Since ultramarathons came to Cebu in 2010, the sport has attracted a cult following among runners – whether fast or slow – who seek opportunities to test the limits of endurance. It also gave new opportunities for local long distance runners to shine such as the 27-year old mechanic Noel Tillor.
After Tillor’s first foray into the 50K distance, he decided he loved the mentally demanding aspect of ultramarathons and ran the 2011 edition of the Bataan Death March 102KM and finished in 16:58:50.
In November of the same year, Tillor ran the Century Properties Ultramarathon 100KM in Cebu and improved his personal record in the 100K by five (5) hours. After running from Bogo City to Plaza Independencia in Cebu City in 11:58:07, Tillor placed third.
At the 2012 Cebu Marathon, while the rest of the local elite runners skipped the 42K race seeing that the three spots in the podium would go to the band of Kenyan runners who came to Cebu to race and win the cash prizes, Noel Tillor showed up anyway and placed in 8th 2:49:44 making Tillor the highest ranked Filipino in that race.
In May 2012, Noel topped the Coast to Coast Ultramarathon running 65 kilometers from the Cebu Capitol and the undulating Transcentral Highway onto the City of Toledo in 5:47:08.
Tillor’s fans among the local running community call him the Pinoy Kenyan or Hybrid Kenyan because of his ability to run faster even beyond the 42K distance.
Then last Aug. 18, this reputation was further reinforced after Tillor ran 50++ kilometers in a blistering time of 3:33:40 and emerged as the top finisher of the 1st I Shall Return 50K Ultramarathon in Tacloban City.
Here’s my interview with Cebu’s ultramarathon darling.
Marathon Foodie: You seem to excel in the ultra distances, why do you like ultramarathons?
Tillor: I like ultramarathons because it’s more of a mind game.
MF: You run even if there’s no prize money involved or even if the odds of making a podium finish is slim because of the presence of the Kenyan runners. What do you get out of it?
Tillor: Running is what I do. I want to show people that here’s a long distance runner from Cebu who is not afraid to face competition even from the Kenyans who are supposed to be really superior runners. Facing tough competitors is the only way to test what you’re really made of.
MF: How do you feel about being called Pinoy Kenyan or Hybrid Kenyan by your admirers?
Tillor: (Laughs) I find it amusing because I’m really just an ordinary runner.
MF: You have a wife and kid and a full-time job as mechanic at JRA Surplus. How do you find time for family duties and work commitments and still be able to log in the long hours required in ultramarathon training?
Tillor: At first it was really difficult, but I tried to find a way to multi-task and devote time to my training without neglecting my duties at home and at work.
MF: What’s your training regimen like?
Tillor: My training is not so hard. I do a lot of long runs on the road. I ride the bicycle for crosstraining. It’s easier on the knees but it still strengthens the lower body. I also do circuit training for strengthening but I don’t do weights that much. I think weight training is really more for sprinters.
MF: Do you follow any special diet while training or during a race?
Tillor: I don’t eat pork and other fatty food. Other than that, I don’t follow any special diet.
MF: Have you experienced having injuries because of running long distances?
Tillor: With luck and with God’s grace I’ve never had any injuries since I started running. I’ve been very careful in taking care of my body and I choose my races to make time for recovery.
MF: What’s your next target race?
Tillor: I’m really happy with what I’ve achieved so far, but I’d really like to run a hundred miler (160KM). That’s my next big target.
MF: What are you most proud of as a runner?
Tillor: That I’ve proven to myself that even if you’re ordinary but because of your achievements you can be extraordinary.
MF: What is your message to the other runners out there who aspire to run longer distances like you have?
Tillor: My message is really simple – respect the distance (be it 5K or 100K) train properly, run with dedication and don’t forget to be humble all the time.