MORE than the honor and title, friendship counts the most for running buddies Preciosa Sanchez and Sandra Soliano, as one of them gave way to the other in the fifth edition of the All-Women Ultra Marathon (Awum) at the Il Corso grounds in South Road Properties yesterday.
Sanchez and Soliano ran together all throughout the race and finished the 50-kilometer course in under five hours. They were the first runners in the five-year history of the event to clock sub-5.
But despite running side-by-side, there could only be one winner and, this time, it was Sanchez who breasted the tape in 4 hours 59 minutes and 44 seconds. The defending champion Soliano finished three seconds later for second place.
Daisy Batac came in at 5:04:01 for third place; June Marq Ocana posted a time of 5:06:07 and nabbed fourth place; and Sharon Rose Torres salvaged the fifth spot with a time of 5:22:33.
Sanchez of North Roads Runners Club said that while they were approaching the last meters of the route, Soliano told her to go ahead and get that title.
“I know she’s still very strong and if she wanted to win it she could do it, but she told me that the race was mine, and it was my turn to win,” said Sanchez. “She gave way to me this year,to return the favor because last year I gave way to her.”
Sanchez, 47, a technician at FairChild, said that she won most of the ultra marathon races in Cebu but not Awum. The recent feat has completed her collection of ultra marathon titles.
“I really thank Sandra (Soliano) because she helped me out through the race. Because in the first 10K of the route I was having stomach pains, but she kept on telling me to push and never left me throughout the race,” said Sanchez.
Soliano of Spectrum Runners Club said that she really wanted to turn over the crown to her friend.
The rest of the top 10 runners are Wilma Theresa Lugay (5:31:16), Melchomelda Kitane (5:33:44), Mary Grace Solarte (5:38:55), Gilda Velarde (5:38:47) and Sheila Aligway (5:44:45).
Meanwhile, the technical team and other runners stayed after the awarding to wait the last runner. And the wait was all worth it, as 74-year-old Mercedes Tatel crossed the finish line in 10:55.
Tatel, who represented the country in the Asian Games in swimming event in 1968 didn’t show any sign of fatigue and weakness despite her age.
The retired nurse and former athlete of Far Eastern University said that as long as she can walk, she will continue doing running, and even triathlon.
The grandmother had finished 11 triathlons since starting three years ago. She said that she decided to get back into sport after retiring because she had to work full-time for 40 years to raise her kids.
“Sports is in my soul, that was why when I retired I told my sons and my husband that I will get back to sports,” said Tatel, who now lives in Dumaguete while her family is in the United States.
“My family was calling me even last night, they even told me it was OK if I don’t finish, just stay on the side and the ambulance will come,” she said. “But I will always finish, I always made it do or die.”
The 50K run was the longest for Tatel but she never showed any fatigue and was very energetic talking to her friends and other runners, some even asked for a photograph with her.
“There is no challenge that can’t be overcome, there is a solution on every problem, as long as you work for it,” Tatel said, who is now the oldest runner to finish Awum.
The 2016 Awum is said to be the last edition of the event, according to the organizers, Think Tank.
As a gesture of recognizing the runners who laced up in all five years of the event, the organizers awarded 27 female runners and named them Awum Hall-of-Famers.
“The race went well and we made it very special because this will be the last Awum. The members of Think Tank right now is going for this one as the last but we will never know if it will still change,” race director Willie Estepa said.
“In five years of this event, the support of the running community is really overwhelming. The event had an impact on the running, through this event the women are empowered and all runners gathered to assists them on that day,” he said. “Awum is dedicated to the female runners and it has been part of the bucket list for most of the female marathoners.”
The race this year had perfect attendance as all the 250 registrants came to race; 246 finished the race while two finished beyond the 10-hour cutoff time.
The champion for this year received P10,000, P7,000 for second place and P5,000 for third place.