Filipino nurse conquers 247-km Spartathlon

By Cedelf P. Tupas/Philippine Daily Inquirer – Filipino Rolando “Junjun” Espina Jr. ran through flatlands and hills almost non-stop for a little over 33 hours, covering a distance of close to 247 kilometers.

The reward: a piece of history and having the Philippine flag raised beside the statue of the Greek warrior Leonidas in Sparta, Greece.

The 43-year-old Filipino nurse based in Dublin, Ireland conquered Spartathlon, clocking 33 hours, 17 minutes and 33 seconds in finishing what is considered the toughest ultra marathon race in the world last Saturday.

The race that started in Athens has a 36-hour cutoff for participants, who also need to make the grade in all 75 checkpoints.

Espina, who hails from Bacolod City, was the 89th ultramarathoner to cross the finish line. A total of 390 runners qualified for the annual event.

But it hardly mattered as completing the race is a feat in itself for Espina. Less than half of the total participants usually finish the gruelling race.

It was the biggest achievement yet for Espina, who took up running six years ago as a way to combat hypertension and lose weight.

Espina felt he was experienced enough to handle the toughest race of his life. He has already finished 100 marathon races, including two 161-km races and four 100-km races, since October 2009, apart from five full Ironman races. His record includes running 42k races for 10 straight days in Ireland.

“I feel proud and honored to represent the country in the race,” said Espina in an interview with the Inquirer last July when he visited the country to raise funds for his campaign.

“I feel stronger and I’m confident that I can finish the race,” said Espina. “My goal is to have the Philippine flag raised at the finish line in Sparta. That’s my motivation.”

On Saturday, Espina accomplished his mission.

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