Pinoy runner gets certificate from mayor for finishing L.A. Marathon

By Alex P. Vidal/ PNS

BEVERLY HILLS, California –Inspired after being awarded with a certificate for finishing the 26.2-mile L.A. Marathon this year, Filipino runner Gaudencio “Nono” Casa Jr. vowed to pursue his ambition of running in the lung-busting Long Beach Marathon on October 12, this year and again in the nerve-tingling L.A. Marathon on March 1, 2009.

Casa, 43, made the declaration after he received a certificate signed by L.A. Marathon president Dr. William A. Burke and L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa extolling him for finishing 2,590th overall out of 25,000 participants in the 23rd L.A. Marathon on March 2, this year.

He submitted a time of 4:16:35 for 26 miles and 385 yards, improving by some 30 minutes the record he logged last year.

“Congratulations on finishing 23rd annual City of Los Angeles Marathon presented by Honda,” went the letter accompanying the certificate signed by Villaraigosa and Burke. “(Your) months of training came down to one glorious day where you exemplified the heart of 26.2. Your closed finisher’s certificate is well-deserved.”

Casa, a former seaman from Calinog, Iloilo who works in a posh condominium on Wilshire Avenue, said now that his efforts and sacrifices have been recognized and appreciated, this will embolden him to train hard and do his best to land in the top 100 if not win any of the two prestigious marathons in the world.

“Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa,” stressed Casa who is married to Riza, Sharon Cuneta’s former make-up artist.

Casa said he was also particularly inspired by Tatayana Aryasova of Russia, who making her marathon debut after giving birth to her first child in 2006, handily held off the male frontrunners after a 19:38 head start, to win the Banco Popular Challenge $100,000 bonus. She received a $20,000 cash prize for her 2:29:09 first place finish, along with a 2008 Honda Accord, as did Laban Moiben, a 24-year old Kenyan who broke the tape at 2:13:50.

“If a 49-year-old woman can do that, why can’t we, the male and much younger runners?” he pointed out.

The marathon day that described by Burke as filled with heart and heartbreak. For the first time in the race’s 23-year history, event organizers allowed a relay to be held.

“You could hear a pin drop on the start line when 30 L.A.P.D. SWAT team members and Chief William Bratton gathered for a torch lighting ceremony to honor the memory of Randal Simmons, the first SWAT team member in history to be killed in the line of duty.

Immediately following, Simmons’ partner James Hart carried the torch for first leg of the journey. The torch was passed every three miles to SWAT team members and handed to Simmons’ 15-year old son Mat who carried it across the finish line where he was met by his mother, sister and other family members,” said Burke.

Legacy Runner Craig Chambers, one of 249 people who have run every L.A. Marathon, walked the race for the first time to keep his streak alive despite the debilitating effects of stage IV cancer.

Another inspiring participant was Johan Otter, the recipient of the Marathon’s 2008 Patsy Choco Courage Award. A lifelong marathon runner, he nearly lost his life when he absorbed the attack of a grizzly bear in Glacier National Park to save the life of his teenage daughter Jenna.

The race was run for the 2nd year in a row on a point-to-point course beginning in the valley at Universal Studios Hollywood and ending at 5th and Flower opposite the Richard J. Riordan Central Library in downtown Los Angeles.

The course was designed along the Metro Red Line, which served the start and finish line areas and three points in between. Participants with bibs rode for free on race day. Spectators had the opportunity to watch the progress of the race at various points on the course.

This year, the race was highlighted by several new innovations. In the late stage of the race, participants heard more than 100 mariachis in The Mariachi Mile as the race progressed along Boyle Avenue in East Los Angeles. The final mile of the race featured large banners and inspiring quotes honoring Ernie Van Leeuwen, who ran his first of eleven Los Angeles Marathons at age 82. Also new to this year’s race was SAI Timing, a disposable computer timing strip, Burke said.