MANILA, Philippines - The Milo Marathon, now on its 38th year, prides itself as the country’s biggest, longest-running and most prestigious footrace.
It carries the slogan, “Helping Build Champions.”
Well, there’s more to the Milo Marathon than just building champions because winners can attest to the fact that it’s here to help build lives.
Mary Grace delos Santos and Ireneo Raquin, who topped yesterday’s Metro Manila elims at the Mall of Asia grounds, are two perfect examples.
The 29-year-old Delos Santos is a veteran of the Milo Marathon, having ruled the national finals in 2011 and 2012 but denied of a third straight win last year.
The Milo Marathon offers huge cash prizes. For her victory in 2012 alone, the sixth of 10 children of a farmer in Zamboanga received P300,000.
Yesterday, she bagged P50,000 for ruling the 42 km race in 3 hours 8 minutes and 18 seconds, and booked a ticket to the national finals set Dec. 7 at the MOA grounds.
“Masayang-masaya ako (I’m so happy),” she said under the media tent, just moments after she raised the glass trophy before a sea of runners.
A total of 37,063 participants, in the Milo green and white, answered the gun for the 3K (1,493 runners), 5K (26,767), 10K (3,557), 21K (2,298) and 42K (2,948) races.
With her earnings from the Milo Marathon, the member of the Philippine Air Force had invested on farmland for her father to plant rice and coconut.
“Palayan po at niyogan,” said the petite runner.
“Sa lupa po napupunta mga panalo ko kasi long-term na investment ito,” added Delo Santos, who vowed to work harder in search of a third national title.
“Para bahay naman po ang maipatayo (So I can build a house),” said the proud winner.
Delos Santos said she trained hard in Baguio for the race, and rode a bus to Manila last Thursday. She booked a room in a small hotel in Pasay for P1,400 per night.
When she arrived for yesterday’s race, which started just before 4 a.m., she carried her belongings. After lunch at the mall, she said she was to take the bus back to Baguio.
“Each time I race, iniisip ko lang ang pamilya ko at ang hirap sa training (I only think of my family and the hardships),” she said, clutching her trophy.
Delos Santos was followed to the finish by Jennylyn Nobleza (3:17:43), Aileen Tolentino (3:33:04), Jocelyn Elijeran (3:42:47), Liza Delfin (3:47:34), Melani Malihan (3:48:20), Gella Mayang (3:51:50), Nelia Gabile (3:53:35), Merlyn Lumagbas (3:54:43) and Keshia Fule (3:55:08).
For finishing second and third, Nobleza and Tolentino pocketed P30,000 and P20,000, respectively.
The male champion, also 29 years old, had his own story to tell.
Raquin said he’d never won a 42 km race until yesterday but said he’d been competing in the Milo Marathon since 2005 when he joined the 10K race and finished eighth.
“Madaming malalakas eh (It was a tough field),” said Raquin, who came back stronger in 2006 to join the full marathon.
He has yet to catch the big fish although in last year’s national finals he landed third and took home P75,000. He said his earnings yesterday will still go a long way.
Raquin doesn’t have a day job and just focuses on running. He is now based in Baguio with his wife and a five-month-old son.
“Gagamitin namin ang pera para maka-apply siya ng trabaho sa Hong Kong (We will use the money so she can apply for a job in Hong Kong),” said Raquin.
It would cost them around P30,000 just for his wife to land the job, any type of job, in Hong Kong.
“Baka katulong (househelp),” he said.
Raquin won the race in 2:31:15, towing Jeson Agravante (2:38:36), Rafael Poliquit Jr. (2:44:15), Elkin John Quinto (2:50:21), Arsenio Uminga (2:56:20), Carlito Fantilaga (3:06:07) and Robert Arellano (3:07:10).
Raquin said he will work extra hard for the national finals but would need a couple of weeks to rest after yesterday’s race.
“Sana manalo na (I hope I win),” said Raquin, who’s also hoping to make it to the Philippine team.
Raquin said he only slept two hours the night before the race.
“Sa bus na ako matutulog mamaya (I will sleep in the bus),” said Raquin of the six-hour trip back to Baguio.
He comes home to his family a happy winner.