Running to win: The Gawad Kalinga marathoners

PINOY Newsmagazine
November 2005

Text and photo by Ted Regencia

CHICAGO — By the time No. 32940 crossed the finish line of the 2005 Chicago Marathon last October 9, she had clocked more than seven hours of running time — well behind female winner Deena Kastor’s two hours, 21 minutes, and 25 seconds. She had also raised enough money to build one more decent shelter for a poor family in the Philippines — a triumph far greater than conquering the 26.2-mile course.

No. 32940 is Sally Adraneda of Romeoville, a southwest suburb of Chicago. Sally and husband, Esok were part of Gawad Kalinga (GK) 777 Hero’s Run, a project thought up after last year’s flood disaster in northern Luzon that displaced 40,000 families. Gawad Kalinga means “to give care”.

“Running the marathon was very tough. It was more challenging than giving birth,” the middle-aged Mrs. Andraneda laughingly recalled her experience, three days after the marathon. “I exhausted all my energy.” Husband Esok posted a slightly better time of 6:06:34.

“It was really a challenge for me and I was ready to give up,” she said. “What really motivated me was the thought that if I would finish the race, I would be able to raise some money to build a house for a poor family in the Philippines.”

Each GK runner pledged to solicit at least a thousand dollars and sponsor a home for a displaced family. As of October 16,the group has raised $16,000, according to Art Divinagracia.

There were 27 GK runners out of the 40,000 participants from 125 countries. Together, they tackled the relatively flat course, winding through city streets within visible distance from Chicago landmarks like the Millennium Park, Wrigley Field, Sears Tower, and Chinatown.

Along the route, an estimated one million people cheered, holding signs encouraging the runners to never give up. Donna Reyes led a group of Couples For Christ members and their families to support GK’s “running heroes.”

Challenge, pain
Mile 16 proved to be a challenge for Mrs. Adraneda. With 10.2 miles more to go, her legs were already “giving up” forcing her to stop from running. “Luckily” she never developed any blisters on her feet. Determined to finish, she did a brisk walk instead.

Twice, on the 20th and 25th mile, Mrs. Adraneda decided to quit, asking a city utility vehicle and then a police car, to drive her to the finish line. “They both refused and probably it was a blessing,” she said. Art Divinagracia, her running partner, also constantly reminded her not to give up.

At the finish line, Mrs. Adraneda was greeted by a marathon official, who awarded her a medal.

“I cried at the finish line. I was so exhausted and I had pain all over my body. My husband and children had to carry me to our car.” Still, she called the experience “rewarding and fulfilling.”

Meaningful run
Among the GK runners, Steve Medrano, originally from Ilocos, was the first to finish at four hours and 21 minutes. Rino Sioson, from Novaliches, Quezon City, who was on his fourth Chicago Marathon, clocked five hours and 15 minutes.

“It’s meaningful, because we’re doing this for our poor kababayans,” Sioson said. “It’s a victory not only for myself.”

GK 777 Hero’s Run was headed by Manny Doctor, a veteran of the Chicago Marathon. Doctor also acted as the head coach of the team.

Other GK runners were: Angelo Banaria, Patrick Cusak, Matt Funouits, Monchito Trinidad, Marvin Martin, Lloyd Fojas, Maricris Dizon, Jurdylene Zarate, Erik Valdez, Mark Augustine, Heather McPhee, Jonathan Wittig, Lisa Reite, Julia Staff, Brian Gilmore, Gerry Balbin, Charissa Balbin, Anthony del Rosario, Ramil Borja, Jeff Abad and Jhoanne Sy.

Individual runners
There were also individual Filipino runners at the race. Frank Baltazar, came all the way from Fort Polk, the largest military installation in Louisiana, to join his first marathon.

Baltazar, a captain in the US Marines,already had two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He was a company commander of Operation Anaconda.

“I dedicate this run to the fallen US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, especially the 85 soldiers from the state of Illinois,” said Baltazar, who was greeted by his wife Audrey after the race. The couple are expecting their second child.

Christine de Leon, another participant came from Michigan. Three friends, John Edwin Revilla, JC Briones and Raymond Punzalan from Skokie, Illinois, also joined in.

Very memorable
The marathon was most “memorable” for the GK Heroes and the Adraneda couple. And by running the race, they proved once again proved their commitment to GK 777. GK 777 aims to build 700,000 homes, in 7,000 communities in seven years in the Philippines.

In 2003, Esok, who hails from Samal, Bataan, and Sally, of Batac, Ilocos Norte, sold their million-dollar home in Darien, Illinois, and used the proceeds to build 50 homes for the poor in GK Village in Orani, Bataan. They plan to finance another community in Samal, Esok’s hometown.

In 2004, they also donated their Mercedes E320 and raffled it off during the Illinois GK launch. Proceeds of the Benz raffle also funded the GK project in Bataan.

At the post-marathon “victory party” for GK, the runners expressed a sense of fulfillment for running the marathon. They also vowed to “practice more” for next year.

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