x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Filipino marathoners run for their countrymen

A group of Filipinos will be challenging themselves to finish the gruelling Dubai Marathon this month, but apart from competing for a sense of self-achievement, the runners will be taking something else away - a pot of money to help out their countrymen.

Amor Bautista, left, and Euca Bolingot are members of Filipino Runners UAE, a group of 34 who plan to run the Dubai Marathon this month.
Amor Bautista, left, and Euca Bolingot are members of Filipino Runners UAE, a group of 34 who plan to run the Dubai Marathon this month.

DUBAI // Cristina Deloy is not letting a hamstring strain suffered during a recent half-marathon stop her from running in the Dubai Marathon this month - even if she has to do it against her coach's orders.

"I know I'm capable of running a full 42-kilometre marathon," said Deloy, a 32-year-old Filipina nurse. "But my coach advised me to do the 10km race instead."

For her the run is, in a way, symbolic of her life, and she is not about to give up half way through - her desire to finish a race keeps her motivated. "I had to endure trials both financially and emotionally in the past year. It's like running, where you hit rough roads and hilly terrain, but you know you'll be rewarded in the end."

Thousands are due to take to the streets of Dubai on January 21 for the 2011 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, an annual event that incorporates a full 42km event, as well as a separate 10km road race and 3km fun run. This year a group of Filipinos will be running to fulfill personal goals, and help out countrymen who have fallen on unfortunate times in the Emirates.

Deloy will be joined by her coach, Euca Bolingot, 28, and 32 members of the new group, Filipino Runners UAE, on race day.

The running club was formed last July after Deloy and her friends spotted Bolingot in Al Safa Park. He was with the Dubai Road Runners, a club that meets every Saturday evening in the park to run one or two laps of the 3.4km track.

"He's so fast and is believed to be the first Filipino finisher in all the races in the UAE," Deloy said.

Bolingot, an IT professional in Dubai, also runs with the Dubai Creek Striders every Friday morning. A regular at endurance races in the Emirates, last February Bolingot was the first Filipino to make it past the finish line at the RAK Half Marathon, with a 1:23:15 running time and 53rd place in the men's category.

"Cristina and her friends wanted to learn good running techniques," he said. "Proper breathing is important for long distance running and I was happy to help them improve their running form."

The group decided to meet every Tuesday and Sunday at 7pm, at Zabeel Park. Bolingot also started recruiting other Filipinos with a keen interest in running.

The group's membership grew and by the first week of November, 15 members decided on a name for themselves. They were to be called the Zabeel Night Striders, until the majority decided on Filipino Runners UAE.

"There had to be something valuable we could do," said Deloy, who trains with a Dubai-based athletics club called ABRaS AC - an acronym for Anna Berrill Racing Stables Athletics Club - which focuses on endurance running. "That's when I came up with the idea of running for a cause."

The resulting Dubai Marathon Takbo para kay Kabayan, or Run for my Countrymen, will see 34 of the club's 40 members participate.

The runners will cover a total distance of about 700km, and hope to raise at least Dh35,000 in the process. They have started seeking pledges of Dh50 per kilometre from individuals and companies to support their cause. In late November, the group joined forces with the UAE branch of Migrante, a group created to protect the rights of Filipino migrants overseas.

All the funds collected for the run will be channelled to the support, training and repatriation of Filipinos in the Emirates, according to Yuri Cipriano, the chairman of Migrante-UAE.

"It is indeed an answered prayer," Deloy said. "I feel so bad for the 22 Filipino patients who are currently at the Rashid Hospital. But now we have a chance to help them out," she said, referring to a group of impoverished Filipinos, many of whom have fallen ill in the UAE without medical insurance.

Amor Bautista, 29, an economic analyst, has been training for the upcoming marathon for two years. "To be honest, I'm a bit nervous," she said. "But I've devoted a lot of time for running. I've been to more than 10 races in the UAE in a span of two years."

Bautista runs for 10km to 12km every Sunday and Tuesday, and another 20km to 25km at the Dubai Marina on Fridays. Bolingot, who is running the 42km marathon with Bautista and 10 other members of the Filipino Runners and Run For My Countrymen teams, has often reminded beginners to "start slowly but finish strong".

"As the team captain, I need to constantly motivate them," he said. "The majority of the runners are first-timers and they have to slowly build their endurance and stamina before the Dubai Marathon."

For more information about the Filipino Runners UAE, visit filipinorunnersuae.com.