Runners go to Heaven
You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left…
You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
News of ultrarunner Melinda Ponce’s gruesome death sent shockwaves among Cebuanos not so much for its horrible details but more so for the senseless waste of life.
She was an inspiration to many runners male or female. Melinda with her unassuming ways, small fast strides and efficient cadence earned the admiration and respect of fellow road warriors not so much because she was a certified ultramarathon champion, but because she embodied all that a recreational runner and after-hours athlete can be, if only we worked as hard as she did.
This (running) community is family and it hurts to lose one family member especially since her exploits inspire us all to hit the road, says fellow ultrarunner Frederick Angalot.
During the Ungo Runners Friday Night Run last Sept. 30, she spoke to runners about how she was a late bloomer in this great sport of running as she started running at the age of 48 after a hysterectomy and only after much prodding from Cebu’s erstwhile road running queen Liezl Getaruelas — Melinda’s former gym instructor at Fitness First.
As she shared her daily running routine, it surprised us how simple her secret to success was — pure and simple dedication, hardwork and consistency. Nothing fancy — just eat well, train well, hydrate well and most important of all, rest well. She told us how she ran every weekday without fail from her house in Tabunok to the I.T. Park or Cebu Business Park covering 13 kilometers passing through the entire stretch of N. Bacalso on some days or through Labangon and Banawa on others.
But who knew that her daily 13k runs from Tabunok to I.T. Park was more than just a run but a release from the horrible things that were happening at home?
It leaves me wondering — why do bad things happen to good people? How could a woman as strong and empowered as Melinda Ponce endure so much abuse at home? For those of us who knew of her daily calvary in the hands of an abusive spouse, was there something we could have done? Is there anyone else amongst us who is suffering in silence from domestic abuse, finding refuge only in running?
As we mourn the loss of one of our own and grapple with all these unanswered questions, I find solace in the words of Bro. Carlo Bacalla, SDB assuring me that indeed, runners go to heaven: Melinda Ponce has been an inspiration to many women runners. She will continue to shine as an example of hard work, dedication, discipline, and determination. Run to your Creator Melinda Ponce. Your fellow runners will surely miss you. So soon have you reached the FINISH LINE. Enjoy the heavenly medals and trophies prepared for you by the best Race Director of all.
A week before she died, I spoke to her at the starting line of the Summit 60k Ultra Marathon Challenge Talisay City and told her how she’s sure to win the female championship trophy (which she did). When I told her how I was trying to copy her stride so that I could earn a place in the ultra podium someday just like her, Melinda encouraged me to keep trying and to keep pushing until I overtake her someday, because an ultra race is long and you’ll never know what the road or trail will bring.
Just hours after Melinda’s passing was confirmed, messages of condolences from friends and fellow runners, not just in Cebu but from across the country flooded runners’ group chats and forum on Facebook. One message in particular from Leo Aguilar strikes a chord — “May she be remembered for the life that inspired others, rather than the manner by which her life was taken away.”
And so, Cebu’s road warriors will honor a fallen comrade with a dedication run called Run for Melinda. It will start and end at the Terraces of Ayala Center Cebu on the morning of Sunday, Oct. 23. A Eucharistic celebration will be offered after the run.
Runners, joggers and walkers who wish to join Run for Melinda may register from Oct. 17 to 22 for the 5k or 8k categories at Runnr in Ayala or at Clinica Melgar at Rm. 205 Dona Luisa Bldg., Fuente Osmena, Cebu City. The registration fee is pegged at P150 but runners may give more. The fees will cover the race bib, while the rest of the proceeds will go to Melinda’s orphaned daughter.
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