PASAY CITY – The 36th MILO Marathon National Finals last December 9 at the SM Mall of Asia will go down as one very memorable race. While all the attention was focused on the pair of defending champions James Tallam and Mary Grace de los Santos who successfully retained their titles, I silently carved my own piece of running history by taking home Fourth Place in the special 5,000-meter race for media covering the event.
The winners received the same prizes as the regular 5,000-meter racers which include a medal, certificate, some cash and a big bag of Nestle products. For sure, this medal will be displayed prominently beside medals from full and half marathons and multi-sport races.
Participants in the media race had to jostle for spots along with the over 8,500 runners. With that many entries, getting good position in front is a big advantage.
As expected the start was bordering on chaotic. Most of the younger participants dashed ahead only to lose steam and start walking after a few meters thus creating traffic.
I had just completed a full marathon exactly a week ago in Quezon City. To prepare and at the same time recover, I managed to have a pair of easy runs on Wednesday and Thursday totaling 17.6 kilometers.
Triathlon coach Jojo Macalintal was proven correct in saying during one of his clinics that running the 5,000 meters can be tougher than a marathon. First and foremost, one must give his full effort throughout the entire 5,000 whereas there are times during a marathon where a runner may relax and slow down.
Despite falling short of a first ever podium finish, my time of 27:43 can be considered a new personal record. The previous mark, although a bit faster, should now have an asterisk since official results were never released and there were doubts regarding the length of the course.
Indeed a fitting way to cap the 2012 running season, the medal will serve as a reminder and challenge to do better in 2013. The year 2012 was a year where I trained the hardest, spending a lot of time on the road or in the gym coupled with intensity and it surely paid dividends.
While the MILO Marathon managed to bring out the best in me, it unfortunately exposed the worst in others. The country’s oldest and most prestigious foot race is supposed to showcase the best of Filipino runners, so we thought.
We were able to witness no less than Race Director Coach Rio de la Cruz and some officials of Nestle Philippines nab some “cheaters”, starting with an elderly man who had his finishers’ medal confiscated because he ran using a bib from last year’s race (this year’s bib had black numbers on a grey background compared to last year’s white background).
A few minutes later, a young man wearing a De La Salle University varsity uniform was stopped at the finish line when his bib turned out to be a colored photocopy. Upon investigation, the same runner also had in his possession a bootleg bib for the 21-kilometer category.
As the female finishers began to trickle in, a trio of ladies arrived but Coach Rio quickly herded them to the side before they could be given Top Ten tags and medals. Apparently, he caught them hanging out at the MOA grounds while the race was in progress!
Such persons are a disgrace and have no place in races. They should be blacklisted and banned not just from the MILO Marathon but from other races as well.
Going back to the race, the expected battle royal between the Filipinos and Kenyans fizzled out as the visitors from Africa made it a 1-2-3 finish with Tallam (2:26:34) towing Josphat Too (2:28:52) and Alex Melly (2:29:06). Three-time champion Eduardo Buenavista emerged the top Filipino at Fourth Place with a time of 2:29:45, a far cry from his course record of 2:18:53.
The Filipinas did better as de los Santos (2:49:29) edged out two-time winner Jho-An Banayag (2:55:56) by six minutes. Kenya’s Everline Atancha (3:03:39) took Third Place. De los Santos almost broke Banayag’s course record of 2:48:16 that could have given her an additional PHP 20,000.00.
Tallam and de los Santos both took home PHP 300,000.00. Introduced this year, Buenavista and overall women’s fourth placer Mary Joy Tabal (3:05:12) earned PHP 150,000.00 each as the top Filipino finishers.
In other side events, the City University of Pasay (CUP) Eagles carted away their second championship in less than a week by ruling the college cheering competition. The Eagles under Coach Eroll Ang Beja annexed the 12th National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) Cheerleading Competition trophy last December 3 at the Makati Coliseum.
It has become evident this year that one major factor for the success and longevity of the MILO Marathon is its harmonious relationship with the legitimate sports media. With this infrastructure in place, the MILO Marathon is expected to keep its position as the top race of choice for the Filipino runner as he chases his personal dreams. What are you running for?