“LORD, padagana lang gyud ko (just let me run),” is Dr. Raymund Reel Bontol’s prayer while on the bike during triathlons.

On Sunday, Bontol, with the rest of the Cebu-based Team Reborn, will join the CamSur Ironman 70.3 hoping to finish strong in a three-discipline event that ends with

running, which he describes as his “comfort zone.”

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Coming from hearing mass in Sto. Rosario Parish while wearing the hot pink Ungo shirt, the running shirt of a group of Cebu-based night runners, a Phiten necklace and a Power Balance bracelet, Bontol told Sun.Star Cebu in an interview that he’s ready to do anything he thinks can help his first Ironman event.

Preparing for the event has consumed Bontol’s life these past months. He has decided to postpone an important exam for his specialization next year because he thinks he isn’t prepared for it.

“I don’t want to go into something unprepared,” he said. A confessed obsessive-compulsive, Bontol says he could hardly sleep the night before important races, getting out of bed repeatedly to make sure everything he needs the next day—shoes, shirt, race bibs, energy gels, cap, eyewear—are ready and in order.

On Sunday, Bontol hopes to swim 1.93 kms., bike 90 kms., and run 21 kms. in less than six hours and with enough energy left to take a phone call. He said Sunday will be the “graduation” of months of triathlon training under an elite athlete, Noy Jopson, last year’s Philippine 70.3 Ironman champion.

Bontol has been training, along with fellow Team Reborn members Jung Cases, Joseph Miller, Annie Neric, Tenggoy Colmenares, seriously under Jopson for the past few months. The intensity of the training is such that the once muscular Bontol lost 20 pounds without diet, “eating whatever I want.”

Heading to CamSur, Bontol is on a roll, winning last Sunday’s 5th University Run doctors’ category with a new 10K personal best of 42:38.

That win, said Bontol, proves cross-training works. He said he used to think that to run fast, all you needed to do was lace your shoes and hit the tracks or the road.

But Bontol said his triathlon training made him an even faster runner. He was third in the Speedo National Age Group Triathlon in the 30-34 age group. He said he did not expect to win and was already in his car when the results were announced.

Bontol has gone far and fast, from being an overweight 1st year high school student with a waistline of 34 inches. A close friend, who was also overweight, started going to the gym and shed off pounds. That inspired him to also hit the gym.

Since then, Bontol has been on and off the gym. At any given year, he has at least three months of gym membership.

It was heart surgeon Dr. Alex Junia who encouraged Bontol to run, enlisting him in the 10K category of the Run for your Heart in February 2008.

Bontol finished the race in 72 minutes even without training. The only running he did before it was five- to ten-minute sessions on the treadmill as warm-up to his gym workouts. He said Junia, who was the race organizer, stayed at the back of the pack to look after the runners and paced Bontol, challenging him that if he could do it, how much more the young resident physician, a muscular and buff gym rat.

After that race, he did regular 10Ks before joining the Milo half-marathon six months later. Bontol has finished two full marathons, both in four hours and 55 minutes—the Milo Marathon and the Quezon City International Marathon.

After CamSur, Bontol wants to focus on his medical practice and return to running. On Sunday, however, he only has one thing in mind, “to finish strong.”

ABOITIZ RUN. On Sunday, the Aboitiz Race To Reduce will fire off at the South Road Properties with the following gun times: 5:15 a.m. for 21K; 5:30 a.m. for 10K; and 5:45 a.m. for 3K and 5K.

The Aboitiz Race To Reduce is shaping up to be a must-run race in Cebu. The Aboitiz group is doing everything to make the run successful and memorable while keeping in mind its central theme for the campaign: ecological sustai-nability. For the first time in a race in the Philippines, the names of all finishers will be published in the newspapers, at least in Sun.Star Cebu, the next day “not to embarrass” the runners but to honor their accomplishments in finishing their respective distances.

(maxlimpag@gmail.com/www.CebuRunning.com)