Marathoner Gene Tiongco to Run London Marathon for Cleft Lip & Palate Patients

Wednesday, 13 January 2016  |  Interviews + Features


I met Dr. Gene Tiongco when he and his brothers joined the first TBR Dream Marathon way back in 2010. Since then, he’s been a supporter of TBR Dream being Dream Chaser Tent Head for a few years already and a friend who I was even fortunate enough to run Osaka Marathon with last year.

After his first marathon with TBR Dream, he has run 9 Marathons already. These are: New York Marathon (2011), Kyoto Marathon (2013), Berlin Marathon (2013), Chicago Marathon (2014), Tokyo Marathon (2015) and Osaka Marathon (2015). Locally, he also did the Condura Marathon twice (2011 and 2015). (more…)

Part 1: Thank You, 2013!

Tuesday, 31 December 2013  |  Bullish Insights

It’s the last day of the year!  As always, I look back on the year that was…

2013 was year of extremes for me.  The first half was a roller coaster ride coming from the high of London Marathon to literally dropping to a low with my bike crash to finishing Ironman 70.3 Cebu.  By the 2nd half of the year, I decided to take it s-l-o-w as I enjoyed my off season while maintaining my fitness (in other words, I still swam, biked, and ran like a fiend but I didn’t race LOL).

I know it’s cliche, but I must say that it’s been another wonderful and blessed year.   Sure, I had my fair share of crap thrown my way,  but each event in life will only affect you in the way that you wish to see it, either as a blessing or as bullsh*t.  I choose to view them as blessings.  Here are my blessings for 2013…

1) London Marathon (April 21)

The best marathon I have ever joined in what has come to be my favorite city in the world. I was fortunate enough to have been sponsored by Unilab Active Health to participate in this race and Timex for my slot. Bonuses? I broke my PR at 4:24.  My family got to travel with me.  And, we passed by Paris after!

London Marathon was a week after the devastating bombing at Boston Marathon.

– At the finish line of London Marathon –

– my hubby and kiddos pick me up at the race –

2) Ironman 70.3 Cebu (August 4)

This was my 2nd Ironman 70.3.  After a foot injury months before the event, a bike crash a month before the race, bad weather the day before, and a flat tire during the bike leg, I was proud to have finished this event alive!  I felt like a warrior!  Rawr!

Thank you to my Coach Andy Leuterio for training me through London Marathon and Ironman Cebu 70.3, Specialized and Dan’s for my beloved Shiv and helping me care for him.  Thanks also to my team Unilab Active Health for the support and camaraderie!

Bike crash a month before the race. Save for several unsightly wounds, I was lucky to have come out of it without any broken bones and alive! –

– Bike leg of Ironman 70.3 Cebu. Photo by Michael Ocana –

– Hugging Sen. Pia Cayetano at the finish line. Photo by Tong Pascua of Photo Ops –

– Happy finish! Photo by James Go –

3) The Bull Runner Dream Marathon 2013 (February 22)

Last February 22, 584 runners became marathoners.  It was the 4th TBR Dream Marathon.  Every year, we hope to continue helping more runners reach their marathon dreams.

– Farrah Rodriguez, TBR Dream Marathoner –

– Marice Laxa-Pangilinan finishes her first 42k a day before her birthday. She was paced by husband Anthony –

– TBR Dream Marathon 2013 Medal –

Last August, we launched the 5th Dream Marathon. 800 slots were gone in 37 minutes. We ended up accepting a total of 900 runners who are currently training for their first marathon on February 16, 2014. Batch 2014 is a fantastic bunch of committed and enthusiastic runners. It’s been a fun-filled journey so far to train for their first marathon with them.

– with Batch 2014 of TBR ULAH Dream Marathon –

4) One Run (November 16)

We organized One Run, a run to raise funds for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda, shortly after seeing the devastation in Tacloban and surrounding areas.  We were overwhelmed with the response from the running community as we collected a whopping P615,000 in cash and a significant number of in kind donations.

One Run was organized by The Bull Runner in cooperation with Unilab Active Health with the support of Gatorade. Thank you also to Bonifacio Global City,, Simple Hydration, Proactive, Photo-Ops (our official photographer), HDSI Medic Team, Jun Cruz and Mike & Macel Janeo.

– Triathletes Kuya Kim Atienza, Raffy Zamora, and Erwan Heussaff joined by friends at One Run –

– Sen. Pia Cayetano and friends came to support –

– Triathlete friends came to help and volunteer –

5) Finalist in Rappler Do More Awards (October)

I was honored to make it as finalist in the Rappler DO MORE Awards.  It was awesome to be among a select group of Filipino achievers who “do more” than is expected of them.

6) Anton finishes his first triathlon (October 20)

As part of our Quaker Challenge as a Quaker Supermom, we made it our family goal to be more active together.  Anton’s goal was to finish his first triathlon, which he did at the Ironkids last October!  I couldn’t have been a prouder momma!

Thank you to Quaker Oats for motivating us even more to conquer our goals.

– My not so little boy showing off his medal –

7) Running, running, and more running

Sure I’ve been into triathlon the past couple of years, but running is still the sport that brings me the most joy.  I will always be a runner.  It was great to participate in local races and use these as training for my A-races.  The races that stood out for me were the following:

Run United (March 17)

– with great friends Lit, Ton, and Jun after Run United 1 (March 17) –

Run United (October 6)

– Run United Philippine Marathon –

New Balance Power Run 25k

– with friends Ton, Jun, and Maiqui –

Those were the highlights to the awesome year of 2013.  What were the highlights of 2013 for you?

NEXT: Part 2: Thank you, 2013!

Part 4: London Marathon – The Race

Friday, 17 May 2013  |  Favorite Posts, Race Reports

RACE REPORT: Virgin London Marathon 2013

Date: Sunday, 21 April 2013
Gun start: 10:00 AM


“This is it.” I thought. After months of training under the excruciating heat in Manila, here I was with a laundry bag on top of my running clothes to keep me warm from the chilly start. I couldn’t help but smile.

All the runners around me were chatting with nervous excitement. I couldn’t hear the announcer anymore. But, when the announcer asked all 36,000 runners to pause for a minute of silence to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, everyone fell silent. The bombings at the Boston Marathon, just a week before London Marathon, had made an impact on the world, but it had struck a nerve even more with us runners.

The marathon is a celebration of the human spirit. People from all over the world train their minds and bodies for months to run 42km on a single day to prove that they can defeat pain, suffering, and fear, that they can achieve their dreams, and that they can be better than themselves.

The people who ran Boston Marathon left their homes on that day hoping to run and celebrate life. Little did they know that some of them would lose their lives or limbs due to a senseless terrorist act.

In that silence, I, perhaps along with thousands of other runners that day, pledged to run for the victims. With black ribbons on our shirts, we ran for those who wouldn’t be able to run again.


Within a few seconds, the race had begun. I didn’t hear a gun start. There was no booming sound to signify the beginning of the race. There was a gradual movement of the traffic as runners made their way out of the assembly and into the roads.

That slow start was probably the slowest I would ever go during the race. The roads through the little town of Greenwich, with its quaint restaurants around us, were narrow and kept all of us runners in close contact. It seemed that all the runners around me had planned on going at a quick pace. I wished I could’ve gone at a more conservative pace, but honestly there seemed to be no choice!

I ran at a 5:45 to 5:50 pace along with the rest of the crowd and just felt relieved that, based on how my body and legs felt, I knew I could sustain the pace.


Hydration was provided in bottle form both for water (Nestle Pure Life) and sports drinks (Lucozade). This was both a pro and a con for me. It was good because you could take the bottle along with you during the run and dispose as you please. But, with every station, I found myself staring down at the ground ensuring I don’t slip on any of these bottles. It was quite a treacherous situation for this accident prone runner (Think Berlin Marathon and Disneyland Los Angeles flying off the road accidents in the past! LOL.)

The large difference with the runners in London Marathon was this: they rarely stopped to drink! I kid you not. At each station, they would grab the bottle and drink as they ran. All of them. My plan of taking walk breaks at each station went out the window by the first station. I just couldn’t find a place to slow down or stop on the road. In my mind, I found it hilarious but I also panicked. Could I possibly survive a 42km without taking any walk breaks at all?! I’ve never done that before.

– What the?! Don’t ask me what I was doing here. Suffice it to say I looked crazy-happy –

The number of spectators that came out on the streets to cheer for runners was a pleasant surprise for me.  They lined the roads from start to finish!  There was never a moment of dullness or silence. They cheered loudly and whole-heartedly yelling the names of runners who had labelled their shirts. I didn’t write my name on my shirt, but luckily—not once, but twice on different portions of the race—I had run along with runners named Jaimie, so I heard “Go Jaimie!” or “You can do it, Jaimie!” often enough to egg me on! LOL

One of my favorite portions of this race was crossing the Tower Bridge at around Km 19.  There were a lot more spectators and cheerers in this area (not that the number of spectators who came out to cheer for us was lacking!) but this was definitely a high point of the race.

KM 21

I hit my 21k split at 2:07. I was happy with my split. Not too fast, not too slow. Body check: how did I feel? No pain anywhere in the body. Even better, I felt strong and focused. Stronger than I had ever been in the past.

The run from 21k to 32k went by quickly. I didn’t even notice passing St. Paul’s Cathedral at Km 24!  I do recall the fantastic cheering from the spectators and the beautiful sights and scenes around me.

By 32k, I was starting to slow. My legs were starting to tire and both my calves were threatening to cramp, but my mind kept me going. I repeated my mantra (stolen from Noy Jopson’s Facebook status): “Pain only hurts.” I said this to myself over and over again as I recalled the times I had been through worse in a race. It’s true you know. When you’re going through something difficult whether in a race or in life, you just remember a time in the past when you experienced worse and overcame it. And so, I remembered Ironman 70.3 Cebu, the heat, the pain, the exhaustion. With that, I knew I would get through this.

– Grin and bear it, baby! –

I put one step in front of the other. I didn’t stop. I ran. For the first time in all the eight marathons I’ve ran in the past, I ran all the way. It wasn’t something I had planned or even wanted desperately. After all, I fully believe in the value of taking walk breaks; walking isn’t a sign of weakness. But, during this race, I just felt the power in my body and mind to go, and go, and go. I believed in what my body and mind told me to do and I did it.

– Passing the London Eye –

I ran past the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace.  Before I knew it, I could see the finish line.

– The London Eye in the background –

– Houses of Parliament. Is this a marathon or a tour? Maybe both! –

– Big Ben meant the finish line was near –

– Now that’s a monster runner! –

– Buckingham Palace behind me (I think!) –


I crossed the finish line at 4:24. It was the exact same time as my best marathon time at Condura 2010.

– Posedown at the finish line, of course! –

After crossing the finish, I received my medal, had my Ipico chip removed, had my photo taken with the medal, and claimed my baggage all within 10 minutes. That’s how well organized this race was.

All around me, people were congratulating each other. I did learn to say “Well done!” to all the runners around me and not the usual “Congratulations” we all say in Manila LOL.

As I walked at The Mall and onto the Meet & Greet area by Admiralty Arch, I was overwhelmed with the atmosphere. Runners hugging loved ones. Everyone in a celebratory mood. And, oh, what a view!

– Wow! –

I headed over to the Letter Z where hubby and kids agreed to meet me. I sat alone drinking my Enervon HP and eating the free apple that came with our goodie bag for a good 30 minutes until they came. By this time, I had already changed into warmer clothes.

It was nice to see my family greet me at the finish and to have the kiddos see first hand the magic that occurs in a marathon. I asked my son if he wanted to run this marathon in the future and he replied: Yes.

With that, the perfect marathon day came to an end.  This was undoubtedly the best marathon experience I’ve ever had. I have a rule that I should only run a marathon once, but, for London Marathon, let’s just say I can make an exception.

– with my kiddos! –

– Proudly showing off my 9th marathon medal. What’s next?! –

Previous: Part 3: London Marathon – The Race Start

Thank you so much to all the people who got me to London! Unilab Active Health for sponsoring the trip. Special thanks to my favorites Enervon Activ for keeping me energized during training and race day and Enervon HP for aiding in recovery. Thank you to Timex Philippines and Timex UK who snagged me a race slot.


Part 3: London Marathon – Race Start!

Thursday, 9 May 2013  |  Race Reports

Due to the large number of participants (36,000 running 42km, to be exact), the London Marathon had three different race starts: Blue or a “Fast Good for Age” competitor, Red, and Green. All starts were located within Greenwich Park and gun start was at 10:00 AM except for the Elites, Wheelchair category, and Paralympic participants who started earlier at 9:00 AM.

I was running alone and, like previous international races, most of my concerns over the race at this point revolved around one thing: getting to the race start in time. I was so worried about it (and it ended up to be such a fun, learning journey!) that I actually dedicated an entire post for it here in case you get the chance to run London Marathon in the future.

So, back to the story, for Green Start runners like me, I was told to exit Maze Hill Station.  This caused me a lot of stress because this station was not included in the Underground map of London!  Why oh why did it have to be so complicated for me?

The English concierge and the Indian bellboy at the hotel gave varying directions (waaah!) and, the morning before the race, I found even more advice on a thread in Runner’s World forum!  Just 30 minutes before I left, I decided to follow the tip on Runner’s World which advised me to exit Greenwich Station and walk a full 20 minutes to the Green Start to avoid the traffic at the tubes.

It was then that I worried even more:  20 minutes! Alone! In the cold! Before a 42km run! Ack! Ironic that after months of running hundreds of kilometers, I was freaking out over a 20 minute walk before the race.

– My marathon gear all laid out the night before the race.  Thanks to Unilab Active Health for the shirt and arm warmers (which I wasn’t able to use because it wasn’t too cold), Timex for the cap and the Timex Run Trainer which was being charged at the time I took the photo, Toby’s/Runnr for my CWX compression tights which I absolutely adored, KSwiss for my 3rd pair of Kwicky Blade Lights, Stride and Stroke for my Spibelt and armband which I’ve used the past 3 marathons –

– Sports drink at the race was not Gatorade so I bought Gatorade a few days before the race. Gatorade 01 for Pre Race fuel, Gatorade 02 for during the race, and Gatorade 03 for recovery. What can I say? I’m a loyal user! –

– Took this shot at the Underground days before the race. Planned closures of Tubes on Marathon day.  It added to my stress. Waaah! Confusion! –


At 8:00 AM, I bid the hubby and kids goodbye and stepped out of our hotel in South Kensington to near perfect weather. Correction:  PERFECT weather!  The temperature was around 10 degrees, just enough for one jacket without any throwaways on me. As I walked alone through the streets of Kensington, I couldn’t help but smile. I almost had to hold myself back from the excitement of running the London Marathon in these awesome conditions. Aaah, the London Marathon! This was one of my biggest dreams. Here I was on my way to fulfilling it!

– Shot outside my hotel. The amiable doorman who took it said that I had to come home for another pic with my marathon medal. I said: Of course! –

I befriended two Red Start runners from our hotel and walked along with them to the tube. We talked about New York City Marathon which one of the runners had run in 2010 just like I did and he said “Don’t worry about this race then. This is just as organized as NYCM.”  With that, I bid them goodbye and went my own way.

I presented my bib to the guard at the station and walked straight into the tube headed for Tower Hill. (On marathon morning, all runners just present their bib at the tube station and get free access to the tube until 5 PM on the same day.  Cool, noh?) There were not too many runners in the tube just yet, but I met Amy, another runner who just like me, was traveling alone from another city, and she too was worried if she was on the right train headed for the starting line.

At Tower Hill Station, we were appeased. Here, all around us, were marathon runners. As we boarded the tube, some of us to Cutty Sark or Greenwich Station depending on our colors, a voice over said “Welcome runners of the Virgin London Marathon.” Phew, I was safe. No way I’d lose my way now. I felt like half the battle was over.

We were packed like sardines in that tube, but it was thrilling. A whole train of runners with various backgrounds, different stories to tell, all looking forward to the same thing: 42km through the streets of London. Totally amazing.

– All aboard for the 42k! –

I exited Greenwich Station and walked out into the cold along with all the other runners around me. The atmosphere was alive and energetic. Runners were laughing and chatting as we all made our way into Greenwich Park.

– Short walk to the Park –

– All these people are runners! Wow! –

– Marshals and Security everywhere as promised by the organizers soon after the Boston Marathon bombings –

The gate to Greenwich Park was almost like entering Buckingham Palace. Wow. Thousands of runners were inside this area making their way to their race starts. It was exactly 9:00 AM, one hour to race start. I took my banana from my bag and ate it as I walked. All runners ascended towards the different race starts like ants marching up a hill. Everywhere you looked there were runners. It was surreal.

– First thing I see upon entering the park. WOW. –

– Climbing up the hill. Seriously, I got tired here and I worried that I was overexerting myself in my “warm up” LOL –

The red start was right ahead. After a 10 minute walk, the blue start was in front of me. It took me another 15 minutes to get to the Green Start. Total of 30 minutes walking alone in the cold.  I laughed at myself for worrying about this in the first place.  This was fun.  It was an adventure.  I would love to do something crazy, scary like this every year of my life.

– Followed this pacer heading to the Green Start. I actually saw him all throughout the race –

– Finally! I made it! –

– Spotted Fred and Wilma at the marathon! Yabadabadoo!-

When I reached the Green assembly area, feeling like a pro (naks!), I opened my bag to begin my pre-race ritual. I drank my Gatorade Pre-Race Fuel which I purchased at the race expo. I pulled out my plastic bag of gel and water to be consumed 10 minutes before race start. I drank four capsules of Optygen from First Endurance for that extra boost of energy.  I removed my fleece jacket, dumped it back into the bag (to be worn after the race) and pulled out my laundry bag with pre-cut holes for my head and arms and wore this to keep me warm before the race start. I checked in my baggage and lined up for the toilets.

– What’s a runner to do while lined up for the portalets? Selfie of course! Er, sorry for the “bagong gising” look –

By the time I was done with the toilet (which was the longest queue I’ve ever encountered!), I only had 10 minutes left for race start. I stood at the assembly along with all the other runners awaiting the race start. I turned on my Timex Run Trainer and connected to GPS.

What was going through my mind at this time? I thought about how the morning went. How everything went perfectly well from the weather to the journey I took towards the starting line. And, deep inside, I knew that the race was going to be awesome. I just knew it.

Previous: Part 3 – London Marathon – A Wedding, Shakespear, and a Run
Next: Part 4: London Marathon – The Race

Thank you so much to all the people who got me to London! Unilab Active Health for sponsoring the trip. Special thanks to my favorites Enervon Activ for keeping me energized during training and race day and Enervon HP for aiding in recovery. Thank you to Timex Philippines and Timex UK who snagged me a race slot.

Part 2: London Marathon – A Wedding, Shakespeare, and a Run

Monday, 6 May 2013  |  Bullish Insights

On our second day in London, we took a train to lovely and quaint Leamington, which became popular in the 1900s among the affluent as a spa town.  (Think hot springs of Laguna.)

– Leamington Spa –

– with my cousin, Michelle, in front of one of the churches at Leamington –

We took a car ride to Walton passing Stratford-Upon-Avon where Shakespeare was born and, shortly after, arrived at Walton Hall, a 19th century country mansion, which was the venue of my cousin’s wedding and also our home for the next two nights.  (Now think Downton Abbey!)

– Walton Hall –

– Leisure Club?  Beauty Salon? The perfect place to spoil a runner days before a marathon! Yes, feeling lifestyles of the rich and famous! LOL –

– The kids were thrilled about our room overlooking the countryside –

– View from the tower room –

I was thrilled to be here for my cousin’s wedding.  Celine and I grew up together being born just a month apart.  We went to the same school from Prep to Highschool.  We shared the same group of friends all our lives.  I spent most of my time after all of our elementary school days at her house doing our homework together, playing hopscotch or piko, or turning her bathroom into a huge bathtub and soaking in the bubble bath together.  (See, I showed early signs of eventually getting into swimming!)  And, even when we went to different colleges, started working, and I got married and she left for New York for her MBA and moved to Singapore, we remained close.  So, I was excited to see my “sister”/barkada/best friend finally settling down with Rob, her British boyfriend who we’ve also come to love.

– with Laurie and Cel, my bestest friends since forever, after Cel’s bridal shower at the Salon. Missing: Vicky and Krie –

Walton Hall was beautiful. I felt like I had gone on a retreat…a running retreat!  We were surrounded by nature, lush green grass, swans and ducks in the lake, trees that could tell tales from the past.  The weather was cold, but it was invigorating and refreshing.

– with the kiddos –


The next morning, Friday, I was to run my last run before the London Marathon on Sunday.  The hubby and kids came along with me.  We walked.  We jogged.  We laughed.  We looked for animals.  Then, they got hungry and went ahead for breakfast. LOL.


– The kids loved running (and jumping) freely all over the place –

– She wanted to get as close to them as possible! –

– Father and son bonding –

– Mini-me! –

I was planning on running 5k alone.  As I ran, I felt great.  Correction: Not just great.  I felt like my entire body, especially my legs, were completely prepared for the marathon.  My form was good.  My legs felt springy and light.  Everything felt perfect.  And so, barely even hitting 3k, I stopped and decided to enjoy breakfast with the family.

– Check out my running buddy on the right –

If there’s one thing I learned about as a serious runner, it’s NOT to take running too seriously.  There are precious moments and special people in your life that are more important than a race.  Not to mention croissants and Nutella waiting at the breakfast buffet.

That afternoon, as bridesmaid, I witnessed one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever attended.  It was touching.  It was emotional.  It was inspiring.

– Newlyweds with the Entourage –

– It was freezing cold out there! Here we are sharing Celine’s shawl –

– with my not-so-little kids –

– Hubby with the kiddos –

– Li’l Miss Bull Runner jumps for sheep! –

I indulged in good food, a little wine, and then the following day, the family and I took a train back to London for an easy Saturday before the big day: London Marathon!


Thank you so much to all the people who got me to London! Unilab Active Health for sponsoring the trip. Special thanks to my favorites Enervon Activ for keeping me energized during training and race day and Enervon HP for aiding in recovery. Thank you to Timex Philippines and Timex UK who snagged me a race slot.