The Running Boom and Philippine Athletics

I must admit that I was a tad bit surprised at the newfound popularity of running. Prior to the running boom, an almost deserted Ultra closed at exactly 8:00 PM. I can still recall our late night track & field training sessions at the Pasig oval. We practically had the venue to ourselves. The lanes were mostly free from foot traffic. Nowadays hordes of joggers frequent the Philsports track oval, which stays open until 10:00 PM.

Through the years, sports such as billiards, boxing and badminton had gone mainstream. The success of the legendary Efren “Bata” Reyes saw pool halls sprout like mushrooms across the metropolis. Most recently, boxing gyms and badminton courts had piqued the interest of the general populace.

And now, running takes its turn. Hardly a weekend goes by without a running event. In fact, a multitude of companies (from pharmaceuticals to bakeshops) utilize running events to better market their respective products.

Initially, I saw the running boom as nothing more than a fad. Running, with all the emphasis on wellness (not to mention the scores of celebrities who take part), is the “in” thing. In my nighttime training sessions in Ultra, I almost always bump into clicks of joggers who are  apparently more intent on socializing.

Fortunately, this is the exception, rather than the rule. Most are quite serious in their running. Denizens of the Internet forum, Takbo.ph, even have a regular training group. A club system, albeit crude, is starting to take form. Some even hire the services of professional athletics coaches, providing an additional source of income to top caliber athletes and former athletes alike. The most prestigious events provide lucrative cash prizes, large enough to attract professional African runners to Philippine shores.

For the hardcore track & field athlete that I am, this certainly is promising – especially when I see exuberant kids joyfully doing laps around the oval.

Aside from a couple of bronze medals in the 1930’s and some regional successes in the 1980’s, late 1990’s and early 2000’s, our national track & field squad flounders in international meets. Athletics, despite its status as the centerpiece of the Olympic Games, is in the fringes of the Filipino sporting psyche. Although we have produced multitudes of Southeast Asian Games champions, our athletes wither under stronger competition in the Asian- and World-level.

Cagers players aside, the most successful Filipino sportsmen are our professional boxers, bowlers and cue artists. Badminton, with its booming youth talents, shows signs of long-term promise. What I’m truly excited about is how the running boom could trickle down into renewed interest on the wider sport of athletics – at the very least.

Perhaps in the coming years, an honest-to-goodness club system for track & field could start to take form.

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One response to “The Running Boom and Philippine Athletics

  1. Jeric! June 8, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    Every weekend, there’s a run and every runner pays around P300-P1000 depending on the distance = lucrative business!

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