First Filipino to join elite 8 Continents Marathon Club

Emmanuel B. Villaruel (The Freeman) - October 18, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Cebu’s famed eye surgeon and decorated ultra racer Dr. Potenciano “Yong” S. Larrazabal III was treated to a completely different kind of experience in his illustrious running career when he took part in the virtual 40th London Marathon two weeks ago.

Sporting events across the globe have adapted to the new normal amid the pandemic and the prestigious London Marathon was no exception, holding a virtual race for the first time in its 39-year history.

When he learned of it, the CebuDoc Group’s president and chairman did not pass up on what he perceives as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“There are virtual marathons available since travels are restricted. When I found out that the London Marathon will be virtual, I immediately joined since it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The only drawback is that, here in the Philippines, you cannot run outside without a facemask so what I did is I ran outside my house,” shared Doc Yong.

Compared to an actual run, Doc Yong said a virtual race is a bit tougher and more challenging.

“You really need have to have a strong mind because you don’t have spectators, you don’t have water stations, and it could be boring because you have no one to run with you,” he said.

Nevertheless, Doc Yong navigated his own 42.195-kilometer course with a modest time of three hours, 57 minutes, and 15 seconds.

He may not have counted it in the marathon races he had but Doc Yong’s unique experience in the virtual London Marathon is no less a shining addition to his plethora of accomplishments that kick-started in 2018 when he received a Six Star Finisher Medal from the Abbott World Marathon Majors for completing six of the world’s largest  marathons - New York, Berlin, Chicago, London, Tokyo, and Boston.

On December 13 last year, Doc Yong scaled greater heights when, under extreme sub-zero temperatures and fierce conditions, he finished the 2019 Antarctic Ice Marathon to join the exclusive 7 Continents Marathon Club composed of elite runners who completed a marathon on all seven continents.

In February 2020, Larrazabal etched his name stone as the first Filipino marathoner to conquer the World Marathon Challenge, a punishing challenge to run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days - the last global marathon event before the worldwide health crisis. He considers it the highlight of his running career.

Doc Yong further galvanized his place in the pantheon of Philippine marathon greats when he reached another huge milestone by becoming the first ever Filipino to officially join the 8 Continents Marathon Club. He is now part of the elite 255-member club.

To be a member of the club, one should have finished eight grueling full marathon distances in eight continents, including Zealandia.

Doc Yong started his eight-continent expedition in the 2013 Brussels Marathon in Brussels, Belgium (Europe) with a time of 3 hrs 40 mins and has now completed them.

The rest of his epic journey were in the 2014 Kawasan Falls Marathon in Cebu, Philippines (Asia; 3 hrs 39 mins), the 2014 Mountain to Surf Marathon in Taranaki, New Zealand (Oceania; 3 hrs 37 mins), the 2016 Mountains 2 Beach Marathon in California, USA (North America; 3 hrs 23 mins), the 2019 Marrakech Marathon in Marrakech, Morroco (Africa; 3 hrs 58 mins), the 2019 Sao Paulo Marathon in Sao Paolo, Brazil (South America; 4 hrs 17 mins),  and the 2019 Auckland Marathon in Auckland, New Zealand (Zealandia; 4 hrs 58 mins).

In December 2019, Larrazabal completed the 8th Continents Marathon when he conquered his 61sth marathon – the Antarctic Ice Marathon in Union Glacier, Antarctic (Antarctica; 6 hrs 16 mins). As the first Cebuano to achieve the feat, he did not rest his laurels and even managed to complete another eight major marathons that gave him a total of 69 marathons (excluding the London virtual race) since he started his running career.

Doc Yong shared that his toughest marathon was in the year 2019. “I traveled to 4 continents to complete the 8 marathons, and it is specifically tough for me because it needs proper training and a lot of preparation including physical, emotional, and mental strengthening to complete the 4 remaining marathons,” he said.

Assessing on the current situation, Larrazabal prognosticated that running events will no longer be the same until a vaccine for Covid-19 is available.

While waiting for the marathon scene to go back to normal, Doc Yong savors his special moment feeling blessed that he still managed to keep his passion in running flaming and achieve his goals despite the pandemic.

“We will wait, but still, I feel blessed that somehow all my goals in running, I have already achieved them, more or less,” Larrazabal said. “I am grateful and I feel blessed to be officially part of the 8 Continents Marathon Club and this wouldn’t be possible without prayers, training and support of my family and friends,” he ended.

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