YEARS after its humble start in 2008, when they only had hundreds of local runners, the Cebu City Marathon (CCM) is now a different kind of race as it continues to attract foreign runners.

This year, there were 203 foreign runners who signed up for the event sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (Aims).

Japan had the most bets out of 36 countries that had representatives for the race, which is one of the activities of the famous Sinulog Festival.

One of the 22 Japanese who joined the event is Tomo Suzuki, a hardcore runner who has 42 marathons under his belt. The hotelier from Japan is in Cebu to study English and is elated that the Queen City of the South has a lot of running activities.

The 43-year-old Suzuki, a regular participant of the Tokyo Marathon, told Sun.Star Cebu that it’s his first time to run in the country. He arrived in Cebu four months ago to study English, and luckily his teacher, who’s also into running, recommended the CCM to him.

The CCM was his 42nd marathon and he said it was an awesome experience and the route was different from what he was used to in Japan. Suzuku finished the event in 5 hours and 40 minutes.

“There were a lot of uphills and downhills in the route, it was a very good route and its’ nice for runners like me who want a new race experience. In Japan, most of the races are in flat roads,” he said.

Suzuki is a late bloomer in running and he started when he was 30 years old. But the Japanese got a rolling start and after 13 years, he has finished 42 marathon . He said his personal best is 3:20 in the Tokyo Marathon.

The Japanese is also into ultra-marathons and finished the Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji, a 168-kilometer race which starts and end at Yagizaki Park in Mt. Fuji.

Suzuki, a hotelier in Hotel Nikko Tokyo, said that he will be going back to Japan on Feb. 20 after he completes the English study program. He said he really liked Cebu and will definitely return this summer and will consider staying here for good.

One of the organizers, John Pages of Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC), told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday that one of their aims is to boost sports tourism though this sporting event.

“The CCM is going international. This 2016 edition, we attracted over 200 participants from 36 countries. Given that the name of Cebu and the popularity of the Sinulog are increasing, we hope to convince more to come. If we look at our neighbors like Hong Kong and Singapore, their marathons have 50,000 participants each. The potential is huge to invite these runners to Cebu. That, plus convincing more from Manila and other regions to join, is our goal for 2017,” said Pages, who is also a columnist of Sun.Star Cebu.

The rest of the foreign entries were from Taiwan (20), Malaysia (18), US (16), UK (14), Germany (13) Australia (10), Nepal (9), Singapore (9), Kenya (7), China (6), Canada (6), Hong Kong (6), Korea (6) Netherlands (5), France (3).Indonesia (3), Ireland (3), Poland (3), Sweden (3), Samoa (2), Switzerland (2) India (2), Russia (2), Maldives (2), New Zealand and (2). There were also one entry each from Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Micronesia, Italy, Kazakstan, Marshall Island, South Africa and Spain.