s.

On Dec. 28 (race day), I set the alarm at 4:59 but woke up much earlier (like all excitable marathoners do) at 2 a.m. I ate four slices of bread with peanut butter and drank coffee and orange juice.

Before 6 a.m. and with Tito Tony and Jasmin, I arrived at The Bolles School, the city’s most exclusive (and expensive) school, for the start.

(More on The Bolles School, I got an email message from Bill Byrd, now residing in Cebu but previously a Jacksonville resident, who said: “You might be interested to know that BASIC tuition at the Bolles School for grades 7-12, is $41,000.00 per school year–Again, that is just basic for room/board, and books… Don’t know if you have ever followed Major League baseball at all, but one famous former student from The bolles School is Chipper Jones all-star and future hall of famer, 3rd baseman for Atlanta Braves.”)

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The forecast: no rain. Good news because the year before, the runners were drenched with rain. I checked the history and it was varied. Some years, it was as cold as 9C; some, as warm as 25C. I prepared for the “worst:” Before leaving Cebu, I bought gloves, arm sleeves and a beanie totaling P300 from Gaisano Country Mall. These would be used at the start but disposed of after the body warms and sweat begins. I never got to use them. The weather was warm in Jacksonville. At 6 a.m., it was still comfortably cold (at 15C) but it would reach 24C later in the morning.

Jasmin joined me at the start and took photos. She left. I waited for an hour inside the indoor gym. I sat down, stretched and, with 15 minutes left, took a blueberry-flavored Gu gel. At 6:50, I took my position at the starting line. A few thousand stood ready for the race. Apart from the marathon, there are two other distances: half-marathon and the 5K.

Three minutes before gun start, the national anthem played. It can’t get better than this, I told myself. As the dawn’s early light arose, the anthem played, “Oh, say, can you see by the dawn’s early light…” At 7 a.m., the starting gun fired and 3,000 runners were off… The roads here are all asphalted. (If you’re a runner, you’ll know it’s softer than cement.) The best part: Residents along the route stood outside their homes to cheer. Many prepared placards to display. Since Americans don’t use the metric system (kms.), one poster read: “In a scale of 1 to 10, you’re 26.2!” That’s the marathon distance in miles. Another read, “Go, Random Stranger!”

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The race was well-organized. The registration process (both online and onsite) was easy. You can even register an hour before the start! (Something we can learn for the Cebu Marathon.)

Along the race route, uniformed policemen with their police cars were positioned all over. They’d block the side roads. One unexpected act that they did: they cheered you on. Not all police officers but some would greet “Good morning!” (We should request our Citom guys to do the same!) The course was flat and every mile had a marker with a digital clock. Water stations (with Gatorade) were plenty. These were all manned by volunteers —  hundreds of volunteers who did their work with greetings and smiles.

My first half was relaxed. The clouds covered the sun (sunrise here comes late, at 7:22 a.m.) in the first 13 miles. There were portions that were foggy; it was very scenic running in the inner roads amidst the Florida homes. I ran the first 21K in 2 hours and 14 minutes. I felt terrific (like many of us do halfway through the race.)

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But when I reached the 20th mile (Km. 32), that’s when my legs started to harden and ache. I’d stop every few hundred meters to walk and stretch; I slowed down. This was understandable because I only did one 30K in Cebu (with fellow CERC members Steve Ferraren, Roy and Rosan Trani, Jesse Taborada and Dodong Sulatre). As a final “long run,” I planned a 34K run (three weeks before race day) but Typhoon Ruby disrupted this plan.

The one thing that helped was the Bodivance cream (P55 per sachet in Runnr) which I applied to my muscle-fatigued legs. (Thanks to Dr. Tony San Juan for the suggestion.)

With hydration, I made sure to stop and drink at each station (found in every two miles). But if there’s one recommendation that I’d like to offer the organizers, it’s this: it would be good to offer bananas or chocolates in the last six miles. Though I took Gu (the energy gel) every 45 minutes, it wasn’t enough. By Mile 21, I had a case of “hypoglycemia” (hitting the wall) and I felt disoriented. It was at this point that I took more walking breaks.

My strategy: not to think of the remaining distance (let’s say, six miles) but to target a signage or a police car with blinking lights at a far distance and run without stopping towards it… then “reward” myself with a short walk upon getting there.

When I reached Mile 23, my legs started to cramp. Oh, no. This is the big challenge with running; unlike basketball or football, you can’t “run the clock.” You’ve got to run or walk and move forward to finish. Meaning, if you sprint so fast and you’re about to break the world record but you collapse 100 meters from the finish line, you can end up being the last finisher.

With those cramps in the last 5K, I walked, slow-jogged and made sure that I didn’t make any abrupt steps. Mentally, I told the cramps to stop. (After over four hours on the road, you can get desperate.) Plus, the previously cold skies weren’t cooperating. It was getting Cebu-hot, about 25C. The sun was starting to bake our weary backs.

Finally, seeing that “Mile 25” signage was a beautiful sight. At the last bend, we turned inside the The Bolles School as we entered a patch of grass before circling the rubberized track oval until the arms-up-the-sky finish. I finished in 4:47. Whew. Agonizing. Disorienting. Leg-cramping. But painfully fulfilling. This Sunday, it’s your turn with the Cebu Marathon.

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CCM, CCT, TDC and IPTL

CCM. The slots for the Cebu City Marathon (CCM) are filled-up. A total of 1,300 registered for the 42K and 1,400 for the 21K. With the 10K, good news for those interested to join. While the registration has officially closed, there is still an option to join the 10K. During the Race Expo at the Active Zone of Ayala Center Cebu (from January 7 to 9), a booth will be ready to receive onsite registrants. The only thing is, the usual freebies (singlets and finishers shirts) will no longer be available. The onsite registrants will be given Race Numbers (with timing chips) only but these will be offered at a discounted P400/participant. Maximum of 200 slots.

CCT. A week before the Sinulog grand parade is CCM. That’s Jan. 11. The week after the Sinulog party is CCT. That’s on Jan. 25. Spelled in full, that’s the Cebu City Triathlon. Organized by the Cornerstone Group, the same team led by Steve Maniquis and Quinito Moras that brought us San Rem 8080 (a very well-organized triathlon event that I joined last month), this time, we don’t have to travel far as the three-part race is to be held in Cebu City. The distances: 750-meter swim (at the CSCC pool), 20K bike towards the SRP, and a 5K roundabout to Fuente Osmeña. I registered yesterday. Only 500 slots are available and I suggest you enlist today at www.cornerstone8080events.com.

TDC. Last Friday was an ideal day for car racing. Typhoon Ruby had not arrived and the skies the whole day were overcast. By 7 a.m., the Cebu I.T. Park revved with excitement as over two dozen vintage sports cars sat on display. One by one, driver and machine were called onstage as Chris Tio announced, “10, 9, 8…” From Lahug to Ayala Heights to Balamban and down south to Moalboal, these multicolored cars toured the island. They stopped for lunch at McDonald’s. They overtook slow-moving trucks. They braved rain in the mountains and dust in the inner roads to emerge unscathed upon the finish at Chateau de Busay. They traveled over 340 kms. The original plan was to make pit stops in Dumaguete and Bacolod; a Negros/Cebu sojourn in what was labeled as a “historic rally across the Visayas.” But no thanks to the typhoon, the route was shortened but the race continued. Fittingly on this first event, the Tour de Cebu was held within Cebu. I watched video footages from Charlie, my brother, and it was like watching a scintillating videogame car chase. Only, this was real. His orange ’69 BMW was chasing Red Durano’s lime green Porsche 911 SC. Exhilarating. PACE, the organizers, have reason to smile. Their event was an inaugural success and they can’t wait for Dec. 4, 2015 for the 2nd edition. Until then, plenty will have a year to tinker with their vintage toys. To Jay, Kenneth, Yong, Glenn, Harley and the rest of PACE — you’ve started an event that will turn international and become very big for Cebu tourism in the years to come. Congratulations.

IPTL. I missed going to Manila the other weekend to watch the International Premier Tennis League. Organized by Mahesh Bhupathi, the former top-ranked doubles player, this first of its kind team tennis tournament in Asia has gotten good reviews. Andy Murray flew to Manila. So did Gael Monfils and US Open champ Marin Cilic. The star: Maria Sharapova. To the thousands who watched inside the MOA Arena — including plenty from Cebu: Ernie Delco, our Casino Español group, Dr. Ronnie Medalle, Dr. Rhoel Dejaño — it was a rare chance to see these world-caliber netters up close. After Manila, the players flew to Singapore. Now, they’re in New Delhi, India. Next, they’ll move to the UAE. There are plenty of reasons why this format is excellent. It’s non-traditional. There’s shot clock to force the players to speed up. Doubles is highlighted. The veterans (Sampras, Agassi) are mixed with today’s best (Djokovic, Federer).

CCM registration

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The 2015 Cebu Marathon is this January 11. That’s 58 days from now. Three categories are being offered to all: 10-K, 21-K, and 42-K. While the registration has been on-going for over a month, the Early Bird discounted rate will expire soon. So far, there are nearly 800 runners booked for the full marathon and about 700 for the half-marathon.

Good news: I just got word from Rio de la Cruz and Franco Bambico that the Early Bird registration has been extended for a few days. The original schedule (to expire this Saturday, Nov. 15) has been moved to Nov. 20.

The discounted rates: P900 for the 10k, P1,100 for the 21k, and P1,400 for the marathon. I repeat: these fees will remain as they are only until next Thursday, Nov. 20.

What’s included with these fees? First, the opportunity to join one of Cebu’s top sporting events, held during the Sinulog. The freebies: a singlet (with your personalized name), a finisher’s shirt, a race bib with timing chip, and finisher’s medals for the two longer distances.

How to register? Visit the website (www.cebumarathon.com) or visit the CCM booth at the Active Zone of Ayala Center Cebu. Register now.

2015 Cebu Marathon: The Sinulog race is on

 

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Last January 12, the Cebu City Marathon or CCM, as its initials are spelled, included only two distances: the full (42K) marathon and the half-marathon at 21,000 meters. For the 8th edition — that’s this January 11, 2015 — a third length will be added: the 10K.

Everyone has four months to prepare. That’s more than enough time to train. Enlisting for a race is always a good motivator. You’re forced to prepare. You look forward to that moment and encircle the date in your wall calendar.

For CCM ’15, the start and finish areas will be the same: the Cebu I.T. Park. The routes will be similar: run through Lahug, then the Provincial Capitol, then along Osmena Blvd., pass through the Sto. Niño Church and Magellan’s Cross… enter the Tunnel, emerge at the South Road Properties and run along the SRP until you return the same way.

Here’s another spectacle to expect: lots of music, dancers, hydration stations, bananas, Gatorade, and Sinulog drum-beaters. And, of course, the public already knows this: CCM is one of only two Philippine races (the other is the Milo Marathon Finals) that’s AIMS/IAAF certified. It’s accredited internationally.

What’s new? Apart from the 10 km. distance, a new set of singlets and finishers shirts will be handed out. Together with Steve Ferraren, our Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC) president, we previewed the design last Friday and they’re new and colorful — just what you’d expect from a Sinulog-themed event.

All runners will be given singlets. All finishers, including those joining the 10K, will be rewarded with Finishers Shirts upon crossing that finish line. As to the medals — I can’t divulge the design but it’s brand-new — these will be reserved for the more hard-core of participants: those running 21K and 42K.

Personalized singlets? With your name printed on the back? Why not? Thanks to CCM’s partnership with Ayala Center Cebu — led by Anne Climaco, Mikmik Corvera and Wilma Entera  — this will be introduced during the Race Expo. Also, there will be a different and more exciting CCM Pre-Race Party two nights prior the event.

Online registration starts tomorrow at www.cebumarathon.com. Slots will be limited to the following numbers: 1,000 (42K), 1,200 (21K) and 1,500 (10K). Since these numbers were exceeded last January, I suggest you register early. First come, first serve. Register this week to be assured of a slot.

Also because the fees are lower (compared to the late registration in November). The fees beginning tomorrow are: P1,400 (42K), P1,100 (21K), and P900 (10K).

Rio de la Cruz, the most famous runner and race organizer in the country today, was here last Friday. He arrived at 10 a.m. and, by 11, we were meeting at the I.T. Park with Steve to finalize the details. Rio was accompanied by Franco Bambico, the man tasked to oversee CCM.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 9.59.04 AMFrom left: Steve Ferraren, Franco Bambico, John Pages, Rio de la Cruz, Anne Climaco, Mikmik Corvera, Wilma Entera and Peter Rabaya

Each year, Rio and his team handle a total of 39 races throughout the Philippines. About 18 of these are the Milo Marathon events that are scattered everywhere. The latest addition to his events: the Condura Skyway Marathon this Feb. 1. This October 5 will be a major Manila race, also organized by RunRio. It’s the Run United Phil. Marathon.

Rio started organizing races eight years ago. Since then, he’s improved his craft and added race after race to his calendar. When CCM first introduced the full marathon with “01-10-10” (Jan. 10, 2010), it was Rio that our organization tapped to handle the electronic timing system.

For a man who stars on the cover of magazines and adorns giant billboards, Rio’s popularity has not changed him. Born poor and having had to struggle through his school life (his running for the varsity team helped pay his tuition), he has remained humble. We are proud to partner with Rio.

Goodbye, marathon man

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I feel sad. One of my closest friends has passed away. Our ages are so far apart. He’s nearly twice my age. But, whenever we speak and exchange stories, he treats me both as a friend and like a son.

Raul Cepeda left us last Saturday. It was a shock. Two weeks ago, I spoke to him on the phone and we agreed on a date. We often meet for dinner or over coffee.

“Raul,” I excitedly said when he answered. “Are you free for lunch? Let’s meet with Jesse Taborada.”

He wanted to. But couldn’t. “My back is aching now,” he replied. “Why don’t I call you next week when I’m okay and let’s meet?”

That “next week” was last week when, last Wednesday, I got a shocking text message from Raul’s son Sandy that his dad suffered a stroke that was caused by bleeding in his cerebellum. At 1 a.m., he had to be rushed to the Community Hospital where, upon arrival, he was in a coma and survived on life support.

Raul wasn’t young. He was 81. But, by heart and by the strength of his heart, by his running and the strength of his running legs, he was young.

At the 2011 Cebu Marathon, he didn’t join the 5K or 21K. That’s for the young ones! He joined the farthest distance, completing the 42K – at the “once young” age of 78 – with a speedy time of 5 hours and 30 minutes.

He did it again. The following year, with a slim frame of 132 lbs. and a white crop of hair that shone bright while he jogged before dawn, he ran. He completed back-to-back marathons at the age of 78 and 79. Just as amazing, Raul took up running at the age of 74!

Yes. While most men that age graduate from running to walking or to the cane or wheel chair, that’s the age when his craze for long-distance runs started.

Raul was always an athlete. His family, too, with his father a national champion in boxing, baseball and track and field. His brother, Dominador, helped found the Philippine Sports Commission. Sport swam in his veins – and he did run at an earlier age but he stopped for 15 years before resuming at that ripe age of 74.

I’ll never forget one dinner date that we had. It was a week after the 2011 Cebu Marathon and we ate at Mooon Café I.T. Park. Overlooking the start/finish line where Raul just triumphed a few days earlier, we drank beer and ate steak to celebrate. It was a double celebration because, the day before, it was his 78th birthday.

Then, as always, Raul was groovy. Wearing his trademark jeans and shiny buckle, he’d tuck-in to reveal his super-slim fit. Over a black shirt, he wore a maong jacket with the label “4 corners.” I think it had a Harley-Davidson seal. Once, many years back, he told me, he rode a big bike and toured by two wheels the four corners of the United States. I bet only a handful of Filipinos – if any – have ever done that.

Same with marathon-running. On the road, we see a handful of senior citizens running for hours – but how many were Raul’s age?

He was special. Passionate. Talkative. Most of all, he was an inspiration. At last year’s Cebu Marathon, we asked him to face a crowd of a few hundred runners to motivate the audience. He did. Anyone who says that they’re too busy or too old or too tired to engage in exercise and sports, after meeting and knowing Raul’s story, will have a different outlook.

“Some call me ‘lolo,’” he once told me, laughing. “But I don’t want to be called ‘lolo,’” he said. Instead, he wanted to be remembered as someone who inspired others.

He wanted people on the road to see this old man running and to say… “If he can do it, why can’t I?” Those were his exact words. He wanted the multitude of us to look at him and be amazed; he wanted to serve as inspiration.

He was. To me. To Leia, Sandy and the rest of his children. To our Cebu Executive Running Club members. To hundreds of others who knew him.

Last Thursday, I said goodbye to Raul at the hospital. His eyes were shut. His body, a runner’s body that was lean, had slimmed even thinner. His heart, though, pumped strong. Like it always did when he ran. We will miss you, my friend.

Cebu is a sports island

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To all visitors and balikbayans, maayong pag-abot sa Cebu! Welcome to the Land of Sports. In our city and province, sports is a major influence. Through the years, Cebu has played hosts to some of the biggest events of our nation.

Davis Cup tennis. Antonio L. Aldeguer (ALA) Promotions boxing. Ironman triathlon. Dancesport championships. The Cebu Marathon. Kopiko motorcross racing. Philippine Azkals exhibition games. The Xterra offroad mountainbike experience. A Guinness world record in Chess. Name the sport, Cebu offers it. Our island is ideal for sports because of several reasons.

First, the central location. If you’re looking for a venue that’s the midway point for those flying from Manila and those coming from Cagayan de Oro or Davao — then this province is perfect. Because of it’s location, Cebu is also home to some of the country’s biggest universities. These schools have invited and developed thousands of top-caliber athletes. To name two Cebuano giants of the PBA, we have Greg Slaughter and June Mar Fajardo.

Two, the excellent partnership between the private and public sectors. Last year, Cebu had the rare privilege of hosting three Davis Cup tennis ties. Our Philippines battled Syria, Thailand and New Zealand. Thanks to the partnership of Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, the Phil. Tennis Association (Philta) and the Lapu-Lapu City govt., these triple major events were possible. This doubles tandem (private + govt.) is ideal in sports development because, quite often, one sector can’t handle everything. Cebu is one example of this amazing partnership.

Three, the selfless and passionate sports movers. Take Edward Hayco. He’s the chairman of the Cebu City Sports Commission. Because of his devotion to sports, the name “Cebu City” is imprinted in the annals of the Guinness World Records. We’re proud to own two world records: the largest dance class and the biggest chess tournament. (Soon, there’ll be a third in Archery.) Ed Hayco’s passion to help — at zero cost to the city but millions poured from his pocket — is called volunteerism.

Four, Cebu is a sports-hungry crowd. Take ALA Boxing. Almost every other month, a mega-promotion is held inside the Waterfront Cebu ballroom. Filled to the rafters, devoted boxing fans scream and cheer for the courageous pugilists. Cebuanos love sports. Always have, always will. The large crowds in boxing events is a testament to this. That’s why we’re home to three world champions: Donnie Nietes, Johnriel Casimero and Merlito Sabillo. Even Manny Pacquiao frequents Cebu — and trained here in 2007 prior to defeating Marco Antonio Barrera.

In basketball, the CESAFI — our version of the UAAP and NCAA — draws a huge following. The recent rivalry between UV and SWU has elicited major crowds.

Five, Cebuanos love is running. In the past six or so years, thousands of previously sedentary, no-exercise individuals have become runners. A few hundred of them have turned marathoners. This is excellent! Running is the easiest of exercises to do. Just tie a pair of rubber shoes, wear shorts (or even Levi’s jeans).. then off you go. These days, hardly a Sunday passes when there’s no road-racing event. Seven days ago, a few thousand runners braved the 21K and 42K distances in the Cebu Marathon.

Six, the brand “Cebu” elicits a positive image. Let’s talk about the Ironman. For the first three years, it was held in Camarines Sur. Fine. It drew plenty of participants. But this number was nowhere compared to the volume of triathletes who trooped to Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort to join the Cebu editions. The brand “Cebu” is thought of by foreigners as positive because of our many advantages: the nearby white-sand beaches, the friendly and eager crowds. These draw sports-goers to Cebu. Apart from the Ironman, there are multiple triathlons that will grow bigger each year. One notable event is the Tabuelan 111. Again, welcome to Cebu. Pit Señor!

u65b(The Freeman photo/Ferdinand Edralin)

What makes CCM different

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Call it “Cebu City Marathon” or “CCM” or the “Safeguard Active Cebu Marathon,” it’s the same footrace that’s held along the streets of this Queen City of the South every second Sunday of the new year.

Teamwork. Cooperation. Volunteerism. One group helping another. It’s rising at 1 a.m. on a cold day to barricade the roads so everyone’s safe. It’s called bayanihan. Tinabangay. My mom Allen did it. Bikik Besavilla did it, too. So did Gerard Tan, Mike Enriquez and Carlo Suarez. Same with the Primary Group of Wally Liu. A couple of thousand of women and men braved the rain to help.

Dr. Wyben Briones, the model of Service Above Self, drove his all-terrain AMRO vehicle to the SRP at dawn to lend his medical expertise.

Same with another prized surgeon, Peter Mancao. A New York City Marathon finisher (among his several 42Ks), as the event’s Medical Director, Dr. Mancao agreed to carry the burden of all medical concerns. For free.

“Rain helps,” said Doc Peter, as we stood near the finish line. “Less cramps, heat stroke and injuries.” He pointed to the empty chairs in the Medical Tent that would have been filled had the sun torched the Sunday.

Rain. To many, it’s a curse. But, as long as it’s not a typhoon-like deluge, it’s a welcome “blessing from the skies.” It rained. It rained on Saturday. It rained at 2 a.m. when we arrived at the Cebu I.T. Park. It rained at 3 a.m. when the 42K brave-hearts started their agonizing trek; it rained at 4 a.m. when the 21Kers were set for the firing gun.

The rain, though, didn’t bother the Hydration Booth sponsors who took care of the 14 stations along the route. Their goal was, well, to supply water — and the water-from-the-sky wouldn’t stop them.

Thanks these groups, the Hydration deployment was near-perfect. Gatorade drinks. Cold Nature’s Spring water. Sponges by Safeguard. Bananas. In order of start-to-the-tip, the CCM hydration partners were: Brgy. Lahug, Cebu Grand Hotel, Captain A’s, Honda Motorworld, Holiday Gym and Spa, Thirsty Juices and Shakes/Bright Academy, Aeolus Tires, Cebu Bionic Builders, Filinvest, Cebu Parklane Intl. Hotel, and the Primary Group.

They said Yes to our request for assistance. Providing manpower and entertainment (the CCM trademark of music and dancing), they’re the unsung heroes of CCM.

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(More photos at cebumarathon.com)

Special mention goes to my high school best friend Jonel Borromeo. He not only easily finished the 21K (his first) but his Honda Motorworld sponsored a Hydration Station plus they gave away the raffle grand prize: a Honda Scoopy motorcycle.

CITOM is to be applauded. The Tunnel was promptly closed by 12 midnight. They stood at every intersection to ensure that runners had access. Our salute to Atty. Raffy Yap, Joy Tumulak, Ulysses Empic and the whole team.

Mayor Mike Rama joined. Running under gushing rain, he ran 5K until the finish. Wet and refreshed, he cheered on the finishers, “Pit Señor!”

Councilors Richie Osmeña and Mary Ann de los Santos should be given special citations by the City Council. Not only did they help CCM (prize money, Lahug entertainment, etc.) but they showed Cebuanos this: We run in politics as well as on the road.

Kudos to the Talisay City government for annual partnership with Cebu City. To the police and to the hundreds of barangay officers who helped, salamat.

Finally, I had lunch yesterday with Rio de la Cruz. We’d like to announce the date: “1-11-15.” That’s the next CCM. Online registration will start by March and we’ll introduce several new “pakulo.”

Until then, to all the marathoners and half-marathoners… Rest well. Sleep plenty. Shine your medal. Have a massage and reward yourself. You’ve done it.

As Fred Lebow, the NYC Marathon founder, once said, “The marathon is a charismatic event. It has everything. It has drama. It has competition. It has camaraderie. It has heroism. Every jogger can’t dream of being an Olympic champion, but he can dream of finishing a marathon.” Congratulations!

The “lingaw” marathon of Sugbu

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(More photos at cebumarathon.com)

Like I do each Friday night before the Cebu Marathon, I gave a speech. Fronting a couple of hundred runners who had just landed to participate in today’s race, it was the Pasta Party at The Terraces of the Ayala Center Cebu.

Cebu City Councilors Richie Osmeña and Mary Ann de los Santos — who’ll join the 21K race today — were in attendance. Mayo
(See r Michael Rama arrived later during the Program to deliver his own inspirational message. A lady Disc Jockey (DJ) was flown in by the title sponsors Safeguard from Manila to rap music and energize the crowd. Pasta and pizza prepared by Shakey’s was served. A giant-sized LED screen stood on center-stage. Local rock bands serenaded the hundreds of spectators.

In my Welcome Message the other night, here’s what I said:

“Fellow runners, Maayong gabii kaninyong tanan! Welcome to the Carbo Loading Party of the 2014 Cebu Marathon. Especially to our friends from out-of-town, welcome to our beautiful island of Cebu.

“This event started in 2008. In the first two years, we had the Sinulog Half-Marathon. This Sunday (today) will be the fifth edition of the full 42K marathon. In all the previous years, this race had been locally-organized. Together with the Cebu City government, our group — the Cebu Executive Runners Club or CERC — organized the race. I’d like to acknowledge the CERC members who are here tonight.

“Each January after the race ends, we always ask ourselves the question: How do we make the Cebu Marathon better?

“I’d like to announce the answer tonight: RunRio. The answer is to partner with the best race-organizing team in the whole Philippines. That’s RunRio. I’d like to acknowledge Rio de la Cruz and his team, led by Ms. Ally Lim, the event manager.

“Because of RunRio, this event has turned international. There are thousands of road-running races around the world but only a few are accredited by the IAAF/AIMS or the International Association of Athletics Federations/Association of International Marathons and Distance Races. We are proud to say that the Cebu Marathon is one of those races.

“Speaking of international, this 2014 we are hosting the most number of visitors in our marathon history. We have foreign runners representing 23 nations who will join us this weekend. This list includes 17 elite marathoners from Kenya. We have a few dozen flying from the United States. Nations as distant as Mexico, Switzerland, India, Netherlands, Iceland and even Haiti will be represented. Also, locally, there are hundreds from Manila and Cagayan de Oro and Bacolod and Davao and from many parts of the country who are here to run.

“But tonight, we are happiest to welcome the contingent of 70 runners coming from Tacloban, Palo, Leyte and Samar. They deserve the loudest applause. We salute their perseverance. Despite the tragedy, they are here to show the world, ‘We are running forward!’ Their cry is not only ‘Bangon, ‘Pinas.’ It’s ‘Dagan ta, Pilipinas!

“Finally, what makes the Cebu Marathon different from any other race is this: the Sinulog. When you run this Sunday along the streets of Cebu that will be passing the iconic spots like the Magellan’s Cross, the Provincial Capitol, Colon St., Plaza Independencia, the Tunnel and the SRP — you will not only be handed out Gatorade drinks and Nature’s Spring water, you’ll also be cheered-upon by dancers, loud music, live bands, drum beaters.

“With the Cebu Marathon, our aim is for you to experience a run that’s festive and lingaw. A Sinulog marathon. Welcome to Cebu, good luck and God bless!”

Tacloban rises and runs

t1(All photos from lapiskamay.wordpress.com)

Lester Tabada emailed me yesterday. “I’m a runner from Southern Leyte,” he wrote. “I ran for Tacloban City.”

Last Sunday, exactly one month after the strongest typhoon on earth decimated Visayas, a band of runners decided to do the unthinkable: They decided to run. For 10 kilometers. Around Tacloban’s streets. “We decided to rise up and run,” declared Lester, “to show the people of Tacloban that we are stronger than Yolanda!”

Their race bibs were made of tarpaulin. The runners, instead of writing numbers, inscribed messages of gratitude and hope on the plain white tarpaulin. Some wrote “Wag mawawalan ng Pag-asa,” “Thank You World,” “Thank You Paul Walker,” and “DTI what happened to the Price Freeze.” Lester, who penned the inspiring story in his blog, Lester Pencilhands (lapiskamay.wordpress.com), wrote on his bib: “Anderson 360 for President (Thank U CNN).”

Last Sunday, he said, was a comeback run. “Most of the Tacloban runners who showed up were having their first run since Yolanda,” he said. “But it suddenly transformed into a fun run the moment we agreed to steel that ‘Tindog Tacloban’ tarpaulin near the City Hall.

“We made it as our banner for that hope rally. I believe it was a spontaneous turn of events that led to us running not only for ourselves and our goals but also for the city and its people. We wanted to show them Hope through running. We wanted the Taclobanons to see us running back again to tell them ‘We are stronger than Yolanda.’ That is the goal of our instant fun run. No registration fees, no singlets, no water stations, no marshals. Only Hope.”

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They converged at the front of the DYVL. Starting at Romualdez St., they ran to Imelda St., then to Real St. and all the way to Coca-Cola. That was the first 5K. “These are the major streets of downtown Tacloban City, where the most number of people can see us,” Lester said. With the second half of the race, from Coke, they traversed to the hardest hit barangays of San Jose. The finish line: Tacloban airport.

Along the way, the nearly 20 runners chanted “Tindog Tacloban” in unison. “The people couldn’t help but notice and be amazed,” said Lester. “People were clapping at us, waving at us, taking pictures… It was such an amazing experience, like something taken out of those sports movies.”

It was, as described by Lester in one word, magical. “It was a great feeling to finally be able to run after a month of hardships and heartbreaks,” he added. “Tacloban runners could hardly run before that day because they were shocked and freaked-out of dead bodies lying in the streets. Most of them lost their houses and members of the family.

“I think some showed up wearing borrowed shoes and running gears. And it broke my heart later on when I learned that a close running buddy was not able to run because he lost his running shoes and all his belongings in the flood.

“Nightmares, regrets, desperation, and helplessness; these are the harsh realities these runners have to go through (and overcame) coming into the event. I hope running in the streets in that fateful day brought back a sense of normalcy to them. These are good people trying their best to be strong for each other. That fateful Sunday was the 1st month anniversary since Yolanda devastated our city. It was the day we decided to move on and run once again. Tindog Tacloban!”

PLEA. Lester added: “I only started to run seriously this year. I did 4 half-marathons that started in the 1st Tacloban City Marathon. I was in Cebu too this year for a couple of 16Ks. But there’s one race we Tacloban runners are dreaming of: Cebu City Marathon (CCM) 2014. It was and still is our goal of conquering its 42k. It wil be my 1st Mary! We will be there.

“Sir, I hope there’s something you can do to help the Tacloban runners. Some of them lost everythng. Even old shoes and unused gears, it would be the world to us.”

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Cebu Marathon Registration

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A year ago, the New York City Marathon was canceled because of the superstorm Sandy. Two days ago in NYC, 50,000 runners joined the most festive 42K in the world, with over 1 million people lining the streets cheering-on the marathoners.

Here in Cebu, we, too, will soon host our own version of the NYC Marathon. It’s CCM. The Cebu City Marathon will be this January 12, 2014 and, to all long-distance runners, this Sinulog festival-themed race is a must-join marathon.

While 01-12-14 is still over two months away, the deadline for the Early Bird Registration is this Sunday, Nov. 10. Today until Sunday, the fees are as follows: 21K (P1,000) and 42K (P1,400). But, starting Nov. 11, these increase to P1,400 and P1,800, respectively. All participants will receive singlets, finisher’s shirts and medals (including the half-marathoners). Register now at the Active Zone of Ayala Center or online at www.cebumarathon.com.

14 reasons to join the ‘14 Cebu Marathon

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It’s official. In two weeks’ time, the registration for one of this nation’s most celebrated of road-running races begins. Here’s why you should join:

1) It’s international. Few races in the world — and there are thousands — are certified by the International Association of Athletics Federations/Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (IAAF/AIMS). Cebu Marathon is one of them!

2) RunRio. Founded by our group, the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC), in our first two years, we organized the Half-Marathon. In the four years after that, from 2010 to 2013, it was the 42K. This time, we’re partnering with Rio de la Cruz, the country’s premier organizer of running events. Rio will be the lead organizer and will extend his expertise in making this the best Cebu Marathon ever.

3) Same registration fees. Yes. Even with the international accreditation and even with so much more offerings, the entry fees will be the same as 2013. The only minor addition is P100 for the 21K — which is more than justifiable because of… (See # 7.)

4) Sinulog. Ours is the only true festival-type event. It’s not manufactured. When we say that there will be loud music, street dancers, hanging buntings and that once-a-year Sinulog spirit, it’s because the Cebu Marathon is part of Sinulog. It’s held during the Sinulog season, exactly seven mornings before the grand mardi gras.

5) New medals. In our first three editions, it was the mango design. Last January, it was the hanging rice (“puso”). In 2014, it will be unique. I know what it is but I’m not about to announce it here. We’ll reserve the exciting news soon. But here’s a guarantee: You’ll “sing” praises for the medal!

6) Goodies. There will be plenty: singlets, finishers shirts (the 21K will have “Half-Marathoner” at the back while the 42K will have “Marathoner”) and loot bags.

7) Medals for the 21K. As part of the organizing team for the previous Cebu Marathons, we’ve heard this complaint every January. “Why no medals for the half-marathon?” Finally, it’s here. All who cross that finish line at the Cebu I.T. Park after running 21 kms. will receive that well-deserved award.

8) Food and drinks along the way. I remember Joy Polloso handing out roasted calf. The UNGO group gave out plenty of food. Some organizations, those manning the 13 water stations, prepared lechon, humba, puso, barbeque and so much more. Just a warning: don’t eat too much — you still have to finish the race!

9) RunRio cards. This is a new addition. How do you register? Not by filling-up a registration form. That’s a waste of precious paper. This time, when you visit the Active Zone of Ayala Center Cebu, you can purchase the RunRio card. You scratch a portion at the back and it will reveal a code number. You may register on-site (Ayala Center) or online. More details to follow.

10) Prize money. We’ll make this announcement soon but it’s guaranteed that the cash prizes will be an increase from last January. For the men and women champions, we’re looking at six figures!

11) Historic sights. Cebu is one of the most historical of cities in our 7,107 islands. There’s the Magellan’s Cross. There’s Colon Street. There’s Plaza Independencia, Osmena Blvd., the City Hall and the Provincial Capitol, Fuente Osmena — all must-visit sights for tourists and all places that you, the Cebu Marathon participant, will see by foot while running. Plus, of course, the Tunnel…

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12) No cups. This is the country’s first ever marathon which will not use cups. “What, no cups? How do we drink?” you ask. We will be providing extra manpower at each water station so they can personally pour the water in your handheld bottles (which we’ll be giving you for free). The reason for this no-cups-new-idea is because we want an…

13) Environmentally-friendly race. In this era of too much waste, Coach Rio has pioneered an idea to reduce waste. Usually, over 200,000 cups are thrown at each race. Imagine the cleaner streets and lesser plastic usage with this concept.

14) It’s the new year. Yes! Imagine finishing a 21K or 42K just days after the year starts? (Race day: Jan. 12, 2014.) Imagine the positive impact and momentum this will give you throughout 2014?