Category Archives: Marathon

Millette Chiongbian earns a ticket to Boston

If golf has The Masters and tennis has Wimbledon, running has The Boston Marathon. It is the oldest (next week is the 114th edition) and most prestigious of all 42K races.

From Cebu, no female runner has ever joined Boston. The reason? The qualifying time (based on one’s age) is ultra-tough.

Millette Chiongbian is the first! A lifelong fitness buff, she started running less than three years ago. Qualifying for Boston? This was Millette’s dream two Decembers ago when she joined the Singapore Marathon. Sadly, she missed the 3:45 cutoff time by three minutes!

Then, last March 21 at the Los Angeles Marathon in California, Millette, never one to give up, made a second attempt. Her time? 3:43:06!

Here’s Millette’s story…. “Yes, I did it!  And I am truly happy indeed. 2008 Singapore Marathon was a trying one for me. Equipment failure and premature cramping on the 12th K were directions toward a disastrous event. Still I crossed the finish line at 3:48 which was three minutes shy from my goal. But the kicker was when I was posted DQ. I remember to have called you immediately while Frederic and Chris analyzed the DQ stats. I shrank in my unexpected omissions of a runner.

“March 18 2009. Orthopedist’s prognosis of a total hip replacement extricated me from the Singapore Marathon’s DQ queasiness. Despite my doctor’s “It will take a miracle to reverse the necrosis on the femur head,”  the possibility of running on metals didn’t thwart my devotion to carry on the Boston pipe dream.

“Sidelined from running between March-July 2009 was the most human part I and Fredric ever came close to a “shortcoming.”  In truth, miracles happen. Being pain-free by November 2009 caused me to browse AIMS.

“LA is home to my mother’s family. Chris (Aldeguer) expressed a good opinion on the variables of the race venue as well. I formally got into the standards of training on November 2009. Training with Coach Bert Banzon is never casual. Every key workout had to be an abstract component to the Goal. I train with Coach Pio Solon for strength and conditioning whose goal was to get me pain-free and strong in meeting the rigors of training and racing. To reason, I find this science a binding force. At times, my necrotic hip would be on drama enough to stagnate the progression of training.

“I ran 6-7 times weekly and apexed at 120+ kms./week just weeks prior to March 21’s race. I made it a point to join half-marathon races to get coordinated with the training paces of my marathon program. And these races were:  QCIM 10/20/09 PR 1:45 12th women overall, 1st age group divsion; Cebu City Marathon 1-10-10 PR 1:43:54 4th women overall; Condura 2/07/10 PR1:45 (21.800km); Century Tuna leg1 PR 1:43 8th women overall. These progressive best times validate the specificity of my run and strength programs.

“The 2010 LA Marathon was timed using both bib number and the B-Tag Timing System. The B-Tag is attached to the backside of the race bib and this timing uses the ChronoTrack Timing System which allows anyone to track runners’ splits on the route.

“Justin, my 11-yr. old son and I arrived LA in the late afternoon of March 17 and so we hit a couple of morning runs to test the bloody cold air of 5’C. (Justin clocked 25:23 on the 5K event of the LA Marathon and placed 9th in the 14 and below division.)

“Advised by the organizers to be at Dodger Stadium at 5:20 a.m., it was then between 10-12’C at that time. Bright lights, Jumbotrons and thousands of runners filled up the stadium seats. I felt like I was going to a baseball game. After warming up concisely I then headed towards the sub 4 hr. corral. Pace per mile signs were hung along the sides of corrals. It wasn’t as chilly as I expected it to be despite being overcast but I still had my mitts on and another top layer. Several runners were layered up in what looked like trash bags?

“At 7:24, the gun went off for the wheelers followed by the hand cycles, elite women and the last, elite men and the full field where I was at. Keeping a visual on the Clif Bar 3:40 pacer most of the time, I still ran my own race. The balloons would re-appear often. I found the 3:40 pacer aggressive on the descents. The start was off to a climb for 800m. It was akin to the Century Tuna leg 1 course with spiky undulations all the way to km 37 then a downward slope to the finish line at Santa Monica Pier which records this route to be a fast course.

“I was in control. I had full clarity and was focused but i didn’t spare myself to notice and appreciate the entertainment along the course which was spiced up with live band entertainment centers, city block parties, cheer alleys and thousands of volunteers. Mile markers with race clocks, hydration and medical stations by California Hospital Medical abound along the course. Two pain relief zones past mile 18 and at the finish line were apparent, too.

“I was hopeful that events will be favorable until my knee caps howled at km 28. Tipping the doubt scale on the recognition of perceptual cramping cues, I wasn’t free from doubt at all for we all know the real marathon is on the last 10K. To accept a greater effort by pacing up, by hydrating more and dissociating myself were the tricks that freed me from the cramp.

“The 38th-K downward slope marked an easement and I recognized that I could “have it” at this decent time. Giving a thumbs up to strangers calling out my name was just a rush. I rushed and flung towards the blue arch and the race clocks were all at a blur as I passed. I’m in! 3:43:06 Then I was cloaked with a mylar blanket, I was medalled which had the icons of LA (you should see it, John) and fed. It was a rocking party at the finish line! It was one great moment. What was sweet was narrating this to my dear ones who prayed as i came into the finish line.”

To MILLETTE, who’ll be running the 2011 Boston Marathon…. CONGRATULATIONS!

Mile after Millette after Mile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Incredible? That’s a synonym for Millette.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Millette Photos

Photos from 2008…

MIllette (in purple) with family and friends

Millette (left) after the Run for your Heart race

Frederic with his niece, Kim Tan

Running In The Family: Frederic and Millette with their children (from left) Yuan, Justin and Savvi (and niece Kim at the back)

Bro. Carlo Bacalla and the Bataan Death March

Bro. Carlo with Haide Acuña

If you think running 42,195 meters to complete a marathon is ridiculous, meet Bro. Carlo Bacalla. He’s no ordinary marathoner. He’s an ultra-marathoner. And, last March 7, he joined a race that’s the farthest in distance: the Bataan Death March (BDM).     How far? One hundred two kilometers.

Crazy? Yes. Because Bro. Carlo is crazy for sports. In our recent back-and-forth email interview, he admitted, “Someone said ‘It takes an idiot to run a marathon but it takes a special kind of idiot to run an ultra-marathon!’”

Training director of the Don Bosco Training Center for out-of-school-youth in Pasil (among his myriad of jobs)–that’s Bro. Carlo’s profession. His passion: running.

At the BDM 102K race that spanned from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga, a total of 142 registered (including Haide Acuña). In the end, only 104 finished. Bro. Carlo? Did he make it? No. I mean, No, he didn’t just make the cut… he finished 17th place! An outstanding achievement (clocking 14 hours and 38 minutes) for one who’s 47 years old. He has completed nine marathons–plus the Ironman race last August in Camarines Sur. Why run 102 kms.? Only the most hard-core of men who can absorb pain, even relish it, attempt the distance. And that’s Brother.
Here’s my full-length interview with Bro. Carlo…

1. When did you start running?

When we were kids I remember joining “poste-poste” races in our neighborhood. We would bet on empty cigarette cases that we would fold like peso bills. It was our past time then. My first official run was in 1986 in the 10 k freedom run at EDSA. I run my first full marathon when I was a student of theology in Paranaque in 1988. I recall that when I took permission from my rector, his answer was: “Ok you run as long as you don’t sleep in class”.

2. How many marathons have you done? What’s your best time?

I did my first full marathon in 1988 in the “Pilipinas Marathon” the second was the “PAL Marathon”. I did 3 runs in the former and 4 in the latter. I had to stop running when I volunteered to work as a missionary in Africa and worked for 13 years there. The QCIM was my 8th marathon after 17 years of absence. The Condura Run last Feb. 7 was my 9th. My best time was 3:45 in the Pilipinas Marathon.

3. Why run 102 kms?

I had no idea about the BDM 102 until January 15 of this year when I was browsing for ultramarathons in the internet. I was interested in the “Famous Comrades” of South Africa but was informed that registration was long closed. Then I came across TNF and BDM. I didn’t like the former because it was a trail run but the latter was closed too since Jan. 6. I wrote a comment to the organizers of BDM and begged that I be allowed to join. On Jan. 18 I got the approval from bald runner and so the serious training of less than 2 months began. The race covers a distance of 102 km from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga.

Reason for running? 1. I like challenges and BDM provided one. 2. To pay tribute to the heroes of Bataan, 3. To test my mental and physical limits. 4. To have more photos for Faacebook, hahaha.

Someone said that “It takes an idiot to run a marathon but it takes a special kind of idiot to run an ultramarathon.”

4. Describe your entire BDM experience.

After reading so much about ultra running, I drafted my own 7-week training program. With barely two months to prepare, I did what I had to do: run, run, run, climb, climb, climb, drink, drink, drink, pee, pee, pee. The Condura Run was my test to determine my fitness for the BDM. I set a goal of 12 hours. I climbed to tops trice, run from Pasil to Cordova and back twice, and did night and mid-day runs 5 times. I did my longest run of 80 km 2 Sundays before the race. After doing my last 2 short runs during the race week, I felt confident I can hit my target.

The route was completely unknown to me. Fortunately, a priest-colleague from Don Bosco Pampanga volunteered to drive me and we did an ocular check before race day. It helped me gain more confidence. I had everything ready by noon of March 6.  After briefing my support crew, I took dinner and droved to Mariveles, Bataan and met Haide for our planned photo session at km 00.

The atmosphere was festive despite the poorly lighted starting area. After taking photos, I had a chat with Haide while waiting for the race briefing. We encouraged each other and agreed to meet at the finish line. The starting gun was fired at 11:30 pm. I made the sign of the cross and took the road.

My plan was to divide the distance to 3 the first 42 km in 5 hours, same with the second 42 km, and the final 18 km in 2 hours. But I had to make adjustments in the first part due to the many climbs. Part of the strategy was to run-walk in some stiff climbs. Practically, the second half of the route was flat but due to the heat which reached 41 deg Celsius at noon time, I had to slow down. I instructed my support crew to leap frog every 2 km in the first 6 hours and at every 1.5 km thereafter. I took my drinks and replenishments in those stops.

At 10 am due to extreme heat, we had to change strategy and had my support vehicle stop at every 1 km until km 102. There were times when I was tempted to race with the other runners, to go fast at the early part of the race, or to run the uphills. Those were moments of tests and learnings.

Right from the start I was confident I will finish the run but I didn’t expect to be in the 17th place. At the end I would attribute ninety percent of the success to my support crew. It would have been impossible to do it without a good support team to provide water and replenishments. We had our support vehicle stuffed with 12 bottles of Gatorade and mineral water, biscuits, power gels, bananas, pandesal, sliced bread, first aid and 2 extra gallons of water.

If I counted right, I think I urinated 15 times throughout the entire distance, an indication that I hydrated myself well. I did something unusual at every kilometer post: I prayed to the holy souls of those who died during the death march to help me reach km 102. I crossed the finish line pouring the last drop of water on my head and flashing the v-sign. It was fun with countless lessons.

5. Will you do it again?

Definitely, I will join the BDM next year. According to the organizers the distance will be extended till Capas, Tarlac where the soldiers ended the death march. That’s a 140 km distance.

6. What are your future goals?

If my schedule permits me, I will try to join in all the local runs in Cebu. But there are invitations for me to play in the 40 and above soccer tournament in Bacolod in May. I will try going back to soccer this summer. This is just for a change. By June I will start preparing for my 2nd half-ironman in Camsur this August 22. Swimming will be my focus this time. I hope to improve my personal time and finish it in 6 hours. In November I will start training for the BDM 2011. Don’t get me wrong ha. Sports is just a past time, it’s not a career. My duties as a religious brother always take priority.

7. What’s your work with Don Bosco?

Quite a lot. I am the training director of Don Bosco Training Center for out-of-school-youth in Pasil. At the same time I am in-charge of the alumni of the same center. At the provincial level (salesians of don Bosco in Visayas and Mindanao) I head the commission on missions and work as the coordinator of the salesian lay volunteer organization.

I am the chairman of the Visayas Association of Religious Brothers (VARB) and the national president of the National Federation of Religious Brothers of the Philippines (NFRBP). With such amount of work, I really have to juggle with my running and my duties. I would even run at very ungodly hours so that I can be back for my community prayers and other duties.

8. Did you run in Africa when you were assigned there?

I was 13 years in Africa but I didn’t run much because the place where I worked was not running-friendly. I had an overdose of soccer in Nigeria. However, I did organize fun runs in the two centers where I was assigned. In 2005, I run a half-marathon in Lagos.

9. If you don’t mind, how old are you?

Age is a state of the mind! My chronological age is 47 (28 years as a religious brother) but I put 25 as my age in my Facebook, hahaha.

With Gen. Jovie Narcise (Bald Runner), organizer of the BDM 102

Hong Kong

Congratulations to several Cebuanos who joined last Sunday’s race. No, the run didn’t start at the Cebu Business Park and it wasn’t a 5K. It was the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon.

Roy and Dr. Rosan Trani finished. So did 42K first-timer Kenneth Toledo, Dr. Emily Estrada, Dr. Alex Junia and Dodong Sulatre, who clocked an impressive 4:24.

Best of all, Mendel Lopez, an awardee this March 11 during the 28th SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards, scored a standout finish: Of the thousands who participated in the 21K race, Mendel placed 3rd. A Japanese arrived first, an Italian second (only five seconds ahead of Mendel), then our very own Cebuano.

The past two Februarys in HK, Mendel placed fourth. Now, he’s climbed one step higher. And given that this race attracts a mix of global runners that would make the United Nations smile, this was a remarkable performance. Congratulations!

The 3Rs formula for love

At the 2008 Singapore Marathon

Some prefer a candlelight dinner in Shangri-La. Some “say it with flowers.” Others lavish their spouse with a tiny box, inside of which is a stone that glitters. Some opt for a kiss and an “I love you” whisper. Others, a picnic in Tops or, as our governor herself joked, a stroll inside Plaza Independencia.

Roy and Rosan Trani, two of my closest friends the past three years, prefer a different version of February 14. This Valentine’s Day, they’ll awake at 3:30 a.m. to spend the next waking hours together. Two feet apart. Two feet bouncing. Running.

“Our married life is a ‘wonderful gift’ from HIM, with all the good things we received and material blessings we built through the years,” said Roy. “And now, HE has given us the opportunity to be running together at least once a week (every Sunday), joining full marathons (here and abroad) at least once a year, and more importantly, being a role model to our kids, on how couples (parents) should live and love each other!”

Roy, 48, and Dr. Rosan, 46, have been married for 22 happy years now. One “success formula” they’ve employed in their love-life is a simple yet proven technique that all of us should emulate: The weekly date.

Its formula is as follows = Roy + Rosan + Running. The 3Rs. “We started running together in 2003,” said Roy. “I started this sport as a hobby during the late 1990’s. But when I opted for early retirement in 2003 from a multinational company, I decided to take running as a ‘lifestyle.’ I started to run my first 10K in early 2004, while at the same time Rosan did her first 5K. We later joined the Queen City/Tri-City Runs and had our first experience of the 13K run.”

Was it difficult convincing Rosan? No, said Roy. “Her practice (as a cardiologist) made it logical… for her patients to see a “walk the talk” doctor. Telling her patients to exercise and change their lifestyles and follow her example, were some of the reasons I told her to start to run.”

Since the Trani couple activated the 3R Formula, they’ve been unstoppable. “We’ve joined fun run events in Cebu since 2005 (PHA run, Milo, Timex, DYAB, Seminary Fun Run and many more),” said Roy. “But we only do the 10K runs. I usually run faster than her and would wait for her at the finish line (that was before).”

The 42.195 km. race? “Our first was the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in 2008. Our second was in Manila, the Milo Marathon, last July, and the 3rd was in Subic.” The next major one R & R will be running: two Sundays from today… the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon on Feb. 28. “We plan to join two to three marathons every year before we reach 60 years old,” said Roy. “Our dream marathons would be the Safari in Africa and Chicago in the U.S.”

2009 Subic International Marathon

Roy spoke of their schedule. “Since we started running together and with our friends in CERC (Cebu Executive Runners Club), we always start our Sundays with early morning runs at 4:30 a.m… doing 10k to 21K, from 1.5 to 2.5 hours. We run just about anywhere in Cebu, Mandaue, and Lapu-Lapu,” he said.

“We don’t usually talk while running. Last year in the Subic marathon, we prayed the rosary together, especially  when we passed the ‘dark roads’ in SCLEX. We just feel comfortable, ‘peaceful’ running together. It’s good to know that even during this kind of activity, your spouse is with you. Running at the same pace, in the same direction, helping each other cross the finish line.

“One time, she massaged my legs when I suffered pain due to cramps. There was also an incident that I have to wait for her make a pee stop in the middle of a highway along the route… Simple acts of caring but great memories together!”

Finally, this tip from Roy: “Would I recommend this ‘running together’ to other couples? Definitely yes! It’s more than just exercise. It has become part of our ‘love life’ because our Sundays wouldn’t be complete… it’s like going on a date, a running weekly date!”

Finishing the 21K in the 2007 Singapore Marathon

Quotations to inspire our marathoners

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” – Emil Zatopek

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.” – Oprah Winfrey

“The marathon can humble you.” – Bill Rogers

“We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves. The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, ‘You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.’ The human spirit is indomitable.” – Roger Bannister

“Anyone can run 20 miles. It’s the next six that count.” – Barry Magee

“To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who’s never run it is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind.”? – Jerome Drayton

“Running is one of the best solutions to a clear mind.” – Sasha Azevedo

“The marathon’s about being in contention over the last 10K. That’s when it’s about what you have in your core. You have run all the strength, all the superficial fitness out of yourself, and it really comes down to what’s left inside you. To be able to draw deep and pull something out of yourself is one of the most tremendous things about the marathon.” – Rob de Castella

“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.”? – Jesse Owens

“I’m never going to run this again.” -?Grete Waitz after winning her first of nine New York City marathons

“A marathon is like life with its ups and downs, but once you’ve done it you feel that you can do anything.” -?Unknown

“Life is short. Running makes it seem longer.” – ?Baron Hansen

“People ask why I run. I say, “If you have to ask, you will never understand”. It is something only those select few know. Those who put themselves through pain, but know, deep down, how good it really feels.” -?Erin Leonard

“You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.”? – Frank Shorter

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” – Unknown

“The will to win means nothing if you haven’t the will to prepare.”? – Juma Ikangaa

“I run because it’s my passion, and not just a sport. Every time I walk out the door, I know why I’m going where I’m going and I’m already focused on that special place where I find my peace and solitude. Running, to me, is more than just a physical exercise… it’s a consistent reward for victory!” – Sasha Azevedo

“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.” – Fred Lebow

“If you feel bad at 10 miles, you’re in trouble. If you feel bad at 20 miles, you’re normal. If you don’t feel bad at 26 miles, you’re abnormal.” – Rob de Castella

“Running helps me stay on an even keel and in an optimistic frame of mind.” – Bill Clinton

“I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.” – John Hanc

“The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals.” – Hal Higdon

“Good things come slow – especially in distance running.” – Bill Dellinger

“The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy…It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.” – Jacqueline Gareau

“Marathoning is just another form of insanity.” – John J. Kelly

“I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart.” – Mike Fanelli

James Abilla’s feat in New York City

Six years ago, he started running. “I was getting older and noticed I wasn’t getting any healthier,” he said. “So, one day, I had a ‘Forrest Gump’ moment!”

Jim Abilla started walking. Then jogging. Then sprinting. Since 2003, he hasn’t stopped. Last Sunday, Nov. 1, while many of us lazed around and visited the cemetery, he stood at the starting line of the biggest marathon on earth. Here’s his story…

“The NY Marathon Class of ‘09 of 43,475 set out in three waves from both decks and lanes of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. It was windy during the ascent and cold (50-degrees), but the atmosphere was festive. People were climbing the middle barriers and snapping pictures of the sea of people coming up the bridge!

“Every block of the course was lined with spectators. Except for the bridges, the entire course was filled with people holding signs, ringing cow bells, playing drums, encouraging runners. It made the option of walking disappear from my thoughts!

“At around mile 9, a woman next to me passed out and fell into the crowd. Medical personnel quickly attended to her, as did the crowd. There was no shortage of Gatorade and water. Medical stations were clearly marked and plentiful, and there were police officers at every intersection, which included either an ambulance, fire truck or aid station.

“GU gels were given at mile 16 and there were plenty of bananas, oranges, candy bars, pretzels and other goodies handed out. I felt the wall coming at mile 19 and was extremely hungry. Luckily, some people in the crowd handed me Snickers bars and a banana! After washing it down with Gatorade, I regained my strength and was able to continue on without ever walking any part of the course.

“One of the most inspirational sights I saw was passing groups called “Achilles Guides.” They are groups of pacers and medically trained runners who surround a special needs runner or someone who is running with an artificial limb. I passed at least four Achilles groups—at least two of them had a runner without legs and was running with spring metal limbs. I gave them a heartfelt “thumbs up.” Inspirational!

“Another runner had “HEART TRANSPLANT” printed in the back of his shirt. Yes, he was running with a transplanted heart. I’m curious to ask Dr. Peter Mancao what he thinks about that! Boy, what an inspiration!

“Anyway, I managed to come down the home stretch inside Central Park, at mile 23, too late to give up or walk. By this time, the crown is at critical mass, yelling “JIMMEEE” or “GO JIMBO!” How can you give up with that kind of welcome? So I found myself picking up the pace and continuing to ignore the knotted pain in my legs and calves.”

Jim finished with a personal record (PR) of 4:18:47. That’s speedy. So was the time of his wife, Margaret, who clocked 4:34. Prior to NYC, James, now 46, had finished six marathons. When I asked which was his favorite, the reply bounced back fast.

“New York is hands-down the best road race in the world. It was better than Chicago. The people of NY love the marathon, and New Yorkers are a splendid crowd. A large part of long-distance running is training, but it is the support of those who watch that eventually makes a world of difference when you have a little self-doubt. When several hundred thousand people are egging you on to continue and not give up, you feel that you must not let them down. Contrast that to a crowd that does not cheer and encourage – and you will know what I mean. Our local spectators could learn a lot from the welcoming spirit New Yorkers have. It is an unabashed quality of participation and gives the ‘spirit’ in the whole event. And yes, they yell your name. That’s why people write their names on their shirts!”

When I asked Jim, who owns the Cebu-based bottled water company “St. James,” what his next goals were, he had everything planned out.

“Now it’s time to recover for a few months before the next marathon in Ireland in April 2010, then to the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC in Oct. 2010. Then, 2011 Berlin, 2012 London and 2013 Boston for my 50th birthday!”


Q & A:

When did you start running? Why? Where?

I decided to start running to feel better about myself. I was getting older (approaching 40) and was noticed I was not getting any healthier. So one day, I just had a “forrest gump” moment! That was 6 years ago.

When did you start marathon running? Why?

I ran my first marathon in 2004 in Maui. It was the hottest, most difficult marathon I have ever done, particularly because I had no guidance on training and hydration. Maui looked like a nice place to vacation and run a marathon. Yes on the former, No on the latter. My time was almost 6 hours!

How did you register for New York (considering it’s difficult to gain entry)?

I had a rare opportunity to join the Asics Team thru Dr. Mancao’s brother who was connected with sponsorship events. There were 2 spots left and my wife an I took it in a heartbeat, especially since our contact has now since transferred to a different department! We have been trying to get into NY via lottery, and if you are turned down 3 times at the NY Marathon lottery, you are guaranteed an entry on your 4th application. So people can actually (eventually) get in if they just simply apply online via lottery.

Can you please name the 7 marathons that you did? Before NYC, what was your fastest?

2004 Maui Marathon – around 5:40
2005 Avenue of the Giants, Calif, USA – around 5:30
2006 Edinburgh Marathon, Scotland – around 5:30
2007 Auckland Marathon, New Zealand – around 5:30
2008 Chicago Marathon, USA – around 5:30
2009 Big Sur Marathon, USA – 5:01 (so close to sub-5, yet so far!)
2009 New York Marathon, USA – This was the fastest- 4:18 (must have gotten some power from the Pilgrimage to Spain?)

Was NYC the best you’ve tried? Why is it different? People always say, “If there’s one marathon you’ll run, it has to be New York” Is this true, why or why not?

New York is hands-down the best road race in the world, so far, for me. It was better than Chicago. The people of NY love the marathon, and New Yorkers are a splendid crowd. A large part of long-distance running is training, but it is the support of those who watch that eventually makes a world of difference when you have a little self-doubt. When several hundred thousand people are egging you on to continue and not give up, you feel that you must not let them down. Contrast that to a crowd that does not cheer and encourage – and you will know what I mean. Our local spectators could learn a lot from the welcoming spirit New Yorkers have. It is an unabashed quality of participation and gives the “spirit” in the whole event. And yes, they yell your name. That’s why people write their names on their shirts!

How young are you?

46, going on 25. Did I mention 46 is the new 32?

Your wife ran with you? How many 42Ks has she done?

Margaret and I ran the marathon together, but not together in the race. Marathon running for us is an individual sport, so we run our own pace without having to wait for each other. We meet up at the finish line. We started running together at the same time in the same races above.

When did you start St. James? Did you drink it before/after the race?

St James started last year and has been around the world more than any bottle of water on earth! I took it to a pilgrimage to Spain to get the blessing of St. James in his Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Yes, I have only St. James in my house in the U.S. and in Cebu. Soon, we will be exporting St. James to Japan and Singapore, the first exported premium water from Cebu!

How many years did you live in the States before moving back to Cebu? Or are you still moving back and forth between the U.S. and the Phils?

I studied Engineering at Cal Poly and finished my MBA at Berkeley when I moved to the U.S. in the 1990s. I now commute between the U.S. and Cebu every 3 weeks to visit the plant here. It’s a bit of a jet-lagger, but I get to read a lot of books.

You saw Ed Norton and Alanis during the race?

I did not see Ed Norton but did pass a group of Masai that was running with Alanis early on in the race. I did not recognize her then but I realized after that it was her after connecting the Masai and Ed and Alanis. They were running for a charity in Africa for the Masai Tribesmen. Didn’t quite catch up with Ed Norton, but certainly beat Alanis Morriset, hehe.

Amsterdam Marathon

Albert Santos, Nica Ong, Jane-Jane Ong, Andrew Ong, Meyrick Jacalan, Perl Jacalan and Vic Verallo

Last Sunday, Oct. 18, while plenty from Cebu joined the Quezon City International Marathon, seven of our fellow members from the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC) travelled all the way to Europe to join a major marathon race. The Amsterdam Marathon is acknowledged as one of the most popular of road races in Europe. The results of our fellow Cebuanos? Excellent! All of them posted Personal Best (PB) times. The team was led by Dr. Vic Verallo, one of Cebu’s top dermatologists, who posted a speedy time of 4:20:50. He was followed by ASAP Advertising top honcho Meyrick “Jacs” Jacalan who posted a fast time, despite nursing a foot injury, of 4:21:14. Next, it was first-time marathon Andrew Ong who clocked 4:24:23. Then, Jane-Jane Ong, who runs the famous Leona Pastries outlets in Cebu, finished in 4:29:12. Next was Jane’s sister, Nica, at 4:29:54. They were followed by Dr. Albert Santos, a veteran of three marathons (Hong Kong, Singapore and Milo), who also finished in his PB time of 5:03:34. Finally, there was Perl Jacalan who finished the 21K in 2:17:36. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

Quezon City Intl. Marathon: The Good and the Bad

Having joined dozens of road-running races (mostly in Cebu), including the Hong Kong and Singapore marathons in 2008, here are several observations from last Sunday’s QCIM:


1. Weather. Obviously, this has nothing to do with the organizers, but we were blessed with excellent weather that day. It didn’t rain. Even better, the sun barely shined all-morning-long. Given the up-and-down terrain of the QCIM 42K, can you imagine if the weather was super-hot? If, from 6:30 to 11 a.m. there was blazing sunlight? I bet a lot of runners would have stopped. Especially because the event ran out of water on so many water stations.

2. Chip. Having that ChampionChip on your shoe makes the event world-caliber. This was good. And something we have yet to experience in Cebu (given it’s cost, around P200,000 just for the deployment, we’re targeting in the 2011 Cebu Marathon). Continue reading Quezon City Intl. Marathon: The Good and the Bad

The torture called Quezon City Marathon

That’s me and Bro. Carlo Bacalla meters from the finish

Jesse Taborada, a veteran of six 42K marathons, calls it, “The hardest marathon in the world!”

Of course, Jesse exaggerated. Nothing, I assume, can beat the Great Wall of China or the Mt. Everest marathons. But the 42.195 kms. that we trekked last Sunday may be termed, “the country’s toughest 42K.”

The Quezon City International Marathon (QCIM) started at 4:30 a.m. Anticipating harsh weather due to Typhoon Ramil, it did not rain at the QC Circle. Stars glazed. At the Starting Line, hundreds of hearts pounded. Then, after a 10… 9… 8… countdown, the firing gun blasted. Joel Garganera was beside me. Same with Jesse. And Bro. Carlo Bacalla of Don Bosco in Labangon, Cebu. We entered U.P. Diliman in darkness as students slept. Next, we exited and ran along Commonwealth Avenue—all of eight lanes-wide per lane. Cars were barred. It was perfect. Continue reading The torture called Quezon City Marathon

Cebu City Marathon And The Running Fever

There is a virus that’s plaguing our city. It’s not the A-H1N1 strain or the Dengue fever scare. It’s more widespread and thousands are afflicted. All types of bodies have been stricken: 73-year-olds, college girls, Sun.Star online editor Max Limpag, CEOs, doctors, Donna Cruz-Larrazabal, lawyers…

The good news is, this virus is healthy and invigorating. Running, it’s called, and, for the past three years, dozens upon hundreds upon thousands have bought New Balance shoes, worn Nike Dri-Fit wear, purchased Garmin GPS watches, laced Adidas Supernova soles, traveled to Singapore or Chicago or Hong Kong to pound their two God-given legs from Start to Finish Line. Continue reading Cebu City Marathon And The Running Fever

Excellent Rening Ylaya piece by Max Limpag

Rening Ylaya is 73 years old. Nothing unusual about that. There are plenty of senior citizens walking around town. But Rening doesn’t walk… he runs. He runs 10Ks, he runs 21Ks, he runs fast, and, come January, he’s planning to join the Cebu City Marathon and run for 42 kilometers. Read this great write-up by Sun.Star Cebu online editor (and fellow runner) Max Limpag… “At 73, Ylaya keeps beating runners half his age.”