17 July 2009

Kenyan champ out to defend Subic Int'l Marathon crown

Kenyan runner Nelson Kirwa is expected to defend his title in the SMART-Subic International Marathon (SIM) 2009 scheduled on October 24-25 at the Subic Bay Freeport.

Kirwa finished the 42-kilometer event in two hours and 16 minutes, which was several minutes behind the world record of 2:04:55 posted by Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie at the 2007 Berlin marathon.

Organizers said that they are again expecting runners from Australia, Canada, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States.

Smart Sports head Patrick Gregorio told GMANews.TV recently that the marathon, the brainchild of retired Gen. Samson Tukay, was launched first in 2004.

Several years later, the SMART-SIM is the only long distance event accredited by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) and draws 10,000 runners all over the globe.

Gregorio said that the decision to support the marathon was based on the idea that Filipinos can compete in long-distance events.

“The event involves a lot of drama, as we can see in the faces of athletes who participate in this grueling sport. And the Filipino, once trained well, certainly has the potential to excel in international events. Why can’t we win a gold medal in the Olympics, for example? It’s because there’s no serious, concrete program," explained Gregorio.

“We’ve been very meticulous in looking for a partner who would be passionate and very professional, we didn’t know it would be the former police officer," said Gregorio.

Tukay said that during the first few years of the event, he and several patriotic officers spent their own money for cash prizes and paying for the accommodation of several supporters.

“We started with just passion in our hearts. No one supported us. We spent our own money for prizes and to pay for the accommodations of those who helped us former police officers," said Tukay.

Tukay added that with the entry of Smart to the event he is optimistic that the best runners in the world will compete in the tournament.

“We wanted to bring in the best runners from all over the world to the Philippines and to go to different parts of our country to get the best contenders. Now with SMART as our sponsor, how can we go wrong?" Tukay added. (Perry Legaspi, GMANews.TV)