Category Archives: Marathon

Now at 21, Dr. Yong Larrazabal aims for 100

Seven days ago at the Kawasan Falls Marathon, nobody felt more pressured than Dr. Potenciano Larrazabal III. As organizer, 800 runners traveled three hours and 116 kms. to join his race. Worse, an intensifying typhoon threatened. To top all that, Dr. Yong was not a mere spectator — he was joining the grueling 42K.

But, like numerous hills that he’s climbed before, the Kawasan Falls Marathon turned out to be near-perfect. Jesse Taborada, a veteran of 9 marathons, calls it “the best I’ve joined in this country.” The weather? Cloudy but no rain. “It was the first Philippine marathon I joined,” said Yong, “that had no sunshine the entire time.”

Yong? He finished in 3 hours, 49 minutes. That’s Lamborghini-fast. Of the 271 runners that completed the 42K, he ranked 14th.

Why Kawasan? “After running marathons abroad, I decided Cebu needs its own Big Sur or Niagara Falls Marathon,” said Yong.

“After running there (Badian, Alegria and Malabuyoc) a couple of times last year, we (Dr. Pete Mancao and I) decided this is it. And what a finale and treat it would be for the runners to end the marathon running by the river leading up to Kawasan Falls. The course had mountains on the left and the sea on the right.

“We were fortunate that the 3 town mayors ( Mayor Robburt Librando, Mayor Melit Guisadio, Mayor Daisy Creus) were very receptive and cooperative. The townsfolk all lined up the route to cheer on the runners. We were also very lucky to get the very generous and supportive ThreeSixty Pharmacy to be our presenter. All hotels in the 3 towns were fully booked that weekend including the neighboring town of MoalBoal. It showed the trust the runners had with Run for Sight Foundation considering the place was 3 hours and 116 kilometers away from Cebu City.

“Even 50% of the runners have never been there and 30% have never heard of Kawasan Falls. This placed a lot pressure on the team (including Joel Baring) but I was glad we pulled through. With God’s Blessing, we had great weather for running as it was the first marathon I joined in the Philippines that had no sunshine the entire time I was running.

“Next year, we plan to have it on June 10 2012. This marathon is aimed to complement the CCM (Cebu City Marathon) which is six months apart and is set on the countryside. It will be also only for long distance runners ( 21k and 42k only). June 11 is a holiday, so runners may bring their families to have tour excursions and Island hopping afterwards (think Sports Tourism). This will be affordable to many but very limited to few ( 500 slots -21k 500 slots -42k) so as to preserve mother nature and the beauty of Kawasan.”

Here’s an amazing fact: Yong has completed his 21st marathon race. From latest to first: Kawasan (3:49). Sundown, Singapore (4:20); Los Angeles (3:57); Tokyo (3:51). In 2010.. Singapore (4:11); Niagara Falls (4:01); Camsur (3:47); Moray, Scotland (4:01); Milo (4:02). San Diego Rock & Roll (3:55); Seoul (3:46); Condura (4:16); Cebu (3:58). In 2009.. Macau (3:49); Robin Hood, UK (4:16); Big Sur, U.S. (4:26). In 2008.. Chicago (4:47); Hong Kong (4:19); In 2007.. New York (4:31); Milo (4:26); Pasig (4:55).

“I run more relaxed now and am more confident because of proper mileage and training,” he said. “Fear of cramps has gone. I calculate when to go slow or fast. Discovering the trick of using mind over body.

“If I run abroad, I try to enjoy the sights and sounds,” he said. “It is easily one good way of exploring the place you visit. I also try to get ideas so I can apply it here and share it with our fellow runners. I got a lot of good ideas from the Niagara Falls and Big Sur Marathon which we really enjoyed and applied them to the Kawasan Falls Marathon.”

His tips for us? “Get the right training with a proper mix of long runs, tempo and speed-work; most importantly, mental strength. Don’t pressure yourself too much. Conquering your marathon goal is 50% body and 50% mind. If you feel midway that you are not up to it (goal time), there is always a next marathon and just enjoy the run.”

Every 42K is unique, says Yong. “What excites me the most about marathons is that you never know what to expect and how your body reacts since this is 42k. And every 42k experience is different from one another. When running, so many things enter your mind; a simple ache or muscle twitch could lead to a cramp or injury which could result in my first DNF. I listen to my body: drink when thirsty, eat when hungry, rest when tired. When fear or stress steps in, I think of a happy memory.”

With injuries, Dr. Larrazabal has hardly been injured since running six years ago. He even completed 10 marathons in 12 months (Dec. ‘09 to Dec. ‘10). Why no pain and injury?

“I run less than recommended. When others run 100K/week, I peak only at 60K/week. Not because I want to, but because of my busy schedule. I do daily eye surgeries from 8 to 10am. Then clinic consultations till 5. After, I do eye laser procedures till 6pm. I get to run on weekdays when my kids are asleep at 9pm or earlier when there is bad weather or a typhoon and patients don’t make it to the clinic. I do my long runs on Sundays but I avoid road runs, opting to run in track, sand, water, grass and the treadmill.. all gentle to the knees. I confess to watching the full Schindler’s List movie while on the treadmill. I also make sure I rest at least one week after every 42K. This way, I have a longer, more enjoyable and pain-free running life.”

On his 42K list this 2011: Berlin in Sept., Korea in Oct. and Taiwan in Dec. And while he previously targeted to finish 33 marathons, that number has been tripled.

“Because I have learned to love running even more and discovered that there are so many marathons to conquer all over the world,” said Dr. Yong Larrazabal, “I have decided to increase my target to 100 marathons.”

Jacs shifts gears from 42K to the 70.3 Ironman

Jacs with his mentor and best friend, Dr. Vicente Verallo

Meyrick Jacalan is one of my closest friends. He’s also one of the most fanatical people I know about sports. At the past Cebu City Marathons, “Jacs” was the leader of the organizing Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC). Also, as the entrepreneur behind ASAP Advertising, he created the concepts and designs for the Cebu Marathon.

Jacs has finished three 42K races. His first was when our 14-man Cebu group flew to Hong Kong in 2008; he timed a very respectable 4 hours, 51 minutes. Next, he joined the Singapore Marathon. We were together with Team CERC. Despite cramps, he did another sub-5, clocking 4:58. And, finally, at the 2009 Amsterdam Marathon, he did a sub-Oprah (besting Ms. Winfrey’s 4:29 clocking at the NYC Marathon). Jacs finished in 4:21.

What’s most amazing was this: months leading to Amsterdam, Jacs was injured. His painful Plantar Fasciitis injury (which later became Bone Spur) led him to stop many 30K practice runs. Once, running from Capitol to Cordova in Mactan, I saw him walk and grimace in excruciating foot pain. Never a quitter, Jacs considered backing out of Amsterdam—yet he persevered. He did a PR in that ’09 European 42K.

After the marathon in The Netherlands, all-smiles are Dr. Albert Santos, Nica Ong, Jane-Jane Ong, Andrew Ong, Jacs, Perl and Dr. Vic

Next month, Mr. Jacalan will embark on another target: to finish his first Half-Ironman Triathlon in Camarines Sur.

“I was advised to rest and ‘totally’ stop running after Amsterdam to allow my injury to heal,” he said. “I needed something to do to remain active for fitness so I went back to mountain biking and eventually decided to take up swimming, too.”

This was in 2010. A biker prior to becoming a runner, the most challenging discipline was the one that involved the water.

“My limiter is swimming,” Jacs said. “All I knew about it was very basic. My limited background meant I had to learn it from scratch. Running was also tricky since I have to balance it properly so as not to aggravate my foot injury.”

On swimming, Jacs says it’s not a natural sport like running. “The techniques involved are complex and challenging. Without question, swimming can be a life-or-death activity. It’s not difficult to learn but it takes perseverance and determination to endure the countless and thousands and more meters in the pool. For me, the path to swimming starts with learning to relax and be comfortable in the water. Everything else will follow.”

His training schedule for the August 14 Ironman include swimming thrice weekly. He does one short bike ride on weekdays and a long one on Sundays. Running? Two or three times a week.

“I hardly go out during the evenings, especially not on weekends; and as much as possible, business trips are limited to 2 to 3 days only,” he said. “If I do two workouts in a day, I make sure to take a 15-minute power nap noontime. I sleep early. Training and work schedule is pretty much manageable.”

His advice to all the married men who aspire to be triathletes: Ask your wives first for overwhelming support and understanding before jumping into the pool! (It’s good that Perl Jacalan, herself a half-marathoner, understands that her husband is a sports-obsessed person.)

At the Singapore Marathon where Perl finished her first 21K

Having completed three marathons and now just 25 days away from his first-ever 70.3 triathlon (1.9K swim, 90K bike ride and 21K run), how does Jacs compare both sports?

For Triathlon/Ironman training. . .

“It takes more training hours per week compared to training for a marathon as you have to undertake 3 disciplines altogether;

“Probability of accident/crash is much higher with the bike training;

“Overtraining is hard to detect. When your leg muscles are fatigued from running or biking, you can switch to swimming, or the other way around. Unlike training for a marathon, you can easily sense overtraining as your leg muscles and bodily aches will tell you to stop and recover.”

Comparing the two, Jacs says that marathon training is more difficult. “It’s more rigorous and taxing to the body,” he says. “Plus, there’s no variety… you keep using your legs, pounding your body on the asphalt 5 to 6 days a week. That’s tough!”

Since this is his first Half-Ironman, expectations are realistic. “I am a newbie to the sport,” said Jacs, “although I have ran 3 marathons and I have a background in mountain biking; doing all 3 disciplines (swim/bike/run) at one time is an entirely different game. My goal for now is just to finish before cut-off time.”

As to the popularity of triathlon in Cebu today, “you’ll be surprised” at how many are Tri’ing the Tri, says Jacs. This 2011 edition in CamSur, about 50 from Cebu will join. “Different teams are now being formed,” he says. “Team Reborn started with just 5 members, now they are 20. A revival of a popular Cebuano triathlon team years ago, the TRI-Loccos is now gaining new members. Former triathletes are on the comeback. An XTerra brand of Triathlon was just held here in Cebu.

“With Sugbu-Tri coming up various Triathlon races around the provinces, another big one in Lapu-Lapu City soon this year and with the neighboring Islands like Bohol hosting a Full (ironman) distance, races in Dumaguete, Davao,…. with Cebuanos flying all over the country as far as Matabungkay in Batangas, I would say, the sport is now enjoying a resurgence of popularity.”

Finally, asked about his parting words and motivation for enduring the pain of all the training, Meyrick Jacalan answers: “Every time I suffer, I am a better man because of it. That’s from the ultimate athlete himself, Lance Armstrong. And yes, every time I am in pain, I think of this line.”

With the Jacalans after climbing The Peak in Hong Kong

John, Jacs, Vic and Serge Amora


Last Sunday, there were two road-running races: The Run for Japan and the One Thousand Cranes Run (organized by Three Sixty Pharmacy). While both races were held during the same time and for the same purpose (to help our disaster-stricken neighbor, Japan), the two were different.

Run for Japan was lambasted by Cebu. Few marshals, few participants, few water stops — such events and organizers should be banned.

The Three Sixty Pharmacy-sponsored run? It was excellent. I joined the 15K held two mornings ago and, in every intersection, marshals were ready, waving flags; water stations were abundant; the start/finish area — at the Asiatown I.T. Park — was festive. Bananas, cold drinks, even kamote — these were offered for free. Kudos to Kenneth Casquejo and Annie Neric and to RunCheck, Cebu’s best in race-organizing.

Millette Chiongbian and the Boston Marathon

How excited are you? I asked Millette Chiongbian, who’ll be joining the most prestigious 42K race in the world — the Boston Marathon — just eight days from now, on April 18.

“Hi John! Really excited!!!,” she said. “I think no other marathon does this.”

That’s true. There’s the Celtics, the Red Sox, the New England Patriots — all famous Boston teams. Add the planet’s most revered race: the 115th Boston Marathon. Yes, it’s 115 years old. It was in 1897 when this event was born. After the 1896 Olympic Games, it was founded and remains “the world’s oldest annual marathon.”

What’s difficult with Boston is the qualifying time. Everybody wants to join it. Few are accepted. That’s because you need to be very fast to qualify. For Millette, her qualifying time was 3 hours, 45 minutes. That’s speedy. Yet, she qualified. In March 2010, she joined the Los Angeles Marathon and clocked 3:43:06. Her time was just 114 seconds off the cutoff time; she qualified.

Her excitement? “It started building up when I got the Confirmation Of Acceptance in the mail sometime Nov ’10. Then by March ’11 I was assigned my race number thru email: 17009. This number signifies my rank from the fastest runner out of 27000+ runners. Runners are numbered according to their qualifying times. And just today (last Wednesday), I got the Number Pick-up Card, a Welcome Book and it’s sked of events. Owning a number for the 115th marathon edition means a whole lot. It can be meaningfully taken from my history or from Boston Marathon’s list of entrants in this edition. It’s actually a whole journey that started with a promise.”

Based on our research, no other Filipino — male or female — is joining next Monday’s Boston Marathon. Only Mrs. Chiongbian. “The feeling I am beset with is beyond compare. This is a celebration and a chance for me to run my victory lap for Cebu, as I’ve said in my speech during the Cebu Marathon pre-race party. And technically speaking, Boston’s procedures from registration to verification to confirmation and in welcoming the athlete sets itself from the other races I’ve joined.”
They say with Boston, the hardest part is qualifying. Once you’re in, it doesn’t matter if you finish in 3:30 or 6:30 — just by qualifying, you’ve claimed victory. “My plan is to humbly finish,” said Millette. “I have so much respect for the legendary course. I have no targets because of its unpredictability. I have no solid nor conclusive basis as to how I am going to perform on Marathon Monday. I will simply enjoy the course route.”

Millette will leave for the U.S. on Wednesday to acclimatize herself. With her will be her three children, Justin, Yuan and Savvi. Also joining the group are Dominique and Angelique Climaco, plus Clifford, Gera, Alfonso and Marco Alegrado. Good luck to the first-ever Cebuana to run Boston!

Ping! Mancao suprises Lacson on the plane

Of all the family names that inhabit our planet, the one that Sen. Panfilo Lacson detests the most is “Mancao.” It was police officer Cezar Mancao II who testified against him which led to his disappearance since Jan. 5, 2010.

Last Saturday, Sen. Lacson came home. He flew from Hong Kong to Cebu. In a “Believe It Or Not!” episode, guess which family name sat beside him in the Business Class section of Cathay Pacific? MANCAO.

Dr. Peter Mancao, a cousin of Cezar, recounts this amazing tale… “This trip, from the start was action packed! On the flight to L.A., one of the passengers had a seizure while he was on the way to the lavatory and he got a huge wound on the bridge of his wound that happened very close to where I was seated. So I got up and did some first aid. Good thing we were just two hours away from L.A.

“With the marathon itself turned out to be stormy (that’s another story), then on the return flight to Cebu from L.A. my wait at the Tom Bradley airport in L.A. turned out to be the most agonizing wait and anxiety whether I could board the plane.

“Then the trip from HK to Cebu. I was fortunate to get a very good deal on business class tickets (courtesy of Ungo runner Sheila Colmenares). As I walked in the plane I spotted familiar faces: Eva Gullas, flying in from NY, and Benson Dakay from Shanghai. As I got nearer to my seat, a very familiar person was seated next to me. I could not believe my luck! I had to run to get hold of the Phil. Daily Inquirer and check if there was any news on Sen. Ping Lacson going home. Indeed, there was. Sen. Lacson was seated next to me. It was just the two of us in that section, so I got up and greeted him ( “Good morning, Senator. I’m Dr. Mancao from Cebu. I don’t know if you remember but we met in White Gold House when you were campaigning in Cebu.”).

“I’ve never seen a guy as humble, considering his stature and the conditions he has been through. As we talked, I asked the reason for his return via Cebu. He said he wanted to avoid the media circus. And, in my first request for a photo op, he politely declined. As there was a slight delay in the departure, we continued to talk and told him I hope you don’t mind us talking because I’m a cousin of Cesar. His quick reply was he had no problem with that. We moved on to another topic and I told him, “So it was not true that you were hiding in Cebu?” He had a huge laugh.

“A few minutes before landing, I showed him my L.A. Marathon medal and explained to him how I got hooked to running. This time, he obliged to have a photo with me and my medal. When we landed, I was the first to greet him, “Welcome back!” It was such a coincidence because when my cousin Cesar returned to Manila, he was on the same plane as my dad (Dr. Mike Mancao) who was also returning from L.A.

LOS ANGELES MARATHON. “Team Cebu was divided into Team A and Team B. Dr. Yong Larrazabal and his wife Donna were in Team A (being the faster runners) while me, my daughter Mykha (who was running her first full marathon) and Chris Locsin (J&J rep here in Cebu and also her first full marathon) were Team B. We positioned ourselves with the 5-hour pace group at the start (Dodgers Stadium).

“The weather forecast for that day was heavy rain. Right from the start the rain made its presence, as it was drizzling on and off. Barely 5 km. into the race, the rain strengthens (yet the song goes “It never rains in California”) and, at some point, wind started blowing. (I heard that the LA Marathon was bought by the owner of the LA Dodgers and he managed to turn around this event as it was not getting good reviews in the past. It has one of the best routes of all the U.S. marathons but unfortunately the weather was not cooperating.)

“Mykha decides to move ahead of us as she had a 5hour finish in mind while we had 5h30m as our goal. At the 21K mark, we were still within our goal but little did we know that the weather was getting worse. The rain and wind were getting stronger. The roads were water logged plus the temperatures were dropping fast. We were doing the Galloway run-walk technique but the weather made us do more walking than running.

“At the 32K mark, we got into a medical station that provided us with garbage bags as makeshift rain jackets. We were given Mylar blankets. This got us back running but at this point were looking at a 6-hour plus finish. Runners were dropping out at the medical stations because of hypothermia. I was looking at my first DNF (did not finish) marathon. It was at this point that we decided to get back on track with the Galloway run-walk strategy and sing our way along for the next 10k.

“The finish line was another story as the Santa Monica Beach was in a fury with the storm. We had to walk another kilometer to get to the after-race finishers meeting area with strong winds blowing us off the road. When we got to the area, it was leveled-out. The tents were blown off. We had to walk back to the family waiting area aching in pain and shivering from the cold and endured the wait for our ride to Mykha’s apartment. Team B’s time: Mykha 4h56min; me and Chris, 6:55. Team A: Yong 3:50 and Donna, 4:30.”

L.A. MARATHON. “Marathon running has become my own little amazing race. Each one has its own challenges and a story to tell. I thought the Galloway run-walk technique was the answer to my prayer but now it looks like I have to pray some more. I really hate the 30th to 35th km. mark; somehow it has become my wall. I keep telling myself to add more mileage to my training but then again I don’t want to take away the fun part in doing my amazing race.

NO. 8. “I never expected to be doing marathon no. 8 at the time I ran new york. It was just supposed to be crossing out one item in my bucket list. I always swear each time I finish a marathon that that would be the last one. That is, until a few days later when i talk to Yong and James Abilla of St. James Water that planning for the next one always manages to get on the table.

LATE ARRIVAL. “I had my plane ticket booked late december 2010 and at that time was having problems with return flight. When i checked w/ the CX counter i was told that if i wanted a guaranteed booking i had to wait a week as all flights were fully booked so i had to take that chance last thursday and wow it turned out to be a punctuation mark for this trip.”

Jeff Galloway in Cebu

Jeff Galloway is a legend in the running world. He is a world-class athlete and a member of the 1972 US Olympic Team. He is the inventor of the Galloway Training Programs and has coached over 250,000 runners and walkers all over the world. Jeff has completed over 130 marathons and has written 18 books on running, walking and general fitness and speaks at over 200 events annually. He has been named one of 18 Runner’s World Experts in the magazine’s 40th anniversary edition.

Join Jeff on February 2 and 5 in Manila, and on February 3 in Cebu, as he discusses and demonstrates the tips and techniques that has helped thousands of runners run faster, longer and injury-free! Hear Jeff talk about the following:

•    Conquering “The Wall”: how you can break through your limits and eliminate fatigue
•    The “Magic Mile” formula: how to accurately predict your race performance
•    The Galloway Method: Why taking walk breaks can make you run faster
•    How to do speed work, hill training and long runs properly so you don’t waste your training
•    How you can train to run any distance and still enjoy family, friends and career
•    How to correct your running form and improve running efficiency
•    Staying motivated: Why losing motivation while training is normal and how you can keep your focus on your goal
•    Nutrition: What to eat before, during and after your race for optimal performance
•    Why monitoring and boosting your blood sugar level is critical to successful racing
•    How to deal with injuries and recover as fast as possible
•    Race-day strategies:  Run your best race using the correct strategy
•    Over-training: How to avoid it so you run at your best during race day
•    Why proper cross-training and strength training will improve your running

An extensive Q&A follows where Jeff will answer all your questions based on data gathered from coaching over 250,000 runners and a running career that spans nearly 50 years!

Lecture fee: Php500

Sign-up for the Galloway Running School! Jeff will personally conduct two workshops in Manila and one workshop in Cebu! Class size is limited to 30 students and will run for 3 hours. During the workshops, Jeff will provide personalized instruction on the following:

•    How to improve time
•    Individualized format–ask any question in any area
•    Specific running drills for easier, more efficient, faster runs
•    How to improve endurance without pain and over-fatigue
•    How to avoid hitting the wall
•    Specific training programs for specific goals
•    Specific recommendations on water intake, eating and why it’s good to drink coffee
•    Dealing with heat
•    Absolving you of guilt for not stretching
•    Strength for running
•    Motivation techniques to get you out the door
•    Mental toughness techniques to keep going
•    “Dirty tricks” that will strengthen your mind on race day
•    When to replace shoes

*  Note: Come in your running gear!
Workshop Fee: php4,000

(Thanks to Lit Onrubia for the details.)

11 points on the ’11 Cebu City Marathon

Next Sunday, it’s one of Cebu’s most-awaited of events. If Al Mendoza calls the Azkals the “Achievers of the Year,” then Running is the “Sport of the Year.” For no other endeavor has convinced more Cebuanos to move and exercise and sway those arms and legs than this sport.

The Cebu City Marathon happens in 12 days. This January 9, 2011 event is the only 42-km. race in this island. Here are 11 items to remember…

1.) The Tunnel. For the first time, runners joining the 42K and 21K will trot below sea level. Almost a kilometer in length, running the tunnel was the same experience we had in Hong Kong. During that HK Marathon, runners jogged beneath the waters. It was a unique, cherished moment. Cebuanos will experience the same next Sunday.

2.) Fort San Pedro. Another feature in 2011 is running inside Plaza Independencia. Imagine gazing at the beauty of the Malacañang sa Sugbo and Fort San Pedro? This is new. Prepare your eyes.

3.) Sights and Sounds of Cebu. Held during the Sinulog week, this is what distinguishes the CCM from other marathons: the timing. For, with the Sinulog, there’s no bigger festival in our 7,107 islands. And what better time for tourists to visit? Plus, if you’re a runner… perfect. You see — literally, on foot — the sights of Cebu; you hear the sounds of the Sinulog drumbeats.

4.) Tommy O and Mike R. Last January during the “01-10-10,” then-Mayor Tommy Osmeña attended the twin Cebu City Marathon events. During the carbo-loading party, Mayor Tom spoke. He welcomed the visitors. Same during race morning: TRO shook hands, awarded medals, greeted the Kenyans. This year, Mayor Michael Lopez Rama — a runner — will join the 5K alongside 6,000 of his constituents.

5.) Cebu City. The role of government is crucial. Apart from giving the prize money amounting to P389,500 (with P60,000 going to the 42K men’s and women’s winners), it’s the support that’s essential. Every major marathon on earth has the backing of their city. Boston. Berlin. London. New York. Chicago. All these world’s best bring tens of thousands of tourist-runners – sports tourism, it’s called — because of the assistance of their mayor and city officials. Thanks to the City Government of Cebu, we have one of the most celebrated of races in the Philippines.

6.) CITOM and Jack Jakosalem. The roads will be closed from 4 to 9:30 on the morning on Jan. 9. If you run inside the SRP, the South Road Properties will be closed. Same with, of course, the tunnel (absolutely no fumes!). Osmeña Blvd. will be half-closed–one side of our island’s most important thoroughfare will be off-limits to vehicles.

7.) CERC. Called the Cebu Executive Runners Club, this is the group of nearly 50 doctors, lawyers, businessmen and executives. Each year, CERC focuses on organizing only one race: the CCM. This is a non-money-making event that consumes our time, effort and resources. What for? CERC does this because we love running and we want to share our incredible marathon experiences with our fellow Cebuanos. You need not fly to Hong Kong or Singapore. Run in your very own Cebu. (Notice: Get ready to be leg-massaged by some of Cebu’s top doctors!)

8.) Numbers. There will be more than 1,100 runners joining the 42K race. With the 21K, nearly 1,500. With the 5K, 3,000-plus.

9.) Carbo-loading Party. You must attend this! Scheduled on Jan. 7, it’s an evening of relaxation, pasta-eating, and mingling with fellow marathoners. You’ll hear inspiring stories, watch marathon films, chat with others who offer tips.

10.) Race Expo. This is from Jan. 5 to 7. It is during this time that you can get your race packs: your New Balance shirts, race bibs, route maps, etc. Discounts will also be offered by Ayala Center tenants.

11.) Most painful/fulfilling moment. That’s what the 42K is about. It’s several hours of huffing, puffing, walking, running, drinking 100Plus, cramping, frowning, smiling–a range of experiences that you’ll never experience anywhere else but the marathon. These few hours will remain with you forever.

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!’”

Michelle So on the 50K

I missed watching the 1st 50K Cebu Ultramarathon last Saturday because I had to attend to something more personal and important that November 27: It was my wife Jasmin’s birthday. Monitoring the updates from Meyrick “Jacs” Jacalan, who brought supplies and helped motivate the runners aboard his car, it was an exciting — and painful — hot morning. Here’s a well-written piece by a future marathoner, Michelle So, who is Sun.Star Superbalita’s Editor-in-Chief and Sun.Star Cebu’s Executive Editor. Her article, ‘Ligo?’ appears in Sun.Star today…

Cebu Marathon’s FrontRunner Clinic tomorrow

To the thousands of Cebuanos into this latest sports craze, I suggest you attend the lecture. It’s free. It’s to be delivered by two experts. It’s timely for those preparing for the Cebu City Marathon on Jan. 9, 2011. It’s informative. It’s tomorrow. Yes, that’s Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Active Zone of the Ayala Center Cebu.

Jonel Mendoza is the first speaker. The owner/editor-in-chief of FrontRunner Magazine, Jonel is a runner. He is not, however, your ordinary 3K leisurely jogger. He’s an ultra-marathon man who’s finished the 102-kilometer Bataan Death March twice. Jonel is also the organizer of the 50K (read below) from Mt. Manunggal to Cebu City. His lecture tomorrow: “How To Train Properly For A Marathon.” Perfect for everyone joining the 21K or 42K this Sinulog.

Enrico Tocol I have yet to meet. But his credentials—like Jonel, he finished the 102K Bataan Run two times—are impressive. He’s a professional coach of Gold’s Gym in Makati City. His subject matter tomorrow: “Strength Training and Conditioning For Runners.” Expect a well-built, muscular man for this topic on muscle development.

Don’t miss it: “I Am A FrontRunner” Running Clinic from 6 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Ayala Center. See you there!

ULTRA. In running, there are 3Ks, 10Ks and 42Ks. Anything beyond that? It’s called the Ultramarathon and two mornings from now, it will both be joyous and painful for the runners. First, the suffering: it’s the 1st Cebu 50K Ultramarathon from Balamban to the Cebu Provincial Capitol. How agonizing can it get: steep climbs that torture your lungs and downhill slopes that will stab the knees. To the 185 ultramarathoners that include Dr. Vic Verallo, Max Limpag, Roy and Dr. Rosan Trani, Steve Ferraren, Jun Remo and more—good luck and enjoy… the pain.

On Sunday, it’s the 5th Seminary Fund Run. This is memorable for me. It was this 5K distance that was my first-ever—back in 2007. Those interested can still register at Toby’s SM.

TENNIS. The “fifth Grand Slam,” it’s called. Official name: the ATP World Tour Finals. It’s when the top eight men’s players smash lobs and volley winners in London. That’s terrific. What’s bad is this: no TV coverage for us, the Filipino tennis fans. This 2010, we had the four majors of tennis shown live—but none of the ATP Masters Series events. Sayang. In London, with Roger Federer 2-0 thus far in the round-robin games and Rafa Nadal 1-0, are we about to witness another monumental No.2 vs. No.1 finale? We hope so.

ASIAN GAMES. It happens only once every four years but, given its no-show, it feels as if it doesn’t exist. The Asian Games, now held in Guangzhou, China, started last week. Has it? I didn’t know. I didn’t hear. This is another case of sayang. Held in-between the Olympics, this is the mightiest sporting event of our continent of nearly 4,000,000,000 people. The Asian Games is supposed to be HUGE. “Supposed to be,” because there’s no TV coverage. Why? I don’t know why. But shouldn’t we get to watch our Filipino athletes? Cheer for them in Cebu while they’re in China? But we can’t? This is outrageous.

LEBACLE? The Miami Heat were booed during their embarrassing 93-77 loss to the Indiana Pacers. What happened? Where are The Three Kings—Bosh, LeBron, Dwayne? Their record is a dismal 8-6. NBA champs? How about NBA chumps! Maybe what’s needed is a Miami change: Pat Riley as head coach.

BOB. Said Mr. Arum on the global power of Manny Pacquiao: “That’s one of the achievements we can take credit for — taking a non-American and crossing him over. Can we do more? Yeah. Nobody would have dreamed that you could take a fighter from the Phils. and make him into an iconic American star and we’ve been able to do that.”

M & M. Manny beat Morales. He beat Miguel. He defeated Margarito. Who are Manny’s challengers in 2011? Either of these men: Marquez… Mosley… Martinez… Mayweather. Haven’t you noticed a pattern? Regardless of enemy in an “M & M,” Manny will earn lots of M: money.

34th Milo Marathon: One of the best I’ve joined

Last Sunday, I participated in a road-running race. It wasn’t the usual every-Sunday event. When you’re able to gather a congregation of 23,000 pairs of feet, all stumbling and trampling on the same Osmeña Boulevard, that’s unusual—and hard-to-believe numbers. Well, despite the chaos of too many shoes, guess what: In my 46 months of running, it was one of the best-organized races I’ve joined.

Congratulations to Nestle, to Ricky Ballesteros, and to the hundreds of technical and support staff—including Joel Juarez—who made sure to uphold the exalted name of “Milo” in sports.

What made the race spectacular? The giant screen at the starting line that projected the route, videos and photos—that was one. The presence of Nestle CEO John Miller—that was another. Mr. Miller not only rendered an inspiring speech (announcing their advocacy of donating running shoes to elementary students), it was also because the CEO joined us in the 21K race—finishing in a speedy time of 2:04. Three sexy ladies wearing skimpy tops who climbed the stage for minutes of warm-up, dancing to “Waka-Waka”—that was another pre-race attraction. Then… Bang! We were off! Large speakers blasted music along several points of the route. One side of Osmeña Blvd. was closed.

(From SunStar Cebu)

Water stations in our Half-Marathon route were abundant—in my estimate, less than a kilometer apart from each station. The marshals handing water and Gatorade wore not ordinary attire but green Milo shirts. Along the South Road Properties (SRP), bananas (perfectly-sliced and perfectly-ripe) were in excess.

CITOM personnel manned every intersection. To help guide and protect the participants, bright orange cones lined the entire route. Excellent! Three “water fountains” (large hoses) poured water on our steaming-hot bodies.

And then, the UNGO group. Along the route, the Ungo Runners constructed three outposts (at the CIT U-turn, near Metro Gaisano and inside SRP) with plenty of Gatorade and supplies. Joy Polloso, Ayala Center Cebu’s top honcho, personally handed out drinks. Bikik Besavilla positioned herself near Colon St. to help. (Ungo has become a strong force for good in running. Well done, Ungo Runners!)

Finally… the Finish Area was superb. Located inside the Cebu City Sports Center, runners entered the side gate and sprinted a few meters on the track oval before crossing the finish. Thousands of students screamed and enjoyed the presentations—all making a festive ending.

Then, after you cross that finish line, you’re handed all you need: a green Milo-labeled bag with water, banana, etc. Plus—and this is a good tip for all organizers—you’re donned the finisher’s medal seconds after crossing that line. Perfect.

All-smiles at the finish were plenty: Leonardo “Jun” Angeles was super fast at 1:44 in the 21K. Benedict “Bende” Benedicto (who timed an impressive 1:56) and his wife, Mary Ann “Mat,” who finished eighth-place with a 1:59 time. Bende and Mat are now one of the fastest couple-runners in Cebu—this despite Mat only joining the running scene last March. Congratulations also to doctors Charles and Loy Tan and to Mae Ugalino for finishing their first half-marathons.

Our lone criticism of Milo? Except for the elite runners that included Noy Jopson (who finished the 21K in a blistering 1:27 and thus exited the SRP fast), we got burned.

(SunStar Cebu)

Running inside the shade-less SRP for 10 kilometers with no reprieve from the fiery sun was pure suffering. Several quit. Plenty walked. It was, simply put, agonizing and painful. (Next year, instead of the actual 5:37 a.m. start, we recommend a 5 a.m. start and to tackle the SRP route first.) Still, Milo was the best Philippine race I’ve joined (the Singapore Marathon I’d still consider tops).

Backed by Nestle and with 34 years of experience in organizing races, this was a very well-run Run. the cure for running fever

Everybody wants to run. Everybody wants to organize a run. There’s a run for Silliman, Ateneo, several for CebuDoc, one for USJ-R, the Seminary, for the Heart, Breast Cancer, Diabetes. There’s a race for mediamen, the environment (Eco-Dash), waste reduction (Aboitiz), kids (Ayala), and one STC-organized “Move with Air.”

Every Sunday, there’s a footrace. This is good. Running is the best—and most inexpensive—form of exercise. It revitalizes the heart, strengthens the legs. It elicits a smile when crossing that finish line. Running is positive. And, the more events, the better. From a 3K start, we upgrade to 5K, graduate to the 10K. Cebu is on a running fever “high.”

But, like any fever, when the temperature’s too high, there’s a problem. And there is a problem: the date “August 15.” The dilemma? Two events are scheduled on the same morning.

The University Run is on its fifth year. Founded by Dr. Yong Larrazabal, Cebu’s most popular running man, it will draw thousands to the CebuDoc Mandaue campus on Aug. 15.

Enter the Pilipinas International Marathon (PIM). Organized by the pharma giant IPI, it features, among others, the unique distance of 25K. It’s date? Aug. 15.

Without question, the 5th University Run, an institution of an event, was announced first. But here’s the problem: The PIM organizers did not know about the conflicting schedule. When they approached the Cebu City Hall, checked on Aug. 15, they were given the go-signal. Why? Because the Univ. Run is in Mandaue—which, obviously, does not coordinate with Cebu City.

I know Tito de la Merced of IPI. I know Joe Deresas. And, in my analysis, their August 15 scheduling was done in good faith. Simply, they did not know another event existed on the same date.

Now, what to do? The best solution would be for Mr. De La Merced to move his schedule. Why? For one, after several “bad press” articles “boycotting” the run, this act will evoke such goodwill that thousands of Cebuanos—believe me—will run and embrace the PIM. Two, on August 22, it’s the Aboitiz “Race To Reduce” event. It has a 21K distance and, given that timing chips are included, this will be in major conflict with the PIM. (Runners will choose only either the 21K or 25K.) Three, rescheduling the PIM to, say, September or October, will be the perfect long-run event for those joining the Cebu City Marathon on Jan. 9, 2011.

But it’s not for me to decide. Tito de la Merced has said that he cannot move his schedule. We respect that. And so, if that happens, let it be. There’s no law stating that two events can’t coexist. (In Manila, as many as four are held on the same Sunday.)

I liken running to basketball. Often, there’s an event in Guadalupe, another in Lahug, one in Talamban—all simultaneous. (Running is so popular that the only solution is for the week to have two Sundays!)

Here’s my suggestion: Given that a government super-body to oversee events does not appear viable because 1) even in Manila, where PATAFA is based, no such body exists, 2) each city has its own sports commission, 3) who reputable, non-biased person will head this body? and 4) there are too many technicalities involved (if one organizer ‘reserves’ a date but cancels, how to penalize?)… I suggest an alternative:

An open system. An avenue where organizers and runners can visit. I propose we make a website—–as the go-to venue. Organized by Max Limpag, my fellow writer/runner, he has a category labeled “Fun Runs/Races.” I suggest that everyone check on this calendar. If, as organizer, you’ve picked a specific date, fire an email to so Max can post your event. Simple.

This, of course, does not guarantee exclusivity. If you’re the first to post, it doesn’t mean others can’t organize on the same date. But, at least, the problem IPI faced—not knowing the full calendar—will be addressed. Another tip for organizers? Plan early. Six months lead time is ideal. Also, setup a website. And, announce, announce, announce!

Cebu is one happy family. Let’s keep it running that way.

Jane-Jane Ong: Running in the family

Jane, Andrew and Nica at the Big Sur Marathon

Leona Cakes and Pastries entrepreneur Jane-Jane Ong started running three years ago. “At that time I was doing a lot of cardio in the gym (treadmill, elliptical machine),” she said, “and was curious to see how I would fare in a fun run. Once I started, there was no stopping… I was challenged to do a PR every time I ran a 10K.”

Since that 2007 start, Jane-Jane has thinned dozens of thick-padded shoes, traversed thousands of miles, sweated buckets-full and completed three 42-km. races: In 2008, the Singapore Marathon; in 2009, the Amsterdam Marathon, and, last April, the Big Sur 42K in California, U.S.A.

Jane-Jane enjoys running. That’s obvious. To understand why, in an exchange of emails last week she explains nine reasons for her love of this sport that has enamored her fellow Cebuanos.

“Running is good for one’s health,” said Jane.

“Training for a marathon has also made me more disciplined,” she says in Reason No. 2. “I eat healthier, sleep earlier, so I can wake up early for work-outs and long runs.”

Three: “More than the physical endurance in a marathon,” she adds, “it has built up my mental endurance. Running a marathon is a mind game, when you condition your mind that you can do it, then naturally your body follows…”

“Since I’m a type A, running suits my personality,” says Jane. “It pushes me to be better, whether to have a better running form or to strive to do a PR, be it a 10K, 21K or a full marathon.”

Reason No. 5 is common denominator to us all: Running is my ‘ME time’ – a good way to de-stress.

“On the spiritual side,” she says, “it has made my faith stronger in the Lord, especially during the Singapore and Amsterdam marathon when my Iliotibial Band (ITB) injury was really painful, I was praying all the way to the finish line.”

True. That’s what running does–especially long-distances; it draws us to a power above, helping us overcome the knee and heart pains and the challenges in crossing that Finish Line, 42.195 kms after the gun start.

“And, of course, through running, I got to meet a lot of new friends! I love the camaraderie with other runners during long runs and run events.”

Jane-Jane, a member of the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC), I’ve ran alongside with on dozens of occasions. What she says is correct. Running is the perfect excuse to hangout with friends and family.

Of the family, what’s unique with Jane is she’s not alone: her brother Andrew and sister Veronica she’s convinced to run.

“Andrew joined me in fun runs three years ago but never followed through,” she said. “Then he got serious when training for Amsterdam. Initially, he was planning to run only 7.5K.” But then Andrew, whose physique–tall and lean–is perfect for running, progressed fast and has now, like Veronica, finished two 42Ks: Amsterdam and Big Sur.

With ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes in Big Sur

“Veronica started by walking the dogs when she accompanied me during my training for the Singapore marathon two years ago,” said Jane. “I still remember those times when she would have me and Mendel (Lopez) each run a dog. Slowly, walking the dogs became running the dogs. She became serious when training for Amsterdam.”

For Reason No. 8, it’s Andrew who supplied the answer: “I love running because I like to see the physical and mental progress I’ve made with the effort I’ve put in.”

Finally, says Jane, “Running together is a good bonding time for us siblings. Nica and Andrew train together so they get to spend more time with each other but the three of us do our long runs together. Plus, we get to travel together more not only internationally but also within the country.”

The siblings (they’ve got one more sister, Nathalie, whom they’re still trying to coerce) have a major goal to accomplish before yearend. “We applied online last December,” said Jane, “and were surprised that all three of us made it on our first try.”

That target? Come Nov. 7, the Ong family will hold hands at the start, pray, warm-up, then run beside 45,000 fanatics in the world’s biggest footrace, the New York City Marathon.

Cebu Marathon 2011: Prepare for it!

The most popular sport in the Philippines today, Cebu included, is not basketball or Bata Reyes’ game or football or Manny Pacquiao’s sport, it’s the one that you and I and tens of thousands of others perform at 6 a.m. in Abellana or late evenings at the Asiatown I.T. Park, it’s the one sport that has convinced many a Saturday-night-partygoer to arise at dawn on Sunday to wear shorts, to tie those shoelaces and to run.

Has there been a drug that’s more addictive than running? A sweat-inducing activity that’s invigorated 61-year-olds and hardened 16-year-olds? A sport that has coerced thousands to enlist last Sunday, this Sunday, and next Sunday to join 5Ks, 10Ks and 3Ks? A routine that’s habit-forming, strolling inside RUNNR in Ayala or Mizuno and Nike Stadium in SM each time we step inside the mall?

I’ve seen badminton flourish. I’ve observed golfers enlarge in numbers. I’ve witnessed footballers multiply among the elementary students. But, compared to today, they’re nowhere as near as the multitude of runners and the frequency of events held (often twice) on Sunday mornings.

What’s different with running is this: It’s free. The air is free, the cement road is free, the friends you run with (unless you make bangka after each run) are free for you to enjoy. This is an inexpensive sport.

Running is also this: it’s social. It’s the Facebook of sports. When you run with your barkada, they run beside you. The more you group together, the more you run; the more you run, the more friends you meet, the bigger the social network.

Running is the best way to lose weight. This is a fact. No other sport burns more calories than throwing your weight forward, one leg in front of the other at a time.

Best of all, running creates… Momentum. Like everybody else, when you start, you gasp for air, your muscles ache, your first-ever 3K run is painful. This is normal. But, if you keep on pushing, you’ll soon realize that 30 minutes is a cinch. Then, 40 minutes is effortless. You progress. A 5K run? Ah, you say, kaya ra! After… you do the distance that you never thought possible when you started: 25 loops around the oval of the Cebu City Sports Center. That’s 10 kilometers. For beginners, I can never run that far, is the thought. But, as you progress — as one gains Momentum — the 10K test is passed.

So herein lies the secret of running: You target farther… and target farther… and farther… from 3 to 5 to 10 to 12 to 16… the next thing you realize, after six months, you’re aiming for that 21K.

Which brings me to the ultimate distance: 26.2 miles. It’s called the Marathon. And, by this term “marathon,” I don’t mean, like others say it, “I’ll run a 5K marathon!” That’s incorrect. The marathon has one unique number: 42.195. That’s in kilometers. And every runner, even if you’re just a 3K Fun Runner today, should aim — at least once in your life — to complete a marathon.

My suggestion? Being biased because I’m with the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC), the organizers of this mega-event, I propose you run our own race. Before flying to HK or Singapore, why not, in the comforts of your own asphalted road, run in Cebu. And so, I’m pleased to announce the date of the Cebu Marathon: it’s on January 9, 2011. (We wanted Jan. 11, 2011 to make it “1-11-11” but that’s a Tuesday!)

The 2011 Cebu Marathon is seven months away. Why announce it now? Because it’s not your ordinary 10K. “To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who’s never run it,” said the Canadian runner Jerome Drayton, “is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind.”

That’s true. I’ve ran three marathons and finished only two; in my first, in Hong Kong, I succumbed to cramps and knee injuries. And so, to attempt a 42K run — the distance from Capitol to Carcar — one must prepare. And seven months preparation time, even for one who’s a 10K finisher today, is sufficient. How to train? I’ll save that for a future column. But, for now, the challenge is before you: See you in January.