With an eye on Chicago, Yong Larrazabal runs

Thursday, October 09, 2008
Pages: With an eye on Chicago, Yong Larrazabal runs
By John Pages
Match Point


BARACK Obama of Chicago is running—yes, we know that—but not this Sunday’s marathon at his home city. Two Cebuano doctors, meanwhile, will run 42 kilometers at The Windy City: Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III and Peter Mancao.

Chicago will be Yong’s fifth marathon (after NYC, Hong Kong, and the Pasig and Milo marathons in Manila). How many 42Ks does Yong expect to finish? “I plan to complete 33 marathons in my lifetime,” he said. “I pray to God that he gives me good health and that he protects me from injuries for me to attain this.”

Wow… 33 marathons! That’s beyond phenomenal. But if there’s one who can accomplish that feat, it’s Yong. Why? Because he’s ultra-driven; working not only long hours at the Larrazabal Eye center (at the family-owned Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital) but also finding time to train hard.

“Training is great… my best so far. Have had three long runs every Sunday: a 21K, the 25K from Capitol to Cordova with the Cebu Executive Runners Club, a 15K and my last 10K (Friendship Run) last Sunday,” he said. “This apart from my daily 7.5 to 10K run. The only difference now is that I run more outside than doing the treadmill. This has not only improved my speed but my stride as well.” Because of this regimen, Yong adds, “I’m down to 133 pounds my lightest since I got married.”

What’s their Chicago schedule? “I leave today and meet up with Peter in LA to board our connecting flight to Chicago. We arrive at 11:30 p.m. on Oct 9. On Friday, Oct. 10, we register and collect our bib numbers then, on Saturday, relax a bit, maybe do some shopping and move to a condo near the race. On Sunday, Oct. 12, race starts at 10 a.m. By Monday, I fly back home in the morning.”

If you think that’s a brutal schedule—it is. But Yong has always lived a fast-paced life—on and off the road. Of his time goal: “My best marathon time so far was in Hong Kong (4:19). I think I would have done much better without the bridges and tunnels. Because of this, elite runners have avoided this race. My goal is to beat that time. How I wish I could break four hours.”

As to their Chicago home, “We will be staying with one of my sister’s (Betty Veloso) friends, Nina Gomez. They will take us to and from the airport and race. The night before the race, we’ll transfer to the condo of prominent psychiatrist, Dr. Nick De Los Santos—the brother of Lahug Barangay Captain Mary Ann De Los Santos. They have offered the place for us to stay overnight before the race because of its close proximity.”

Next to Chicago, Yong was supposed to run Las Vegas—on Dec. 7, the day after one of boxing’s biggest nights. “Was planning to watch the Dela Hoya – Pacquiao fight with my wife (Donna Cruz). I actually booked plane tickets the day after it was announced. But we decided not to go after realizing the mismatch and the possibility of seeing our national treasure get seriously hurt.” Instead, Yong hopes, “We will register for the LA Marathon on March 1, 2009.”

Finally, I asked Yong the same question I asked Peter Mancao two days ago: Why the marathon?

“My family and friends would often wonder why I run marathons. They’d ask why anyone would torture himself by running 42 kilometers. Sometimes I ask myself the same question especially when running the last few agonizing miles of the marathon screaming in my head, “What am I doing here?”

“But one reason is to be physically fit. I see the marathon not as an end in itself. But rather the process of preparing for the marathon keeps me fit. I can work all day and not get stressed out. My stamina is amazing. I can also eat whatever I want without gaining weight. I have a more healthy lifestyle now because of running. I avoid late night outs and drinking since it would interfere with my training. I also take the marathon as a challenge. I feel that there’s something inspirational and noble about testing the limits of human endurance and of fighting against all odds.”


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