How Filipino Runners Trained For the NYC Marathon

How Filipino Runners Trained For the NYC Marathon


Two of the 170 Filipinos that joined the NYC marathon talk about their experiences running and training for the biggest marathon in the world

Part of the fitness journey is in establishing goals. For some, their goal is to reach a certain weight or to look a certain way for the summer. For others, like Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, their goal is to reach the finish line at the biggest marathon in the world—the New York City marathon.

RELATED: Take a Look at Pia Wurtzbach’s NYC Marathon Journey

In case you haven’t heard, Pia finished the 42-kilometer NYC marathon in almost seven hours. Her personal trainer, Gabb Rosario, also shared Pia’s nine-month workout plan on his Instagram page, saying that all their hard work and dedication led to Pia being the first-ever Miss Universe to run and complete the NYC marathon.

But Pia wasn’t the only notable Filipino to have completed the marathon. Added to the list are Chàrmà Founder Charmaine Palermo, who finished the race in less than six hours, and SAGA Executive Managing Director Elmer Lapeña, who finished the race in almost seven. Notably, Elmer was the flag bearer for the Philippines during the Opening Ceremonies of the Parade of Nations.

The whys and the hows

Both Charmaine and Elmer wanted their first marathon to be the NYC Marathon. And for about five years, that had been their goal, but it was only in June of this year when they finally secured their slots after registering together through a tour operator.

However, no one can just wake up one day and decide to run a 42-kilometer marathon. Even avid runners like Charmaine and Elmer had to change their routines to prepare for the race.

According to Charmaine, she shifted all her workouts so she could be able to run strong and recover well. As for her conditioning and recovery, she said she signed up with the New York Road Runners coaching lab for the 16-week coaching program, used the Strength for Runners exercises by Joe Holder on the Nike Training Club app, as well as Travis Eliot’s Yoga for Runners, and continued her regular prehab and recovery with Physiaré.

Similarly, Elmer took four months to train, as was recommended by the New York Road Runners. Before then, he did background research on the marathon and shifted his lifestyle to prepare for it, noting that he went to Tomorrowland in Belgium in July to party one last time before beginning his training. His 16-week program had him waking up at 5:00 a.m. to give way to training without sacrificing work hours, so he made an effort to keep it enjoyable by giving himself time to rest and recover.

Their diets also had to change prior to the marathon, but their approaches were different. For Charmaine, she kept to an eating schedule and started to eat more brown rice, quinoa, multi-grain bagels, veggies, fruits, and the like as her mileage increased in training. For Elmer, he mentioned that not much changed in his diet aside from how he went on a caloric deficit in the first few weeks of training to lose weight so that his knees wouldn’t take on so much work.

Notably, preparing for a marathon isn’t a solitary experience. Apart from the friends who’ll join you in the race, your trainer and fitness community will also be there to support you. For Elmer, he mentioned his personal trainer, Culver Padilla, who designed a training plan to strengthen his legs. He also mentioned his friend, Elaine Araneta, who gave him pointers as someone who’s on her way to completing the 6 Major Marathons.

RELATED: Start Your Workout Journey Right With These Top Fitness Coaches

Their trainers were also an intrinsic part of their journeys, and the most significant lessons they learned from their trainers boiled down to this: trust the plan and your body.

“No matter how much I want to run faster on my scheduled training runs, I learned to follow the pace, distance, and heart rate assigned to that run [and] to respect rest days because it’s as important as training,” Charmaine explained. Elmer added, “I needed to constantly remind myself that it’s a long process—it doesn’t happen overnight. Also, there will be bad days. Listen to your body.”

Running the marathon

Progress isn’t linear, and their journeys showed as much. From challenges like weather, schedules, and stress factors, to self-doubt and insecurity, they both learned to overcome them all with the help of their support systems. Most importantly, they helped themselves by simply putting in the work.

However, even with a months-long training program and guidance from seasoned athletes, running the NYC Marathon wouldn’t be a walk in the park.

Charmaine, for example, said she had to adjust her expectations and time goals after her fourth stop so that she wouldn’t be disappointed. And when she reached the 41.87K mark, she almost had a bad cramp on her right quad, but was able to overcome it by eating a pack of salt.

Elmer also brought up that running a marathon is as much of a mental game as it is a physical one, but he was never without support because of the New York crowd. He shared, “They go to the streets, yell out your name, cheer you, [and] hand you water, bananas, candy bars. Every time I felt like giving up, I would high-five people from the crowd, hug children, and pet dogs on the streets. A Filipina even handed me Sky Flakes and at about 35km through the race, it was the best Sky Flakes of my life!”

Overall, both runners had good things to say about the NYC Marathon and would recommend this transformative experience to other Filipinos. 

“It was an incredible experience to feel the energy of 50 thousand runners with the entire city supporting all of us. It was more than I expected. I am inspired by every single runner, each of us has our own story, why and how we all ended up here on this day. We all came in different forms and sizes from 150 countries, to run the five boroughs of this amazing city. It was 42.6K of the most fun street party, bridges to conquer, a lot of self-reflection, mental battle, self-doubts to overcome, but overall it was a celebration of life all throughout,” Charmaine said.

Likewise, Elmer said the experience was a dream come true for him and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “When I started my marathon journey, I was thinking I would do it one time for fun so I could be part of the 1% of the total work population that finished a marathon. I have fallen in love with it. And now I dream of finishing the 6 Major Marathons before I turn 50,” he added.

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