MULTI-SPORT athlete and cancer survivor Luisito “Louie” Sangalang was brimming with confidence when he flew to the northernmost point on Earth to as a sponsored athlete from the Philippines in the 2018 FWD North Pole Marathon.
That’s because when 40-year old Sangalang departs for Tromso, Norway in time for the competition, on April 9, will bring with him important reminders and survival tips from one of the country’s top mountaineers and explorers, Romi Garduce.
For the last three weeks, Garduce has trained with and imparted some of the lessons of survival that allowed him to climb the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest and complete a seven-summit expedition on the world’s highest mountains.
Throughout his adventures, Garduce has gone up mountains and experienced this under freezing temperatures.
And these are the same conditions that will confront Sangalang, a professor at Jose Rizal University when not into triathlon or running long distances.
“Kalahati nito, marathon. Kaya na niya iyan. Pero, iyung kalahati nun, ay di niya alam. And its about surviving a winter environment,” said Garduce during a sendoff for Sangalang last Thursday at the Clock In inside the Bonifacio Technology Center of the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.
Sangalang, who will join 10 other runners sponsored by FWD from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan, will go from Tromso to Svalbard the following to prepare for the race itself.
“Ang pinaka-importante diyan is how do you survive in this kind of conditions before you start racing. Racing is different. Anybody can race, but not everybody can survive in this kind of conditions,” said Sangalang, a father of three.
The 11 runners that Sangalang will be with are collectively known as “FWD Team Asia.” Among them are Singapore para-athlete Sharriff Abdullah, also known as the Singapore Blade Runner, and visually impaired Leung Siu Wai.
The participants will be running on ice sheets measuring 6 to 12 feet thick, 12,000 feet above the Arctic Ocean.
To simulate the conditions that Sangalang will face, FWD executives led by president and CEO Peter Grimes, rented a walk in freezer in a warehouse in Taguig, and equipped it with running machines to help Sangalang get used to moving and running in cold and freezing weather.
Both went through the difficulties over the last four weeks.
Joining Garduce in helping Sangalang prepare were triathlon coach Ani de Leon-Brown, running coach Ige Lopez.
He also had the expertise of motivational coach Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan and son Benjamin, and radio DJ /host Sam YG.
The runners will be traversing a 42-km path with an average temperature of -30 degrees centigrade.
FWD acting Chief Commercial Officer Rien Hermans said the tough conditions of the race will have the fastest finisher completing the course in seven hours and 45 minutes.
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