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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, July 29, 2016
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Espina ready to
conquer Sparta race

Ultra-marathoner, Rolando “Junjun” Espina Jr., 42, said he is physically and mentally ready to face the challenge that awaits him at the Spartathlon Race in Greece on September 30 to October 1.

Espina is determined to finish the race – a 246.8 kilometer-run under 36-hours – and raise the Philippine flag.

“My goal is just to finish the race and fulfill the dream of being the first to raise the Philippine flag,” Espina said, adding that the reception he has been getting has “motivated me more to give my best.”

Son of journalist, Rolly Espina, Junjun is the first Filipino invited to join the Spartathlon, considered in endurance sports as “the God of all races” not only because of the arduous qualifying events one needs to go through to be guaranteed an entry but because of the pressure of making it in time in all 75 checkpoints from Athens to Sparta under extreme conditions and the steep uphill-downhill course.

He is in town along with his training partner, JiveeTolentino, to grace “The Road to Sparta,” a benefit-run organized by the NOHS Batch '85 and Rotary Club of Bacolod - Central this Sunday at the Provincial Capitol Lagoon.

Junjunwas born with severe asthma and took up sports as a child to overcome his congenital ailment -- from swimming, to soccer, amateur basketball and, more recently, running. The Filipino marathoner has won major events including the much coveted UK Eskraghman Ironman Distance Triathlon in Eskraghman, Dungannon, Northern Ireland in 2014 and 2015.

He has been residing and working as an ICU nurse in Dublin, Ireland for the last 15 years where he also played amateur basketball until seven years ago, when he had to quit the sport after a knee injury that required an operation.

“Without any physical activity, I gained weight and was diagnosed with hypertension and high cholesterol,” he said, adding that to avoid medication, his doctor encouraged him to walk or run “and that started my passion for running.”

Junjun said within six months, he joined his first marathon and since then has done more than 100 marathons and in the last three years, started joining ultra-marathons.

Last year, after clocking less than 10 hours in a 100-kilometer run, he got invited to join the Spartathlon and more recently, after beating his 2014 record, he was again informed that he is qualified for Spartathlon 2017.

“But I'm just concentrating on completing my first attempt for now,” Junjun said, adding that as part of his training regimen, he has been joining ultra-marathons whenever possible with the last one this coming August 6 in Ireland after which, “I need to taper off to regain my strength for the Sparta race.”

He has been elated with the support coming from the runners' communityand was glad that a lot have signed-up for the fun-run to lend support to his bid and his advocacy.

Yesterday, Junjun who is a graduate of Colegio de San Agustin-Bacolod was handed a Certificate of Recognition by Fr. Andrew Batayola, CSA-B President and Danilo Lingaya of the Alumni Office for “living the Augustinian Spirit by conquering insurmountable feats through dedication and his accomplishment of being the first Filipino and Augustinian nurse to make it to the Spartathlon 2016.” A huge contingent from San Agustin is expected to join the fun run.

He was also thankful for the support he has been getting from some sponsors like San Miguel Corporation, Zark's Burgers, Victorias Milling Co., Vallacar Transit, Confed Negros-Panay Chapter and Baciwa.

Junjun is set to meet with Gov. Alfredo Maranon and Bacolod Mayor EvelioLeonardia today to thank them for supporting the fun-run and hopefully get more support from our local governments.

Espina will be accompanied by his Philippine Team crew - PlatonZarzoso, Amado Damot and FerminBantilan, all Filipino nurses and marathoners working in Ireland to Greece.*


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