Marathoner vows to conquer North Pole
A mixed martial artist, boxer, triathlete and marathoner, there aren’t a lot of things Louie Sangalang can’t do—and overcome having survived cancer in his 20s.
And in less than two months, Sangalang will be facing his latest challenge, which is something familiar and foreign at the same time.
Sangalang is the only Filipino participating in the North Pole Marathon set on April 9.
“I consider this not just my most challenging race but the most challening event to date in my life,” Sangalang, who also practices Muay Thai and jiujitsu, said during the media launch of FWD Life Philippines’ “Blaze a Trail in the Arctic” campaign on Tuesday. “It’s one thing to run a marathon and it’s another thing to run it in below freezing temperatures.”
Temperatures are expected to hit minus 30 to 40 degrees Celsius during the race and yet, the extreme weather condition is not the only thing Sangalang needs to prepare himself for.
The snowy terrain is another, which he had hoped to have simulated when he competed in a trail run along the sandy area of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte recently. Last but not the least of Sangalang’s concerns is a potential polar bear attack.
“There is a possibility that you might encounter polar bears. So it’s not only about the cold temperatures and sadness, there is also fear that something might chase or eat you.”
Preparing for an extraordinary race requires unusual training methods and a special team, which Sangalang has.
His camp is led by his coach Ige Lopez and Romi Garduce, the country’s top mountaineer most known for being the first and only Filipino to date to complete the “Seven Summits” climb in 2012.
The 40-year-old Sangalang said there are three phases to his training. First puts premium on his conditioning, second is to help him familiarize with the different weather conditions before culminating with acclimatizing to the sub-zero temperatures.
Being in a natural environment that would replicate or at least come close to the cold in the North Pole, Sangalang said creating a makeshift space to simulate what the actual feel would be like during the race is the next best thing.
“What we’re looking at is actually an industrial freezer then we’ll put a treadmill inside so that I can start running there and maybe simulate the wind by putting in fans so that’s what we envision that facility to be,” he said.
Winning the race would be the ideal outcome for Sangalang, but up against some of the world’s best runners, the only promise he could make was to be among the finishers.
“Runners don’t usually predict their race times or race finishes but what I can guarantee is that I’m gonna finish this, definitely I’m gonna finish this,” he said. “For me, it’s not important if I finish first. Ideally, I want to finish first but it’s not really an issue of who finishes first. I’m racing for the Philippines so as long as I finish it, I think I’ve done justice to FWD and the Filipino people.”
Garduce exudes the same confidence as Sangalang, whom he believes has what it takes to get the job done regardless of adversities that may come.
“Number one factor is mental. And I’m not worried about that because this guy is very tough,” Garduce said. “I can’t imagine myself being able to overcome what he went through as a cancer survivor so definitely, his mental strength is already there.”
“For me, what he only needs to prepare for is the technical aspect which is understanding winter survival skills, but the mental aspect which is really key in completing this marathon is already with him I’m not too worried about that. He can do it.”
Sangalang, who is overwhelmed with excitement over a once in a lifetime opportunity, leaves for Norway, which is about a three-hour flight from the North Pole, on March 30.
“I feel excited. I feel very much honored that I was given this opportunity to run the North Pole Marathon,” he said. “I hope that I can carry the dreams of the Filipinos with me especially that I’ve never been to a cold country wherein there’s snow, so this is my first time to see snow and I’m very excited.”
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