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Slower time, zero gold

/ 07:44 AM November 29, 2011

It’s a double whammy for the Filipino marathoners. In this year’s edition of the Southeast Asian Games, not only did we miss the gold in the men’s and women’s marathon—we also saw our athletes register much slower times.

In the men’s marathon, the Philippines’ bets Eric Panique clocked 2:28:26 while Eduardo Buenavista clocked 2:29:09 to settle for the silver and bronze medals respectively. In the distaff side, Jho Ann Banayag settled for fourth place after clocking 2:50:40 in the women’s marathon.

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Our athletes’ performance in the marathon event is a far cry from the gold standard finish by Philippine marathoners in the 2009 SEA Game where Buenavista and Banayag clocked 2:21:10 and 2:50:40 respectively.

Lack of support for athletes, politics and infighting among our sports officials have been blamed for our athletes’ lackluster performance in international competitions including the SEA Games. However, despite all the odds, our long-distance runners have managed to bring home the gold. For example, the Philippines won the gold six (6) times since 1977 in the biennial SEA Games, while our women marathoners won the gold three (3) times in the same period.

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1981-Jimmy Dela Torre 2:25:50, 1989-Herman Suizo 2:23:19, 1991-Herman Suizo 2:22:52, 2001-Roy Vence 2:23:51, Christabel Martes 2:52:43, 2003-Allan Ballester 2:21:03, 2005-Christabel Martes 2:47:07, 2009-Eduardo Buenaventura 2:21:10, Jho Ann Banayag 2:46:34.

The Philippines’ best men’s marathon finish in the SEA Games is 2:21:03 courtesy of Allan Ballester in 2003 while our best women’s marathon record in the SEA Games is courtesy of Jho Ann Banayag at 2:46:34 in 2009.

But while we manage, every once in a while, to shine in our corner of the Asian continent, we are still light years away from the worlds best long-distance runners. The current men’s marathon world record set in September this year by Kenyan Patrick Makau is at 2:03:38, while the women’s world record set in 2003 by British marathoner Paula Radcliffe still stands at 2:15:25.

This makes me wonder, when will the Philippines finally have its day in the world marathon stage? It’s not that our country is poor or that our athletes get very little support from the government. Other countries much poorer than we are manage to run faster in the long distance races and register times faster than 2:20. In fact, Americans, with all their fancy training, government and corporate sponsorship and general physical superiority have in the last five years been struggling to beat the Africans, particularly the Kenyans and Ethiopians in the world marathon stage.

So hope springs eternal. While I don’t think we will see the first Filipino world marathon champion from the current crop of long distance runners, at least this second wave of the running boom, which has managed to sustain itself for three years now has managed to put the great sport of running in the forefront, even top of mind. Today’s runners are the progenitors of and will become parents of future runners and track athletes. If the parents run, then the children hopefully will too. That’s how we will discover, hone and develop the future hope for running in this country.

Cebuano Ultrarunners Band Together

Last Sunday, the Cebu Ultrarunners Club elected Tony Galon as president, Dr. Willie Estepa as Treasurer, Melina Twinkle Ignacio as secretary.

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Membership to the CUC is simple. The only requirement is that a potential member must have finished at least one (1) ultramarathon or an individual road or trail race that is at least 50 kilometers. A minimal fee of P150 for the membership card will be collected and another P50 for the group’s sinking fund. The membership card serves as discount card in running and sports equipment stores that support CUC.

The group plans to register CUC before the Securities and Exchange Commision as a non-stock, non-profit organization. The group’s activities include group long runs, group training runs, organization of volunteer teams to provide support during ultra races and the possible hosting of a 100k event next year and an ultramarathon exclusive for women in March 2012.

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TAGS: Marathon, medals, Southeast Asian Games, sports events
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