Love reigns in Cebu marathon

COUPLE GOALS. Elite runners Ruffa Sorongon and Azlan Pagay, who have been in a relationship for six years, topped the men’s and women’s division of the Cebu Marathon. It was the fourth time the two swept the men’s and women’s divisions in a race. (Sunstar Photo / Amper Campaña)

HOW often do you see a couple dominate a marathon?

In Cebu, domestic partners Azlan Pagay and Ruffa Sorongon, a power duo in the running community, did this rare feat as they bagged the men’s and women’s titles in the 42-kilometer category of the 2020 Cebu Marathon on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, at the Cebu Business Park.

“It’s a blessing from God that he gave us this talent. Another blessing was this championship for both of us,” Pagay told SunStar Cebu in Cebuano after the race.

The 26-year-old Pagay, who hails from Davao City, breasted the tape in 2 hours, 53 minutes and 45 seconds to win his very first 42K title in the Cebu Marathon. Joseph Arnel Emmia was second in 2:54:54 and Michael Largo finished third in 3:05:57.

Sorongon of Sultan Kudarat made it back-to-back in the women’s 42K race in dominating fashion after clocking in 3:25:34. She crossed the finish line nearly 10 minutes ahead of Evamie Villarin, who clocked in 3:34:00. Lizane Abella rounded up the podium finisher with a clocking of 3:31:42.

“Our relationship started because our runner friends teased us,” Pagay said in jest.

“We’ve been in the relationship for seven years now and to have the same sport and interest has helped us to really understand each other,” said Sorongon.

Pagay and Sorongon are both from Mindanao who decided to try their luck in Cebu nearly six years ago. The couple’s first meeting was at the oval in Davao City, when the latter was still studying.

From there, the couple decided to move to Cebu in 2014 and competed in various national and even international races. It’s actually the fourth time that the couple both won the championship in one race.

Sorongon, 28, said the first time was the 21K category in the Elizabeth Run followed with their 32K triumph in the 7-Eleven Run Series and the Palawan Marathon in 2019.

The couple agreed that the best part of being a running couple is when they get to travel and compete at the same time.

“A competition outside Cebu feels like a date for us,” said Sorongon.

After six years in Cebu, the couple is planning to stay for good and change their address this year. The running duo has bought a house in the City of Naga. It is currently under construction.

“We bought something from our earnings in running. The first thing we bought was a motorcycle, then a small piggery and the recent one is a house in the City of Naga,” said Sorongon.

“Running is hard so it’s important you put your earnings to good use,” added Pagay.

Sorongon and Pagay are not new to the sport as they started running at a young age. Sorongon was into track and field since fourth grade while Pagay started when he was a high school student. Both have competed in the Palarong Pambansa.

“We just want to say thank you to Mogo Mogo for supporting us in our races,” said Pagay.

The next stop for the two athletes is the Milo Marathon National Finals on Jan. 19 in Tarlac City. Sorongon is aiming to improve her fourth place finish, while Pagay looks to get a good time on his first national finals in three years.

It was indeed a sweet day for the 13th edition of the Cebu Marathon as elite triathlete Paul Jumamil also proposed to his girlfriend and fellow triathlete En Torres at the Cebu Business Park.

On the other hand, Kenyan Eric Chepsiror showed his force in the men’s 21K race, winning the title in 1:15:42. Cebu’s top bet Prince Joey Lee settled for second place in 1:18:02 and Downs Fabian finished third in 1:20:01.

Cherry Andrin of Lapu-Lapu City topped the women’s side in 1:40:21, beating Engiel Estillorie (1:50:24) and Jenefer Paloma (1:56:15) for the title.

In the 5K race, Alfrence Braza (16:36) won the men’s division as Marielle Estreba (19:50) ruled the women’s side.

Florencio Lapiz (16:49) and Jaymar Magdaleno (17:07) finished behind Braza, while Asia Paraase (20:35) and junior triathlete Moira Frances Erediano (20:56) settled as runners-up in the women’s division.


SunStar website welcomes friendly debate, but comments posted on this site do not necessarily reflect the views of the SunStar management and its affiliates. SunStar reserves the right to delete, reproduce or modify comments posted here without notice. Posts that are inappropriate will automatically be deleted.

Forum rules:

Do not use obscenity. Some words have been banned. Stick to the topic. Do not veer away from the discussion. Be coherent. Do not shout or use CAPITAL LETTERS!