Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The First Noel

I was an hour or so early for my 10k race when I entered the Likas Stadium in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. It was my first race outside the Philippines but I didn't feel a hint of worry as I consider Malaysia as my home away from home, having lived in KL in the early 2000s for three and a half years.

As the 21k runners were flagged off to start, I sat along with a good crowd of 10k runners in the stadium while we waited for the 6am gun start.

It was about 40mins before 6am when I heard regular updates from the race host as to what was happening in the 42k race (which started 3am). I got excited when I heard him say that a Filipino he called simply as "Noel" was leading the race.

Now this doesn't happen very often so I just hoped that he will pull through. Thoughts like, "What if there are Kenyans a few meters behind him and just waiting for the last km to out sprint him?" I didn't know how many kms left exactly so this added to the tension as well.

About 10mins later the race host announced again. The leader of the race is now a man from Borneo, which meant that Noel was caught and might have lost it. The new leader maybe all too familiar with the race route and was well acclimated so it may have been right for him to win this one.

Then, about another 10 minutes after that, the race host announced that it was Noel again who took the lead. Damn it, this would've been nicer to watch if there was a full video race coverage, I thought. But I had to calm myself and hoped that this "Noel from the Philippines" pulls through up to the end.

At about 5:47am, all that hoping was worth it. The race host announced to clear the entrance of the stadium as the leader of the 42k race was about to come in. I fumbled for my phone camera, aimed at the stadium entrance, and clicked Record:



It is not common for Filipinos to win international marathons (outside the country). But for me having seated at "ringside" to see this proud moment unfold before my eyes, it was just a beautiful sight: a Filipino with a 7 minute lead striding into the stadium track in perfect running form not with a grimace of pain from the 2:48:10 effort, but clad with that trademark Filipino smile.



I managed to have his picture taken as he walked from the finish area and asked him about that moment when the man from Borneo took the lead. He said something like that the guy was a veteran but Noel kept within sight of him and guarded him until the right moment came. Noel did his homework, it seems, as his strategy paid off handsomely.

Not a sign of fatigue. What a guy!

I had to go as the 10k race just started. But after my run I stayed a while to see the awarding where Noel proudly stood at the top of the podium.

Noel Tillor (PHL) 1st. Ma Liang Wu (CHN) 2nd. Wincenbert Latius of (MAL) 3rd.

It is but unfortunate that the Philippine media may not have been aware of his achievement. I hope in future international marathons we could see our fellowmen from the media support our athletes as they compete (and hopefully, win) so that everyone here in the Philippines will know ---and be proud.

My hats off to you, Noel Tillor, for running strong and winning this race.

So Noel, will you be back in 2017, the 10th anniversary version, for a possible back to back win? ;)

Go for it parekoy! :)


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