Boston marathon’s mystique

THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco

There is something about this week’s Boston marathon that captivates global runners and spectators alike. Held on the third Monday of April or Patriots Day, it holds a special place in many people’s hearts. Maybe it’s natural, since it is the largest city and capital of Massachusetts. Or perhaps it is the working-class reputation of the city, the hard-nosed attitude of the Irish, the blood sweat and tears of Celtics, the formidable challenge of Heartbreak Hill, or how the city seems to overcome adversity by pure will. In 2013, two homemade bombs detonated near the finish line, killing three people and injuring hundreds, including 16 victims who lost limbs. The citizens’ response in the aftermath was typical Bostonian, just two words: Boston strong. And the world rallied around them.

For many Filipino runners, this edition of the race had special meaning. Large groups of Filipino athletes, celebrities and even entire families flew to Beantown to race, cheer or support other runners. According to the Boston Athletic Association, 30,074 qualified; 27,221 started and 26,411 or 90 percent finished. More than 45 percent of the entrants were female, an equally impressive number.

“The Boston Marathon is one the most coveted races for runners, as it is the world’s oldest annual marathon, having started in April 1897 and continuing until present day every year since then,” says Amale Jopson, vice-president of AboitizLand Inc. and wife of veteran triathlete and coach Noy Jopson. “To join the race, you have to qualify based on time standards for your age group and gender. There are also slots allotted for charities and partners which result in raising over $10 million every year. So getting a chance to participate is a privilege in itself.”

Jopson first ran in 2014, but inevitably knew she would return. Her entire family, including her husband and coach Noy, cheered her on with signs, compliments and all forms of support. But one thing all runners had to deal with this year was the heat, which was partly relieved by the warmth of the people along the course.

“Everyone had to slow down,” adds Jopson, who still ran eight minutes faster than she did three years ago. “The heat training in Cebu definitely helped and I was on track to match my personal best at the half, but it’s very difficult to recover after the Newton hills, even if it’s downhill to the finish for the next 8K. Boston is Boston – respect for the course and history and totally enjoy the truly awesome experience – I was smiling 70 percent of the way. The crowds also really helped – from start to finish, cheering and giving very useful things, like ice, wet tissues, watermelon, popsicles and even Vaseline (which I ate because I thought it was crushed ice!) happy and privileged to have run a second time.”

For international business consultant, respected motivator and corporate trainor Anthony Pangilinan, this year’s Boston Marathon completed a great challenge he laid down for himself: to complete all of the world’s greatest marathons, putting him in a very small, elite group of Filipinos.

“It was significant for me because it’s every runner’s dream!” explains Pangilinan, who interviews business titans on his program on CNN Philippines. “The oldest and most challenging of all (after having run London, Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and New York or what they call the World Marathon Majors). It’s an honor to be one of seven Pinoys who’ve completed all six so far. It’s challenging as a course because it starts with a long downhill and you think you’re about to run the easiest course when the series of hills (including Heartbreak) make you feel like you were set up for trouble! Quick honeymoon and now the long drawn marriage!”

Other well-known runners like Kim Atienza, Amanda Carlo and Ani de Leon all have their own unique experiences, which they’ve been sharing on social media. Jong Sajulga finished the grueling course in a stunning time of 2:48. All told, Boston will also leave indelible memories for those who came, saw and valiantly conquered its long, challenging, rolling run.

“The Boston Marathon is really a dichotomy of sorts – rewarding and punishing at the same time,” reflects Jopson. “It’s a reward and privilege just to be at the starting line, celebrating life, love and health with 36,000 other people. Then you go through a long downhill stretch and undulating hills that’s just wonderful until you hit the Newton hills – you love them and you hate them! They’re really tough coming in so late in the race, and it’s not your training that gets you through. You look around and everyone is challenged, and the wheelchair athlete or someone who’s running for charity pushing a wheelchair up these long hills, trying all sorts of tricks just to get up, gives you goose bumps and suddenly you want to help them run their race and forget about your pain!

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