AIMS AND PHILIPPINE DISTANCE RACES

By Red Dumuk

CIERPINZKI--FINISHAmid the running boom currently prevailing in the country, there is a pining, nay, a clamor for a marathon to put anew the Philippines in the international marathon map. This year, being the centenary of organized sports in the archipelago, is most opportune time to start the journey to reliving the glory of Philippine road running.

In the '80s when road running was at its peak, three races in the Philippines managed to barge into the exclusive club of marathons - the prestigious Association of International Marathons (AIMS), now known as Association of International Marathons and Distance Races. While such races stood far from approaching the 10,000-runner threshold the top 10 marathons in the world (except Amsterdam Marathon) easily surpassed, AIMS recognized the high quality of marathons staged within our shores.

(It is well to note Race Directors of the marathons under the wings of AIMS "considered it crucial their courses be up to high standards of operation: correctly measured with proper medical support; adequate energy drinks at feeding stations; marshals at key points along the course to direct runners and traffic; and accurate split times and finish times for every participating runner".)

AIMS even held its 4th World Congress in Manila, a year after the world-renowned People Power-the Egyptians recently replicated a quarter of century later-restored in large measure the Filipino pride. At this conclave, presided over by London Marathon founder Chris Brasher and attended by Marathon organizers icons Jock Semple of Boston Marathon and Fred Lebow of New York Marathon, AIMS "expanded to embrace road races of distances other than the Marathon".

The Magnolia International 20K, the most popular road race that attracted, 7,000 entries in its last edition in 1991 long before multi-distance runs went vogue, was among the four initial non-Marathon events accepted by AIMS to its fold. A unique feature of the Magnolia 20K was its keeping age, not just age-category, records of runners from 7 to 77 years.

It was Jun Castro, considered the father of marathon In the Philippines, who brought the AIMS World Congress to Silahis International Hotel which, ironically, had gone to seed. His brainchild, the Pilipinas International Marathon (initially, Pilipinas Third World Marathon), backed by Project: Gintong Alay Executive Director Michael Keon, was an AIMS member then and Castro himself, a member of the AIMS Board of Directors.

PIM earned its membership in 1986. From 1987 up to 1991, there were two Philippine races that gained regular fixture status in the AIMS calendar-PIM and Magnolia International 20K directed by Angel Colmenares, father of sultry actress Angel Locsin.

It was not to PIM belonged, though, the signal honor of the first marathon in the Philippines to become an AIMS member. Neither was Castro of the National Milo Marathon fame the first Filipino board member of AIMS; he was the second and the last.

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