Step up for Cebu Marathon

The Cebu Marathon gets a major upgrade after getting an official certification from the Association of International Marathons (AIMS) and the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF).

AIMS is a member-based organization composed of more than 350 leading distance races from 102 countries, including the 5 World Marathon Majors – Berlin, London, Chicago, New York and Boston.

The accreditation came after seven years of top-notch race organization by the grand daddy of Cebu’s running clubs – the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC).

The AIMS certification literally puts the Cebu Marathon on the map of international marathon events. The Cebu Marathon gets included in the AIMS marathon calendar of events which will surely attract more foreign participants boosting Cebu’s efforts at promoting the province as a major destination for sports tourism.

However, the most important benefit of having the Cebu Marathon AIMS/IAAF certified is that we now have a local race that can be recognized as an accredited qualifier for major distance running events. This means that we don’t have to travel far to establish a marathon qualifying time to secure entry into prestigious races such as South Africa’s Comrades Marathon and the holy grail of marathoners – the Boston Marathon.

One of the crucial requisites for AIMS and IAAF certification is that the race course be measured according to international standards. It means when CERC says the Cebu Marathon is a full mary, the race course has to have exactly 42.195 kilometers.

The 2014 Cebu Marathon race courses for the 21K and 42K were personally measured Dave Cundy, AIMS vice president and technical director and the IAFF-AIMS measurement administrator for the Asia and Oceania zone.

After an assessment of Cebu Marathon’s old route, Cundy recommended that the roundabout along Gen. Maxilom Avenue be scrapped because of the presence of bars in the area which is unsuitable for passing runners.

Those who hate the hilly jaunt along Gen. Maxilom Ave. will surely applaud this, but not for long as they will now have to run through the more difficult undulating hills of Banawa. If the organizers decide to put Banawa in the final 10K of the Cebu Marathon, then Banawa will be Cebu’s very own Heartbreak Hill.

Apart from accurate race course measurement and full electronic timing, IAAF accreditation also requires that the race must be organized in accordance with IAAF Competition Rules, the standards of the national athletics body, and must comply with all relevant local and national laws. The race must also be organized in a way that minimizes ecological damage to the surrounding areas.

For the first time ever, Cebu Marathon on January 12, 2014 will implement a zero-waste race by requiring runners to bring their own water bottles for water and sports drink refill at the water stations. There will be no more cups, which is the major source of post-race trash.

While this may be a novel idea in a major running event such as the Cebu Marathon, the leave-no-trace principle has long been a practice in the ultramarathon community. In fact, all ultramarathons organized by the Cebu Ultrarunners Club require all participants to bring their own water bottles at the starting area or they won’t be allowed to run.

This is easy to implement in an ultramarathon where there are only 100 to 100 participants. I wonder how this would pan out in a 21K and 42K where there are thousands of participants. I do hope every runner embraces this new rule. Everyone, runners included, must do their bit for the environment.

Going cup-less at water stations is a really big contribution. If there are 21 stations in a full marathon – that translates to 21 cups/trash done away with for every runner. If we have 2,000 runners, that’s 42,000 cups that we don’t have to add to the city’s trash.