Dr. Yong eyes the New York Marathon by John Pages (Sun Star, Tuesday, October 30, 2007)

WITH five days left before the world’s biggest 42-K race—the New York City Marathon—one of the 40,000-plus runners is still here in Cebu, busy at work.

Dr. Potenciano Sto. Domingo Larrazabal III, or “Yong,” has to fulfill his promised appointments with patients and his full load of surgeries.

“I have work today and tomorrow,” he told me last Sunday after we ran the “Pink October” race. “On Nov. 1, I’m leaving for New York with my wife Donna.

We’ll take Cathay Pacific, pass through Hong Kong, then L.A. for a short stop, until we land at JFK Airport.”

The NYC Marathon isn’t Dr. Yong Larrazabal’s first marathon. Unlike another physician, Peter Mancao, who left for “The Big Apple” yesterday and will be running his first 42.195-K race, this is Yong’s third run.

“I’ll be more relaxed this time, I think,” he said. Last February, Dr. Yong ran his first marathon, the Pasig 42-K. The sun sizzled that morning and Yong suffered cramps in the last five kms. Still, he trudged on and finished in 4 hours, 53 minutes. Then in July 22 during the Milo Marathon, he ran straight without cramps and finished in 4:23.

“In New York, I’ll attempt to break four hours,” he told me. “I have more marathon experience and, the biggest difference, the climate will be cold—which is good.”

Dr. Larrazabal is right. When I checked the NYC forecast for Sunday, it’s around 13 degrees Celsius. Wow. That’s cold.

Good thing the two Cebuano doctors are running fully-equipped. Dr. Peter Mancao’s brother happens to work for the running shoe and apparel company, Asics—one of the NYC sponsors.

“Peter was able to procure Asics complete outfit for us,” Yong said. “This includes a body suit, cap, gloves, socks and running shoes. The gloves are unique as it mentions the five boroughs that we will traverse (one per finger): Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Central Park.”

Another company that has sponsored the two is Bolle, makers of the world’s top sports eyewear. “Bolle, thru Chris Tio, has sponsored me a pair of very light running sunglasses,” said Yong.

Dr. Yong Larrazabal, 33, is already looking beyond the NYC Marathon. “My goal is to do all the runs around the world. Maybe three marathons per year. In 2008, I hope to run the Hong Kong, Miami and Houston marathons.”

Yong, no doubt, is addicted to the sport. “There comes a time,” he told our friend Andrew Jimenez last Sunday, “when, after a day without running, you’ll feel physically bad.”

He should know. For the past two years straight—without fail—Yong has run every single day. His schedule? Mondays (5K), Tuesdays (7.5K), Wednesdays (10K), Thursdays (5K), Fridays (7.5K), Saturdays (5K), and Sundays, the long run (over 10-K). “I have a two-hundred meter track, made of bricks, around my house, so I run there. Or, if the weather’s bad, I turn on the TV and step on the treadmill.”

He is so focused on running daily that, when he went on trips abroad and forgot to bring his Nike or Mizuno running shoes, he’d buy another pair just to run.

“One time, I was in Sweden for a conference and it was freezing cold outside.

So I asked if they had a gym. The person said yes but I’ll have to pay 150 Swedish Kronors to run. I computed it as over P800, very expensive, but I said yes. I needed to run.”

Yong likens running to performing surgery. “I’ve been very consistent with both,” he said. “If I haven’t missed running everyday for two years, with my work, I haven’t missed doing daily surgery for five straight years.”

And the two—running and surgery—run in tandem. Today and tomorrow, he’s got a full load of surgeries. On Nov. 1, he departs for New York, runs on Nov. 4, and heads back home on Nov. 5. “When I arrive on Wednesday morning, that afternoon I run straight to Cebu Doc and do surgery.”

A man in a hurry sprinting the long-distance marathon: that’s Dr. Yong Larrazabal.

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