Mike T. Limpag
GUYS who finish last are usually the butt of jokes in any contest.
I remember the Dragons got more than their fair share in Cesafi basketball.
In football? Teams who finish in the bottom two are relegated to the lower tiers.
“We won’t be seeing you next season!”
In basketball, the bottom teams get the chance for the lottery pick—so they could be better the next season.
That’s not the case in a marathon.
The stragglers don’t get booed.
They get cheered, congratulated.
Last Sunday, I sort of vowed to interview the last finishers since I know theirs is a story as compelling, if not more, than the sub-four finishers.
It was also sort of my homage to them.
But promising to do something, and actually doing it are two different things.
So five hours after the marathon started—and around four and a half after I got there—I left.
And I missed what for me was the most compelling story I’ve heard in local sports.
John Pages, one of the brains of the event, called it “the highlight of the event.”
Eugene Cabusao, Rex Wagas, Cliff Abrahan and my friend Raffy Osumo finished the marathon dead last in over seven hours.
Raffy and Eugene’s picture at the finish line speaks a thousand words.
They started the marathon as strangers.
And finished it as the closest of buddies.
Raffy, who is also a member of the Sportswriters Association of Cebu, said that at one point, Eugene promised to carry him off his back to the next water station should his injured back act up again.
The two also promised not to leave the other two behind.
And they didn’t even know each other when they started that marathon.
Such is their story and the bond they formed over 42 kilometers.
Eugene’s story is even more compelling.
Check out “The Shortest Distance” at www.marathonfoodie.blogspot.com if you want to know it.
I guarantee you, it will be worthwhile reading.
It’s the best sports-related story I’ve read.
It’s the best I’ve heard since I saw “Remember the Titans,” way back in the 2000s, and that movie had a lot of embellishments.
This one didn’t.
I know people scoff at those who finish the marathon in five hours or more.
To be honest, it was quite a surprise to learn that there was this elite runners vs. slow runners gap.
Back when I kept googling about marathon, I even read one complain that there is no more honor in being called a “marathoner” because the slow runner can claim to be one, too.
That shouldn’t be the case. And I’m glad the experience of the four stragglers showed that gap doesn’t exist here.
Runners waited for fellow runners.
Most people run, to conquer their own goals, their demons. Or in the case of Eugene, to find his wife again.
Not to join the elite runners in the podium.
Most people run the marathon because they want to.
Not because they want to be treated differently. Or to wear the “badge” of a marathoner.
Anybody can join a marathon.
But only those who are made of sturdy stuff, those who have the iron will, can finish it.