Jacksonville Marathon: Surviving 26.2 miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vic, Duke and 50,000 others run New York

Dr. Vicente Verallo and I spoke yesterday. It was 12:02 p.m. (noon) here. In New York City, where Dr. Vic was at, it was 11 at night. Thanks to Viber, we chatted for 14 minutes.

Together with over 50,000 others, our top dermatologist ran the world’s largest 42K race last Sunday. “It was cold!” said Vic. The morning started at 4 degrees Celsius and, though it warmed when the sun rose and Vic’s group started at 10:55 a.m., there was one factor that made it chilly. “The winds were strong,” said Vic. When he climbed the Verrazano Bridge (which I kidded him can now be called “Verallo Bridge”), it was strongest. “It was running at 45 miles per hour, which made running difficult especially when crossing the bridge especially if one is running with a cheap, loose jacket intended to be thrown away.”

Ever the joker in our running group, Vic added: “I could not, however, throw it away since Verallo is a true-blooded Filipino who could not stand the cold.” Four layers of clothing, plus a hoodie and gloves, enveloped Vic.

How does this compare, I asked, with the 12 other marathons that he’s completed? The crowd was plenty and they cheered plenty, said Vic. Close to two million New Yorkers flood the streets to motivate the runners. “You will never find this kind of crowd support elsewhere,” said Jane-Jane Ong, who, together with her siblings Andrew and Nica, ran NYC in 2010. “People line up the whole route (except for the 5 bridges) calling out your name and cheering you on and pushing you every step of the way until the finish line.”

usa-newyork-marathon(Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Dr. Verallo noticed one item. “Security was very tight,” he added. Dogs sniffed all belongings and, when the participants rode the ferry towards the start (in Staten Island), every bag was checked. “We were not allowed to bring any back packs,” he said. “Only the transparent plastic bags given to us.” Even family members were not spared. Given what happened to Boston last year, the well-wishers at the finish line had to wait at a distance. “In Central Park, where we finished, there was a ‘Family Reunion’ area that was far.”

During the race, Dr. Susan Verallo, Vic’s wife, was able to follow her husband’s pace. “The nice thing is there is an app which you can download for free,” said Vic. “With it, one can track us down during the whole course. Susan didn’t have a problem locating me. She could see how fast, or most of the time, how SLOW I was progressing. The whole course must have wifi signal!”

Dr. Verallo timed a very respectable 4 hours and 48 minutes. The sad part? “After running for 26 miles, Susan and I had to walk another three kilometers to the hotel!”

He was happiest about what transpired the night before. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, doctors Vic and Susan heard anticipated mass. At the end, the Monsignor called all the runners up front. “Usually, there would just be a handful,” he said, “but yesterday, we filled up the whole front portion, all of us runners, and we were blessed and sprinkled with holy water.”

DUKE FRASCO. The mayor from Liloan, Vincent Franco “Duke” Frasco, also completed the NYC Marathon — his first 42-K. I received this email from the Liloan mayor:

“Hi John! It was extremely cold and windy! The wind made it even colder! In short, an amazing experience! My 21k was just a little over 2hrs so I was making good time. It wasn’t until mile 20 that my legs started to cramp up and it was like that until the finish! I finished with a time of 4:38:35 – pretty good for my first marathon ever and since my target was 4:50-4:55. The crowd was incredible all the way from Brooklyn to Central Park! The 45min walk in the cold after the finish wasn’t very nice – but, was just extremely happy that I did it and to represent Liloan, Cebu, and the Philippines. I ran from the start with a Philippine flag tucked in my shorts! I pulled it out and raised it for everyone to see in the last 100meters all the way to the finish! If I had a picture, I would hashtag it with #FilinoPride! Hehe.”

Checking the official website, a total of 138 Filipinos finished. The fastest, with a 2:55 time, was Felipe Sajulga III.

WOZNIACKI. Speaking of celebrities, the focus was on former No. 1 tennis player, Caroline Wozniacki.

Usually, marathon preparation includes long runs that stretch from 25-K to 32-K. But the Danish netter had no time to train long-distance. The other weekend, I saw her with my own eyes, playing a semi-final match at the WTA Finals in Singapore. Leading 5-4 in the third set against Serena Williams, she served for the match — only to lose. She was busy smashing balls instead of road-running and had not run more than a 21-K. Worse, she joined a Halloween party a few nights (or mornings, as she went home 4 a.m.) before race day.

No training and no sleep? No problem. She clocked a speedy 3:26! Even riding his golf cart, I bet Rory can’t run that fast.

woz3s-1-web(Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News)

Categorized as Marathon

Amale Mendezona Jopson: Ready for the Boston Marathon

A year ago this week, the world was shocked when terrorists detonated twin blasts near the finish line of the most prestigious road-running race on this planet.

“This year’s Boston Marathon is very special as it is the 1st year anniversary of the bombings,” said Amale Mendezona Jopson, who will be among the 36,000 marathoners when the race begins this Monday, April 21.

Amale is a super-achiever. In high school, she was the valedictorian at STC and the classmate of my wife Jasmin, who said, “In everything she does, Amale excels.” In college at the Ateneo, she met Noy Jopson, the super-triathlete. Today, this husband-and-wife duo is possibly the country’s most athletic couple.


The Boston Marathon is the race for super-fast runners. “It is the end all and be all of marathons, for both elites and age-groupers,” Amale explains. “For one, it is the oldest running annual marathon in the world (since 1897). It brings with it many firsts like the wheelchair division, and the first marathon outside of the Olympics with a woman participant- Roberta Gibb, 1966.”

The qualifying times of the race are the benchmark for runners. “The Boston Athletic Association has had to make the qualifying times more stringent, with more runners qualifying but not able to register because of the demand (the standards were made 5 minutes more stringent in 2012),” Amale said. “The brutal rolling course also makes it thrilling for runners with ‘heartbreak hill’ towards the end of the run. Aside from this, Boston practically shuts down for the event on Patriot’s Day, drawing an estimated 500,000 spectators, with only the Superbowl getting more attention.”

For Amale, who turned 40 last December, her qualifying time was three hours, 45 minutes. She joined the Dong-A Seoul Intl. Marathon last year and narrated: “With one final push as I entered the stadium, I felt like an Olympic athlete finishing the race in 3:42:35 – a good 2 minutes clear of the Boston qualifying time! Crossing the finish line, I was overwhelmed by a rush of emotions and gushing tears. I had reached my goal and I was going to Boston!”

Today, she leaves Cebu with her family for New York, arriving in Boston, the city that houses the Celtics and Red Sox, by Friday.

On her preparation, Amale — the Director of Human Resources at Chong Hua Hospital — cannot be happier. She did a PR in the 21K of the SM2SM race and, she added, had “personal bests across all distances from the mile, speed sessions, tempos (5k, 8k, and 10k) and even strong tempo paced efforts in difficult marathon conditions (Philippine PR of 3:50 at Kawasan, 2nd place and strong finish of 3:56 at SRP midnight marathon, 3rd place).” She’s had no injuries, crediting her weekly strength sessions at Epic Performance.

“All predictors point to a personal best at Boston,” Amale said, “I’m aiming precisely just for that – anything below 3:40 will be make me very happy.”


The Boston Marathon will welcome 36,000 runners. It’s a 33 percent increase from the 27,000 limit — and the figure includes 4,500 of the 5,624 runners who were still on the road last year when the bombs exploded.

Among the Pinoys, Amale will be joined by US-based Arland Macasieb, brothers Arnie and Anton Aguila, Dino Pison (from Silay), Martin Ledesma (Makati), Geoffrey Perez (Baguio), and Noel Dimabuyo (Quezon City).

This is Amale’s seventh 42K race. She did the 2011 and 2012 California Intl. Marathons; last year, the Cebu and Seoul marathons; this year, the SRP Midnight and Kawasan Falls races.

On Monday, it’s the 118th edition.     “Boston stands for strength and unity in the running community,” she said. “For me, it is symbolic of the triumph of the human spirit, not only for the Boston Strong cause, but personally, I am running this for the Philippines after Yolanda. I am also dedicating this to my maternal grandfather – my Abu, as this is his 2nd birthday anniversary since passing away. My Abu was also an athlete, and he was always encouraging me through my athletic pursuits. I know he will be watching.”

Categorized as Marathon

We, men, salute these women

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“Once made equal to man, woman becomes superior.” Socrates, the Greek philosopher, said those words. True? Ha-ha. We, men, lest we be smothered with a gunfire of words, will say… yes, nalang.

Who’s superior? This is a debate that’s not worth discussing. For as someone once said, “Women get the last word in every argument. Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.”

Tinuod, no? Here’s another truth: This month is Women’s Month. Yesterday – and it’s held every March 8 – was International Women’s Day. It’s that moment when we celebrate the importance of our mom, our wife, our sisters, our daughters, our female colleagues in the office, our Sisters (nuns), our aunties – every single lady whom we greet and meet each day.

In the realm of sports, there’s no better way to commemorate March 8 than by holding a marathon. And to show the boys that the girls can run farther, a unique event was organized in Cebu…

AWUM. It stands for the All Women Ultra Marathon. You and I are not invited. And while you and I, dear fellow man, may have finished a 42.195-km. marathon before, the women are staking their claim that they’re better.

It started last night at 10. If you happened to drive along the streets of Cebu City, starting at the Provincial Capitol where the km. marker reads “0,” that’s where 250 ladies embarked on their first steps.

AWUM, now on it’s 3rd year, offers a distance of 50 kms. (If you’ve ran a 5K and felt tired after, imagine multiplying that 10 times!) Organized by Think Tank and led by Dr. Wilfredo Estepa, this event is, quite possibly, “the world’s first all-ladies 50K race.”

These girls are strong. They’re tenacious. They’ve banded together. They’ve trained for several Saturday nights.

“This is about women’s empowerment. And it takes courage to run 50 kms.,” said Sun.Star Superbalita’s editor-in-chief Michelle So, an AWUM co-founder and race participant. “More so running at night. It’s showing the world the resilience of women, mentally and physically.”

The all-ladies ultra-race last night took them from the Capitol to JY Square to Marco Polo Hotel down to the Pacific Mall in Mandaue to Cansaga Bridge to the Mactan Shrine – passing through 23 hydration stations – all the way to the finish at the Alta Cebu Village Resort in Cordova.

Which means that while you’re reading Sun.Star this morning, all-night-long a few hours ago, these women from all over the nation (half of whom are first-time AWUM participants representing 27 running clubs, including Sen. Pia Cayetano and several from Tacloban) were running.

Three friends of mine who joined are doctors: Loy Tan, Mai Ugalino and Roselyn Yu. They’re barkada. They’ve completed the 42K run before. And, the past weeks, they’ve been training together, arising at 4 a.m. on Sundays to run. They practiced the 3-1 run-walk strategy. Run for three minutes, walk for a minute.

Their cheerers? Their loyal husbands – also marathoners and physicians – Charles Tan, Sander Ugalino, Andrei Yu.

“Pacers are not allowed in AWUM,” said Michelle. “Husbands cannot run alongside their wives. But we appreciate the help and support of family members. Also, the men who’ll man the hydration stations and who’ll treat the women runners like princesses.”

This race achieves many things. It’s bonding time for the girls. It’s bonding time for the “support squad” of husbands. It’s an event to achieve supreme fitness. It’s a whole night of sweating to show the boys that, hey, we’re not scared of the night, and, hey, like we do when we give birth while you boys can’t, we can endure more physical pain.

To these brave ladies, we applaud you. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Or let her run a 50 km. race.

Categorized as Marathon

Tony Galon runs 42K x 6 = 250 kms.

To you and I ordinary mortals, running a 21K is considered an accomplishment. Finishing a marathon — the 42K — is a major, life-changing achievement. How about the 50K? Or the 100-km. ultra-marathon? These are considered “crazy” distances reserved only for the diehard lovers of pain. Well, guess what? There’s more.

Last June 14, a 250-km. race — the countrys’ longest footrace — was held in Cebu. The South-to-North 250K started in Santander and, after passing through 20 cities and municipalities, ended in Bogo City.

Joel Cuyos finished first with a time of 42 hours and 39 minutes. The others who completed the distance within the cutoff time were Zenchen Lagapa (43:19), Wilnar Iglesia (43:19), Rodney Cabahug (46:40), Tony Galon (46:58), Randy Rubio (47:02) and Barry Red (47:37). Three women joined the race and it was Rodah Oporto-Cabellero who finished (12 minutes after the cutoff time).

I interviewed Tony Galon, the 43-year-old president of the Cebu Ultrarunners Club (CUC), and here’s his account:

“At Km70, I had a blister on my left foot and later on the right foot around km100. It’s also the first time that I experienced hallucination. I can see people at a distance — yet they were only plants, trees or road signs. One time I wondered why there’s a bus lying on the road. Was there an accident? It was the shaded part of the road covered with tree shadows.

“Sleeping while running/walking. I took a nap between Aloguinsan-Toledo. I can’t control my eyes; they closed by themselves. I stayed in the middle of the road following the lines and after a few seconds, opened my eyes and aligned myself in the middle of the road. In Aloguinsan, this sleeping habit stopped because of the many stray dogs…

“Along Tuburan-Tabuelan, I was alone because my support crew, John Domingo, helped another teammate. My headlamp had no battery and it was very dark. I can barely run and felt disoriented. I can’t understand everything. My mind can’t hold on as it seems it was a never ending 8km in Tabuelan. I needed fuel (food) as I didn’t have proper intake in the past 2 days.

“I ate a chocolate bar given by Agnes Perez with her husband Garry, joining the Tabuelan 111. But it wasn’t enough; I still can’t focus. Luckily, there was a barbecue station and I asked for barbecue and puso (“hanging rice”) but it was only 1 puso. Soon after I reached Tabuelan, I felt disoriented and cold. I noticed that when I ran I had no sweat and felt hotness in my body.

“I decided to stop and sit down and later decided to take a habal2x going to Bogo City. I have no light for the Tabuelan-San Remigio route and the km. marker says 33km to go to San Remigio plus the 8K going to Bogo City. With my situation, there’s no way I can take the marathon length. I stopped a habal2x and asked the fare going to Bogo. It was P300 and my money was only P100.

“While talking and negotiating with the driver, Ronald and Mazil Rubic (my in-laws) saw me together with Keith and Annabelle Dinoy (CUC members who joined Tabuelan 111). It was perfect timing. They gave me food, medicine, massage, hot soap, fresh dry cloth and a flash light. I stayed for an hour in this area just to recover. From then I was in a good condition and started running again plus my wife (Alfie) and John Domingo arrived. I ran the whole stretch except the part when there was heavy rain and I took a nap inside the car waiting for the rain to stop.

“The rain did not stop. Alfie advised me to use an umbrella to save time so I can reach the finish line within the cutoff time. I ran to Bogo City with an umbrella. On the last 8K, I thought the old city hall was the finish but it was the Martinez Gym. I ran like an UNGO was chasing me until the finish.”

Amazing! Tony completed the 250K in 46 hours, 58 minutes. He was one of only seven runners (out of the 20 who started) to have finished within the 48-hour cutoff time. As baseball’s Tommy Lasorda once said, “The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man’s determination.” What a story of perseverance by Tony.

Other inputs from Tony:

Tony is presently working at Systech Telecom Ltd, a hongkong based company dealing with hotel wifi internet, bt we have also a music division that is exclusive handled the Asia Pacific for Vienna School of music board. Wife is Alfie Galon, a PE teacher and volleyball coach from St Theresa’s College.

Said Tony: “We have 2 boys, Aaron Gabriel, 13 yrs old and Luke Daniel, 9 years old… I started running last Dec 9, 2009 after i was convinced by my wife to run… Founded the CUC – Cebu Ultrarunners Club. The facebook group name is Beyond 42k.. Cebu Ultrarunners Club, last March 2011 and became the president thru election July 2011 till present… I have also created/founded this “I am a blood donor runner”. A group of any runners (all over Phils) that are willing to share their blood without any pay. We already donated blood to many people runners or not.”

Marathons of Tony: Cebu City Marathon(s), Condura Marathon, Kawasan Marathons & Aboitiz Race to Reduce Marathon.    Ultramarathons: Bohol 50-50, Mayon360, CUC100K leg 1 and leg 2, Bohol 50 Miler Ultramarathon, Ultrahamster(s), Summit 60K, 1st Coast to Coast 65K Ultramarathon and 1st 50K Cebu Ultramarathon. Others events are Xterra(s), Trail Marathons in Mt Patag, Silay City and MSIG Sai Kung 50K Trail in Hongkong and various 21K and fun runs


Millette, Amale react on the Boston Marathon

“I was shocked to hear about the explosion and couldn’t help but immediately recapture the Finish line scene… where (my children) Justin, Yuan and Savvi waited for me,” said Millette Chiongbian, who ran the Boston Marathon two years ago.

“It is unbelievably unthinkable of how this could happen in the most respectable, prestigious and legendary marathon,” Millette added. “This is a traumatizing event for those who were there because that day was supposed to be exciting, happy and worthy of celebrating but then turned out to be catastrophic and heart-breaking. The Boston Marathon will always be ‘The Boston’ but it will never be the same.”

Why is the Boston Marathon so celebrated? First, it is the world’s oldest annual marathon. It started in 1897 (the year after the first modern-day Olympics) and is always held on the 3rd Monday of April. Also, it is the most hallowed of 42K races because you need to be very fast to qualify.

One very fast Cebuana who recently qualified was Amale Mendezona Jopson. A former national-team triathlete (and the wife of Noy Jopson), Amale ran the Dong-A Seoul International Marathon last March 17. In her age category, she needed to run the 42K in 3 hours and 45 minutes or faster to qualify. She did, finishing 3:42:35 in Seoul.

Amale qualified for Boston! But, thank God, Amale was not there two days ago, running alongside 26,000 other runners in Boston — she’ll join the 2014 race.

“I was getting ready for work after a speed session at the Ateneo track when Noy called me from the airport to tell me about the news,” Amale said.” I was utterly shocked and devastated. Why would anyone do this? Were there casualties? What about the Pinoy runners – were they alright?”

Amale emailed me a list of friends who joined. She wrote: “Good friend and fellow triathlete Arland Macasieb, Multiple Ironman finisher Efraim Manzano from Hawaii, Hawaii Ironman Finisher Amanda Carpo and her sister Leica, brothers Arnie and Anton Aguila; Irish national Aileen Breen who lives in Manila. Anton had an amazing finish at 2:51, and Amanda recorded a great time of 3:28.”

Of those friends, Amale was most concerned with Efraim Manzao, who finished in 4:02 (nett time)/4:05 (gun time). “Truly,” Amale said, “angels watched over him since the bomb exploded at 4:09.”

The Boston bombing was more than shocking. It was America’s worst terrorist act since 9/11. And it didn’t just happen at an ordinary event or day — the twin bombs exploded during the world’s most famous footrace during Patriot’s Day.

“To cause terror on a purist event like the Boston Marathon was unthinkable,” Amale said. “The marathon is a race where the human spirit is celebrated and honored, where people – runners and spectators alike – lift each other up in every way possible. It’s an event where you see runners from all walks of life, and where you get inspired from truly amazing feats like visually-challenged runners finishing at an insane fast time of 2:12, and runners with other disabilities raising funds for all sorts of charities. It so saddening that such evil exists in this world to mar the marathon with such horror. Of all marathons to choose, they picked the most prestigious one of all. And to detonate the bomb at 4:09:44, close to the median Boston finish time, the intention was to do as much damage as possible.”

Distraught but filled with conviction to still — despite the fears — join the 2014 Boston Marathon, Mrs. Jopson added: “Well, I’ll tell you what Mr. Terrorist, we are saddened by what you did at Boston, and we pray for everyone you hurt. But as runners have time and again shown, even in the very act of training for and running the marathon, there’s no stopping us! We will continue to run marathons and support the community, and reach out to the world with all the purity, goodness and nobility of the sport. Despite all the pain, you didn’t weaken us today – you made us stronger. The human spirit will prevail!”

Categorized as Marathon

100K run? Why not! says Joy R. Polloso

Officially, the “R” in her middle name stands for Roset, but, if I were to make buot, that would mean another word: Resilient.

Jovita Polloso is not an elite super-athlete. She’s not 92-lbs. slim like Mary Grace de los Santos nor was she a striker for the high school football squad. Instead, Joy is one of Vis-Min’s top corporate executives and, thus, works long, mall-like hours for a company as familiar to you and I as Coca-Cola or Ford. That’s Ayala-and Joy is the General Manager for the Ayala Malls-Cebu.

Last Sunday, she joined the 100-km. race. When I asked why on earth someone would journey that far, her reply was… “And why not???”

She added: “I’ve tried marathons and have crossed a bit to ultra running when I joined the All-Women 50K in March. I was inspired by the stories of other runners and got excited at the thought of running ultra…”

But 100 kms.? From Pinamungahan to Toledo to Naga to San Fernando to Carcar to  Barili to Aloguinsan then back to Pinamungahan?

“I never imagined I’d reach this far in running,” said Joy, who finished in 19 hours and 10 minutes-good enough for 7th place among 15 women. “I’m having fun! Why? Because I look at the training not as a burden but as part of my fitness routine. Hence, I don’t allow myself to be ruled by the demands on mileage and don’t feel guilty when I don’t perform the programs by my coach, Philip Dueñas.”

Joy’s a winner because of her positive mental attitude. She did not think of the agony-instead, like her name, she savored the joys of running.

“I didn’t look at it as enduring pain but thought of how good the feeling is to be able to run all of the 7 municipalities/cities of mid-west Cebu,” she said. “I was thrilled at the thought of how nice Cebu is, as I pass through historical and eco-tourism sites on foot. I was telling myself that if I could do this, then that would be something my children can share later with their own families.”

Prior to last weekend, Joy did eight 42Ks: two in Singapore, one Sundown (Singapore), two in Condura, two in the Cebu City Marathon, and one last April in Nashville, Tennessee called the Country Music Marathon. She also did a 50K last March.

Did you feel like quitting? I asked.     “Nope, I just imagined the first 50K like a 21K to a full marathon. All along I was reminded that the real competition is in the last 50K. And I saw it myself when we were reaching the 75K to 90K marks, as I was passing through runners looking exhausted while I still feel strong enough with “emo’ high in my competitive spirit. My visualization included how I would approach the finish line in my whole piece and still smiling.”

Amazingly, during the run, Joy neither got injured nor suffered any blisters. She narrated a few tips: Months earlier, she added core exercises, circuit training and body balance/yoga.

On race day, she wore her pair of “lucky socks;” she applied petroleum jelly every 5 kms. and, at KM 50, she rested and “allowed the feet to breathe.” Plus: plenty of salt intake and solid intake over gel or chocolates. And lots of stretching prior to climbing the hills.

“I also followed my coach’s advise: run first using my flat strike so I don’t tire my calves during the first 20k+ uphill of Toledo going to Naga. Then used my midfoot at certain distances and then heel strikes. I trained using all of the foot strikes,” said Joy.

Plus, an important factor: the support team. Joy’s eldest son, Jasper, was the senior support crew. “My sister and cousins even traveled to Pinamungahan to send me off,” she said.

“More importantly, my attire! Joke but seriously yes, I changed as often as I could so I would have nice photos to keep! My medical kit was complete, my food supply could last me for a week.”

Joy added: “As a person, I am the type that will persevere and give my all-out determination if I want to accomplish something. I make sure I pour my heart into it. In short, I’m such a passionate person and I get excited on events in my life whether I like doing it at the beginning or not.”


Why do the 100K?

“And why not??? I’ve tried several marathons already and have crossed a bit to ultra running when I joined the All-Women 50K in March. But actually, just like a typical runner who is inspired by the stories and experiences of other runners, I also get excited at the thought of running ultra distances. By October of 2011, I was visualizing myself of participating the Singapore Sundown 100K  supposedly in June this year. So much so that, when we were getting our race packs for the Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon last Dec. 212 which was my second participation to this event, I was determined to register in the Sundown 100K event, but what they had there was the Sundown 42K of May 2012. A 100K for Singapore by June 2012 was a vision I had crafted for myself. And you know why I love SingaporeJ but it didn’t happen. So when this first 100K ultra event organized by Cebu Ultra runners came about, it opened up for my interest again to pursue my 100K by June of 2012. I was more than excited to imagine on the possibility of my vision getting realized in my homeplace.”

Did you feel like quitting at any time?

“Nope, I just imagined the first 50K as like a 21K to a full marathon. All along I was always reminded by my training coach who gave me the program, that the real competition is in the second half- the last 50K. And I saw it myself when we were reaching the 75K to 90K marks, as I was passing through runners who went ahead of me and looking too tired and exhausted while I still feel strong enough with  “emo’ high in my competitive spirit. My visualization included how I would approach in the finish line in my whole piece and still smiling. But ensuring all the time, that I was good and is able to move around after the event. The day after should be taken as resuming to my work schedule, I have my responsibilities in the office to attend to and my family. Joining this event should not have hampered and deprived me from doing my other roles in life. ( I was more concerned of these things over the other matters)”

How did you persevere (what were your thoughts) throughout the run?

“Deducting the number of municipalities/cities that was part of the route. J Actually, I was given a program to cover the 100K race, by my coach. And I did not run alone. I was with a fellow young gentleman runner from Ungo whom I have arranged to run with me all throughout the race before I signed up. I was more thrilled at the thought of how nice Cebu is, as I pass through some historical and eco-tourism sites on foot.”

No blisters and injuries? How did you do it?

“I prepared in my program just the basics, use my proven shoes when it comes to long distance running, the right socks, would you believe I have a pair of “lucky socks” that I always wear every long distance event that I joined in. Applied petroleum jelly consistently every 5KM to all possibly affected parts of my body. When we stopped at KM 50,  we took time to rest a bit and allowed our feet to breathe. Salt intake, solid intake over gel or chocolates.   Stretching in betweens was as important especially before we move on to an ascending elevation  (uphills). I just followed strictly again what my coach advised me, run first using my flat strike so I don’t tire my calves early during the first 20k +++ uphill of Toledo going to Naga. Then used my midfoot at certain distances and then heel strikes. I trained using all of the foot strikes. Aside from my training with coach Philip, my complementing fitness program with my other PT in the gym included core exercises and circuit training to support my muscles used in the run. I went a couple of body balance/yoga type of exercises too.”

How important was your support team?

“Very important. And I didn’t mean only the crew in my support vehicle, I meant the well wishers, my friends and fellow organizers’ moral support counted a lot. My sister and cousins traveled to Pinamungahan to send me off. My eldest son, Jasper was my senior support crew together with our family driver, Froilan and my other personal asst. I wrote everything what to give me at what distance. More importantly, my attire!!! Joke but seriously yes, I changed as often as I could so I would have nice photos to keep. My medical kit was complete, my food supply was something that could last me for a week and hydration schedule. I even brought with me ice bags etc.”

What tips can you give to marathoners/ultramarathoners?

“I made a checklist on what I should have, before I officially registered myself. 1) asked a fellow runner to be my pacer all throughout 2) I went into medical check up and stress test, then asked for a medical clearance 3) spoke wholeheartedly to my coach if I am capable of running a 100K 4) looked into my earned mileage, maybe a bit short with the distance required but hey– my heart and mind were ready to cover up for the difference. 5) prepared my attire from shoes to top gears and blinkers/headlights required 6) asked the program from my coach  that I should follow during the race 7) trained as much as I can, if i didn’t run the required distance, I covered it up for cross training, a little of swimming, fitness at the gym and hey Zumba for fun at the Terraces, why not? 7) I always remember my coach telling me, winding down or tapering if closing to the event date, and recovery and conditioning after the event. 8) nutrition plan is as important – for the week when the event is happening,  protein intake (carbo deplete) from early days of the week then carbo loading from mid of the week till event date. 10) Get a relaxing body massage at least 2 days before the race. 11) specially added to my  list consistently – a visit to an adoration chapel, a prayer intention and mass offered days prior to the race.  And lastly, my runner friend Mitch placed one more activity to my check list- for the first time on this 100K — (12.) a few acupuncture visits.”

Aboitiz Golf: The winner is Cebu Country Club

Yesterday was Bobby Aboitiz’s birthday. Instead of a text message, I was able to greet him in person, while walking and observing the land’s best golfers. In the tournament named after his family name, Bobby watched. So did his brother, Jon Ramon. Both strolled, clapped, moved aside when a Ping! sounded from the tee mound.

BAYRON. Last Tuesday, two days before the Aboitiz Invitational started, Atty. Jovi Neri approached many of the professionals and asked their prediction for the winning score. Some said 5-under-par. Others said 2-under. A few answered: 8-under. Only one person had the audacity to declare that the winning score would be 12-under.

His name: Jay Bayron. In the end, we know that Jay did not score anywhere near that number but, according to Atty. Neri, it proves the confidence of Mr. Bayron.

What confidence yesterday! He birdied four of the last six holes. At No. 16, after he sank a long putt for another birdie, he smiled a smile that beamed as wide as the fairway. “He’s in the groove,” said Bobby Aboitiz.

Wearing all black—pants, cap and shirt—compared to the pink trousers of Elmer Salvador and the bright blue striped T-shirt of Jonathan Moore (who was a former teammate of Rickie Fowler), there was nothing dark black about his game.

Reliving last year’s winning walk during the 2010 edition of the Aboitiz Invitational, he did the same yesterday. Teeing off at 8:20 a.m., as each hour passed and as every hole was scratched from his To-Do List, he chipped off the leader-board’s scores.

At exactly 12:40 p.m., surrounded by hundreds of CCC members, caddies, Aboitiz cap-wearing spectators, and one American (Moore) and a fellow Davaoeño (Salvador), he punched his final putt into the cup.

The crowd applauded. Handshakes ensued. Digital cameras were clicked. Jiggy Junior, whose Y101 voice reverberated from the loudspeakers, said: “He has done it again!”

Jay Bayron took off his black cap, bowed to the gallery at the CCC veranda, then smiled. Everyone smiled. Jay’s brother, Rufino, lifted his brother up on the air.

Then, the air sounded. Thunder roared. Dark, gray-black skies enveloped the greens. It was as if, by perfect timing, not only the crowds cheered—but the skies wanted to clap, too.

Finally, in a hard-to-believe moment, barely 10 minutes after Bayron’s winning putt, rained poured. There was no rain this entire week. The sun baked the visitors. Umbrellas were opened—not for water but for the sun. In contrast, the previous week, Cebu was drenched. Daily, it showered. But not this week. Until 10 minutes after The End.

What timing! Had Basti Lacson, who orchestrated this massive successful operation, also negotiated a direct line Upstairs for the impeccable timing?

Kudos to Aboitiz. Well done.

CCC. When I asked for a commentary from the golfer whose blast off the tee can outdistance most of the visiting pros (he averages over 300 yards), the reply of Marko Sarmiento was clear and loud: Cebu Country Club was the winner.

Puzzled, I asked why. Marko explained what Frederic Chiongbian, Clifford Celdran and Pres. Montito Garcia already know: Months back when the Asian Development Tour (ADT) officials visited for an inspection, they grumbled. This par-72 course is too easy. The scores are too low. Let’s make it difficult.

Difficult they did. Holes 7 and 11 were transformed from par-5s to par-4s. The fairways were squeezed narrower. Grass at the sides, grown taller. Most of all, the greens were cut so short that, in some holes, you can see a hint of brown—the soil.

The result? Possibly the most difficult CCC course since its founding in 1928. (Good thing, in the last two days, the greens were wet early in the morning. This moistened the putting grounds. If not, the same hard bounces in the first two days would have occurred.)

Marko’s correct. It was as if the U.S. Open were held in Cebu. Who’d have imagined that only one—Jay Bay’—will score below par?

Q & A with Jonathan “Atan” Guardo

The former Cebu City Sports Commission Chairman plays golf, tennis and airsoft. He kayaks, mountain-bikes, and has climbed the peaks of Mr. Talinis and Mt. Makiling. He has gone sky-diving five times. Triathlon, twice. The Australian Open tennis? He saw Agassi in 2004. But all these games pale in comparison to the passion Atan feels for running. Here’s my latest interview with Mr. Guardo….

Running on the road or running for office? “When you run a marathon the first time, it’s one of the most difficult experiences in your life. You’ll endure all kinds of pain and misery. And when you’re just a few kilometers away from the finish line, you’ll hit the wall. You have consumed all your energy and you can barely walk. You’ll entertain all negative thoughts. You go standstill. You want to give up. I’ve hit the wall several times but, thank God, somehow I am able to breakthrough. I’ve done several marathons and every time I hit the wall, I’ve managed to figure out a way.

“In politics, I’ve hit the wall twice. I can’t seem to break through. It’s something I’m still trying to figure out.”

Marathons finished? Fifteen: Hong Kong. Quezon City. Singapore. Cebu City. Kuala Lumpur. Milo 2010. Camsur. Sta Clarita, Los Angeles. San Antonio, Texas. Quezon City. Cebu Ultra 50K. Cebu City. Kawasan Falls. Milo. Aboitiz. (Fastest time: Sta. Clarita, L.A.: 5:05)

Why run? “I started in 2000 when running wasn’t as popular. The reason is because I want to keep fit. I used to have high blood pressure and elevated levels of blood sugar. But because of running, I am able to keep my doctor away. I used to weigh 175 lbs. but now I’m down to 150. Running is also a way of socializing. I look forward to the weekend runs, especially the big events, coz thats one way of hanging out with friends. It’s also bonding time with your family.”

Best experience? “I love to travel and when you incorporate that with joining a marathon, it’s a blast. I remember watching the Pacquiao-Margarito fight in Dallas, Texas last November. The fight ended at 12 midnight and I had to immediately drive 500 kms. down to San Antonio. I arrived at the hotel at 5:30 am (you definitely drive fast on freeways), changed clothes and went straight to the starting area to catch the 630am gun time. I wasn’t tired at all because there were thousands of people who joined the San Antonio Rock n Roll marathon. To have the energy and be able to finish that marathon was very special. Probably I still had that adrenaline celebrating Manny’s victory.”

On pain: “Probably because I don’t really train as hard (I only do 15K, the longest for a marathon; I get bored training), that’s why I experience pain and fatigue usually from 30K to 35K. But as I gained more experience, I realized that pain is all mental. If you let pain and fatigue defeat you, you’ll certainly crawl to the finish line.”

On barefoot running: “Last Sunday, I ran the 21K barefoot for the first time. I only had two 5K barefoot runs before. Running the 21k on barefoot was painful, with all those blisters on your toes. But I just had to mentally erase the suffering and it turned to be one of my most enjoyable runs ever. This weekend, I’m going to Panglao, Bohol for my next 21k barefoot run. I feel stronger and have better endurance. I am seriously thinking of giving away all my running shoes. I want to join the 100k ultra run from Bogo to Cebu City this november… barefoot! That would be special.”

On traveling: “Last November, I did four marathons in four weeks. Sta Clarita (LA), San Antonio, Cebu Ultra and Quezon City. The last few weeks, I did Kawasan, Milo, Aboitiz and the 21K University Run. I love joining big events. I love running with so many people. I love racing, even though I’m slow. I love going to different places. While running, I try to enjoy watching the scenic routes. The   Santa Clarita, Hong Kong, Cebu City and Kawasan marathons had beautiful routes. The people along the routes in LA, Kawasan and Camsur were friendly.”

Who do you admire? “Cebuano runners like Rening Ylaya and Raul Cepeda, who are still running in their 70s and 80s. If I can continue running marathons year-in, year-out, until I get to that age, who knows how many marathons I can finish? Hopefully, my Arthro supplement will continue to power my knees!”

Advice? “Enjoy and have fun. I’ve seen some who quit running; probably they got burned out. Sayang. They probably overtrained. Don’t get too consumed on the PR (Personal Record). Running should be fun and enjoyable. It should be a way of life. The feeling of excitement I have every time I pin the race number on my jersey every Saturday evening is still the same feeling I have the very first time I ran. It’s addictive!”

Categorized as Marathon

The good and the bad of the Aboitiz race

I joined the Aboitiz Race to Reduce Challenge two mornings ago. It was a good race. Good—but not great. I’ll explain why.

The Good? Including a full marathon. Apart from the Three-Sixty Pharmacy Kawasan Falls Marathon (organized by Dr. Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III) and the Cebu Marathon (held every second Sunday of January), the Aboitiz 42K is only the third full marathon distance in Cebu. This is advantageous to us. As more people run, the target post moves farther away. After joining an initial 5K, the next goal is a 10K… then 21K… then more…

The 42K is the ultimate distance (although 100K ultra-marathoners like Joel Garganera, Haide Acuña and Bro. Carlo Bacalla will disagree with that).

The bad? Aboitiz’s timing. While the Kawasan Falls Marathon announced their 42K distance many months ago, Aboitiz decided only recently. The Kawasan Falls Marathon was held last July 23; Aboitiz, last Sunday. Back-to-back 42Ks in three weeks is ridiculous. This “temptation” invites injury. There ought to be spacing in organizing 42Ks.

More good points… Seeing the CEO himself, Erramon “Monchu” Aboitiz, at the finish line. I’ve said this last year and I’ll write it again: How many of the big-named industry chieftains are willing to disrupt their Sunday 5 a.m. sleep to cheer-on the runners? Monchu, whom I spoke to last Sunday, is one of them. He stands out.

Other good marks include: the printing of a two-page advertisement yesterday, enlisting all the finishers with their finishing times. Thanks to Sebastian “Basti” Lacson, the Chief Reputation Officer of Aboitiz, for this idea (which, if I’m not mistaken, Basti got from a sporting event in Spain). This is admirable.

The high-quality Race Bib is tiptop. The use of timing chips—including the 5K—is exemplary. The offering of a lowered registration fee for a non-singlet—this is wise. “The Race to Reduce” tagline is put to use here.

The weather. Although it poured heavily past 9 a.m., at least for the 3K to 21K participants, the early-morning weather was perfect. Like last year, it rained at 2 a.m.—hours before the start.

The route for the 10K was desirable. It was flat. The orderly finish line area—complete with clocks for each category—was commendable. So were all the freebies at the finish (Gatorade plus bread, banana, candies and a hard-boiled egg).

THE BAD? With my 10K category, very minimal. I arrived at 4:45 a.m., a quarter-of-an-hour early. The first person to pat me on the back? My mom, Allen. I did not know she also registered the same 10,000-meter distance. Looking slim and fit, I have an embarrassing admission to make: I was once mistaken as the husband of my mom! Ouch. I hope this is a testament to her looking young instead to my “mature” looks.

While strolling about the race area 10 minutes before the published 5 a.m. race time, my mom and I were shocked when people started running. No countdown. No starting gun. No announcement. It was the start! And nobody knew. Plus, it was 10 minutes in advance. (I later saw Gerry Malixi; he arrived at the CICC at 4:55—only to see that everyone had left! He joined but was disappointed.)

But that was minor. The major, major BAD was the lack of water for the 42K. I spoke to many friends and they echoed the same complaint: on the second half of the 42K (that’s 21 kms. to go) there was no water! This is a cardinal sin in races.

Safety, above all, is important; but next is hydration—the availability of water. Runners had to resort to stopping-by carenderias to drink. (I had this same experience at the Quezon City Marathon two years ago and it’s the worst. Imaging the pain of running for 4 to 6 hours… aggravated by a super dry throat.)

Worse, at the finish line, 5-gallon containers full of water were stockpiled. Some finishers even sat on them! As to why these were not hurriedly dispatched, I don’t know.

This is a pity because this was an A-1 race organized by an A+ company. If only the word “Reduce” did not refer to water.

Categorized as Marathon