Two newcomers take centerstage in 39th National MILO Marathon Iloilo race

After a two-week hiatus, the 39th National MILO Marathon made a big return in Iloilo this Sunday, and drew over 17,000 runners who participated in the country’s most prestigious footrace. The local government of Iloilo showed its support for the MILO Marathon with the presence of Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and Vice Mayor Jose Espinosa, III. Mayor Mabilog demonstrated the importance of exercise to his constituents by participating as a runner in the 5K race while Vice Mayor Rojas sounded the gun start.

With the advantage of two additional weeks for training, NMM regulars Romulo Balinas and Lorena Blanco shared the spotlight at the 21K centerpiece event. Balinas clocked in at 01:17:13, besting hundreds of runners in the men’s 21K division. Bennis Murillo (01:18:04) and Norlan Warizal (01:19:20) completed the top 3 male 21K finishers.

The male champ was delighted with the outcome of his performance despite a setback during the race. “I am glad I was the first to cross the finish line even though I knew I was losing speed towards the finish,” Balinas said. “The cramps slowed me down in the last 5K of the race but it’s a good thing I was able to cope up with the pain - a skill that I owe to my training,” he said. After placing seventh from last year’s elimination race, the University of St. La Salle Bacolod alumni steeled himself to reach for the top rank. “I literally pushed myself to undergo rigorous training in the last three weeks,” he said. “With this victory, it only shows that hard work does pay off.”

In the distaff side, Blanco ruled with a time of 01:47:55, while in the female 21K division, Mellanay Rojas (01:52:06) and Merlyn Lumagbas (01:52:28) finished second and third place, respectively.

42-year-old Blanco proved she was worthy to be in the circle of the country’s elite runners after finishing first in the 21K female race. “It was an unexpected win,” she said. “There were a lot of elite runners in the pack and it never occurred to me that I would be able to outpace them.” Blanco, who works a 9-to-5 job in a distribution company, revealed that she was a graduate of the MILO APEX Running Clinics. ”I enrolled during the second season of 2014,” she said. “The skills Coach Jim Saret taught us has helped me tremendously, especially during recovery,” she shared. “For example, I wasn’t able to get enough sleep for today’s race, but I was able to apply my running clinic lessons to achieve my biggest feat.”

Balinas and Blanco each took home the top purse of P10,000 in cash and a trophy; and earned their slots to the National MILO Marathon Finals. The finals will be held in Angeles on December 6, where they will meet the nation’s elite runners in a heated grand finale to claim the MILO Marathon King and Queen titles. To provide another level of prestige to the competition and incentive for the runners, this year’s King and Queen will be sent by MILO to the USA on all-expense paid trips, for a chance to run in the prestigious 2016 Boston Marathon.

The National MILO Marathon is not only a breeding ground for local talents but also a program that empowers underserved children nationwide. With the support of the Department of Education and the National MILO Marathon runners, MILO’s Help Gives Shoes advocacy will provide 10,000 underprivileged youth with brand new running shoes this year. MILO is working with DepEd in the selection of deserving public school student beneficiaries.

The race will resume in Bacolod (September 27) before heading to Tagbilaran (October 4), Cebu (October 11), General Santos (October 18), Davao (November 8), Butuan (November 15), and Cagayan De Oro (November 22). The National Finals will be held on December 6 in Angeles, Pampanga.

The 39th National MILO Marathon is made possible by Timex, the Bayview Park Hotel Manila, ASICS and Smart, along with endorsements from the Department of Education, Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee.

For more information on MILO Philippines, log on to the official website (http://www.milo.com.ph) or the MILO Philippines Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/milo.ph). Follow MILO on Twitter (@MiloPH) and Instagram (@MiloPhilippines).

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