Limpag: Dr. Potenciano Larrazabal III: The Iceman runner

Mike T. Limpag

I WOKE up early one cold morning and as I struggled to move while keeping my hands warm with a cup of coffee, a curious thought entered my mind, “If this mild cold can immobilize me, how the hell did Dr. Yong Larrazabal finish the Antartic Ice Marathon?

A few weeks ago, Dr. Larrazabal—who seems to defy the law of nature by looking much younger every time I see him—dropped by the office to chat with Jun Migallen about his experience in the Antartic Ice Marathon.

“Isulod sa freezer” is an expression we sometimes use for people struggling with heat—figuratively or literally. If you can imagine how you can struggle in those brief seconds you expose your hand when you get something from the freezer, just imagine what Larrazabal had to go through when he was preparing for the Antartic Ice Marathon. Being in a tropical country, the only way he could prepare for the sub-zero condition was to put a treadmill in an industrial freezer. Yep, the dude ran inside a freezer. Imagine that.

I wonder what the ordinary guys—the guards, utility men—were thinking whenever they saw the doctor go to that freezer. We all have that moment when we daydream, right? “If I win the lottery, I’d buy the best sports car in the world. If I own Cebu Doctors’, I’d go on a vacation every month.” Jogging inside an over-sized freezer surely isn’t part of those fantasies.

But there was this guy, richer than your lottery winner who owns sports cars both old and new, spending 90 minutes—no, looking for an extra 90 minutes out of his busy daily schedule—to run in a treadmill inside a freezer so he can run a further 42 kilometers in the ice.

To say that he’s not your average runner would be the understatement of the decade and you can include the one that ends on Dec. 31, 2020.

When I first got to interview Larrazabal over 12 years ago, he just finished the New York Marathon and, bitten by the running bug, he said his modest goal was to run all five major marathons and run a total of 33 marathons—his favorite number—in his lifetime.

That lifetime goal was dashed years ago as Larrazabal ran all sorts of marathons in the world, including ones that involve the beach, wine or what have you.

Now, he has 60 and not only has he run the five major marathons, he’s a member of the Seven Continents Club. He also laughed when I reminded him of his self-imposed target of 33 marathons, an idea which is now as crazy to him as it is to an ordinary Juan to run in a freezer.

He’d go for a 100, he said. But I doubt if that’s a real target. Just a safe round number so us lesser mortals can relate to since we haven’t set foot in sub -15 degrees Celsius weather nor have we finished a marathon.

Because now that he has run in the South Pole, he wants to do the other one, the North Pole Marathon. Crazy? For us maybe but for Larrazabal, it’s just another line in his bucket list.