Dr. Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III will never forget the date February 25, 2007. That was the morning when he arose at 3 a.m., showered, put on his Sight First Clinics jersey and running shorts, tied his New Balance shoelaces, and drove to the starting line for his first-ever 42K race. When he arrived before the 4:30 a.m. start, nearly 1,000 runners crowded and stretched their muscles, all set for the 3rd Philippine International Marathon.
“The race traversed six cities (Manila, San Juan, Makati , Taguig, Mandaluyong and Pasig) and 11 bridges,” said Dr. Larrazabal. “The bridges were most difficult since we all trained on flat surface. I never thought of quitting but it was the five-hour curfew that was always on my mind. Imagine, traveling all the way to Manila and not finishing the marathon.
“During the halfway mark (21K), I was on schedule with my trainer to make it in 4 hours, 15 minutes. But at the 30k mark, the heat was unbearable. It was only the second time that I was running under direct sunlight (the first during the 21k Milo Marathon) and it was draining my energy. This part of the route was the notorious C5.
“A lot of runners were taken in by ambulance. There was this particular runner who suffered a heat stroke. I saw him jumping out of a moving ambulance and subsequently jumping over a 14-foot overpass. Luckily, he was not seriously hurt.
“At 37K, my lack of training began to haunt me. I suffered cramps on my left leg. After resting for two minutes, I continued to run with the moral support of my trainer. I was practically dragging my stiff left leg. At 41K, my right leg started to hurt. This was when I asked God to help me finish the race. I thought that if my right leg would suffer cramps, that would be it. What normally would take me 22 to 24 minutes to cover the last five kilometers took me almost an hour because of my injury.
“Luckily, I FINISHED THE RACE AT EXACTLY 4 HOURS, 53 MINUTES, and 3 SECONDS and got my medal!”
Wow. Wasn’t that amazing? An eye surgeon, Dr. Yong Larrazabal revealed the strength of his heart. “I had no doubt that I would finish the race. My greatest fear was that I would not finish it within the five-hour curfew. I have always believed in “mind over body” and have never quit any race so far.”
Lance Armstrong, when he finished the New York City Marathon—also his first-ever attempt at the 42K run—said it was the most difficult physical experience he’s ever done. Dr. Larrazabal? The same. “Clearly, that was the most physically demanding activity I have ever done in my 33 years of existence,” he said.
“I could not train hard for the Manila Marathon due to my hectic schedule at the clinic. One month before the race, I started increasing my mileage. I started to run two hours instead of one hour twice a week and one hour in between those days. I realized after the race that it was not enough. I stopped running five days before the race and started “carbo-loading” with lots of pasta. We were six in our group: my trainer Charlie Berberio, my Ophtha associate Dr. Brian Canton, my Iranian Ophtha resident Dr. Jahani Hivechi, CDU faculty and Racing coordinator Raymond Silot and CDU student-athlete Earl Canapi.”
After only one-and-a-half years of joining 5K and 10K races, Dr. Yong Larrazabal completed his first-ever 42K race. For a long-distance runner, that’s a sprint.
Will you run again? I asked. “Yes! I plan to join the New York City Marathon on November and plan to join two to three marathons a year. I was particularly inspired when Fernando Zobel de Ayala (who I believe is in his early 50s) was featured last year after finishing the NYC Marathon in 4 hours 20 minutes.”
I asked Dr. Yong Larrazabal how he felt at the finish line. “Surprisingly, maybe because of the euphoria of finishing my first ever 42K, I was not exhausted. President Fidel Ramos, Former First Lady Ming Ramos and Sec. Angelo Reyes were at the finish line to greet all the successful runners. We all went home full-pledged marathoners.
“The next day both my legs were stiff and I was limping. But you know what? I still did my surgeries and finished my clinic. Two days after the race, I was back on the treadmill. MIND OVER BODY!”