Why there’s no other race like the Cebu Marathon

Two nights ago, I stood before an audience filled with runners. There sat an American running his first 42K. Across him was a Canadian half-marathoner. Dozens from Cagayan de Oro arrived. Victor Ting, 67 years old from Manila, previously finished a 160-km. trek. He’s joining the Cebu Marathon today. Mayor Mike Rama did not sing — he gave a speech and is running 5,000 meters at 5:30 this morning.

It was the Race Briefing and Pasta Party of the Cebu Marathon last Friday night at The Terraces of Ayala Center Cebu. Before “Mr. Acoustic” himself, Paolo Santos, strummed his guitar and four hard-core runners — Dr. Abraham Manlawe, Joel Garganera, Twinkle Ignacio and Raul Cepeda — spoke motivational words, I took the stage for my message. Here are excerpts…

Maayong gabii kaninyong tanan — to our guests from out-of-town, welcome to Cebu! This is the event’s sixth year. What makes the Cebu Marathon different? Is it the prize money, because we offer the most? The distance, because we’re the farthest? The number of participants, because we have the most? No. Some races offer more money, have farther (100K) distances, and have tens of thousands of runners.

Cebu Marathon is unique because of…

First, the timing. Our event is not held in March or August. It’s always on the 2nd Sunday of the year. It’s part of the festivities of the Sinulog — the country’s biggest festival. If the DOT says “It’s more fun in the Phils.,” during the Sinulog, “Running is more fun in Cebu!” Today, runners will see buntings and lights all over, they’ll hear the Sinulog beat playing, there’s dancing… it’s not a boring race. It’s festive and lingaw.

Second: Our land, Cebu. Our city. Our province. Our history. Eight years from now, we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of Ferdinand Magellan’s landing. Cebu is that historic. We are considered the oldest city in the country. For the 21K and 42K runners: you will be passing through some of the most historical sights in the country. First, we start  at the Cebu I.T. Park, the city’s premier business district. Then you pass along the Provincial Capitol, Osmeña Blvd., Fuente Osmeña, Colon St. (the country’s oldest), Sto. Nino Church. My favorite spot? Running in-between the Magellan’s Cross and the City Hall. Next, Malacanang sa Sugbo, Plaza Independencia and, possibly the only run to do this nationwide… underneath the Tunnel. Then the South Road Properties.

We have the best route of any marathon in the whole Philippines! Maybe one of the best in Asia.

Third reason: the people, the Cebuanos. We have a genuine partnership between the public and private sectors. The city government is giving the total cash prize of P389,500. We have the support of Ayala Center Cebu, Cebu I.T. Park, New Balance, Globe, Pocari Sweat and Nature’s Spring. The support of the Talisay City officials, DPWH, CITOM, TODA and the SRP are crucial.

VOLUNTEERISM. The men and women behind this event are not being paid. You know why we’re helping? Because we ourselves — all of us at the CERC — are marathoners. And many of us have travelled all over the world — from Chicago to Paris to Hong Kong to New York to Amsterdam — to join marathons. And if not also for the volunteers in all cities in the world, then we would not have been able to join.

We are giving back. This time, to you. We want you to experience the pain(!) and satisfaction of finishing a 21K or a 42K. It’s a moment you’ll treasure forever. In the streets this Sunday (today), don’t be surprised if you’ll see doctors, lawyers and top businessmen giving you a massage or a cold drink at the sidewalk.

Fellow runners: it is 32 hours from race time at 4 AM on Sunday. Congratulations! Each of you here — for joining, for spending hundreds of hours on the road, for waking up at 4 in the morning to run when everybody else is asleep, for all your sacrifices — each of you here is a winner in life.

Continue to enjoy running. Enjoy Cebu. Enjoy the Sinulog. Pit Senyor!

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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